I had actually planned to go to Pillayarpatti, Srirangam and Thanjavur this weekend. But my mom wanted to go to another temple at Walaja on Sunday. So I had to cut short to only Pillayarpatti and Srirangam. I feel these two temples are quite in contrast to each other. Pillayarpatti was simple, calming and quite. Srirangam was grand, humbling and loud.
Pillayarpatti is a small town near Karaikudi. There’s not much transport directly from Chennai. But Chennai and Karaikudi are well-connected. And there are very frequent buses from Karaikudi to Pillayarpatti. I took a bus late night from Chennai to Karaikudi. It was such a rainy night at Chennai, everything was delayed. I should have reached Karaikudi at 4 AM but it was about 6 AM when I reached there. I asked around at the bus stand about places to take a bath and change near the bus stand. One shopkeeper gave a suggestion to just go right away to Pillayarpatti and use the temple facilities which are cheaper and better than the ones around the Karaikudi bus stand. I took his suggestion and took the bus that was already waiting to leave to Pillayarpatti. It reached the pillayarpatti bus stand in about half an hour and it’s a very small walk from the pillayarpatti bus stand to the temple. The weather was very pleasant and it felt nice to walk. After walking for a couple of minutes I came across a large decorated arch welcoming me to the temple. It was the entrance to the temple street.
In between the usual temple street shops selling souvenirs and pooja items, there were a few small tiffin shops on the street. I felt distracted by the smells of freshly fried vadai and hot sambar as I walked towards the temple. There are a lot of hawkers selling flowers and arugampul. There seems to be a lot of competition between these people – a lady asked me whether I’ll buy after I take bath and get ready and I said ok, just so that she’ll leave me alone. She started following me from there telling everyone else that I’m going to buy from her and no one else should try to sell to me. I made my way to the temple office and enquired for a room. But to my surprise, here too, they don’t give room to a single person travelling alone. But seeing that it was early in the morning, I had nowhere else to go and with some sad faced begging on my part, they made an exception and gave me a room. You’ve to pay 1400 Rs. and 1000 Rs. will be refunded when you leave. So it’s 400 Rs. per day.
The room was not hotel quality but was enough to take bath and get ready. I took just about half an hour, packed up and returned the key to the office. Brought flowers and coconut for offering and left to the temple.
The Karpaga Vinayagar temple is deceptively simple when you see it from outside. The fresh bright paint on the gopurams make you feel like it’s a simple, recently built temple. But the moment you step into the temple, the rock floor and pillars make you realize it’s ancient. The temple itself is dated to the 4th century and the main shrine – a cave cut in rock – is believed to be about 25 centuries old. The main Karpaga Vinayagar statue in His simple cave is a surprisingly large but He appears calm and soothing to pray to. There is not much crowd which helps preserve the tranquility and simplicity of the temple. I prayed, did thopukarnams and then moved on to walk around the temple. There was Marudheeshwarar lingam, Kathyayani Devi, Navagrahams and a host of other Gods and deities. I saw a five headed snake I didn’t know the significance of. I later read on the internet that it wears a lingam on it’s neck and signifies control of five senses. The priests are humble and friendly. They remind you to pray sincerely and to make sure you have a good look at the Lord’s statue.
There is a large temple pond in front of the main gopuram but it was locked to keep people out. I suppose they open it only on special days. I came out and took some pictures for my blog. I noticed a cute little mouse statue earlier and remembered to go take a picture of it too. Then made my way back through the temple street, not forgetting to have a filling breakfast in one of those tiffin shops. I walked back to the bus stand the same way I came and took a bus to Karaikudi. From where I took another bus to Trichy. The ride to Trichy was about 3 hours and I knew it was made pleasant by the favorable weather.
There’s a juice shop just outside of the Trichy central bus stand. I think it’s called Akila juice shop. I had two juices from there for lunch. They were cheap but surprisingly good for the price. It was about 1 o clock and I knew the Srirangam temple would be closed at this time. I couldn’t think of anything else to do so I decided to go anyway. I took an auto and reached the Srirangam temple. There’s a confusing board right in front of the Rajagopuram that has a left-pointing arrow and says Ranganathar temple is 1 km from there. I actually believed it and walked a few steps then it occurred to me to ask someone. They said go back and enter through the Rajagopuram.
There are vehicles plying right through the gopuram. I don’t know why they don’t stop this. I felt it would be better if that gopuram was left alone for the temple visitors and not made into a marketplace that it is now. The unimpressed crowd going about their own business around this monumental tower reminded me of Charminar in Hyderabad. Also the last time I was at this temple, the gopurams where white. Now they are painted in bright colors. It’s the tallest of all temple gopurams.
I had guessed right. There was a huge queue waiting even though the temple was closed for the afternoon. It was very crowded because Saturdays are special for Ranganathar. I decided to skip the queue and take a 250 Rs. ticket to go quickly. There were only around 20 or 25 people in this queue. And for another 50 rupees they allow you to take pictures – except inside the main gopuram where the deities reside. No matter what ticket you buy, you can only skip the queue – you still get only about a couple of seconds for the darshan. They remind you not to waste time and take a good look and push you away quickly.
The one thing about Srirangam temple that you can’t fail to notice is how the statues are decorated. They’re all very beautiful and grand. Artfully adorned with flowers and jewels. The priests are quite proud of their work and explain who the deity is at every shrine.
After praying at the Ranganathar shrine, I went to the Thayar’s shrine. Since I jumped the queue at opening time, there was only a very small queue here. I prayed to her and left to roam around a bit. It’s a very large temple with so many shrines. The gorgeous decoration of a row of deities in a shrine called ‘kannaadi arai’ was breathtaking. So much flowers and such glittering jewelry. There’s no crowd except at the main Ranganathar and Thayar shrines.
You cannot do archana at the main shrines so don’t bother buying the archana plates from the shops outside. But you can offer flowers. There’s a shop with beautiful flowers right outside the Thayar’s shrine. So you practically don’t have to buy anything from outside. They’ll take your flower offering and give back a small quantity of flowers to take home with you.
It was around 4 30 when I decided to leave.
I took an auto right outside of the temple and asked him to stop at the cauvery river to take a picture. The river is having water after quite a long time. Although it’s not in it’s original glory of gushing and flowing water, it’s still a nice sight to look at. It’s a bit sad that we’ve to be happy to even see water here. Reminds us how important it is to preserve what nature gives us. The auto driver was a nice person – he encouraged me to take more pictures. He even stopped at a vantage point to take a picture of the Malaikottai Vinayagar temple and showed a couple of majestic churches.
I had to reach home by night so I just took pictures from outside and didn’t go inside them. I made a note to myself to return again and visit them properly. I reached the bus stand at around 5:30 PM and there were a few buses to Chennai already about to leave. The government buses charge only about one third of private services. I can take auto to home after reaching Chennai without feeling guilty.
The bus reached Chennai airport at around 12:30 at night. I took an auto from there and reached home.