Category: Heritage

Fascinating story of the Thiruchendur Murugan temple

While researching about lesser-known heritage sites of India, I was hesitant to include historical temples simply because there are so many of them in India, many of which are still in active worship and visited by large number of devotees. However, while reading about heritage sites in Southern India, I came across mention of a temple with a fascinating story and I just had to include it in this series.

The Thiruchendur Murugan temple is located in the town of Thiruchendur, in the district of Thoothukudi (or Tuticorin) in Southern Tamil Nadu. The temple is about 75 kilometres to the North-East of Kanyakumari and about 30 kilometres south of Tuticorin town.

Photos show a temple located right on the shores of the Bay of Bengal and is similar in architecture to many Tamil Nadu temples, dominated by a tall gopuram.

The interesting story about this temple relates to the time when it was occupied by the Dutch for a few years in the 17th Century. While vacating the temple, they removed the idol from the main temple and carried it away with them on their boat. While at sea, they encountered a storm. They got scared and threw the idol into the sea. Later on, a devotee of Lord Muruga had a dream and saw a vision of the place in the sea where the idol has been thrown overboard. He went to the spot in a fishing boat and successfully recovered the idol!

As one of the most important temples dedicated to Lord Murugan and with its location right on the shores of the Bay of Bengal, this is a temple worth visiting. I hope to do so one day…

Bird-watching at Lalbagh Botanical Gardens

Department of Horticulture Office - Lalbagh
Office of the Department of Horticulture – Lalbagh

I have been a part of a bird-watching group in Bangalore since around the year 1999-2000. The group, comprising of experts, amateurs, hobbyists and others interested in birds have been conducting bird-watching outings in and around the city of Bangalore for many years now.

Every second Sunday of the month, the group organised a bird-watching trip at Lalbagh Botanical Gardens in the heart of the city. This must be one of the oldest, continuously held bird-watching outings in India (couldn’t find any content on this online, so happy to stand corrected). The group is also quite active on email and social media, and a great resource to learn more about nature.

It was quite a large group that met this Sunday. It was great to see a group of school kids (in their uniforms) participating enthusiastically in the session. This session is specifically aimed for new comers to the field of bird-watching and the group leaders (typically Mr. J. N. Prasad) leave no stone unturned to ensure that people get a good idea of bird-watching, how to spot and identify birds, handy guides, etc.

Here’s a list of the birds that I observed (nomenclature as per The Book of Indian Birds by Salim Ali):

  1. Little Grebe
  2. Great Cormorant
  3. Little Cormorant
  4. Darter
  5. Little Egret
  6. Indian Pond-Heron
  7. Spot-Billed Duck
  8. Shikra
  9. Black Kite
  10. Brahminy Kite
  11. Blue Rock Pigeon
  12. Spotted Dove
  13. Rose-Ringed Parakeet
  14. Asian Koel
  15. Spotted Owlet
  16. Coppersmith Barbet
  17. White-Cheeked Barbet
  18. Ashy Drongo
  19. Common Myna
  20. Jungle Crow
  21. Red-Whiskered Bulbul
  22. Common Tailorbird
  23. Tickell’s Flowerpecker
  24. Purple-Rumped Sunbird

And some photos from a beautiful early winter morning at Lalbagh below:

The Glass House at Lalbagh
The Glass House at Lalbagh
View from the Lalbagh Glass House
View from the Lalbagh Glass House
Lalbagh Kere or Lake
Lalbagh Kere or Lake
At Lalbagh Botanical Gardens
At Lalbagh Botanical Gardens
Beautiful Day at Lalbagh
Beautiful Day at Lalbagh

Thirumalapuram Rock Cut Cave Temple

Continuing my research northwards from Kanyakumari on lesser known heritage sites in India, I came across articles mentioning a rock cut cave temple in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. I was intrigued, as the cave temples I am familiar with are largely from the West of the country.

Photos reveal a cave with three openings hewn into what looks like a large, black smoothly sloping hill, also called Varanasimalai. The caves are not very high above the ground level and can be accessed by a small flight of steps. Photos reveal some interesting sculptures within the temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.

The temples were believed to have been excavated by Pandyan kings in the 8th Century CE, making them younger than the famous Ajanta Caves and roughly of the same age as the Ellora and Badami caves. There are only two caves here though – one finished and the other unfinished, compared to the larger number of caves at these other more renowned cave temples. Having said that, the age (and location) of this cave temple in the extreme southern end of mainland India┬ámerits, I believe, a visit.

Vattakottai Fort

Next in my series of arguably lesser known heritage sites in India is Vattakottai Fort.

When one thinks of forts in India, I would argue that most people would recollect the magnificent forts of Rajasthan and the historic ones of Maharasthtra. Of course, Golconda fort near Hyderabad is very famous. More knowledgeable ones might have heard of Chitradurga in Karnataka or Bekal in Malabar, North Kerala. But I certainly hadn’t heard of one almost at the very tip of mainland India.

Vattakottai (Circular) Fort is located a few kilometres to the north of Kanyakumari town. I haven’t been fortunate enough to have visited this place, but photos reveal the fantastic location right by the sea and with views of the beautiful Western Ghats in the distance.

A quick online research reveals that the fort was built by the Travancore rulers in the 18th century (so not very old by Indian standards). The monument is now maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. Photos and this video by the Mathrubhumi newspaper reveal a well maintained structure which should surely be on the itinerary for anyone visiting Kanyakumari.

Adikesava Perumal Temple, Kanyakumari district

Kick-starting my series on lesser know heritage sites in India with this temple located in the Southernmost district of mainland India.

The Adikesava Perumal temple is located at Thiruvattar in Tamil Nadu, about halfway between Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala and Kanyakumari town in Tamil Nadu. I had the good fortune of visiting this place a couple of years ago while on a visit to Thiruvananthapuram.

I had never heard of the temple before my visit. It is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The idol of Lord Vishnu is depicted as reclining on his snake couch and has to be viewed through three separate doors. I could not find any specific date of establishment of the temple, but it has been mentioned in texts dating to the 8th – 9th centuries. So the temple must be at least 1200 years old.

The architecture of the temple is an interesting mix of Keralan and Tamilian temple styles, to my untrained eye. The entrance and roof is unmistakably Keralan, while the long columned corridors are typically seen in the temples of Tamil Nadu. The temple was quite and peaceful when we visited. There were repair works being undertaken as parts of the temple needed restoration. It was interesting to watch ‘traditional’ building materials being prepared to ensure structural integrity.

I sadly do not have any photos of this temple. But as a lesser known, but ancient, part of our heritage, this temple is worth a visit.