Friday, March 30, 2012

Tamil Nadu with Quilley - 11 March 2012 - Kanyakumari

We rolled into Kanyakumari the evening of the 10th March and found the newly established Seashore Hotel, Sangan Group Hotels.  It was a poshly comfortable hotel with great staff, beautiful furnishing, views of the sea which included the little fishing village there, the statue of Thiruvalluvar out in the sea, as well as the Vivekananda island monument.  Wow!  We could see the sunrise from our room.  Surprisingly, there is no website for the hotel, and it is poorly represented on,  but I highly recommend this hotel.


'India, the sub-continental country is known for its richness in culture and tradition. Speaking of the topography of India, the Northern side is covered by the wide range of the huge snow clad Himalayas. The west is covered by the Arabian Sea. The East is covered by the Bay of Bengal. The southern side is very unique as both these seas mingle with the Indian Ocean. The Land that is located in the tip of the country, where the three seas get united is none other than cape comerin or Kanyakumari.

Kanyakumari Amman

'The name of this place has been christened after the virgin goddess – Kanyakumari Amman. Mythological stories depict that Goddess parvati under the disguise of Devi Kanniya did a penance in one of the rocks in this area to reach the hand of Lord Shiva. This place is also a popular pilgrimage. The tourists who visit this southern most tip of India would certainly enjoy the exuberant scenes of the sunsets, the sunrises especially on full moon days. The nature of the sand in the beaches of Kanyakumari is unique as it is multicolored.

'Amidst the sea there are two rocks known as ‘twin rocks’ both contributing to the rich Indian heritage with the monuments of swamy Vivekananda and Saint Thiruvalluvar.'

Sunrise from our room.

Local church with Thiruvalluvar monument in the background, also viewed from our room.

While waiting for the ferry to the Vivekananda monument, Gopal took this picture through the grate.

The horde awaiting the ferry.

Part of the horde.

At last!  (It was very hot.)

Look at this gorgeous hair!
A beautiful statue in the sea of ancient Tamil poet, Thiruvalluvar.

'Vivekananda Rock Memorial is one of the major tourist places in Kanyakumari. Located amidst the sea, the memorial place was built in 1970, on the rock and houses a statue of Vivekananda. The divine foot print 'Pada Parai' of Devi can be seen here. Visitors have to take a ferry to reach this memorial.'


Quilley and I have both lost our sons.  We put their ashes into the confluence of the three seas at this holy place.

We also visited the Gandhi Mandapam, 'famous for its cultural richness and significance. The memorial was built in the year 1952 on the eve of Gandhi's birthday. The library inside the memorial has a good collection of history and philosophy texts.'


Quilley at the Shrine for Our Lady of Ransom, which we visited as we left Kanukumari.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Tamil Nadu with Quilley - 10 March 2012 - Madurai

We left Palani the morning of the 10th, heading toward Madurai. 
 'Madurai or the "city of nectar" is the oldest and second largest city of Tamil Nadu. This city is located on Vaigai River and was the capital of Pandyan rulers till the 14th century. Madurai is an animated city packed with pilgrims, beggars, businesspeople, bullock carts and legions of underemployed rickshaw- wallahs. Dating about 2500 years back in time, it is one of southern India's oldest cities, and has been a centre of learning and pilgrimage for centuries. Reading through inscriptions, travelogues and the writings of missionaries, one can gather that Madurai was the cynosure of all eyes because of its prosperity. Ibn Batuta describes the beauty of Madurai in the midst of the destruction, as having a layout and scheme that was centred round the Vaigai. '  (not sure where this description came from)
We headed right to the Meenakshi temple.
Meenakshi Temple

Occupying the top spot in the list of tourist places to visit in Madurai is the Meenakshi Temple. The temple, as we know it today, covers a vast area and is an eclectic mix of architectural styles, improved upon by different dynasties such as the Vijayanagara and Nayaka rulers. The temple is dedicated to Meenakshi, the consort of Lord Shiva. The original temple was built by Kulasekara Pandya, but the entire credit for making the temple as splendid as it is today goes to Tirumalai Nayak who brought back glory to this magnificent structure.
Located at the heart of the city, the Meenakshi-Sundareshwar temple has long been the focus of both Indian and international tourist and is one of the most important places of Hindu pilgrimage. People of the city wake up to the chant of hymns at the temple, which is the very centre of their cultural and religious life.

Quilley in front of the Meenakshi temple.

This temple was breathtaking to look at, ..

but the people who run it do not allow non-Indian Hindus to enter the inner sanctum. (It reminded me of Pashupatinath in Kathmandu., where the people - not the gods - have lost sight of their spirituality.  In Nepal they told me that I had to be born a Hindu.)  I was very disgusted with the people who run this temple and would never encourage anyone to go there.  Needless to say, it is actually pretty racial since John and Davina were also not allowed in.  What am I not understanding here?

There were many windmills between Madurai and Kanyakumari.

We found out later that they are all paid for by businesses, so produce energy for businesses only.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Tamil Nadu with Quilley - 9 March 2012 - Palani

My friend, Quilley, arrived the evening of 7 March on her way home from her Buddhist pilgrimage to India.  She scheduled two weeks with us, for which I am deeply grateful.  We dragged her off the morning of the 9th for a tour of the state of Tamil Nadu.

We travelled in a Toyota Innova with a great driver, Chandran.

Our friends John and Davina joined us, since they had not been to Kanyakumari yet.
(Gopal, John, Quilley, Davina, and Chandran)

'Palani is a city and a municipality in the Dindigul district of the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. 

'Palani is pronounced using the special 'L' used in Tamil and is also spelt as "Pazhini" in English.

'It is a famous pilgrimage town and evey year more than 7 million devotees visit the Palani Murugan Temple and offer their prayers to the Lord Muruga.  This temple draws the largest number of devotees in Tamil Nadu.

'Palani is a centre of a form of traditional Indian medicine known as Siddha Vaidyam, said to have been developed by the ascetics resident in prehistoric times in the hills about the modern-day town.

'Further, the town is also the centre for production of Vibhuthi (sacred ash) and Pacha-amritham (literally, 'the five nectars' - a traditional preparation of fruit pulp and molasses), both of which are considered holy and distributed to devotees after being offered to the Lord Subrahmanyan in the hill temple.'

from Madurai Welcome, 49th Edition

This elephant was giving blessings outside Quilley's bedroom window.  We stayed at the Hotel Subam, which we found very comfortable and very conveniently located for going to the Palani temple.

Palani Hill Temple

'Palani Hill Temple and the Idol "Lord Murugan" is the deity of the Tamil Land.  Palani (Tiru Avinankudi) is the third Padai Veedu.  The temple at Palani is an ancient one, situated at an elevation of 1500 feet above sea level.

Palani Muruga

'The deity of Palani is known as Dandayudhapani Swami, the Lord having the Staff in his Hand.  The deity at the sanctum sanctorum is made out of an amalgam of nine minerals popularly called Navabashana.

'Palani has been mentioned in the Tamil Sangam Literature as "Podhini," which came to be called as "Palani" later, according to the historians.  In "Thirumurukatruppadai" (a Sangam Literature) Palani has been mentioned as the 3rd "PadaiVeedu."  This was the southern end of the Kongu Nadu and edicts refer to this place as "Vayapuri Nadu," which was ruled by king "Vaiyapuri Kopperumbaegan."'

from Madurai Welcome, 49th Edition

The temple on top of the hill.

We decided against the 923 steps up the hill and took this cable car trip.

John and Gopal
The view as you get off the cable car (still some stairs to climb, though)

No pictures allowed inside the temple, but outside you see many newly shaved heads plastered with sandalood paste.

It was a great first day.  To get to Palani, we had to drive down the mountain from Coonoor, past Coimbatore and on to Palani.