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Tiruchirapalli - Tamil Nadu




Click here for Day 3: Kumbakonam, Darasuram, Umayalpuram

Day 4: Our day began with the complimentary breakfast at our hotel, the Femina Hotel (ph:91-431-2414501) one of the bigger hotels in the city and popular among foreign visitors. It has several restaurants within serving both vegeterian and non-vegeterian food. Having eaten we proceeded into Trichy, the fourth largest city in Tamil Nadu and one of the biggest railway junctions in South India. Trichy is also well connected by road to the other major cities and also has an international airport that has flights from Sri Lanka and the Gulf. Trichy lies on the banks of the Cauvery and being in the center of Tamil Nadu has always been the focus of many conquests. The early Chola kings had their capital at Woraiyur now a suburb of Trichy. Trichy is named after the three headed demon asura son of Ravana, Tirusiras or Trishira who is supposed to have done penance here and obtained many boons from Lord Shiva.

Our first stop was Rock Fort. From anywhere in Trichy one can see this gigantic rock jutting out from the banks of the Cauvery and it is now the most well known landmark to represent the city of Trichy. It is 83m high and is beleived to be one of the oldest rock formations in the world dating back to over 3 billion years ago. It is also believed that Lord Ganesha, settled on top of this rock when being chased by Vibhishana after tricking him to laying down the idol of Sri Ranganatha. Today there is a Ganesha temple called Ucchi Pillayar Koil on top of the rock. The temple can only be reached by climbing a set of 400 or more steep steps and along the way there is a cave temple with very beautiful carvings dating back to the Pallava period, around the 7th century. The temple offers wonderful panoramic views of the city. You can see St.Joseph's College Church, designed as a smaller version of the Cathedral of Lourdes, from here. Former Indian President Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam attended this college and so did my dad.

Half way to the top there is another very famous temple called the Thayumanaswamy temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and carved right into the middle of the rock and is actually the bigger of the two temples. According to mythology, a pregnant woman named Rathnavathi who was in labor and in great pain prayed to God for help. Lord shiva takes the form of her mother and helps her in her pregnancy. Thus, the Lord was praised as "Thayum Ana Swamy" (The Lord who became a mother) and hence the name. There are numerous paintings on the cielings and walls of this temple that are worth the climb. There is also a very interesting chain carved out of a single stone with as many as 5 links. Apart from the main shrines to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati there are also many smaller shrines. The entire Rock Fort complex will keep you occupied for many hours.

From the Rock Fort we headed across the river Cauvery to Thiruvanaikaval or the Jambukeshwara Temple, believed to have been built by Kocengannan one of the early Chola kings about 1800 years ago. It is one of the five major Shiva temples (Panchabhoota Sthalams), representing five major elements - Fire, Earth, Water, Sky and Wind and this one is dedicated to Water. The idol here is almost submerged in water and during rainy season it does get submerged. According to Hindu mythology, a spider and an elephant, both extreme devotees of Lord Shiva were in constant argument over who was the better devotee. One day, the spider built a very big web around the deity which was under a Jambu tree to protect it but the elephant, not knowing this, poured water on it and cleans it up. This caused a war between the two and in the ensuing battle both were kiled. The Lord then told them both of their equal importance and turned the spider into a great king and took the elephant onto heaven. The king then built many temples always ensuring that the diety can only be reached by a narrow passage and thus preventing an elephant to enter.

The idol in this temple is said to have been installed by Goddess Parvati herself and to this day the noon puja is performed by the priest dressed up as a woman. Amidst a lot of pomp the priest arrives dressed in a sari, performs the puja to the Lord and also to the sacred bull and then proceeds to the Parvati shrine only to emerge back as the manly priest portraying the impression that the Goddess had gone to perform the puja. One word of caution for those who do not believe in the extreme customs and beliefs is to stay away from the sacred bull during the ceremony as even the urine is considered sacred and sprayed around on the worshippers during the puja. The temple is also known as one of the hosts for the annual Natyanjali dance festival.

From Thiruvanaikal we proceeded to the grandest and largest functioning temple complex in the world, the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam, an island town bounded by the river Cauvery and the river Kollidam. The Angkor Wat complex is bigger but non-functional. The temple complex covers an area of 156 acres, has more than 6 miles of walls and has 21 gopurams the largest of which is 72m high. It is the first and foremost among the 108 Divya Desams, the holy abodes of Lord Vishnu. According to myth, Brahma the supreme creator received the idol of Lord Vishnu is the form of the Ranga Vimana and it was passed on from Brahma to Viraja, Vaiswatha, Manu, Ishwaku and finally to Rama. Lord Rama after conquering Ravana, gave the idol to Vibhishana, , Ravana's truth-abiding brother as a gift for his support for for fighting alongside him against his own brother. Vibhishana set out to take the idol to Lanka with the condition being that the idol never be placed on the ground till he reached his destination. The gods fearing that an idol of such importance would leave the land asked Vinayaka or Ganesha to help and he dressed as a cowherd offered to hold the idol for Vibhishana while he took a quick dip in the river Cauvery. Lord Ganesha promptly laid the idol down and and enraged Vibhishana chased and caught up with him only atop the rock but nevertheless was never able to move the idol. The idol was covered in jungles only to be discovered eras later by a Chola king who built the great temple around the idol.

The temple has also been a focus of invasions and plunder for many centuries beginning with Malik Kafur and his forces invading it between 1310–1311. The deity was taken to Delhi, but later returned to Trichy when ardent followers of the Lord performed for the ruler and convinced him to return the idol. However the daughter of the ruler, Surathani in love with the deity followed it to Trichy and is said to have attained moksha for her devotion in the temple. The Muslim ruler returned in 1323 as he believed his daughter was killed but the supporters of the temple managed to remove the deities and hide them before the invasion. Swami Vedanta Desika, instrumental in planning the operations during the siege of the temple, closed the Sanctum Sanctorum of the temple with bricks, thereby protecting the temple for generations to come. 13000 people laid down their lives in the ensuing battle and at the end, "Devadasis", the danseuse of Srirangam, seduced the Army Chief, and helped save the temple. Decades later the idol was returned. During this time many idols were removed from the temples in the region and hidden and only during the last century was the cache found. Unfortunately no one knows which idol belonged to which temple thus the idols remain in the safe and are worshipped there everyday.

This temple is the only one of its kind for Lord Vishnu that was sung in praise by all the Alwars (Divine saints of Tamil Bhakthi movement), having a total of 247 "pasurams" (hymns) in its name. It is also here at Srirangam that the great Vaishnavite scholar Ramanujacharya preached and lived. The temple is also an architectural delight with the hall of 1000 pillars, the Horse mantapam, the many gopurams and shrines, and the thousands of stone carvings all showcasing the grandeur of the eras gone by. On most days, the prasadam served are treated to Chakra pongal (A type of sweety made with jaggery, pulses and rice), Puliyodarai and Thayir sadam (Rice with yogurt/curd) prasadam (offering) and it is a must eat. The temple shuts between 11:45 and 2 pm so one has to either arrive early or stay late to be able to fully enjoy the temple.

From the temple we headed back into Trichy, visited our relatives and had just about enough time to take a deep breath and picturize our four amazing days of travel before we found our way to the railway station. By our last count we saw 18 temples, and each one was unique and captivating in its own way. This is definitely the best region and time for temple tours.


Ucchi Pillayar Koil on top of Rock Fort, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Ucchi Pillayar Koil on top of Rock Fort, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Manimandapam - built in 1918, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Manimandapam - built in 1918, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Yellow Doors,Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Yellow Doors,Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Colorful Guard, Rock Fort, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Colorful Guard, Rock Fort, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Muruga at the Rock Fort, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Muruga at the Rock Fort, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Pallava cave carving of Gangatharamoorthy, Rock Fort, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Pallava cave carving of Gangatharamoorthy, Rock Fort, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Trichy on the banks of the Cauvery, view from Rock Fort, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Trichy on the banks of the Cauvery, view from Rock Fort, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Srirangam Gopuram - largest in the world, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Srirangam Gopuram - largest in the world, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Thayumanaswamy temple and St.Joseph's college, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Thayumanaswamy temple and St.Joseph's college, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Bridge across the River Cauvery, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Bridge across the River Cauvery, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
St.Joseph's College Church, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
St.Joseph's College Church, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Colorful Rooftops, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Colorful Rooftops, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Lord Shiva with Parvati, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Lord Shiva with Parvati, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Thayumanaswamy temple vimana, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Thayumanaswamy temple vimana, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Mahout on an elephant or an Erotic painting?, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Mahout on an elephant or an Erotic painting?, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Natarajar doing the Thandava dance, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Natarajar doing the Thandava dance, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Trichy from the Rock Fort
Trichy from the Rock Fort
Coconut trees on the Cauvery, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Coconut trees on the Cauvery, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Thiruvanaikaval temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Thiruvanaikaval temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Colorful inner gopuram,Thiruvanaikaval temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Colorful inner gopuram,Thiruvanaikaval temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Anbe Sivam,Thiruvanaikaval temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Anbe Sivam,Thiruvanaikaval temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Sculptures on the gopuram,Thiruvanaikaval temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Sculptures on the gopuram,Thiruvanaikaval temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Gopuram inside the temple,Thiruvanaikaval temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Gopuram inside the temple,Thiruvanaikaval temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Elephant unfortunately can't enter the shrine,Thiruvanaikaval temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Elephant unfortunately can't enter the shrine,Thiruvanaikaval temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
A ladder to infinity,Thiruvanaikaval temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
A ladder to infinity,Thiruvanaikaval temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Courtyard around the temple,Thiruvanaikaval temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Courtyard around the temple,Thiruvanaikaval temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple
Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple
One of the 21 gopurams and part of the 156 acres, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
One of the 21 gopurams and part of the 156 acres, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Lord Vishnu, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Lord Vishnu, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
The Vellagopuram, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
The Vellagopuram, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
The main entrance, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
The main entrance, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Gopuram within the temple, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Gopuram within the temple, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Sri Ardhanarayana perumal, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Sri Ardhanarayana perumal, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
The long walkway around the temple, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
The long walkway around the temple, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Ancient vegetable dye frscoes, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Ancient vegetable dye frscoes, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Fresco, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Fresco, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Prints on the wall, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Prints on the wall, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Parmapadam vasal - Door to heaven, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Parmapadam vasal - Door to heaven, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Hanuman guarding the wall, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Hanuman guarding the wall, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Prasadam time is the best time, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Prasadam time is the best time, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Horse Court, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Horse Court, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Intricate horse carving, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Intricate horse carving, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
A real horse, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
A real horse, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
People come dressed up to the temples, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
People come dressed up to the temples, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Stone dancer, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Stone dancer, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Ready to battle, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Ready to battle, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Sri Ranganathaswami, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Sri Ranganathaswami, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Vanakkam, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)
Vanakkam, Sri Ranganathaaswami Temple, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)