Thursday, September 30, 2010

Madurai : Cultural Capital of Tamil Nadu

One of the most beautiful cities of the state of Tamil Nadu, Madurai, has a history of more than 2500 years with it. Famous for the Meenakshi temple, the city was ruled by the Pandian kings and finds a mention in many epics, only to prove its age old culture and longitivity. It is referred to in the Ramayana and Kautily's Arthashastra. Megasthenes (302 BC), pliny (77AD) and Ptolemy (140 AD) wrote of "Madurai, the kingdom of the Pandian". Macro polo visited Madurai in 1293 AD.

Situated on the banks of River Vaigai, the name Madurai has a beautiful legend attached to it. It is said that one of the Pandian kings, Kulashekhar, built a beautiful temple complex in madurai, clearing the forest. Around the temple he developed a township in shape of a lotus flower. On the naming ceremony of the township, Lord Shiva appeared and blessed the land and its people. As he blessed divine nectar; Mathuram in the local dialect, was showered on the city from his matted locks. Hence the city was known as Madhurapuri.

Madhurapuri grew and prospered to become the capital of the Pandyan Kingdom. The Pandian kings encouraged the cultural movement of the town as praise to the Lord. Madhurapuri, later became Madurai and still boasts to be the cultural capital of the state. Today along with the beautiful Meenakshi temple it is also famous for the textile mills producing wonderful silk.

Location: Located in the southern parts of the state, the district of Madurai is landlocked. Dindigul district is in the north, district of Sivaganga in the east, Teni in the west and the disrtict of Virudunagar in the south.

Languages Spoken: Tamil and English
Long Distance Code: +91-452
Importance:Famous for the Meenakshi temple
Area: 22 sq.kms.
Best Time To Visit: September To March

Madurai Attractions:

Meenakshi-Sundareswarar temple

Meenakshi-Sundareswarar temple is located at the heart of the city; the Meenakshi-Sundareswarar temple has long been the focus of both Indian and international tourist attraction as well as one of the most important places of Hindu pilgrimage. It is the hub of the religious and cultural life of the city. Kulasekara Pandya built this pre-Christian era temple. However, it was in ruins before Tirumalai Nayak who brought back the glory to this magnificent structure rebuilt it.

The Meenakshi temple is an excellent example of Dravidian architecture, with Gopurams (large gateways) and Mandapams (multi-pillared halls) covered from top to bottom in a profusion of multi-coloured images of gods, goddesses, animals and mythical figures. Spread over six hectares, the temple has four entrances to it. The Rajagopuram on the eastern side is an unfinished structure that has a 174 sq. ft base, and had this tower been completed, it would surely have been the largest of its kind in the country. The eight smaller Gopurams are within the compounds of the twin temples.

In the Ashta Shakti Mandapam inside the Meenakshi temple, the sculpted pillars tell the story of the beautiful princess of Madurai and her marriage to Lord Shiva. It was believed that the princess was actually an incarnation of Parvati who came to earth to honour a promise. Shiva came to Madurai as Sundareswarar to marry Meenakshi and the two ruled over the kingdom for many years before they left for their heavenly abode from the spot where the temple now stands.

Palani Murugan Temple

The temple at Palani is one of the six abodes of Lord Subramanya or Murugan. Dedicated to Sri Dandayuthapani, the temple is built atop a 140m high hill and can be reached by either using steps or the electrically operated winch. During the festivals of Panguni Uthiram (March-April) and Adi Krithikai (July-August) Kavadi dancers dance and walk their way from far and near as they flock to the temple in hundreds, often in a state of trance. Situted at 119 km from Madurai.

Thirumalai Nayak Mahal

Muslim armies on the rampage brought an end to the royal line of the Vijayanagar Empire paving way for the Nayaks, who assumed royal powers over their principalities, which included Madurai. The city and the dynasty flourished from the 16th to the 18th century. Thirumalai Nayak built this palace 1 km Southeast of the temple. Built in the Indo-Saracenic style, all that remains of this magnificent mansion today are the principal entrance, the dancing hall and the main hall. The main attraction now is the light and sound show in the palace, which depicts events from Thirumalai Nayak's life and also snatches from the ancient Tamil epic Silappathikaram.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Rishikesh : Yoga Capital of the World

Legend has it that the sage Raibhya Rishi did severe penance and, as a reward, God appeared to him in the form of Rishikesh. Rishikesh also represents the site where Lord Vishnu vanquished the demon Madhu. The place is known as the Tapo Bhumi or the place for meditation of the Gods. Tapovan, on the other bank of the Ganges, houses a temple to Lakshmana. It is believed that Lakshmana, the younger brother of Lord Rama, carried out penances here. The Neelkanth Mahadev temple is believed to be the site where Lord Shiva had drunk the venom that came out during the churning of the ocean. In the 1960s, the place came into limelight as the place where the pop group Beatles met their guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Location: Rishikesh is located in the northern part of Uttar Pradesh. It is 238 km northeast of Delhi and 24 km north of Haridwar and spreads on the right banks of the Ganges, at its confluence with the Chandrabhaga stream. It is surrounded by hills on three sides and is perched at an altitude of 356 meters above sea level.

Languages Spoken: Hindi, Garhwali, English
Long Distance Code: +91-135
Importance: Famous for its Ganga Aarati
Area: 11.2 sqkm
Best Time To Visit: September To November

Rishikesh Attractions:

Nilkanth Mahadeo

Mythology says that in the ancient times when the ocean was being churned for 'amrit' (Potion for immortality), first venom oozed out. Lord Shiva drank the venom at a place, which is now called Nilkanth Mahadeo. It is 12 km from Rishikesh and is surrounded by peaceful forests.

White Water Rafting at Rishikesh

The challenge of violent rivers is no less than that of the rugged mountains. The icy heights of the Himalayas are the source of some of India's mighty rivers. Fed by innumerable streams, they race along tortuous boulder

Lakshman Jhula

This suspended iron bridge was built in 1939 and has been a major attraction among the tourists. It is said that Lakshman crossed Ganga on jute ropes between the places where this bridge is built. Ram Jhula- The other suspended Iron Bridge was recently constructed between Shivanand Ashram and Sawarg Ashram.

Bharat Mandir

Built by Adiguru Shankra Chrya around 12th century, Bharat mandir is situated in the heart of the old town on the Banks of the Ganges. Detailed account of this oldest temple of Rishikesh is available in ancient record of Kearkhand. The Inner sanctum of the temple has the idol of Lord Vishnu, carved out of a single 'Saligram'. In the inner canopy above the idol is Shree Yantra installed by Adi Shankraya Charya. The original temple was destroyed by Tamur lane in 1398 A.D. Lot of old statues, coins, pots and other things of historical importance were found in recent excavations in the premises of the temple.


Close to Trivenighat is the most ancient place, the Rishikund. Ancient records relate this to Kubz Saint, who was blessed by the Goddess Yamuna by saturating this pond by its water. The pond reflects the temple of Ragunath, dedicated to Lord Rama and Goddess Sita.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Mysore : The perfumed Sandalwood City.

Mysore city was the capital of the old royal Mysore province. The word Mysore expands to "Mahishasurana Ooru". According to a legend, the demon Mahishasura was killed by goddess Chamundeshwari atop the Chamundi hill near Mysore, which gave the city its name. Ever since, the Mysore royal family has worshipped Chamundeshwari as the palace deity. The Hill dedicated to her stands on the the eastern end of Mysore town today.

Mysore is the erstwhile capital of Wodeyars, the rulers of Mysore State. The Wodeyar family ruled Mysore since 14th century except for a short period of 40 years when Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan were the rulers. Today Mysore is one of the major cities of Karnataka. Mysore has emerged as a thriving market for exotic sandalwood & incense, the Mysore silk sarees and stone-carved sculptures.

Location: Located 770m above sea level and 140 Km from Bangalore, Mysore, the imperial city, was the erstwhile capital of the Wodeyars, Also known as the city of Palaces.
Languages Spoken: Kannada, Tulu, Hindi and English
Long Distance Code: +91-821
Importance: Famous for its Vrindavan gardens and the Dushhera celebrations.
Area: 6269
Best Time to Visit: October To March

Mysore Attractions

Brindavan gardens and Krishnarajendra Dam

Built in 1924, this is India's first irrigation dam. Sir M. Vishweswariah, the engineer who designed and built this dam, has shown his acumen in converting a dam site into a beautiful garden with colourful fountains and ponds downstream. The dam is named after the then Maharaja of Mysore, Krishna raja Wodeyar, who financed this novel project. KRS represents a marvel of civil engineering achievement in pre-independence India and was among the first in the world to use automatic sluice gates. Locally available surkhi was used instead of importing cement from England.

Brindavan gardens is located 12 Km northwest of Mysore city and has rows-of colourful fountains. There is a boating pond to cross the dam from the south bank to the north bank and at the northern edge are the dancing fountains. Using advanced lighting techniques, the fountains are made to jump and dance to the tune of music. The dam is over 3 Km long and is constructed at the junction of three rivers - Kaveri, Hemavati and Lakshmanathirtha. This site has been popularised over the years by the large number of Indian/foreign films shot at this location.

Timings: 7.00 P.M. to 7.55 P.M. on weekdays.
7.00 P.M. to 8.55 P.M. on holidays.
During winter: 6.30 P.M. to 7.25 P.M. on weekdays.
6.30 P.M. to 8.25 P.M. on holidays.
Entrance fees: Rs.10/- per head.

The Mysore Palace

The palace was originally built of wood, which got burnt down in 1897 AD and was rebuilt in 1912 AD. The Mysore Palace, built is Indo-Saracenic style with domes turrets, arches and colonnades; the palace is a treasure house of exquisite carvings and works of art from all over the world. The tastefully decorated and intricately carved doors open into luxuriously decorated rooms.

The walls of the palace are painted with pictures of the Dassera processions and these paintings are painted in such a manner that from any angle you can see the procession coming towards you. The royal throne of the Wodeyars is displayed during the Dassera festival.


One of the three major Hoysala temples still in daily use today is the Channekeshava Temple of Belur. The construction of the temple, which took almost a century, was started in 1116 to commemorate the Hoysalas' victory over the Cholas. Enclosed in a paved compound, the temple complex includes a well and a bathing tank. It is believed that every major deity of the Hindu pantheon is represented in the temple.

Chamundi Hills

Forming the backdrop of the city is the 1,100-feet-high Chamundi Hill. On the top of the hill stands the temple dedicated to the Goddess Chamundeshwari, the royal family's patron deity. To reach the temple one can either drive through the 13-km stretch up to the summit or climb the 1,000 stone steps. Nearby the temple stands the huge statue of Mahishasura, the demon slain by the Goddess. Halfway up along the stone steps stands the majestic 4.8-metre monolith of Nandi the Bull, Lord Shiva's chosen mount. The statue is believed to be 300 years old and its chief attraction, apart from its size, is the meticulous craftsmanship of its ornaments-from its delicate anklets to the magnificent pendant bell around its neck.

Mysore Dasara

Mysore Dasara is the celebration of this victory of good over evil. Mysore also has associations with the Mahabharata and King Ashoka of the 3rd century B.C. during the Wodeyar rule Mysore reached the zenith of its glory as a fabled centre of oriental splendour.

Pomp and Pageantry Relived Come to Mysore in October when the tranquil city awakens to ten days of Dasara festivities. Brilliantly lit up Palaces, decorated arches, festooned streets, colourful costumes and cultural shows…classical music, folk dances, Bharata Natyam, Yakshagana, Huthari, Torch Light Parade, Theppotsava… The culmination is the legendary Mysore Dasara Procession with caparisoned elephants, the golden howdah, decorated horses, stately coaches, troops in ceremonial uniforms, folk dancers and colourful floats.

Bandipura Wildlife Sanctuary

Bandipura is 80 Km southwest of Mysore, directly on the Mysore-Ooty road. It is a forest reserve created to protect the Royal Indian Tiger and has been one of the success stories for "Project Tiger." A forest lodge located at the heart of Bandipura on the Mysore-Ooty road, provides an excellent and quiet location for exploring this wonderful nature paradise.

Early morning, jeeps go out into the forest-taking tourists who want to catch a glimpse of the tiger. With luck, most of them will be able to see the Tiger, Elephant and other wild animals in their natural habitat. For late risers, there is an elephant ride through the forest, which is a pleasant experience. Deers, Langur monkeys, Peacocks; Wild dogs are often encountered on these adventure trips on the elephant's back.

The best seasons to visit Bandipura are the spring, post-monsoon, and autumn. During the summer months the forests dry up and water holes are scarce.