Category: Travel

Kanchipuram – Temples in Stone

It’s always been on my bucket list to visit the temple town of Kanchipuram, in the state of Tamil Nadu in South India. For some reason or other, I could never make it to this town when I was living in Chennai and later Bangalore for about 4 years previously. So I was delighted when we finally made plans to visit Kanchipuram on our way back from Mahabalipuram.

We stayed in a hotel close to the city centre and walking distance to the Kanchi Kamakshi temple. On our way to the temple in the evening, we visited the Ulagalanda Perumal temple. This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu in his Vamana avatara with a large idol of the Lord that it over 30 feet high.

Ulagalanda Perumal temple
Ulagalanda Perumal temple

We then visited the Kamakshi Amman temple dedicated to Goddess Kamakshi. This is one of the most famous temples in Kanchipura and reportedly the only temple dedicated to the Goddess. It is a big temple with large gopurams that were well lit up.

The next morning, I visited the Sri Pavala Vannar temple. This is a old temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. There were hardly anyone else the morning I visited and the ambience was serene and peaceful.

Pavala Vannar temple
Pavala Vannar temple

It is said that one must combine a visit to this temple with a visit to the Pachai Vannar temple located a few hundred metres away. So I visited this temple too and again had a peaceful visit with hardly any other devotees.

We then visited the Ekambaranathar temple. Dedicated to Lord Shiva and spread over an area of 25 acres, this is one of the largest temples in India. As with many of the old temples in South India, this one also had some incredible sculptures. We again had a very peaceful time at this temple.

On the way out of Kanchipuram, we visited the Kailasnathar temple. This is reportedly the oldest structure in Kanchipuram and was simply fascinating. One of the interesting aspects of this temple are the numerous small shrines built into the inner face of the high compound wall. The temple was closed when we visited in the afternoon, so we could only admire the intricate stone carvings all around the temple compound.

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Mahabalipuram – Poetry in Stone

I recently visited Mahabalipuram, located on the East Coast, close to the city of Chennai, in the state of Tamil Nadu. It was not my first visit there, but the first one was a quick overnight trip and memories were a bit hazy. This time around, I spent over 2 days there and visited quite a few interesting places.

The first place we visited was quite a unique attraction – a Seashell museum. This is the life’s efforts of a private collector, exhibited quite beautifully in a modern museum. The collection is stupendous, and really photos will not do justice to the place, but here are a few.

The next day, we visited the Panch Rathas. It was a bright, sunny (and hot) day. We visited the place in the morning and were among the first visitors, so got to see the place at leisure and without much crowds. The place is very well maintained, with ample parking space, toilets, etc. Kudos to the authorities for doing so.

In the afternoon, we first visited the Lighthouse. On the way, we took in the utterly delightful Heritage Museum. With exhibits largely from the nearby lighthouse housed in a beautiful small house like structure with cool air conditioning, this would easily rank as one of the best small museums I have ever visited anywhere. An absolute must visit.

The whole process of visiting the Lighthouse was quite exciting, with the climb up a narrow, twisting staircase to walking around the narrow ledge with great views across all directions of the compass. Be warned though that it is not for the fainthearted!

We then visited the group of monuments centred around Arjuna’s Penance. The stone structures and sculptures are simply stunning. We ended our visit at Krishna’s Butter Ball. Located within well maintained, lush green lawns fringed by trees, this is a popular destination for local families.

On the third and final morning, we visited the beach located to the north of the Shore Temple. It is a working fishing village, with relatively clean sand and waters. The kids and I enjoyed splashing in the waves!

The only slight disappointment was the food. I had expectations of finding a food scene similar to what one can find in Goa, or even Pondicherry, but was sorely disappointed. The food in the restaurants was uniformly mediocre as was the service. Maybe it was because I visited in the off-season. But all things considered, it is a great place to visit with family.

Prague

It’s always been on my bucket list to visit the beautiful cities of Eastern Europe. So, during the Easter weekend of 2012, we decided to visit Prague.

It was grey and bitterly cold even in April, but the place was crowded. But still, we managed to visit the key sites of this beautiful city, without any hassle from the crowds.

I also enjoyed a late evening stroll, enjoying the stunning architecture of the old city.

Some photos from the trip below.

Prague cityscapes:

Prague Castle:

Old Town Square:

Palace of Versailles

We spent a whole day here and it was a day well spent indeed. We took the train out to Versailles and walked through the town to reach the Palace.

The Palace of Versailles is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The scale and splendour of the Palace has to be seen to be believed. The mind boggles at the thought of the time and money it would have cost to build and maintain.

The Palace is situated within sprawling gardens. Unfortunately, being winter when we visited, the gardens were quite bare. But we could still appreciate the geometrics patterns of the layout and admire the many sculptures and fountains that dot the gardens.

Some photos of the Palace taken on a grey, gloomy day.

Palace of Versailles
Palace of Versailles
Versailles Garden
Cherubs – Versailles
Versailles Gardens
Gardens – Versailles

Towards more sustainable travel

I love traveling and think it’s a great way to refresh, recharge while at the same time learning more about different places and cultures. So I was a bit unsure how to react to this news article – http://www.dnaindia.com/just-before-monday/report-the-ugly-side-of-travel-is-your-hobby-leaving-a-massive-carbon-footprint-behind-2645694

As kids, I remember our annual summer holidays where we would take the train to travel to grandparent’s place. The train journey was as much part of the holiday as meeting family. Maybe one option is to try and take more sustainable modes of transport while holidaying, wherever feasible.

The first holiday we took when we moved to Bangalore was to Mysore. And we took the train rather than a car. We took the Shatabdi and it was extremely comfortable and stress free. Similarly, when we took a trip to Kerala, we took the train one way. Kids enjoyed the experience of an overnight train, sleeping in ‘bunk beds’, as they called it!

Yes, it is not always possible in this day and age, when time is in such short supply. The impact of travel and tourism on sustainability is a topic that I am very interested in, and will look at in more detail.

If you have any suggestion, ideas, please let me know. Thanks!