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Old 8th September 2014, 17:07   #16
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Default Re: Enchanting Tamil Nadu in 72 hours

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Originally Posted by trammway View Post
Initially the excitement of experiencing the tour kept me awake then the concern about the safety of the family in spite of me having almost tired eyes(did mentioned it in the trip back from palace).

I believe more the 2 points mentioned as I lived the life of system support professional half of my life missing few nights sleep wasn't an unusual thing to me. To answer your question on power nap, no until 6:30pm next day at Thiruchendur and I slept almost 12 hours straight line.
Goodness me!! I would have slept off the entire day im Kanyakumari!!

Hats off to your endurance!!
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Old 8th September 2014, 21:37   #17
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Excellent travelogue trammway. nice photographs.Looks like initial starting point was sky city.
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Old 9th September 2014, 07:27   #18
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Originally Posted by jamesdraj View Post
Looks like initial starting point was sky city.

Are you talking about Dugar SkyCity at Vanagaram? But those pictures were taken at Cee Dee Yes Chennai Pattinam
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Old 9th September 2014, 09:55   #19
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ya tramway looks very similar...my friend used to stay there.
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Old 9th September 2014, 10:49   #20
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With no access roads our Fortuner pushed through the sandstorm to once popular and active Dhanushkodi. Within a few minutes, my once pristine car was wearing a thick sand and salt coating ; since it is a salty mix of moisture it didn't dry out. As the slushy mixture of coat also had fishy smell, we had that gift to endure for almost till our end of the tour till next day when we purchased some Jasmine flowers for the ladies in the car. It helped to some extent inside but the outside wasn't even remotely clean till I had my car water washed at Chennai. In fact for the rest of the travel , we had to turn off air-condition and roll down window as the intolerable smell of fish was something we couldn't get rid with any fragrance and air freshener.

We parked the car near one of the sea shells vendor and started our exploration tour of Dhanushkodi. It was a very strange feeling walking in the (once) streets of this nature- destroyed town. The first thing we encountered in this place was the old Railway station and structure of railway station water tank, this is the tallest structure still standing on this entire town. Though the structures are closed with cement walls as they are dangerous for anyone venturing inside, I could see the American introduced Mexican origin Karuvelam Tree (Prosopis Juliflora) freely occupying all most everywhere like rest of Tamilnadu.
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After having a glimpse of the stone structure we saw a crowd standing near a small temple ,not an old that was built from Dhanushkodi days but something recently built. My curious family entered only to see the floating stone in the temple on a small water tub. I observed the object and made some points without making sure if I was correct. Since I was so involved in looking at the object, I didn't click a picture of it. Then we moved towards the east side and turned towards a southern street to see the famous standing structure of the ruined Church. I don’t believe the route that leads us to the Church was the actual street but remains of houses of people lived here. The red oxide flooring that commonly used in Tamilnadu were popping up at some places. The church by itself is photographed by many. The rest of town was in a different category when it comes to photographers and definitely a photographers dream. Inside and around the church the most heard phrase among the visitors are “Can you move please” as so many clicks of photographs with mobile phones to top of the line SLRs. I was standing close to one of the window or side entrance of the church and my imaginary prayer assembly happened in the church, I prayed for the souls who once attended the church gatherings.
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My every foot step in the town reminded me that I’m walking through someone’s house, I’m a stranger here. I don’t know how to explain the feeling but it was very different to look through every direction of this demolished town. The name Ghost City actually best suited to today’s condition, one will feel the tight and heavy heart. All the structures I saw in this town suddenly got it’s life back in a split second and the structures were complete, I felt like the days of full activity of this town, the uniformed cops, school going children, hand pulled carts, exotic horse chariots used by the riches, distance chanting of the priest of the temple and women of typical old days in my imagination to a least. The post office and passport office complexes were few other buildings that stands with identifiable structures of the beautiful town.
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My family went in all the direction exploring the ghost town. It was very tiring to the body and mind as your mind is kind of completely struck witnessing the awful condition of disaster hit town. Since the mind is down, your body lose the strength easily and demands more water and pushes through tiredness. My father couldn't take it anymore and he stopped walking and asked us to move forward into the town. The sounds of aggressive Indian Ocean’s waves were aptly suited to the ambiance of this ghost town with the ohhhhsssshh oooosshsssshh 9.1 DTS effect throughout our walking in the background.
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Then came a small ruined structure of beautiful old street corner temple that one can find in any town or village of Tamilnadu, unlike the larger temple that was completed submerged in the sea, this temple was left to destroy itself as ruins. The color of sky, sand, Rocks and Bricks of the temple provided a beautiful object for shutter bug eyes. The texture of bricks in the temple initially an attraction to me until I saw the rocks that was also used to in walls that was exposing along with the bricks. A close inspection of one of the rock showed me that the material is actually not a rock but corals cut into make the building blocks. Further inspection revealed all the building blocks apart from the bricks in the structure was made of corals of the ocean/sea. Now I remembered an information my mother told me long ago after visiting Dhanushkodi, she said that the rocks in the building were in rusted condition. Hmmm the rusted condition is a false statement but the pores in coral is what she was observed that way.
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Wait a minute, if fossilized coral blocks that actually a greater mix of calcium will float ? What if the pores filled with air pockets stuck inside? What is mass and density variance of sea water vs. these stony corals ? There were 100s of questions started floating in my mind giving almost rebirth to the silent world a wonderful color and activity. If only someone could map the activity of my mind at that very point of time in a graphical illustration, they would have ran out of colors and lines, it was such an experience finding an relating the use of corals from the reefs underneath. The theory of submerged continent Kumarikandam [ Lemuria: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lemuria_(continent) ] peaks were turned to reefs due to abiotic process and provided opportunity for the ocean corals to grow and later the same corals integrated to the mythical stories actually calling them Adams bridge or Ram Sethu and many beliefs of life. The whole mythical stories pushed mankind out of scientifically acceptable reasons. I rushed towards the Church to investigate the rocks on the structure. Oh man !! Once again all of them were Corals, a complete organic substance used as building material in those days. I made a point that, once reaching home the first thing I wanted to study about these rocks and its flotation capabilities. While writing this blog I have an certified justification about why the corals of Palk Strait (aka. rocks of ram sethu) floats, please wait till end of this blog I will provide the finding in this page.
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After spending some more time walking all the cross roads(?) of Dhanushkodi, we hopped into the car towards the actual train station on the west of the town. The worst Karuvelam trees occupied most of the ruined houses and structures. We finally spotted the approaching rails that were once a concluding point of Chennai Dhanushkodi traveler merely visible beneath the sand dunes. The travel back on this route also showed the only remaining internal road of the Dhanushkodi from 1964 exposed for our eyes. After fifty years of the disaster ,this road, likes other structures in the city, truly a monument to be preserved.
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Since this town was declared inhabitable after the cyclone and without anyone living here, the stories of the past lived 50 years long. Many feel that that the proposed new road that is going to come to the old town with the central government aid will surely bring more crowd and population, eventually destroying the wonderful memory of the little town of Tamilnadu.
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We bid our adieu to Dhanushkodi with a mixed feeling of sadness for the people and excitement of finding the reason behind floating stones our car moved in the directions to see the next exotic location for Food, Wealthiest and architecture reference of Tamilnadu.

To be continued…

Last edited by trammway : 9th September 2014 at 11:17.
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Old 9th September 2014, 14:08   #21
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My parents travelled to D'Kodi/Rameshwaram sometime in the last 10 years, dont remember exactly. Also equally dont remember why I could NOT join them :(

Now I am banging my head in disbelief that I missed this place. All is not lost, I still am closer to this place (being in TN) than many who read this blog, I should make it somehow!

Where is the bunch of temples situated, some 9-different wells and all 9 water taste different, though near by? Also I believe the rock where Lord Ram (Or Hanuman, cant recollect) placed His Holy feet? There is some rock for that IIRC?

PS - In the Padmanabha Palace, you clicked a few pics of a "Indoor-Toilet", Indian Style potty (not the EWC). When I visited that palace many many years ago I was told this is the oldest (possibly first) example of a Indoor-Potty in Indian history. I am not very sure about this 'trivia' but there is some story behind that point.
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Old 9th September 2014, 14:15   #22
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Nice travelogue and pictures trammway. Kanyakumari/Nagercoil is our native and we never miss an opportunity to visit the palace and the bridge. Nice set of pictures of the palace itself.
Keep the Fortuner rolling!
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Old 9th September 2014, 14:21   #23
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Hi Trammway,

I wish that my son is not reading this thread- as the plot for this trip gets unfolded, it well give him greatest Idea of traveling to all the places covered in his History book.
But I guess, it be really good to learn by doing things that just the books.

Sadly, today children (including mine) love to visit McD more often than the Lal Quila & Taj Mahal.

Coming to your travel, you brought back my memories from Trichy college days. Loved to go around during extended weekends. The best part was public transport, which was available in plenty and also had some of the cheapest option to explore all round.

Thanks for the travelogue.

Last edited by Wanderers : 9th September 2014 at 14:28.
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Old 9th September 2014, 14:48   #24
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Originally Posted by svsantosh View Post
Where is the bunch of temples situated, some 9-different wells and all 9 water taste different, though near by? Also I believe the rock where Lord Ram (Or Hanuman, cant recollect) placed His Holy feet? There is some rock for that IIRC?
My bad I forgot to write that after our Dhanushkodi visit, we haven't straight gone to the next destination instead we stopped at Rameswaram. My family again went to the temple while I was trying to park the car, since it was 2nd day of Ganesh Chadurthi the procession that carried the statues to nearby location of the beach was happening hence I got stuck in the traffic between temple and the parking for more than an hour. Hence I missed all the temple scene once again after Thiruchendur. Being a driver how many compromises ? That is why it didn't really strike me when I was writting this travelogue and skipped Rameswaram.

Yes, to answer your query the wells are part of the Rameswaram Temple. The story of the rock is Dhanushkodi.

Quote:
Originally Posted by svsantosh View Post
PS - In the Padmanabha Palace, you clicked a few pics of a "Indoor-Toilet", Indian Style potty (not the EWC). When I visited that palace many many years ago I was told this is the oldest (possibly first) example of a Indoor-Potty in Indian history. I am not very sure about this 'trivia' but there is some story behind that point.
I wasn't aware that was the first indoor toilet in India, wow!

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Originally Posted by Wanderers View Post
I wish that my son is not reading this thread- as the plot for this trip gets unfolded, it well give him greatest Idea of traveling to all the places covered in his History book.
Actually, my 2nd son still compels me for the trip to Agra. Who knows during Pooja holidays I may be in the land of Shajahan.

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Originally Posted by Wanderers View Post
The best part was public transport, which was available in plenty and also had some of the cheapest option to explore all round.
True. Our initial plan was to go on Public transport that is plentiful in Tamilnadu but then I will loose the flexibility of covering so many destinations at a short time period. This will also create overheads for stay and luggage etc. Hence the best suited model for our plan was Fortuner even though we were 9 pax total.

Anyway I can't think of driving to Agra, that tour will be in backpackers style.

Last edited by trammway : 9th September 2014 at 15:07.
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Old 9th September 2014, 23:47   #25
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We started our trip back to the next destination from Dhanushkodi, and I dropped the family at Rameswaram and went to park my car. As there was a procession of Pillayar Statues to the sea shore, there was lot of police for security posted on the road. The police stopped my car and other vehicles in the middle to enable smoother movement of the procession. Hence I got trapped in the middle of the road for over an hour and before I could reach the parking area itself, my family returned back after the dharsan at the Rameshwaram Temple.

Since the starting the journey from Chennai till that point my omnivorous family was only visiting the vegetarian restaurants, I already started hearing the demand from the kids to stop at a pure non-veg restaurant. Knowing the next destination their hunger increased by leaps and bound on every kilometer passed. Yes, we were going towards Karaikudi the Chettinadu traders’ settlement. Some of the wealthiest families of Tamilnadu are from here. Chettinadu is very famous for its distinct food and I’m sure no Indian restaurant outside the country ignores to keep Chettinadu Chicken on their menu. Other famous recipes are Chettinadu Idly, Chettinadu Mutton Curry, Kuzhi Paniyaram etc. The ladies of the house are called fondly “Aachi” and most decision for the houses are made by them. As the old days, the Chettiars (community name) were traders and used to go out on trade trips outside the country, the Aachis took care of house administration. I heard that some time Chettiars used to take over 6 months to return as the only mode of world transport was sea / ocean bound. Their primary trade was herbs and spices from South India and they also did middle man tasks of trading goods from one country to other as well.

For most of the Chettiars, their Kuladeivam (family god) is Arunachaleswarar of Tiruvannamalai .If any one of you have been to Tiruvannamalai during the Deepam festivals, you would have amazed by the sterling silver made vahana’s used for the procession for the 10 days and most of them were donated by the same Chettinadu families also known as Nagarathars or Naatukottai Chettiyars. As we are hailing from Tiruvannamalai our whole family was almost certain what could be expected in the destination.

Since the time we started from Rameswaram was around 7:00 PM in the evening, my mind was only thinking about the accommodation for the night. Quickly dialed 044-2644 4444, if you wonder what that number is ? it is Justdial of Chennai. The lady at the other end picked up my call even before the first ring went; greeted me with my name. I asked her to provide me all the accommodation details of Karaikudi and after few words of discussion, bingo I got the SMS. I let my wife click the numbers one by one from the SMS while I was driving and talking on the speaker phone. First one was Hotel Bangala a heritage hotel from Kaanadukaathaan and the price was Rs.6000 for 2 pax and additional will be charged. However there was no availability of rooms for this day. Ok, next one, the ring went for long and no one picked. The third one picked quickly but informed me don’t come to Karaikudi today if you haven’t booked a hotel already. I was confused… and asked him why? He informed me that there was a VVIP marriage due to which all the rooms in Karaikudi have been bulk booked. I wasn’t convinced by that info hence continued to try the rest of the numbers and everyone told me one sentence like copy cat “No rooms today”. I was like what the ****?!

With no rooms available on the phone calls, I was still pushing the car in good speed with the bumpy suspension on the winding state highway. We entered to another town called Devakottai, this is another famous chettinadu town with lots of mansions. My eye was set to search for hotels in here as well but none on the road side and I was rushing through the roads of Devakottai town. While we passing the town we spotted numerous beautiful well maintained buildings of Nagarathars. While we went out of Devakottai town limits we spotted a good sized hotel but quick call from the number posted in the board revealed that no rooms are available but they can accommodate us in the hall with beds. Nah, that doesn't work for us and again drive towards Karaikudi resumed. After few additional minutes (15kms) we reached Karaikudi. As the whole family was very tired and hungry the car stopped at a restaurant called Friends. It was a multi-cuisine restaurant offering Chettinadu to Chinese dishes. All of us ordered Chettinadu varieties and after good one and half hours once again I was searching for rooms but this time not so big ones but smaller sized lodges. Shockingly even those hotel rooms were booked and none to avail. One of the hotel receptionist told me to try out Surya hotel in the old bus stand area.

After a quick navigation in the Karaikudi town I arrived at the hotel , it was not a big one but located inside residential area with an attached bar, though the bar is of no use for me with the family accompanying me I went into the reception enquiring availability of rooms. The manager told me all the rooms were booked however the guests who supposed to checkin at 6pm didn't turn so he could give me one A/C and 2 non-A/C rooms all for Rs.2800. That was like luck worked on my favor situation. The rooms were luxury class for the price paid and the lobby had lift to carry us to 2nd and 3rd floors. The hotel had 24 hours hot water from solar water heater and rooms were well lit and bright colored clean painted walls. We didn't worry much about anything and slept without even bothering any amenities.

After having sound sleep, by 8 AM all of us were back on the Fortuner. The hotel manager told me that Jainika restaurant is good veg restaurant and suggested us to visit there. He was right the hotel had huge menu in Tamil and all the items we ordered were delicious, my wife left a comment on the comment book suggesting that the menu to be prepared in Tamil and English (Hence for those who are traveling to Janika, be prepared the menu is written in Tamil but the waiters are kind enough to read it for you for sure).

I was inquiring few people on the restaurant about available Chettinadu mansions in Karaikudi for visitors to see and all of them told that none available and we need to go to Kaanaadukaathaan village. They were also telling me that there is a mansion in Karaikudi that is called Aayiram Jannal Veedu(house of 1000 windows) and we could see it from outside. After quick inquiry of whereabouts of the house, we were again towards the house of 1000 windows in the narrow streets of Karaikudi. The entrance of the house from outside was like an entrance to a marriage hall and I couldn’t believe it was a house of a single family. Such a big mansion but not so much of windows as everyone addressed it; hence we walked to the security of the house and inquired if we could see the mansion inside.
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As the owners weren’t available he said he cannot allow us and also said that this palatial mansion also featured in many Tamil movies. My question to him about the 1000 windows revealed that this house is filled with 200-300 windows hence people just mentioned it as 1000 window house.
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We moved forward looking for other houses and mansions of the early 19th century and the town had plenty of them. There was an interesting old bridge across a ditch or an ancient canal that had an elaborate design work with a stone explaining that the bridge was constructed with the aid of the riches of Karaikudi (Naataars).
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After a brief browse of the town, we stopped outside at a Silk & Garment merchant’s place with a famous blue colored ceramic or porcelain baked board stating "Ramanathan Stores" that again looked like an old building. There was a person who appeared to be in his 50s; I stopped him and I asked him if we could see any house/mansion as we are interested to learn about Karaikudi houses. He said that he is unaware of any family who could allow us to visit the house and left the place walking away.

The place we were parked our car was in front of a huge ground that looked like some place used for some spiritual festivals of the temple in that area because it had few taller pillars in the middle of it. At a distance opposite to the ground and place we were stopped was a beautiful old mansion with a full open view spotted in my sight. I was almost decided to leave Karaikudi and go to Kaanaadukaathaan village to see the mansions, hence as a last try I was thinking to go and ask permission of the mansion owner that was standing talk opposite to us.
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The Fortuner rushed to the mansion’s gate and leaving all the family members in the car, my father and I entered in the giant ornamental Iron Gate and knocked the door in one corner as the main door easily gave us and indication it wasn’t used for long time. We could hear the sound of someone walking towards the door and opening it.

To be continued…

Last edited by trammway : 10th September 2014 at 00:05.
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Old 10th September 2014, 17:46   #26
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A middle aged lady appeared from inside of the house wearing a curious look on her face started the conversation. (The original version was in Tamil)

Lady: Yes, Who are you ?

Me: We are from Tiruvannamalai and here in Karaikudi to learn about the old chettiar houses. Do you think we could checkout this house ?

Lady: Let me talk to Aachi, if she allows then you can come in.

Me: (Thinking it was a good sign), while the lady comes back

Lady: Aachi is calling you, please come and talk to her

Me: (Walking with my father inside the Naalukattu area, noticed an elderly couple watching Television), Vanakkam Aachi, we are from Tiruvannamalai and interested learning Karaikudi house style. I’m with my family who are in the Car outside, if you allow us I will call them as well.

Aachi: That’s very good, please call them all. (Pointing to the Lady), She will guide you throughout the house. Bring your family inside.

Me: (Thinking and Thanking the lucky star) Thank you Aachi, I appreciate it (Thanked Aachi for her generous acceptance of stranger’s request and brought in the entire family)

The glimpse of the entrance which I wasn’t described in the previous post apart from the ornamental Iron gate was exceptionally beautiful even though the outside colors were looking dull and faded. The entrance gate also had two lantern stands from yester years without any glass dome or light that normally graced this kind of setup. These kinds of huge lantern stands are very common in the European style buildings hence the indication is that there is an influence of European ingredients in the mansion. The veranda was half hexagon shape raising the floor about 4-5 feet from the road with beautiful steps. Inside the Veranda on the roof we could see gorgeous terracotta tiles used with herbal colors giving good contrast to the interior. This would have been a high rise floor to watch the huge ground opposite side during festivals I believe.
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Another distinct feature of the lobby (Veranda) is that all the windows and entrances were having beautiful Tanjavur paintings of goddess of Hindu Religion. I could easily identify these pictures are preserved from its original form and no touchup seems to be done in the last 90+ years. The kids took a photograph on the lobby quickly before we entered into the house.
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The lady who opened the door initially seems to be a domestic helper to the Chettiar’s family. She took us via the side entrance to the back side of the main entrance that seems to be the original living room. This also appeared to be under maintenance though I didn’t find any labourer working but the tools and working bench etc. The lady explained that this hall was once used to conduct family functions like weddings. The hall was filled with all sorts of art work, modern painting, terracotta ceiling, iron pillars, colored glasses, Tanjavur paintings and Arch shaped openings for the walkways etc.
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One thing really gave me some idea of the era this building was constructed name of the company manufactured inscribed on the iron pillars supporting the arch shaped pillars. It was funny reading of Tamil names in direct British accent written in English as an embossment. The actual name in Tamil would have been “C. Gopal Nayagar & Son. Madras” but it was written in the pillar as “C. Copaul Nayacar & Son Madras”. I wonder if the manufactures of this iron pillar or their descendants have seen this writing from elsewhere in the world.
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Two common feature of interior one can find in all mansions around Karaikudi are the wall and floor tiles. They are specially made with a process that still exists in another village called Athenkudi about 20kms distance from Karaikudi. As the Chettiar’s were traveling everywhere in the world they somehow inclined towards the style of these tiles they may have seen abroad and brought the technology home to decorate all of their houses with the designs. Here are the glossy wall tiles and fancy floor tiles we spotted in this house.
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The staircase leading to the upper portion of the house was made out of wood with carved rails and colored surface finishing. Each step of this staircase informed us that it wasn’t in use for long time as the dust faded colors indicated. Though I spotted dust and unclean halls, but they are in pristine condition, simple cleaning job may bring the hibernating life of this mansion back in no time.
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The first level open terrace where we were brought in by the lady had the spectacular view of the road and ground opposite the house. I was imagining the head of the family sitting and sipping the traditional filter coffee (Kappi) of Tamilnadu while watching the happening in the road and ground. We gathered to take a quick picture and observed again few European features on the terrace where it was having rooms each side of the building and top of rooms that looked like a European church. The hand rails (walls) of the terrace was decorated with porcelain made decoration in different colors, I wish I lived in the time when these building were getting built to see the original glory of such a master piece.
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The external pillars here were made of granite as it makes sense for protection from weather and water. The whole external walls of the house were wearing the faded evidence of herbal colors showing the glorious days of the building. When we went down the stairs again went to the Aachi and thanked her for the wonderful opportunity of observing her prized possession. Aachi did open up a window behind her that revealed another huge hall like the living room explaining that is the dining hall for the joint family once upon a time. She was explaining that may be less than half of the house is what we witnessed and other parts or not in showable condition. I was amazed with the hospitality for strangers by this Aachi and thanked her whole heartedly and walked out with my family.
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With so much of satisfaction walking around the house, When we came out of the house I noticed the water drain from house carried South Indian temple elements in it.
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Woah, Local to International, Wood to Granite, Terracota to porcelain and Simple colors to Exceptional paintings and so on. What a package to experience! Thanks to the Aachi and her family once again for giving us this opportunity. At the end I drove the car towards the Heritage village called Kaanaadukaathaan.

To be continued…

Last edited by trammway : 10th September 2014 at 17:59.
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Old 11th September 2014, 12:33   #27
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Unlike Karaikkudi or Devakottai where the heritage or Chettiar mansions are mixed with concrete the modern architecture buildings, Kaanadukathan is full of heritage mansions and the same is the reason for the Govt. India to recognize this tiny little village as Heritage Village. This entire village is full of beautiful palatial buildings. If someone wanted to buy a housing plot to construct a house, normally in today’s scenario, it is measured in square feet or square meter in some places but these chettiars of Kaanaadukaathaan seems to be negotiated their plots in Square Acres. Yes, most of the mansions are spread over an acre of built-up area. Thinking about the time it takes to cleaning the building reminds me how the joint family structure helped them keeping a mansion like this clean.
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The drive from Karaikudi to Kaanaadukaathaan is a quick one and main traffic road leads us to a junction where few small shops and old ill-maintained mansions of smaller scale may be about 10 grounds in size (that is the smallest). The right turn in the junction takes us through the familiar village entrance like street. There is no absenteeism problem of old structure in any corner of the dry street, spotting people in this lanes are really issue and wears a deserted look. We kept moving in our Forturner really slow clicking pictures of arches and walls. The streets took few left and right turns and lead us to a cleanly maintained temple pond. It looked like the place that we were looking for.
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One of the first buildings that we saw there was the Chettinadu Palace, the palace of Raja Sir Dr Annamalai Chettiyar’s house. The British government honored him with Raja and Sir titles. He was one of the pioneers in South India who had businesses all over the south east region. He also found the famous Annamalai University , which for a long time, was the only privately owned university of the country. The place was built in 1912, this palace among other buildings were build in the same time period when many of trading chettiyar’s houses were destroyed by the Tsunami like waves at Poombukar, a historic Tamil city from the South India. Poombukar was also a famous port city for 1000s of years in the history that correlates to the original settlement of Chettiyars who were engaged in international trading through the ocean channels. The Chettiyars of Kaanaadukaathaan, Karaikudi, Athenkudi, Devakottai and other Chettinadu towns created a distinctive architecture that was widely accepted as unique Tamilnadu’s style. When we reached the palace entrance, we saw a watchman in front of the palace and asked if we could visit inside, but the answer was negative.
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I believe people who stay at Chettinadu Mansion that share the rear part of the palace (currently a 5 star hotel) could access the 2nd largest building "the Chettinadu mansion" itself but general public is not having that option as well as the Palace is not accessible for public. We had to satisfy ourselves with a picture of us standing in front of the palace. This palace was easily spread over an acre. The palace occupies one whole block of the village design having streets as boundary in all the four sides. The front and rear have the entrance for palace(Chettinadu Palace) and the Bangala hotel (Chettinadu Mansion) and one side is full of windows while one another side of the palace is used as garage to keep the vehicles of the Raja.
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Almost every house had at least one Hindu Goddess statue in the entrance arch and along with many other figurines. I also noticed either a police uniformed person or a foreign lady in the arch. The Nattukottai Chettiyars of Kaanaadukaathaan not only designed their houses with temple like arches and glass like floors, rock strong foundation and intricate wood work but also designed the entire village very well. The village had straight streets with properly designed drainage and intersections. The open drainage was only had openings at corners of each block and also each of the open area of the drainage system was well protected with hand rails made of granite in a symmetric way.
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The pond in the entrance of the village was very beautiful and protected with fence and has integrated design for overflow of water and filtered inflow of rain water etc., I would say the Pillayar (Ganesh) temple in front of the pond was the smallest building in the village but very beautiful.
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What really bothered me to witness in this village is that, many of the palatial mansions were unoccupied and kept locked as the owners of these artistic marvels either long settled outside the country or these buildings are in legal proceedings for civil cases. Also many of the beautiful structures are left to ruin without maintenance. The left out old mansions which are not in property sharing lawsuits or issues related to continued expenses to maintenance of its original glory also reaching the demolishing companies for the value of wood articles from the buildings. I was thinking as in the entire Kaanaadukaathaan village, not one single mansion available for public visit, and same could be an opportunity for many of the mansions that struggle for maintenance cost by making fees from the visitors. I’m also partially cursing the abroad settled owners of these houses who really failed to appreciate the values of such master pieces and left them to ruins.
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With no opportunity to enjoy the interiors of the mansions, we roamed around each and every streets of the village and discovered our way to the next famous village in our list called Athenkudi.

To be continued…

Last edited by trammway : 11th September 2014 at 12:43.
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Old 12th September 2014, 11:23   #28
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Unlike Karaikudi that was active modern town with pockets of antique mansions , or isolated and inactive Kaanaadukaathaan with a heritage village stamp, the Athenkudi is very active village is what I heard from discussion with passerby in both the locations. Our trip to this village was crossing a highway and through typical Tamilnadu village panchayat road where there is absolutely no road sign or even people to ask for help. Being a Tamilnadu road, security never been a problem anywhere be it a highway or even deserted lanes of an interior village. After few minutes of drive on the road, we spotted a temple gopuram (tower) that indicated a nearby village. Since the destination is a famous settlement of rich people, the temple gopuram from long distance reminded me of an old saying in Tamil that goes like “Don’t stay in a place without a temple” (Actual Tamil phrase: கோவில் இல்லா ஊரில் குடியிருக்காதே). More than any religious reasons, this is true during the old days as the temple towers were designed with scientifically proven lighting conductor through the Kalasam or the Copper pots installed at the top. This technique is believed to be protecting few kilometer radius of the town/village/city based on the height of the tower. The reason why I was writing this information here is to highlight that the highly invested mansions of Chettinadu localities do considered such protection for their prized processions and designed the town with a temple that is taller than any other structure.
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The drive was quick and we reached narrow but busy village with many antique & furniture shops that normally sells everything from the mansion demolition artifacts to knick knacks. Some of the carpenter workshops there do have variety of furniture made out of the wood taken out of the demolitions of the mansions. Since the village was broadly active with lots of people seen everywhere, we were almost certain that getting a help to inquire about the mansions are going to be easy. While we were looking through the boards that claimed Chettinadu style tile manufacturing units of small scale industries, there appeared a middle aged lady on the narrow street looking at our car in a curious manner, I thought she could help us being a local. A quick chat with the lady unveiled that the immediate left from the point we were standing was the largest mansion of that village and allowed for visitors if we pay a fee to the people at the entrance. That was like a dream come true information at that point for me, at least now we have an authentic visitor place to experience the interiors apart from the one we have witnessed in Karaikudi.

A quick turn of left revealed the conspicuous beauty of Tamilnadu heritage, the colorful and magnificent mansion in a well maintained state increasing the excitement of our trip to the tip of our seat. The figurines installed at the entrance are again a special attraction to anyone passing the street. The contrast and bright colors conveyed the joy and culture of the people who lived in this mansion; it reflected their love for creativity and art.
I ran to the granite steps from the gate and met an elderly gentleman and asked if we could visit the mansion and he said yes and Rs.30 per person and no charges for children under 10 years of age. Cool deal! I quickly called the rest of the family to join me and paid him the fee he was asking. There was a lady again who seems to be another domestic helper who helped navigating the house throughout our visit in the mansion. The first look of the verandah (Lobby) itself was a sight for sore eyes, and it is an indication of what is expected inside the first door. So much of luxury in each object we saw in the open lobby. Everything was carefully crafted to match the indigenous Chettinadu architecture, I was failing to count number of things attracted me on that very moment. The pillars, grass screen, the floor, the entrance, the tiles, the ceiling and so on.
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All the mansions were having raised constructions and so this one too, the left side of the lobby lead to a beautiful semi-circled steps with an expensive wood with a board indication it was a lavatory and bathroom. There is a little space between the lobby and the compound wall used for growing flora and fauna. My point and shoot (didn't realize until we completed the tour that I wasn't carried the SLR inside, and what a silly mistake to commit!) camera burned the space in the SD card and also the battery twice when we were inside the mansion. We crossed the main entrance that had a mix of wood carving, granite elephant sculpture and beautiful tiles embedded in the design.
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In an instance if I remember that drops all the onlookers’ jaws, it would have been the time when someone first sees Taj Mahal and first visits the Mysore palace. After these two places which are related to Maharaja or Emperor of a country or dynasty of their own, if outside of any imagination and an ordinary citizen of colonial time period can build such a marvel art, this is it. The interior of this Athenkudi Chettiyar’s mansion was truly a breath taking sight, I almost ran out of words and suddenly my talkative mouth muted and eyes were wide open along with the mouth. Looking at any direction(360 degree) of the main hall, we saw abundant art work; be it on stone or wood or clay or color this is the maximum luxury anyone could wish for, the Chettiyars were legends in that aspect.
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Henceforth I will bench mark interior art against this very Tamilian mansion at Athenkudi, Wow!. The height of all the beauty was found in the height, really it was in the highest location of the main hall that is the ceiling. Don’t have actual measures or approximate estimate but it was huge hall that could have conducted marriage ceremony that brought 500+ people to this hall. The entire ceiling of such a huge hall was hand crafted with intricate wood carvings and all of them were looking identical. Unsure of how much effort went to create such a gorgeous carving work that is stuck above your head. There were several gold foil painted wooden carving still carrying the same beauty from it’s original days – a welcome view to the ceiling in any sense. The hall and all the other portion of the entire mansion is completely out of electricity and no lights or fans were in use when we entered but still had sufficient ventilation, chillness and also natural light that was designed in the structure to provide beautiful illumination on the ceiling. The balcony around the central hall was having artistic pillars and hand rails, and the hall in all the side walls had the famous Belgian mirrors with a screen installed.
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We walk passed the main hall and entered the courtyard (Naalukattu) where all the family member’s rooms were present. Here again no lack of imagination or luxury. The Thanjavur art on each of the window and doorways are integral part everywhere in the mansions we have seen. Even the kids turned bright-eyed and bushy-tailed condition with an amazement of their life. It sure proves that the Late Chettiar was raring to go any extent finishing his once dream house.
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As again this mansion also only had around 25% of the portions were opened for public visits hence we moved towards the next area that is the dining hall that was decorated with tinted glasses imported from Europe. The entrance of the dining hall was having an imported trophy of a deer made out of clay with real antler. Adjacent to the dining hall was the area that was once used for the assistants of the family is now occupied by the descendants of the original owner leaving partial mansion for public visits and cine shooting purposes. Whatever the reason, the mansion is kept very neat and clean and living up to date as a witness to the glorious past of this section of the country.
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We left the mansion with so much of learnings about the people and culture, and all our eyes were fixed to the mansion we visited when the car moved carrying the experience of lifetime. In the end of our Chettinadu trip (Karaikudi, Kaanaadukaathaan, Athenkudi), though, maybe I must pay back to the people in this heritage site who provided excitement to our tour with their creativity, interest and maybe it's wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices and walk across all the wonders of our fairy land called Tamilnadu.

To be continued...

Last edited by trammway : 12th September 2014 at 11:30.
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Old 12th September 2014, 12:36   #29
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An ultimate travelogue about places sir. I admired the Chettinad part of it a lot. Waiting for more.
I could be incompetent in judging things, but I humbly wish to rate this 5-stars, as far as I liked.
Thanks.
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Old 12th September 2014, 22:03   #30
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The final destination of our tour of Enchanting Tamilnadu has been reached, even though Thanjavur is not a new destination for many of the people in India and abroad, this travelogue is going to explain what we experienced in the city of the big temple. When we left Athenkudi village after spending some time on a brief window shopping, our trip quickly reached another important town called Thirumayam.

This town has a beautiful 16th century fort, though I went till the fort entrance(where the ASI standard notice was installed) searching for a restaurant (it was Sunday) but missed to explore it in order to rush to Thanjavur to conclude the trip. Thirumayam fort has a bastion that resembles the Mayan architecture pyramid that holds a British canon. As our searches for food at Thirumayam lead us to a local Mess, we happily enjoyed the very original Karaikudi food. The offer in the mess is that you can choose any non-veg dish for Rs.40 and being a mess there wasn’t one menu card but a huge plate containing variety of dishes brought to every table for the guest to choose what they like. The yummy feast fed our hungry stomachs before we initiated the discussions on the big temple inside the car.
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I would say the trip from Thirumayam to Thanjavur was short and reached the city of Thanjavur and well informed signboards took us directly to the entrance of the Big temple. I could sense the urge in my son’s eyes to get into the temple as soon as possible as this is the exact same location changed his mind from Taj Mahal trip to Enchanting Tamilnadu trip. I had no time to waste as after this visit to the temple, I have a long drive to go home. I’m sure driving towards a tour location is different than returning back to home after the tour.

The two small gopuram’s in the entrance of the Big temple looked bit out of proportion compared to the rest of the temple gopurams in Tamilnadu, this is primarily due to the fact the incomplete front entrance was later completed by Sarafogi king who was a Marathi king ruling a small part of Tamilnadu with the aid of British Government. The 2nd entrance of the temple provided the spectacular view of the ever standing (straight) Vimanam of the sanctorum. The inner walls of the entrance had been used to engrave the history of the temple and the Greatest Indian Emperor Rajaraja Chozhan. Not only the inner wall of the entrance but also the entire temple was filled with stone inscriptions leaving the history of legend who built this magnificent temple. At some point, my curious son started to read few identifiable alphabets and started to post question asking me why the letters change during course of time.
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The courtyard style madapams inside of the compound wall around the temple had Thanjavur paintings and were created by Sarafoji king. When I reached the painting for a click it was almost dark and I couldn’t procure one single presentable picture to showcase here. Earlier when I descended from the car, I was carrying my SLR bag and a Tripod bag in my shoulder but I was intercepted by the Archaeological Society of India (ASI) duty officers in the temple entrance. They informed me that I could carry the camera but if I had to use a tripod or any sort of stand to take picture or video I need to get prior permission from ASI. I couldn't understand the logic, as the camera is allowed but the tripod or monopod are not. While I put my foot forward to capture few pictures of the temple with the kids, my wife went back to the car to deposit the tripod so we could join together when entering inside the sanctorum. As I was using the widest lens 17-40mm that had a UV filter affected by salty moisture from Kanyakumari, it took some time for me to clean the filter, hence few initial pictures were not so sharp but then it improved later. My elder son was competing with me at every point where I stopped to click a picture in the temple.
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When we walked around the temple shooting pictures, I got a call from wife that she is back inside the temple and we all rushed to the sanctorum. Since it was turning dark, I clicked some long shutter shots keeping the camera resting on the mandapam and set up in appropriate angle with the help of my phone and my son’s camera. The camera wasn’t setup on a tripod and the lens was resting on a very sensitive stack of electronics and the remote shutter release helped to click the perfect shot.
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After the slow shutter shot, I moved close to the Vimanam and encountered this particular sculpture that looked weird as it was a non-Indian figurine looked like a foreign man. Quickly captured few pictures and started to investigate the statue, it looked like made of cement or other building materials used in the later days. I was raising a question inside mind if the figurine was originally created by Rajaraja Chozhan who was also ruling lots of places in the Eastern Asia, so to mark his boundaries to the history he was creating an object of his far east citizen figuring in the temple or this is a British person’s statue in cement who helped Sarafogi king to get back his royal position back from his uncle. This is very well could be a figurine Sarafogi king added when he was renovating the temple about one and half centuries ago. The reason why I tend to believe this hypothesis is because the temple was built primarily on red rock and in many places from entrance to the main Vimanam, there is evidence of cement statues that are not going well with the stone sculptures of the original time. Whatever is the reason, the find through the lens sparked lots of discussion in our return trip that kept me awake throughout the journey back to our home.
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The kids were engaged investigating all that they have seen from 1004 years old temple built by the Emperor. The temple is a legend in all the aspects to be recognized by the world as a heritage site and needs to be classified as world wonder as it never cease to amaze anyone how the 80 ton single piece of stone was brought all the way up above the sanctorum (the bulbous structure on the top) without all the aiding machineries of today? And also the master of architecture had designed the temple in such a way that the shadow of the apex of the temple would never be seen on the ground.
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With enjoying the big temple visit at Thanjavur, we finally concluded with a dinner and a filter coffee at Kombakonam town to say the least it has been an exciting trip of the Enchanting Tamilnadu which will be cherished by our 9 brains forever. Our sincere thanks to the person who put the facts of Thanjavur temple against the rest of the famous leaning buildings; as without having that simple picture (published in the first post of this travelogue) we wouldn’t have triggered this 72 hour long trip at all ;-)

As part of a final post I would conclude some facts for reference in the forthcoming post. Please raise any question that you feel help me explaining any part of our tour that I have not articulated well in the blog and also I’m looking forward to hear your comments as well.

To be continued…

Last edited by trammway : 12th September 2014 at 22:11.
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