January 9th, 2012 by admin

Haj pilgrimage is the holiest in the Muslim religion. It is said that all able bodied Muslims should do Hajj at least once in lifetime. Every year millions of people all over the world go on Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

Check one of the rare documentary video by Discovery channel to get an insight into the pilgrimage of Hajj.

January 28th, 2011 by admin

Last sunday evening I visited the Kalyana Venkateshwara temple at Gokul, Mathikere. I saw this temple once when I was traveling from Hebbal using the Outer Ring road to reach Yeshwantpur and thought of visiting it later. This temple was constructed by a prominent Bangalorean MS Ramaiah. Perhaps you have heard of MS Ramaiah college – it is run by that family. The temple is dedicated to lord Venkateshwara – the same deity at Tirupathi (Andhra Pradesh). At the entrance of the temple there is a jajastamba (tower) made of brass as typically found in many south Indian temples. Inside you have the deity of Venkateshwara. You can walk besides the sanctum sanatorium to take rounds around the deity. At the backside of the Venkateshwara deity you can see a picture of the idol of Lord Venkateshwara at Tirupathi claimed to be taken in 1875. At the left hand side of the sanctum sanatorium, there is a large bell.

The temple is nicely maintained and has benches outside to sit. You are supposed to keep shoes outside for which you are expected to pay e.g. Rs 1 – 2. I am very disappointed that they do not allow to take pictures inside and even prevent people to take pictures outside. On the right hand side of the temple is a big choultry where marriages takes place.

Address:
Kalyana Venkateshwara temple
Dr.M.S.Ramaiah’s compound
Gokul, Mathikere, Bangalore
Landmark: Ask for Gokul

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January 14th, 2011 by admin

on 31st night we have booked tickets for Rameswaram through Sree Devi hotel. At their reception I found the package trip per person to Rameswaram is Rs 275 including food. But dude to season time they charged us Rs 350. We were provided 2 seats on Subbu Travels. The scheduled timing was 7.30 am to 7 pm. on 1st Jan 2011 we were called around 7 am in the morning and by little after 7.30 am we boarded the bus. We were the first passengers on the bus. It was actually a mini bus and was of below average quality. At the next stop they picked up two Bengali families from Kolkata and goodness gracious the scenes they created on the trip was no less than a Govinda flick in terms of laughing intensity. We left Madurai city around 9 am.

Distance from Madurai to Rameswaram: 164 km

Travel time: 3.5 to 4 hours

Route: Madurai – Ramanathapuram – Rameswaram

The roads are very good. But the driver of Subbu travels was very slow and he took more than 4 hours to reach Rameswaram. I suggest you try the following travel agency:

MMTT Tours and Travels

Hotel Ashoka (KPS)
12, Perumal Theppakulam East,
Town Hall Road, Madurai – 625001
Ph: 2340282, 2343572, 4231177
Email: anil_mmtt@yahoo.co.in

About Rameswaram: Rameswaram is one of the 4 dhams of Hindu religion. It is a very important pilgrimage center for the Hindus from all over the World. Geographically Rameswaram is an island separated from mainland India by the Pamban channel. It is also known as pamban island. The early rulers of Rameswaram were the Pandya kings and Chola kings. Followed by Nayak kings as feudals of Vijaynagara empire and then independently upto 17th century. Then earlier chieftains of Rameswaram – the Sethupathis came to power. It is said that the generation of Sethupathis were there when Ram visited Rameswaram.

Sight seeing in Rameswaram:

First we saw Pamban bridge which comes on the way to Rameswaram. Pamban Bridge is actually a set of two bridges – one rail bridge and a road bridge. It connects mainland India with Rameswaram island. The bridge is over Palk Strait or Pamban channel. The 2.3 km bridge is the first sea bridge in India and at present second largest sea bridge after Bandra – Worli sea link in Mumbai. The railway bridge is a cantilever bridge and it allows movement of ships. The railway bridge construction was started in 1887 and was completed on 1912. This British constructed bridge started operation on 1914. The road bridge called Annai Indira Gandhi bridge, named after late prime minister of India Indira Gandhi.

There is a light house and a nice beach on the Rameswaram side.

Sita kund or sri Sita Teertham which comes on the left hand side. It is a small tank which is associated with Sita (wife of Ram). The tank has many small fish. Entry fee is Rs 2 per person.

Then we went to Lakshman kund or sri Lakshmana Teertham. This place is located on the right hand side of the road near Sita Teertham. Before entering Lakshmana Teertham on the right had side you find Naganathar (Snake god) temple. Entrance is Rs 2 per person and the tank here is comparatively much bigger. Besides the tank is a well built temple dedicated to Lakshman in Nag avatar.

Next was Ramachandra temple which is little further on the right hand side of the road. In this temple Ram, Lakshman and Sita is worshiped together. Just after the entrance on the left hand side you can find a Hanuman statue and little further is the deity of Ram, Lakshman and Sita. Here, you can also see the amazing floating stones with which Ram built the Ram sethu (bridge) to visit Sri Lanka and bring back Sita. This stones are made up of limestone and are perforated. Unfortunately photography is not allowed inside this temple.

Then we had food and moved to see Agni Teertham. To view Agni Teertham you have take the road opposite to Sri Ramanathaswamy temple. On the way you will find Sri Ujjaini Mahakali Amman temple. On the left hand side you will find a small temple for lord Shankar (Shiva) and on the right hand side a temple for lord Ram. Walk little further and you will see red and white gates built by Acharya Satguru Teoonram Ji Maharaj. On top the gates Agni teertham is written. The sea at Agni Teertham is very calm and water is very shallow. You should take bath in the clean blue waters of Bay of Bengal. This place is hold very holy as Ram after killing Ravan in Lanka came here and took bath. Typically people first take bath here and then go to visit Sri Ramanathaswamy temple.

The beach here has been embanked after Agni Teertham with tiles and railing so you can walk at least 1 km on the sea side up extended bridge into the sea. However, the entrance to the bridge is closed now. You can see some ships, steamers or small fishing boats on the sea here.

The last and the most important place we visited in Rameswaram is Sri Ramanathaswamy temple. This temple is has a wonderful architecture with four corridors surrounding the temple. The temple is said to be more than 12000 years old and built by Lord Ram. It is said that, sri Ram wanted to pray to lord Shiva and asked to Hanuman (Anjeneya) to bring a Shivalinga (idol of lord Shiva) from mount Kailash in the Himalayas. As Hanuman was late, meanwhile Sita built a Shivalinga with sand and Sri Ram prayed there. On his return, Hanuman was upset that his Shivalinga will not be worshiped. He tried to remove the sand Shivalinga but he could not. Then Lord Ram told him, that his Shivalinga will be first worshiped and then the sand Shivalinga will be worshiped. So we can infer that the installation of the idol was very old but the present structure of the temple is not that old. The temple was mainly built by the Sethupathi kings. However, apart from them many others also contributed in restoration and re-novation.

The temple has beautiful gopurams (tower) typical of Tamil Nadu but they are not colourful as in Madurai. Here the towers are painted in cream colour. It also has 108 teerthams (small tank) which are dedicated to sages and others. I saw people bathing with those water as they are considered holy. At the entrance of the temple you can keep your shoes. the other side of the entrance has a small market which sell religious artifacts and sea artifacts like shankh (sea shell) etc. We bought few items from shop # 32, 37. But make sure that you bargain your heart out. Also, if you are visiting Kanyakumari, I suggest you buy sea artifacts from there as it is cheap there.

Also, note that photography is not allowed in the inner shrine area.

One go for special darshan for Rs 50 per person which allows you to view the Shivalinga closely. The way to the special darshan is fitted with nice paintings and description of Lord Ram’s Vanavas (journey in the forest). The room in which the Shivalinga is kept, only deeps(soil lamp) are lit. It is a beautiful to see the Shivalinga amidts deeps and a silver snake keeping its hood on top of the Shivalinga.

Official website: www.rameswaramtemple.org

You should also see Kodandaramaswamy temple, Ramar Padam, Dhanushkodi which I could not visit.

Hotel:

1. Hotel Royal Park
Semma Madam,
Ramnad Highway, Rameswaram – 23526
Ph: (04573) 221680, 221323
Cell: 94431 59722, 9500459009
Website: http://www.hotelroyalpark.in

2. Hotel Tamil Nadu
TTDC, Rameshwaram

3. Hotel Hare Rama Hare Krishna
15/24,Ramar Padham Road
Thittakudi Street
Rameswaram

4. Gujarat Bhavan
Sanadhi Street
Rameshwaram

I suggest you stay at Rameswaram for at least 2 days so that you can see everything at peace and enjoy the place.

Around 5 pm we started our backyard journey. We were lucky to see the sun set from Pamban bridge. We reached Madurai again by 9.45 pm.

Day 1: Tour of Madurai

January 8th, 2011 by admin

IRCTC under the brand rail tourism India has introduced two new package to Shirdi and Allahabad – vanarashi – Gaya. The tours will be conducted from Chennai and within the month of January and February 2011. For more details see below:

Contact:

IRCTC – Chennai Central Railway Station
Park Town, Chennai – 600003
Cell: 9003140681
Website: http://www.railtourismindia.com/ and www.irctc.com

You can also dial the railway helpline – 139 (available 24 hrs)

January 7th, 2011 by admin

This is the first time I visited Meenakshi temple in Madurai. We went to see the temple at around 11.30 am. We entered the temple through the west tower. To give you the details the temple has 4 gates know as east tower, west tower, north tower and south tower. If you enter from the east tower, Meenakshi amman (devi) shrine is near and if you enter through the south tower Lord Sundareshwar (Shiva) shrine is near. On top of Lord Sundareshwar and Goddess Meenakshi shrine there is a gold gopuram (tower).

The temple is said to be more than 2000 years old and has been built by Pandya king Kulasekara Pandya. Meenakshi temple is mentioned in Tamil literature as early as 7th century and references to it has been found as early as to 1st century. Madurai city is said to be around 2500 – 3000 years old and Meenakshi Sundareshwar temple has been at the heart of its existence. The temple stands over an area of 17 acres and the city of Madurai has been built around it. The temple had been destroyed by Malik Kafur in 1310, a general of Alauddin Khilji – the then ruler of Delhi sultanate. The reconstruction work was started by the first Nayak king of Madurai Viswanatha Nayak. The most notable contribution was made by king Thirumalai Nayak.

At the entrance of each tower, you will be frisked by plain cloth police man. Women and men have separate line. Please not carry knives, scissors, chemical items etc as such and do not wear half or medi pants. There are free shoe stand at the south, east and north towers. However, the keepers will ask for some money (you may give Rs 1 or 2). At the north tower entrance there is a small market. Shops here sells pooja and religious items. After the shops in a front of a door you will find a bronze decorated ring on which deeps (soil lamps) are lighted every evening.

I have visited Meenakshi temple three times during my visit. First time we quickly saw Sundareshwar shrine and then proceeded to Meenakshi amman shrine. You were lucky to finish it before 1 pm.

special darshan – Rs 15 per person (special queue – less waiting time)
Special direct darshan – Rs 100 per person (no need to stand in queue)

We visited again on the morning of the 4th day of our trip. However, after sometime the battery of camera was over and we had to leave. We again came back in the evening by 6 pm. This time we took a lot of time to appreciate the beauty and holy atmosphere of the temple in peace. This time we entered through the east tower and first went for dashan of Meenakshi devi. We took the special darshan for Rs 15. As you move on the queue you will see two beautiful bronze statues near to the pedestal which you will climb to see Goddess Meenakshi. While moving on the pedestal you will see a beautiful statue of Nataraj (an avatar of lord Shiva) made of silver.

At both Meenakshi devi and Sundareswar shrine only soil lamps are used in the inner shrine area. There are also deities of lord Ganesha (by name Vinayakar), Navagraha, Nandi, Bhadra kali, Hanuman etc. The temple is made up of beautifully crafted stone pillars which are painted at the top along with the ceiling. An elephant blesses people on receiving offerings typically Rs 1 or 2 coin by placing its trunk on people’s head. Near to Meenakshi devi shrine, here is Golden lotus pond. Here you find a lotus made of gold and a golden statue in the middle of the pond. The water of golden lotus pond is considered very holy and if one takes bath here on a auspicious day and then pray to Shiva (Sundareswar shrine) then his or her will be fulfilled. You can also take good pictures from this area as many of the towers can be seen from here.

Finally we visited the Meenakshi temple art museum and thousand pillar mandapam located inside the temple complex. This area is called thousand pillar mandapam as it made of a thousand pillars. Entry free for the museum is Rs 5 per person. If you have already paid camera fees it will cover the museum too. The museum has an amazing collection of old bronze statues, coins of Madurai sultanate, coins of other Madurai kings, a sample structure of Madurai temple, stone carves statues of deities like lord Ganesha, an old door and artifacts. At the center of the museum it has beautiful lined stone crafted pillar leading to a statue of Nataraj (an avatar of lord Shiva). Visit the Meenakshi temple Museum photo gallery

Temple timings: 5 am to 12.30 pm and 4 pm to 9.30 pm
However in dhannur or Chaitra month (in between December 15th to January 15th) the temple remains open from 3 am to 1 pm and 3.30 pm to 9.30 pm.

Entry is free
Camera fees: Rs 50

Note:

1. Photography is prohibited in the inner shrine area
2. Only Hindus are allowed in certain areas like the inner shrine
3. Prasad is available inside the temple complex near the Hanuman shrine. A tasty laddoo cost Rs 10. You can purchase other items too.

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Official Website: http://www.maduraimeenakshi.org/

December 28th, 2010 by admin

For the last two years I have rode on Mysore road many times. I noticed a temple was being built and did not given much heed. As time went by the structure of the temple was becoming visible. At that time I saw a big statue of lord Ganesha on the roof of the temple. I thought it will be a Ganesha temple. But when the final design was out, it was a beautiful puncha mukhi (5 faced) Ganesha temple. The multiple joined Ganesha statue is gold painted. Recently on the way back from Mukti Naga temple, I decided to visit the temple. It is newly built and is very neatly maintained.

The floor of the exterior is made of clay tiles and the interior of the temple is made of marble stones. The deity of lord Ganesha inside is also puncha mukhi and black in colour. There are four bells along the four directions which you can play as in many Hindu temples. The temple also provides prasada to visitors.

While going towards Mysore the temple comes on the left near Mysore road police checkpost.

Route: Bangalore – Mysore road – Kengeri – NICE intersection – Puncha Mukhi Ganesha temple (left hand side)

After taking few pictures we are leaving, a lean dog was roaming close to us. I ate little prasad given by the temple priest and gave the rest to the dog. The dog ate the same with great care and finished it in no time. Looked like the dog was very hungry. As we were leaving, the dog started following us. It followed us even when we boarded our two wheeler and went upto the temple exit gate. Doggie might have been very hungry but that’s all we had then. I hope lord Ganesha will take care!


The dog

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