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Old 12th October 2021, 15:08   #1
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Default Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire

Volume1 - Part1



Introduction:


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part1-pic1-route-2mp.jpg
Pic1 – The Trip – eventually, to my eyes, forming a diamond circuit

11 days, 1483 km, 8 places: 1 detox for mind & body, 4 UNESCO heritage architectural marvels and 3 beaches.

Just me and Baloo, my Tata Nexon, named after strong, caring, yet cuddly bear from my childhood favorite story, Jungle Book!

This is my first Travelogue, built it with a lot of nervousness on its readability and at the same time capturing the essence of trip with my own personal evolving narrative style. Being a person with high emotional quotient, I might have made it look like the way I personally see it through my own eyes as opposed to a pure travelogue that can helps others to get information. As I gain experience in writing and while ingesting the feedback and comments, I am sure to evolve to better over the time.

While creating this travelogue, I realized I could have paid more attention to taking good pictures, that captures the essence beautifully, at the right place and time. I also felt the need to invest on a decent camera, compact point-and-shoot may be good enough for now, in addition to the mobile phone continuing the camera duties as it is now. Being an auto enthusiast, and I could have done a better job of capturing more of the drive and car related information that I have experienced. I will work on them in the future.

Lastly, big thanks to my friend, from the college days, who had encouraged me to write. Its not easy to take up this writing and his support was pivotal, otherwise, it wouldn’t have been possible.

For better readability, I organized this travelogue in the following way into Three volumes and 9 parts:

Volume1 – Reset at Ashram and drive into glorious past of Chola empire
Part-1: Getting Started
Part-2: Coimbatore, The Ashram
Part-3: Tanjavur, and the First UNESCO heritage marvel - ‘The Big Brihadisvara Temple’
Part-4: The Palace and the museum @Tanjavur

Volume2
– Explore the Pencil carvings, new capital city and do speed travel of Pondicherry
Part-5: Darasuram, and the Second UNESCO heritage marvel - Shri Airavatesvara Temple
Part-6: Third UNESCO heritage marvel – Brihadisvara temple in the ‘New capital city’
Part-7: Downtown Pondicherry and two of its Beaches

Volume3 – Drive into the magical ruins of Pallava Kingdom on the beach
Part-8: Mahabalipuram, and the Fourth UNESCO heritage site – Group of monuments!
Part-9: The shore, the temple and the five chariots.
Closing impressions: The capstone.

There is so much that I enthusiastically explored in these days that when I started penning down my thoughts, it eventually turned into a long 9 part travelogue with more emphasis on the visuals/Photos.

Each part is independent on its own and conveys the essence of that place or time of the visit. I had split this travelogue into 3 volumes so make it easier for reading at a time while continuing to stay with the flow.

Now that context is set, Buckle up! Let’s Ride!

Prologue:



First step was to take Baloo for the service and get him thoroughly checked up. Got him picked up by my regular Prerana service center in the morning. By evening my vehicle was delivered back to me with an all clear for the trip from my trusted service technician Praveen@Prerana.

Baloo got his brain (ECU software) updated, AMT TCU was also updated, oils checked, coolant topped up, suspension checked, dashcam concealed wiring done (not hardwire) in those few hours. I had the hardwiring kit for the dashcam but Praveen advised me to not to hardwire as it may void the warranty. So, I decided to go with standard wiring connecting to the cigarette lighter slot. He was kind enough to help me conceal the wiring from the top of the rear-view mirror along the border of the windshield to the right of steering wheel through A pillar and behind the dash. It was flawless and the dashcam starts up whenever I crank up the engine.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part1-pic2-baloo-workshop-2mp.jpg
Pic2 – Baloo getting all checked up

Post the service, I felt marked improvement in AMT and also slight improvement in fuel efficiency shown by the digital console (not checked the tank to tank yet) for CITY mode. Somehow, for me ECO mode and CITY mode pretty much give the same mileage. I find the CITY mode as well balanced with power and pickup. So, my usage is CITY mode for 90% of the time, ECO for 9% and rest 1% (or less) SPORT mode. I also found the downshifting to happen much faster than before, may be like those ‘2 seconds of craziness’ came down to ‘1.5 second of craziness’ (more about it later).

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part1-pic3-30km-per-litre.jpg
Pic3 – Some mesmerizing figures, right after this service, on a signal free stretch with conscious driving!


When you think of long drive, first thing comes to mind is Coffee.

One of the biggest inconveniences that I had with Nexon is the design of the center console coffee mug slots. They are too deep and small thereby making most of the commercially available and reasonably priced ones unfit to be used in the car. The takeout cups from Starbucks or Coffee day or any other ones are completely ruled out as they just don't fit in. In addition, there is no partition between below armrest storage and coffee area, which gets covered by sliding cover. I discovered this when I found my sun glass case in coffee slot after few km drives which was initially put in the storage area below the armrest. I am thinking of putting some temp artificial partition through some cardboard (a future DIY).

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part1-pic4-coffee-mugs1.jpg
Pic 4 – Coffee mugs that can be kept in the slot, not all of them ‘fit’

Eventually ended up wasting money on a few mugs over many months since I bought the car. Among what I bought, a couple don’t fit at all and the Milton (left one in the pic) fits with a screeching noise every time by touching both sides of the coffee holder slot and in addition its sipper is not designed well thereby spilling coffee on my shirt. Later, I found the ‘Cello slimline version’ (the right one in the pic) only to discover that it is so slim that it wobbles in the slot.

Finally, the search ends with perfect fit mug from IKEA. It snug fits into the bottom groove in the holder and stays firm. While the sipper could have been little narrower but for now it serves the purpose well.
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Old 12th October 2021, 15:19   #2
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Default re: Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire

After just reading the Intro, am very excited to read your journey through the Great Chola Empire, and is that 30kmpl, Wow am surprised that a car can get it.

My car barely manages to get over 8kmpl.

Last edited by KingKong : 12th October 2021 at 15:20. Reason: mistake
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Old 12th October 2021, 15:44   #3
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Volume1 - Part1 (continued...)



Aarambham

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part1-pic5-bhagvan-shivas-bust-4mp.jpg
Pic 5: Teaser – Om Namah shivaya.

My father, who is a staunch believer in muhurta’s (auspicious time to start anything new or significant), set a time that I need to leave home by 5:45am. As I packed everything a night before and got up about 4:30am and to my surprise find my mother already at work, full swing, in kitchen making food for breakfast and lunch during the drive. Parents! only thing here is that I am no where near being treated as a child, but try telling them that, lol. Its a different topic that our elders would stubbornly treat us as a child no matter how aged we become or even have our own child (their grandchild) telling the reality. I would not go into this emotional and highly controversial topic here, lol.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part1-pic6-brihadeswara-back-front-view-2mp-resized.jpg
Pic -6: Teaser – Standing tall, even after Ten centuries!

As planned I am all in the car by 5:40am and started exactly per my father’s muhurta. Both my parents personally came down to ensure my mother is the first person that I cross after starting the drive, another belief that they always follow, whenever they are around for long journeys. While they were wishing me a good trip, I can sense their worry about me going alone, they had earlier tried to persuade me to not to go alone in car. However, they knew that with the COVID situation, self-drive is many times safer than using public transport. Previous day, while packing, they ensured that I never forget to pack the gloves, surface disinfectant sprays, sanitizers, paper napkins...etc. I promised to be careful and cautious for the whole trip and started off. Twilight started by the time I hit the Hosur road with little traffic in these early hours on otherwise a very busy ‘Atibele stretch’. My destination was Coimbatore. I was bit nervous considering that was my first solo sojourn in a self-drive car. Initially I planned for 5 days but kept the option to extend. The nervousness showed in the heightened alertness in the drive and that was promptly noticed by Baloo.

‘Relax, buddy! Your over cautious driving inputs are troubling me’, shouted Baloo.

Yep, he found a way to talk to ‘me’ through inner voice, crazy...ha

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part1-pic7-twilight-moments-paradise-4mp.jpg
Pic -7: Teaser – ‘Serenity’….(Paradise beach)

Baloo: Why are you saying it is your first solo? The trips to parents home in Andhra and to Hyderabad done solo as well, right?

Yourstruly: Well, those were a familiar destination and gone there for a specific purposes. More so, though they both are 500+km one-way, the highways are good and I am familiar with the entire route. This trip is different. I never been to Coimbatore or Tanjavur. I knew none there. I had to take e-pass to enter Tamilnadu, take COVID test, and is elections season in Tamilnadu. A lot of unknowns and unfamiliar places.

Baloo: Ahha, take a deep breath, put on that favorite music of ours. We will reach there in a few hours.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part1-pic8-museam-tanjavur.jpg
Pic -8: Teaser – It was ‘modern’, a few of centuries ago!

Yourstruly: Don’t you give up on me in the middle of the highway.

Baloo: Trust me. I never troubled you on highway so far.

Yourstruly:
True, but you did twice at home.

Baloo: That was long time ago. First battery drain was not diagnosed correctly and assumed that you made mistake like turning on lights all night. Second one is properly diagnosed and fixed. Its not going to happen again. Dint you believe what Praveen (my technician at Prerana) told you about me?

Yourstruly: Yep, I did believe his words. Keeping fingers crossed.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part1-pic9-wall-bigtemple-2mp.jpg
Pic -9: Teaser – Securing the treasure, still doing the duty with same strength even after 1000 years

Baloo: BTW, why Ashram? What’s going on in that complex confused mind of yours?

Yourstruly: Hmm...

COVID first wave has turned many lives upside down, caused suffering, and put all of us on uncharted path. I have stayed alone many times in different places, due to job or studies, over the years but never this much loss of contact with outside world while we were dealing with such a tough situation around us. Its tough on our mental health as much as the physical health. In my life, its timing is such that it came when I am already struggling to stay spirited after years and years of life slip away, leaving me behind. There is a constant battle in mind about relevance of life, uncertainty about future, responsibilities and dependencies, scary financial situation and the loneliness. COVID not only destroyed livelihood of many people, caused so much death, impacted physical health but also, simultaneously, viciously played games on our minds, it was like a quagmire.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part1-pic10-push-butter-ball-2mp.jpg
Pic -10: Teaser – ‘Yourstruly’ trying ‘The impossible’, lol.

As lock-down eased and life started sprouting again outside, I had to visit my parents, who are living away in another small town, and take care of few long pending things and address some of the medical issues reported by my mother. For better healthcare access I brought them to Bangalore. What I initially thought as simple health issue turned out to be a big scare that put us into a few month’s tense cycle of doctor visits & tests. Fortunately, with the help of some good doctors (thanked God for these angels), we found that while the scare is real, there could be a chance that she could manage it for a while. To be sure, we need to monitor with medication for a few months and repeat tests again. I felt there is some ray of hope and prayed for her good health.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part1-pic11-outer-wall-view-airavatesvara-2mp.jpg
Pic -11: Teaser – if the ruins can be so mesmerizing, then imagine when they were gloriously standing!

With that state of mind and coupled with prolonged period of WFH life and many months of mother’s love from kitchen, ensured that I put on some extra kilos of weight. Many of my clothes are no more fitting and have become little rounded in shape. My body is also not as responsive as it used to be, always lethargic and felt like its changing for worse. This further added to my depressing thoughts that are already testing mental strength.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part1-pic12sunrise-shore-temple.jpg
Pic -12: Teaser – Sun never fails to bring the ‘ray’ of beauty, peace and hope, everyday!

The healthier we are, both in mind and body, the better equipped we are to deal with life around us. I need to keep doing things that gives me a sense of belonging in this world and also start pumping the positive counter force to the negative depression that is pulling me down the abyss. Movies and TV has been such a great distraction for me all these years but it only helps by temporarily distracting and taking me to a different ‘unreal’ world. Once the show or movie is done we are back to reality around us which has not changed even small bit but little more time of our life is ‘permanently gone’!

Hence, I felt the need to to do things that I love doing but are set in real world. In that space there is nothing more engaging than travel to explore the world around us. Beauty there is those memories stay long time and each travel helps you learn new things and evolve to be better.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part1-pic13-airavatesvara-inside-left-view-4mp.jpg
Pic -13: Teaser – Marvels from our past!

I knew that the window of time at hand is very little, before the next set of tests to be done for my mother. Additionally, job related commitments lined up in a few weeks down the line. There are other important things that need to be taken care of and they will consume some of this window as well, but still hoped to take out some breather. With the elections announced in some states and with gradual increase of COVID cases reported (moved from 10k per day range when I was planning to 20’s per day entire country when I started), there is a scare about the timing. The downside of not stepping out felt like as if it will destroy me within these four walls due to the kind of mental state I was in. Moreover, this window of time is only available now and is uncertain in future. So it was a calculated risk that I I took to step out on this trip at that time in March. On a hindsight, I am sure my decision would have been different if we knew whats coming few weeks down the line like we got to understand the severity by mid-April, shocking everyone with the speed and the devastation.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part1-pic14-gangaikonda-left-side-view-4mp.jpg
Pic -14: Teaser – out of the world!

As the battle is primarily in mind, I wanted to ensure it will start with a good detox to mind. Over the last couple of years, I had been coming across the teachings of ‘Sadguru’ and wanted to experience in person hoping that would help me with a fresh perspective and give me back hope & strength to crawl back. There is a course starting there at his Ashram around the same time that suited my plans. That’s how Coimbatore was fixed as the starting point as his Ashram is located there. Additionally, as I am already going that far, I felt I could extend further to explore the historical architecture that I had heard of earlier, which is now at a driving distance from Coimbatore. Hence, decided to keep the option of extending the trip further after Ashram stay, to explore those UNESCO heritage marvels.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part1-pic15-soak-sun-mans-best-friends.jpg<br>
Pic -15: Teaser – my ‘companions’ for the Sunrise at the beach

I had traveled before but never really felt about it like I felt in this trip. Earlier, there was always a part of me holding back in emptiness waiting for the mirage of ‘better tomorrow’. Maybe after years of letting ‘life pass by’, despite being fortunate to have had many chances earlier, now it’s the realization. I thought, once in a while, for a few days, should keep spending time by doing what I truly like and experience it 100%.

Hence, the result is this Trip!

Baloo: Cool! I am with you buddy, Let’s EXPLORE! The world awaits for us.
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Old 12th October 2021, 16:10   #4
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Default re: Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire

Volume1 Part-2:



Bangalore to Coimbatore, and The Ashram:


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part2-pic1-shiva.jpg
Pic-1: Adiyogi

As I started early at 5:45am at Bangalore, per google, was confident of reaching Ashram before the check-in time 1:30 pm. It was pleasure driving on the sparsely busy 6-lane NH-44 which is going up to 100 km from Bangalore before becoming 4-lane somewhere near Krishnagiri. I think the Krishnagiri-Chennai stretch is 6-lane all the way but don’t remember clearly as its been many years since I drove on that stretch. I maintained heightened alerts and bit nervous for a couple of hours but slowly became comfortable. Around 8am, drive slowed down due to a huge traffic jam that stretched a few kilometers. Luckily, after few minutes inch by inch movements, thanks to google, took a detour of 10km and joined back on the highway almost at a place where the jam is getting cleared. That detour gave some scary moments with narrow roads that can potentially fit one vehicle and a bike at most, but you see buses also plying there.

Overall onward journey is smooth, thanks to lucky escape from traffic Jam, and with stops in between for rest breaks and for topping up the fuel. From Coimbatore, the roads became, more or less like, two lane roads, that got narrower as we get closer to the Ashram, which is close to the foothills of western Ghats. Finally, reached the ashram area on time but took more than an hour to figure out where to go within Ashram area, where to park, and then to complete check-in formalities. First 20 mins delay was due to google leading me to the ‘large statue of Shiva in meditation’ and ofcourse loved the first site of it but was surprised with the crowd. There were too many people and hardly anyone trying to follow any of the COVID appropriate behavior and protocols. I understand social distancing could be challenging but just wearing mask properly itself is big must step. Felt sad about what I saw there and also across the way during breaks. With the help of the security folks manning the crowd there, got the directions and finally reached the check-in site.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part2-pic2-entrance-2mp.jpg
Pic-2: The entrance

After check-in, there is only about a few mins time left to refresh and grab super quick lunch before joining fellow course mates for the kick-off. As part of the kickoff, a lot emphasis was laid on COVID appropriate behavior, protocols and precautions that is expected from all the participants and while moving around inside the campus. The campus strictly implemented these protocols, including social distancing in every interaction and activity. The administration team made changes to the daily life there to enforce those protocols, so everyone feels safe, protect themselves and others. That is comforting and reassuring for all of us as we all come from different parts of the country and going to spend together for a few days.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part2-pic3-place-stay.jpg
Pic-3: Place of stay

Despite the hot summer weather, the evenings and mornings are pleasant as there are lot of trees and green hills around. The next 3 days were tightly packed with various sessions, activities, interactions that thoroughly gave me much needed jolt to reset my perspectives about inner health, physical health and how we look at our life. The daily routine is strict with early morning rise up and controlled but healthy food (read no coffee or tea, lol), more walking with bare foot (it was so nice to walk on the grass with bare foot, some of those childhood playing memories flashed), sitting upright with no back support for hours, walks in open air in greenery, back to bed by 9pm…etc. After a day of getting used to, infact, I felt nice about getting up so early, fresh up, take bath and be there in the session before 6am sharp, without any exceptions. Some of those yoga activities encouraged me to get back to active life, lose extra weight and exercise as I sadly found some of the body muscles have become lethargic and inflexible.

I am not going into further details about the course as it is something personal for all the participants. Maybe it would be better for the interested people to experience it by themselves. But the time there just flew in a jiffy.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part2-pic4-walk-greenry.jpg
Pic-4: From one of the nature walks

The biggest shocker for first two days was realizing how addicted I have become for coffee. First 36 hours without coffee have been tough with constant headache and cravings. Infact, on the second day, tried to sneak into the canteen to order a cup of coffee, but as the fate decided, the canteen fellow refused to serve saying counter is closed by sharp 5:30pm. I was late by just 10 minutes only and it was awful to see many happy souls sitting around in the canteen area and sipping the coffee/tea. Maybe ‘Adiyogi’ is teaching me a lesson! By the fourth day, gradually felt better and didn’t really miss the coffee, that itself was an amazing feat.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part2-pic5-colors-green.jpg
Pic-5: the colors of ‘green’

I am religious but not as devoted as like my parents, yet. I guess, my religion gave me freedom to practice my belief’s the way I would like to be at any point in life but ofcourse within respectful confines or boundaries. There is enough freedom and most importantly democracy. There are many Gods and I have my favorites too but ofcourse, I bow down in reverence and respect to all the Gods. Our Puranas and Epics are all about Gods behaving with all the emotions like humans, sometimes taken over by pride, anger and doing mistakes but again correcting themselves at times with the help or direction from other Gods. I love the fact that its all democratic and each of those stories from Purana’s and epics offer a different perspective and loads of wisdom. Maybe that’s the reason we in India have embraced democracy as it is rooted in our historical past.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part2-pic6-nandi.jpg
Pic-6: Nandi in front of Dhyanalinga

Meditation is something that I am yet to master. My mind wanders a lot when I try to meditate and haven’t been able to hold it still. However, the first visit inside the dhyanalinga arena is so mesmerizing. I loved the architecture of the large dome, inside area where you can meditate by sitting around the soul touching and calming ‘dhyana-linga’ at the center. I felt the architecture, art, divinity and sanctity come together beautifully there. While others meditating, I was taken over by what I saw and felt there. Those first impressions and the goosebumps felt are one of the best moments of the stay at Ashram. Even now, when I close my eyes, I could still feel that interior environment of the dome and the see the dhyanalinga at the center. No pictures were allowed so I don’t have the pic to share. Maybe its good that way as one should experience it by themselves to feel those stirringly, positive vibes. There were many pictures and writeup outside, on one of the walls, conveying how that large dome was constructed with traditional construction methods as opposed to the modern steel and concrete. It was an architecture and design that beautifully underplays yet makes a lasting impression.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part2-pic7-opposite-dhyanalinga.jpg
Pic-7: a view inside the campus.

Overall Ashram is itself has a thoughtful architecture and designed to convey its philosophy and peace in every which way. It was constructed in a least disruptive way to the nature around and practice the eco-friendly and earthly living as practiced by ‘Adiyogi’ himself. There were so many peacock around that are freely moving. First time in my life I heard the sound of a Peacock and felt its like the bird Kevin from the Pixar movie ‘UP’, lol. I also saw them freely climbing on to buildings and jumping from one wall to another, never thought, being such a large birds, they could do it so easily. It was beautiful. Unfortunately I could not take those pictures and those moments of us watching them will be imprinted forever in my memory.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part2-pic8-supari-tree-2mp.jpg
Pic-8: plantation inside the campus

On the last day evening, we capped the program. Some of us chose stay the night, while a few chose to leave immediately. I decided to stay the night and visit the great statue of Shiva (called ‘Adiyogi’) in the early morning hours to absorb the serenity and beauty during the sunrise. I was lucky enough to get wonderful company, thanks to a few folks who joined me, to visit the gigantic Adiyogi during the early hours that made the short visit sweet and memorable. However, clouds eluded the first rays of rising sun so we could not really get to see the sun till at a point when it is very high up thereby denying us the good photo opportunities. Nevertheless, it was delightful and peaceful to spend time there in the twilight with sparse crowd.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part2-pic9-gigantic-shiva.jpg
Pic-9: Final glimpse of Adiyogi at the Dawn

Previous day night, after the program finished, I deliberated on my next leg of the trip. While Tanjavur was top in mind, the thought of visiting ‘Kanyakumari’ and the ‘Abandoned town of Dhanushkoti’ also enticed me. Ideally, loved to cover both but it requires more time as they all are far apart, so they are dropped. A couple of participants, both hail from Tamilnadu and familiar with these places, pitched in debating these options. That informative discussion helped me to finalize my path, which is going to be the UNESCO marvels near Tanjavur. I made clear to them that my intention is not about visiting Gods and Temples, but is about historical architectures and ruins. So that sealed the debate. Once getting back to the room, spent a few minutes to quickly make the hotel booking at Tanjavur. I could not get the hotel that I was looking for but nevertheless was able to get good deal on the next best ones available.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part2-pic10-sun-shiva.jpg
Pic-10: The ‘Aura ‘of AdiYogi

After getting the final glimpse of Shiva in the morning light, it was time to say goodbye to people I had interacted and who are still around. The time spent there touched the soul in more ways than I could imagine, so it was tough to leave with that feeling of vacuum. Towards the end, goodbye chats with participants almost became like a long conversation where I got to know more about them and wished our paths cross again sometime in future, while we carry on independent life paths.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part2-pic11-pathway.jpg
Pic-11: Pathway that rewards, maybe!

I finally checked out and reached parking spot to find Baloo fully covered in dust and lots of dry leaves fallen from trees around. Though I ensured to park him in an open area without a tree cover so that he is spared from the monkeys and also any falling branches, I could see so many marks indicating that monkeys had a free run exploring him, lol.

“So, you finally remembered me” teased, Baloo, ofcourse with a bit of frustration on being left to elements for these four days.

I smiled and quietly took the cleaning kit in the trunk and spent next 15 minutes to clean him and getting him ready for next 7-8 hours of drive ahead.

“So, what did you get out there in those four days”, Baloo continued the chitchat while I was going about cleaning him.

YoursTruly: I think the biggest one is a break to the downward spiral in my mind, and a pause to think, absorb and hopefully, reset the course.

Baloo:
Why hopefully?

YoursTruly: Haha, after it is over, when we are back to real day to day life, its tough to holding onto this optimism facing the real world, for every minute, 24 hours of the day, 365 days of year.

Baloo:
I get it, what are the key takeaways?

YoursTruly: Many, a few that are top of my mind are:
a) ‘Why me’ is a question lingers in almost everyone. Each and every one got a story and struggles that they are going through in their life and in their minds.
b) The ‘inevitable moment’ is real. We can’t change it and accept the way it is. Happy moment, sad moment, ok moment are the labels that we give and that has no bearing on the next ‘inevitable moment’.
c) Life goes on, if you are not in it then ‘Life will bypass you’. This is true for many of us and especially for me.
d) We need to take care of this body and stay healthy in a way that we should aim to be ‘falling dead’, a phrase conveying that we be able to stay ‘fit and healthy’ till the last breath in very old age and die in a moment when the time comes, instead of spending months on hospital bed with ill health and having painful slow death.
e) Desire is good. It powers our life but balancing it to just right levels so it does not consume us and becomes bad. The discussion and messages I heard around ‘desire’ were thoughtful.

There are many other things that I heard in that short stay, which I felt good and thoughtful.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part2-pic12-bridge.jpg
Pic-12: Bridge to healthy mind and body

Baloo: Interesting, so I assume we will be spending lot of time together, exploring, from now on.

YoursTruly: Lol, That’s my hope.

Baloo: Haha, again that ‘hope’!, Any new people you met?

YoursTruly:
Yep, that’s another best thing. After a long time, I get to meet new people and each of them bring a fascinating personality and create positive impressions.

A hotelier, an artist, a IT technologist, a marketing executive, an vlogger couple, two college students, a home maker and her teenage daughter, a national team sportswomen, a IT manager, a gaming entrepreneur, an executive working in Dubai, a photographer, and many others that I had some chance to interact or exchanged pleasant smiles.

And last, but not least, our wonderful teacher and guru for these 4 days, who is from Lebanon, and dedicated the life to make the world a better place and spread the positivism.

Each one of them made unique impact, some in unexpected ways that remains forever, with their own perspectives, conversations, stories or just being what they are.

Baloo:
Fascinating, hope you continue to stay connected with some atleast!

YoursTruly: Its about meeting people, hear about their views, digest different perspectives and appreciating the learning that comes across. So, mostly, I guess, let’s just say, these wonderful memories would stay on! That’s about it. Anything beyond, a bonus!, lol.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part2-pic13-side-nalanda-2mp.jpg
Pic-13: ‘Framing’ those memories of Ashram

Baloo: Alright, Let's drive into Chola empire
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Old 12th October 2021, 16:45   #5
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Default re: Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire

Volume1 Part3:



Tanjavur, and the First UNESCO heritage marvel - ‘The Big Temple’

After Baloo is cleaned up just enough to appear not dirty, lol, I cranked him up and as usual he responded with a delightful roar at the first push of the button. Punched in the coordinates of the hotel at Tanjavur into google maps and it indicated me 6.5 hours of drive to go. Its already about 9am and am confident about reaching hotel while sun still rules. Now the time to take him out, but some how I just sat for a few minutes and lost in thoughts, not sure how it happened, but crazy😊

“wanna go back in there?”, winked, Baloo with a teasing smile.

That comment brought the smile on my face, “haha, It was a great time, but, I guess that’s it. I got what I could possibly get here. Let’s go”

We started off. I initially opted for the route via Dindigal as was suggested by a localite but soon realized its better go with NH81, which was also the suggestion from google. So I switched the route before its too late and It turned out to be alright with good 4 lane road all through via Trichy. This dilemma of the route put me about 45mins behind the schedule. On the way twice I was stopped by police to check if I am carrying any cash, reminding me that I am traveling at the height of election campaigning. One of the checks were so thorough that they had opened all my luggage and moved things around inside the bags to check if I am hiding anything. They checked interior of the car, dashboard and my laptop bag, nothing is spared. The second check was a bit simpler after I told them that I was already stopped before couple of hours ago. However, at this check point, I could see some police even noting down the vehicle numbers of all the cars that are passing by. Later, a curious search on google splashed the news about the amount of cash that was caught in these few days leading to the election day. No wonder we hear about money being distributed in hoards for votes.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic1-brihadeswara-back-front-view-4mp.jpg
Pic1 – The ‘Big’ brihadiswara Temple, originally built in years 1003 to 1010AD, in about 7 years.

As I entered Tanjavur and nearing hotel, I was greeted by the ‘Vimana’ of the majestic Brihadiswara on my left while crossing bridge over the river stream. Then again, I turn and pass through the main road, crossing the temple entrance on my left. It was an awesome view especially being my first glimpse of this marvel. It was around 4pm that I reached the hotel Gnanam. Again, like at the Ashram, its an open parking for Baloo but was able to park inside the compound of the hotel. So no respite for Baloo from the elements. As I have seen in else where in Andhra & Karnataka, when you visit these small towns or villages, you get a feeling that COVID never really impacted or even existed in these parts of the country, sad that we are so complacent. I kept my safety sensors on all the time and took precautions like always mask on, social distancing as much as possible, avoid contact as much as possible, keeping sanitizer in my pocket along with few of paper napkins. The room is clean, but furniture and furnishings are bit dated. It a boasted the sober brownish designs, which are not of my taste. Room is spacious enough with a small balcony and comfortably spaced out bathroom. A/C appeared too old but in working condition. I decided avoid the A/C as much as possible. Overall, I felt this is good enough for me for my 3 night stay. Once checked in, I sprayed all around in the room to sanitize thoroughly. After that I freshened up and took a nap for sometime that refreshed me and pumped the energy back.

I stepped out around 6:15pm to visit the Big temple. I know I am going to visit it again on next day early morning but wanted to familiarize myself first quickly. It was at a 10-12 min walking distance but weather sure made me sweat by the time I reached the temple. It was super crowded and ofcourse, as usual, not so covid protocols despite the security at the entrance reminding everyone to wear masks. It was almost getting dark by the time I entered the Temple complex. The first impressions, that I got in the dark with lights around, are just awesome. Its just a wow!

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic2-moon-big-vimana.jpg
Pic2 – The Moon and the great Vimana, entirely built using granite stone, about 60 meters in height.

I was awestruck by the majesty of these structures. In the dark, with the moon lighting the sky, and with thoughtfully lit lights flashing on to the temple structures, fresh cool breeze sweeping the vast open arena of the temple complex, it was a memorable time to walk around. As it starts to darken, I could see the crowd thinning down and that gave me much more space and fresh air to explore more freely. This temple complex has been taken over by ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) and hence we could see some investment in keeping it clean. But not enough to keep it to the levels that these marvels deserve.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic3-murugan-shrine-left.jpg
Pic3 – The sophistication of design shines in the projected lighting and moon lit sky.

I was there in complex till the closing time of 8pm, familiarizing myself and walking around the huge compound and check each and every structure. There is so much to absorb and the photos don’t do justice in capturing the magnanimity of these structures.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic4-view-outer-veranda.jpg
Pic4 – the raised veranda (on the right) running along the entire peripheral wall of the temple complex

I spent a good time in just sitting at couple of the best viewing spots on the raised veranda, which is about 5ft high from the ground, and runs along the periphery of the rectangle complex along the boundary wall.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic5-night-side-view.jpg
Pic5 – from the same spot, in the evening, when I was relaxing and ‘taking in’ the view.

In the above pic, you can see the mukha mandapa (front veranda/hall), maha mandapa (the big hall right after), ardha-mandapa (right infront of sanctum)with side entrance which was exclusively used by royal family, and the large sanctum (under the great vimana). The photo doesn’t do justice at all for the real view, fresh breeze and the vast open area that was there at that spot in that night.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic6-twilight-view-behind-murugan-shrine.jpg
Pic6 – another view in twilight that I enjoyed just watching while sitting on the peripheral veranda.

I was elated to know that the temple opens by 6am so I can enter the complex at that time get the glimpse of this marvel in Twilight and if lucky even get to see the first ray of Sun over the sanctum. Right next to the shoe keeping area, there is a book store and small crafts store. Picked up a book about the temple so as to understand the history and architecture of this temple. I decided to come early in the morning at the opening time so I can explore the temple in the twilight and under the rising sun before it gets too hot.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic7-nandi.jpg
Pic7 – Huge Nandi, carved out of a single stone, in Nandi-mandapa infront of main temple

On the way back to hotel, right at the corner of road where the temple is there, found this nice vegetarian hotel. I liked its openness and the seating area at the back opens into the parking area, thereby making it is well ventilated, a must precaution for COVID. I picked up a table at the starting point of this open area but yet covered on the top. It has both south and limited north food options, juice counter, ice creams, items that are just good enough for me. On the first day in Tanjavur, I was on experimental mode, especially after being away from tasty food for about four days, i wanted to taste as many items as possible and hence ordered this mini tiffin, which I found to be too much quantity. Eventually, I ended up stuffing so much as I could not waste food on the plate, this is something my father never allowed at home from childhood. He always asked us to take whatever we can eat but eat it full else don’t take it or make/order it at all. My bad, I should have checked the quantity before ordering.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic8-krishna-bhavan.jpg
Pic8: Krishna bhavan, that became my dinner spot for 3 nights of stay in Tanjavur

On the way back to hotel, I picked a few 2 liter water bottles, picked up cold buttermilk and finally got to bed bit tired with the alarm set for 4:30am. Next day morning, As usual my eyes opened around 3am (some thing strange, from the day1 on ashram I kept getting up at this time for the rest of the 10 days) and after checking the clock I tried to force myself back into sleep. After many peaks at alarm, finding the clock to be moving very slow, finally got up at 4:30am. That shows how excited I was for the sun to raise. To be COVID sure, I took small jute bag, nothing fancy, to carry with me. I stuffed a sanitizer, my sun glasses, a water bottle, small disinfectant spray, some tissue paper and a spare mask into that bag. I dint want to be scared of losing my shoes, so I wore the flip-ons and walked out to temple. On the way out inquired the hotel reception for the breakfast timings. Got to know that breakfast window is 7:30 to 9:30. I thought I might be able to comeback before they close breakfast.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic9-empty-streets-tanjavur.jpg
Pic9 – Almost empty streets of Tanjavur in the early morning

It was so pleasant to walk on the streets without that extremely noisy, crowded and chaotic traffic. Early morning twilight is already out but no trace of sun yet. I see the municipal cleaning staff already at work to clear the garbage on the roads. I walked past them carefully avoiding blown dust coming out from their broom swings. On the way, at the SBI ATM, withdrew some cash and continued to temple.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic10-outer-wall-farther-view.jpg
Pic10 – first glimpse in the early morning twilight along with outermost wall.

You can see the first entrance, after the arch (not visible in the pic), second smaller entrance and then main temple taller sanctum.
At the entrance, I inquired for a guide. The guy at the counter, where the guide services were typically offered, told me that there is no guide available today. He showed me a photo that is hanging to the electric pole across the road and told me that’s the senior guide, who passed away. Then he went onto describe how good that guide was and his knowledge about over 800 temples/sites of significance across India. It seems all the other guides are all taken off today to show respects at his funeral. May god bless his soul. All that communicated to me in a mix of Tamil and some broken English words but sufficient enough for me to grasp the message. I was bit disappointed for not having a guide but moved on to explore myself. Security at the entrance were reminding everyone to wear mask but I see people either pulling masks from their chin and then as soon as they cross the gate again pulling them down. Some are reaching out the pockets and putting the mask on and once they cross the gate, within no time, the mask will either shift to chin or go back into pocket. Very few, extreme minority, like me, are wearing them properly and all the time except for taking self-photos, only for those few seconds.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic11-unesco-plaque.jpg
Pic11 – Plaque, at the main entrance, proudly stating its world heritage status


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Pic12 – outermost wall, a closer view along with the moat.


Before entering the temple complex, I took a closer look at the outer most wall, which it self is huge and probably 12 to 14 feet in height, running around the temple complex like a bigger outer rectangle. Its like a fort wall and is very thick with granite stones in the foundation then above that have stones and brick. The design gives you enough clues that it was constructed as a first line of defence. There is a large moat adjacent to the wall and going along with it on all four sides. It was mentioned that the moat was filled with water and crocodiles in those days. It was like those forts that we saw GOT series, lol.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic13-arch-without-pencil-line.jpg
Pic13 – The ‘arch’ connecting to the fortified outermost wall, mind the ‘illusion’ that it looks like vimana/gopura by borrowing the upper gopura from the first entrance behind it.

The main front entrance is nothing but just an arch and is flanked by tall fortified outermost wall either side stretching all the way to edges. It would probably about 140 meters wide with 60 mt wall either side. Based on the book I read, it was built later during Nayaka rule in 16th century. If you see the above picture, it gives an illusion that it looks an vimana/gopura with all the status of Gods on the top, but instead they are from the original first entrance, constructed by the great Rajaraja Chola1 right after he built this entire complex 1000 years ago, comes right after we pass through the arch.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic14-arch-pencil-line.jpg
Pic14 – The ‘arch’ and the first entrance gopura/vimana behind are separated by a line in black.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic15-temple-complex-plan.jpg
Pic15 – Plan of the temple complex as it was originally built 1000 years ago by the Great Rajaraja1, courtesy ASI. One should appreciate the impeccable perfection on the geometric proportions (this was highlighted by ASI)

As you can see in the above pic, the blue thick rectangle is the inner compound wall. You don’t the see the ‘outermost fortified wall’ in the picture. The outermost wall, if drawn on the above pic, would be like another bigger rectangle around it with inner compound wall and the outermost wall are separated by atleast 60mt on the front and back and probably 10 to 20 mt on the longer sides.

The first entrance – Keralanthagan Tiruvayil, depticted on right most two filled blue squares before the inner wall in the above picture, was built by Rajaraja Chola to commemorate his victory over Kerala king Baskara Ravi verma. This was constructed as an addendum to original temple complex as shown in the blue rectangle. So this is also can be considered as from same 1000 years old structure and built by the same great Rajaraja chola1.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic16-first-entrance-keralanthagan-tiruvayil.jpg
Pic16 – first entrance ‘Keralanthagan Tiruvayil’, comes right after the arch.

The first entrance is built with granite up to arch level and above that, for the rest of the gopura, is constructed with brick and stucco.
After we cross the arch and the first entrance, then you will comes across the comparatively smaller second entrance, called ‘Rajarajan Tiruvayil’, named after the great king himself. This is connected to the inner wall, which is about 12ft high, around the complex, entirely built during the original construction with granite. Top of this wall is dotted with sculptures of Nandi, each separated by a few meters.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic17-second-entrance.jpg
Pic17 – The second entrance called ‘Sri Rajarajan Tiruvayil’, named after the great king himself. Notice the large Dwarapala’s on either side of the entrance passage.

I went around the inner wall only to be mesmerized by its sheer magnitude and proportions. There is a small moat running across the inner compound wall.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic18-wall-bigtemple.jpg
Pic18: inner compound wall, all of granite, built originally 1000 years ago and moat seen next to it.

While walking around on the sides, I could see the fortified outermost wall, which is taller than the inner wall, constructed during Nayaka period in 16th century. Between the ‘outermost fortified wall’ and the ‘inner compound wall’ is the space for some pathways wide enough to take a horse carriage and then a smaller moat that must have been filled with river water, may be some crocodiles as well. Despite being maintained by ASI, while majority of the complex is clean, one could still find some parts of surrounding area with a pile of garbage.

The second entrance was also, like the first one, built with granite up to arch level. The upper level was made using brick and stucco. Unlike the first entrance, the second one has carvings from Puranas at the fist level. I could not figure what they are as there was no guide help.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic19-puranas-first-entrance.jpg
Pic19- Carvings depicting stories from the Puranas on the first entrance at lower levels.

As you move past the huge second entrance, you will enter into the huge rectangle open area with raised veranda with pillars passing through all the sides. Right infront is the large nandi on a raised platform. The platform is about 7 ft high and is made of granite. Nandi itself is huge and made of black granite. This Nandi was installed during the Nayaka period in 16th century. The original Nandi installed 1000years ago was moved to the left side.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic20-original-nandi.jpg
Pic20 – original Nandi installed by Rajaraja chola, now resting at the south edge of the inner wall
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Old 12th October 2021, 17:13   #6
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Default re: Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire

Volume1 Part3 (continued...)




The main Brihadiswara temple was entirely constructed by granite in a method that interlocks the stones like a LEGO blocks. They stand balanced by their weight. No cement or stucco or any other material used to glue these stones together. It is going up to 216 ft in height, all by granite stones locked together like ‘Lego blocks’ and yet forming hallow squarish Garbha-gudi where the Shivalinga is kept. Around shivalinga they had built two levels of passage for ‘pradakshina’.

No wonder, this temple is considered as an engineering marvel. When it was constructed, it was the tallest temple in India. All the stones used are carried from the sites/mines that were about 50km away. Imagine transporting these huge rocks for 50km about 1000 years ago. It was stated that over a 1000 elephants, umpteen bulls and horses were used to carry out the construction tasks for ‘7 year period of construction’.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic21-construction-approach.jpg
Pic21 – how the bottoms up, inside out, construction happens, courtesy ASI


The ASI exhibition inside the complex is very informative. I learned, like it is shown in the above pic, about how such large structures are constructed in those days. For this gigantic sanctum, the first and foremost was installing the large shivalinga and then building the foundation around it. After that, they fill it with earth around so the elephants, pull carts, people can go up with material and equipment. Once they put the next layer with interlock method (the one used here, like lego building), again you fill earth around and go about building the next level….and so it will top dome at 55mt high. I learned that the top dome, appears to be single piece of stone, is actually made of 8 different pieces of stones interlocked, without cement or stucco, and is about 80tons in weight. That means, on average, roughly, each piece could be 10 tons.

Think about pulling that 10 tons stone to that height and align/place them perfectly to interlock and bringing that round spherical shape that we see. Remember that it was 1000 years ago, there were no cranes. The Tanjavur film shown at the museum talked about 5 km long ropes with sufficient length slopes and many elephants used to pull the stones up there.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic22-closer-view-gopura-kalasa.jpg
Pic22 – the spherical shaped large sikhara/dome on top and the Kalasa above it.

I visited the temple on the day-3 evening as well primarily to hire any guide. I was partially successful in getting hold of the sole guide on duty but only for about 15 mins. In that also he made a few quick dash out to address the VIP team that he has been busy with. That guide told me that kalasa/stupa shape on top of the temple has a storage in it and it is used to keep the seeds of the important crops. That's a tradition, even now it is followed. He also mentioned that, there are underground compartments which are now buried and not accessible. The rumour is that they might be housing a lot of wealth that the kings in those times used to safe keep. I wished he had more time to spend but it was nice to get some information about the history in that super squeezed time.

I was not allowed to go into inner sanctum but thanks to the guide serving the VIP guest, after the VIP left, he quickly called me and took me into the ‘ardha-mandapa’, the closest to the sanctum. No photography is allowed inside the maha-mandapa and ardah-mandapa, so I couldn’t take pictures. But looking at Brihadiswara (Shiva in Linga form) with the priests going about their chants of vedic mantras at that close proximity was divinely beautiful. It was told that there were great paintings from Rajaraja period (1000 years ago) inside the side walls of inner sanctum and the walls of pradakshina passage around, still there visible inside the sanctum. I am sure they would have been mostly faded or gone with the time but heard some remains are still visible. Unfortunately, no one otherthan the priests were allowed there.

According to ASI, structurally (architecture) this is the greatest of all temples built in India. All temples built before this one were smaller in size and height and they strictly confirmed to principle texts of temple building and related architectural limitations. What made Rajaraja1 to build this gigantic temple (compared to the ones around in those 1000 years ago period), much beyond the proven methods, was not known but for sure this majestic temple has greatly projected his power far and wide in those days.

Let the pictures speak the rest!

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic23-painting-ceiling-nandi-madapa.jpg
Pic23 – paintings on the ceiling above Nandi from Nayaka period. All using the natural colors.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic24-view-nandi-mandapa.jpg
Pic24 – View of Bihadiswara from Nandi-mandapa. Flagpost seen as well.

The raised platform till the entrance of the big temple was used for dancing performances since the chola period. It was mentioned that the great Rajaraja chola employed about 400 dancing girls. He even went about carving 108 dancing poses in the temple, but according to ASI, he could not finish carving all of them.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic25-dancing-poses-carved.jpg
Pic25 – a four of the 80plus dancing poses that he could finish. Notice the numbering on the signboards.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic26-additional-four-poses.jpg
Pic26 – another set of four poses


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic27-sun-above-brihadiswara.jpg
Pic27 – My love for Sun triumphs everywhere, lol. Notice the raised platform infront of Muhka mandapa till the stairs at the bottom right.

Nandi mandapa was built later during Nayaka rule in 16th century, encroaching up on the space completely left for dancing performances during Chola period. Imagine the beauty in those times when some of those 400 dedicated dancing girls performing on this platform.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic28-wood-like-carving-granite.jpg
Pic28 – wood like roof carved using granite and then interlocked.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic29-inscriptions-base-big-temple.jpg
Pic29 – Ancient Tamil inscriptions, that runs across the foundation level of the big temple.

These inscriptions had provided so much information about chola king’s decrees or laws, messages, about the construction, or just about the life in those times.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic30-dwarapala.jpg
Pic30 – ‘Gigantic and fierce’ dwarapala protecting the entrance to brihadiswara mukha mandapa leading the inner sanctum where primary diety is placed.

Notice the his right foot is on a snake which is swallowing an elephant. Gives you an indication of how giant this dwarapala is. Got to know that, bottom left hand holding the gatha, top left giving warning, top right showing the direction of God (sanctum) and top bottom is an expression of wonder (vismaya mudra), there is a meaning in everything carved out there, wow.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic31-designer-mesh-carvings-granite.jpg
Pic31 – designer mesh like carvings on granite stone at mukha-mandapa of brihadiswara.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic32-angry-elephant.jpg
Pic32 – On the side of the staircase for the royals.

An angry elephant that is running and the mahoot trying to control it. You can clearly see how different pieces of stone were interlocked, they are not cracks, to make the whole sculpture. See the detail on carvings, as elephant is running, you can see the ropes and bell tilted, mahoot barely able to hold on on the top and another mahoot soldier trying to control (may be instigate) it at back.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic33-calmed-down-elephant.jpg
Pic33 – Same elephant bit calmed down on otherside of royal staircase but have already done enough damage


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic34-old-nandi-compund-wall.jpg
Pic34-Another view of old Nandi placed in the veranda adjoining the inner wall.


Notice the small Nandi’s that we see all along the four sides of the inner wall. Outer wall is mostly like fortress kind of wall with no carvings.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic35-pic-european-trader.jpg
Pic35 – European (either Danish or Dutch) trader on the vimana. Must have been added during later Nayaka period.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic36-chinese-trader.jpg
Pic36 – Chinese merchant on the gopura of Murugan shrine behind the Brihadiswara temple. This shrine was constructed by Nayaka rulers in 16th century.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic37-paintings-wall-veranda-around.png
Pic37 – paintings on the walls on the veranda around, adjoining the inner wall of the complex, that are from 16th century and drawn using natural colors.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic38-sewing-needle-kind-finesse-carvings.jpg
Pic38 – the finesse in the granite carvings on the main temple as seen through taking small stem through hole, like a thread taken through sewing needle. Notice the miniature details of carvings.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic39-yazhi.jpg
Pic39 – The mythical creature Yazhi, pronounced as Yali, which is often a combination of 3-7 animals. Here you can see goat horns, pig years, lion face, horse kind of body, claws like like bear or crocodile (not sure) and the tail like a cow.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic40-small-lingas-veranda-around.jpg
Pic40 – Many contiguous shivalinga’s on the veranda around, adjoining the compound wall.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic41-view-right.jpg
Pic41 – Beauty and the gigantic proportions of the sanctum from the side. To give you an indication on size, compare with the lady who is offering prayers to the deity in niche at the first level.

Got to know from the guide that the Indian government issued Rs1000 note long time ago with a picture of Brihaiswara temple. A google search revealed below image
Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic42-1000-rupee-note-brihadiswara-image.png
Pic 42 – One thousand rupees note from yesteryear's
Credit to image link - https://i.pinimg.com/736x/f1/e8/fa/f...9fe02e8d8b.jpg
(pinimg.com)


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic43-5-rupee-coin.jpg
Pic 43 - Similarly, a 5 rupee coin was issued in 2010 upon completion 1000 years of its construction.
Credit to image link: 1000-years-of-Brihadeshwara-Temple-T...d-Stamps-3.jpg (1039×622) (coinstamp.in)



Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic44-shot-1000-rupee-note.jpg
Pic44: Parting shot of the big temple, similar angle as that of 1000 rupee image?, nah!


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part3-pic45-statue-rajaraja1-2mp.jpg
Pic45: Closing pic - The great king Rajaraja1, who built this marvel

Finally, I reached back to hotel by 9am, feeling content and awed by what I have explored, just in time to grab some breakfast.

It was a nice breakfast. Post which I had got back to room. My plan was to visit the Tanjavur palace in the evening.

Last edited by TurboOnTarmac : 12th October 2021 at 17:15.
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Old 12th October 2021, 17:55   #7
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Default re: Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire

Volume1 Part4



The Palace and the museum @Tanjavur


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part4-pic1-museam-tanjavur.jpg
Pic1 – Art gallery & museum inside the Tanjavur Palace along with the Bell tower on the right

After that wonderful early morning visit to Big Brihadiswara Temple complex and I managed to return just in time to get a good breakfast at the hotel. Another advantage I liked for going early to these spots is the less crowd. I had the entire complex pretty much to myself and a few others (single digits) for about an hour. Even when I was about to leave, I felt overall crowd would not be more than 50.

By 9am, when I started walking back to hotel, I could feel the summer already here. Humidity in the atmosphere further makes us to sweat a lot. So, I planned to visit the Tanjavur Palace around 4pm so I could go out when sun is, presumably, in a comparatively less intense. So I decided to try lunch at the hotel where I am staying so there is no need to get out into the Sun. As I am now in ‘rice bowl’ and the ‘cultural heart’ of Tamilnadu, I thought about trying the traditional Thali. It didn’t disappoint me. The restaurant attached to the hotel is clean and only about 2 or 3 people present at that time so there is enough space allowing me to maintain social distancing. The number of items on Thali plate are so many that I had a tough time in controlling the urge from the taste buds to eat more, a regular battle that I face most of the days when there is tasty food, lol. However, followed by that heavy dinner and nice breakfast, my stomach is not that cooperative with the taste buds, lol. At the end a sweet-pan and banana was served, another typical closure of lunch that we often find in traditional south.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part4-pic2-thali-gnanam.jpg
Pic2- Thali at Gnanam Hotel (joined two two portrait images)

After that satisfying lunch, I went back to room and back onto my laptop, lol. I stepped out around 3pm and walked to the Tanjavur Palace, which is about 10 mins walking distance, in the hot sun. Unfortunately, the place is chaotically organized and is not clean. This palace complex is managed by the State govt departments, not by ASI. I was not happy with even the ASI managed Big temple arrangements and cleanliness, but now I felt that is slightly better. There is litter all around the complex and the grass is not curated so weed plants also grown everywhere there is an open area. Construction debris is also found in many places.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part4-pic3-tanjavur-palace-entrance.jpg
Pic3 – Palace entrance.

In the above palace entrance picture, notice the dilapidated state of the left portion and spoiling it further is the posters of some local events and some posters with photos of advertising for ‘important people’ related to that event, may be. This habit of publicizing posters and flexies is now deeply spread across India and we find them every public place or any open visible spot. I hope we find a disciplined way to address the genuine need for public displays and advertising at each locality or street level without the current indiscipline and littering like chaos. That may spare many of the public places and iconic places like this Tanjavur palace complex.

There is not much crowd in the complex, I could probably notice less than 20 visitors put together other than the staff and merchants trying to make a living by selling stuff with permanent shops there.


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Pic4 – Saraswati mahal library

The palace complex hosts three primary attractions,

• The Saraswati mahal library,
• Royal Darbar hall,
• Art gallery/The Museum.


The first one I saw inside the Palace complexc is the Saraswati mahal library. Its a two floor building with a further small portion of ground floor hall area converted into an exhibition sampling the rich artifacts that this library is holding. The area is very small but enough to give you glimpse of amazing things that this library has. I was not allowed to go beyond the exhibition area. I think it is due to COVID they are not allowing people to check the rest of the library. Whole of this collection of artifacts in this library were from the private collection of the Maharaja Sarfoji, ruler of Tanjavur during Marata period, which overlaps with the British conquering India. No photography is allowed inside so I had to depend solely on my memory to recollect what I saw there. Next time, in such places, maybe I should make notes using pen and paper. I was told that what is displayed is only in scratch in the surface compared to the vast collection inside, most of it is packed in bags and stuffed in aisles of racks. I wished they could have invested in increasing the display space by many folds and make it more conducive to spend more time in learning about those artifacts.

In that small display area, what I saw was mesmerizing. Centuries old palm-leaf writings in ancient Tamil, Marati, Telugu, Bengali, and Sanskrit. Many of them are actually Sanskrit writings but written in various other Indian language scrips, like Tamil, Telugu..etc. I could read one of those palm-leaf scripts written in Telugu in a beautiful handwriting. That was an amazing moment. I felt like I conquered something great and brought me immense joy while reading those couple of lines, lol.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part4-pic5-palm-leaf-scripts.jpg
Pic5 – Palm-leaf manuscripts, an image scan of the postcards that I purchased at the library.

As I could not take real picture, I am including this scan for representation of what I saw there. Here the script is in ancient Tamil. Notice the picture drawn (vishnu and Lakshmi), all that you see is written and drawn by hand using those ‘iron made stylus’ and natural inc.

My image of Sanskrit mostly was that it is written in either Devnagari script or hindi like script (don’t recall the name of the script). But was surprised to know that in those days they had used pretty much all popular scripts like Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Bengali and Marathi to write Sanskrit, which was one of the widely used languages. Some of those palm-leaf and copper plate writings go back to 1000+ years. I saw very old paper made in India, going back to 15th century and was used for writing one of the manuscripts (don’t recollect exactly whether it is about purana or some of those royal decrees). These palm-leaves are like, just about the width of the sword and in various lengths from a feet to 2 to 2.5 feet. The stylus displayed was looking like it was made of iron and it can easily pass on as a weapon too.

There were a few paintings in display as well. Three of the paintings displayed, each one depicting one of the 18 kandas of Ramayana in entirety, in pictures, along with foot notes in Telugu below each mini picture. The telugu script is not really readable with that distance at which it was displayed. Those paintings were really marvelous. I wished I could take pictures but they dint allow me despite asking for a permission. However, I could purchase as post card of one of those 3 paintings and below is the scan of the postcard, so that everyone can understand the beauty of it, to some extent.


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Pic6 – postcard scan of one of the three Ramyana miniature paintings. This is about Ayodhya Kanda. I know they could do a much better job at reproduction of painting on to postcard photograph.


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Pic7 – another interesting painting of Rati and Manmada, notice the women images together coming to a shape of a horse. (its an image scan, thanks to the postcards I purchased)

There is a lot of space, in that small area, dedicated to human anatomy, medical journals and interesting drawings related to the same. It appears that Maharaja Sarfoji was not only fond of the history, Purana, Epics but also interested in medicine. He liked anything which is interesting and informative that spreads knowledge. One of the sidewalls are fully decorated with anatomy pictures and another wall is about the interesting drawings by a French artist, Charles Le brun. In those drawings, Charles, had taken one of the animal faces and transformed it into a human face, while retaining the origins of the animal. Very interesting take on different human faces and how they could have come from. There were about 10 plus original drawings by Charles in display.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part4-pic8-animal-human.jpg
Pic8 – scan of the drawing by Charles Le burn, courtesy the postcards that I purchased at the museum.


After that, I walked into audio visual show next to the library. The 20 mins film shown is about Thanjavur city’s historical prominence and the district’s tourist attractions. Audio was in Tamil but it has English subtitles so I could follow the narration. I recommend that everyone should watch this show when they visit Tanjavur. The film provides a good summary of significant places of interest in and around Tanjavur. I got to know that Tanjavur is in the heart of Kaveri delta, has been the seat of power, the capital city, for many centuries till British took over from last Marata king, Sarfoji. For a few centuries, when it was not the capital, it still controlled the trade. Post the film, I stopped by at the handicrafts shop selling Tanjavur dolls and other items, and purchased a few souvenirs. The shop owner was visibly elated and thanked me for buying a few items. This is another aspect I repeatedly observed, in this trip, from many people who depend on tourism and hospitality for their livelihood, including linked restaurants.

Next stop was Darbar hall, there is some renovation and painting work going on along the pathway. After passing through poorly maintained, dirty, debris filled and uncleaned pathways, I reach the exquisitely painted Darbar hall, whose many colors reminded me of colors of Holi festival. As I go closer, walking in to the hall, I was appalled by the way it is being maintained. Again, as I have been feeling about all of our treasures, its so sad to see the pitiful treatment that we give to them. It’s a very beautiful hall where the king supposedly have run his darbar with his ministers, public figures and probably used for some celebrations, or even for traditional performances.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part4-pic9-darbar-hall-entrance.jpg
Pic9 – Darbar hall entrance, poorly maintained and not in a clean state, you can see cobwebs, dust accumulated walls, dilapidated and falling paints...etc.


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Pic10 – Painting design work on the ceiling or roof


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Pic11 – Painting on the wall behind the king’s sitting place


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Pic12 – Darbar hall view from the Maharaja’s sitting place.

Notice the damages done by vandals by writings/scratches with names or expressions of loves...etc. Even now, there is no security guard to protect them.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part4-pic13-darbar-hall-front-portion.jpg
Pic13 – A view of front portion of Darbar hall, used to house the public and may be for any performances.

There is weed grass overgrown across the outer area, you find litter and other waste stuff thrown all around. But the hall itself is grand and elegantly painted. If only it could have been preserved better.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part4-pic14-darbar-painting.jpg
Pic14 – A postcard scan of 18th century painting on wood, showing the Royal Darbar in its past glory. Courtesy the postcards purchased at the museum.

There is a covered corridor or veranda on the left where some of the stone artifacts or statue’s of Gods from Maharaja Sarfoji’s collection are kept.


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Pic15 – A stone Cannon ball in display at the corridor near Darbar Hall. It had reminded me of those medieval war movies, lol.

There is also a small museum displaying some of the ornaments and weapons used by royal family. There is a separate entrance ticket of 2 rupees for it. Collection is very little but gives you an idea of what the royal family, may the final ones before British annexed, is having in its possession, or been using in those days. The display consists of things like iron locks, elephant ankush, some tanjore paintings, royal head gears, traditional fans used for the king, bone china toy figures, coconut shell carvings, pooja artifacts, stone artifacts, royal sword...etc. Very small display area and a very few items are on display.


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Pic16 – Gopura like structure (not a temple), with stairs and windows all the way up, inside the palace that comes after we pass through Art Galary entrance.

I then went to Art gallery, which has a fairly good collection of stone sculptures of Gods, bronze and metal nataraja idols, weapons and coins. As usual extremely poorly organized and maintained. It is too dirty and things are kept in a way as if they possess no value. I remembered the visits to the great museums abroad and wondered what they could have done if they have had the similar collection.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part4-pic17-bronze-nataraja.jpg
Pic17 – Bronze or metal Nataraja from 10th or 11th century.

Tanjavur is famous for its metal/bronze artifcats right from those historical days. Even now some of that artisanship is preserved and you can find those metal artifacts in sale.


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Pic18 – Maharaja Sarfoji at Art Gallery, which is kept relatively cleaner Nayak’s Darbar hall.

This collection is with us only because of Maharaja Sarfoji's love for knowledge and his desire to share with all for generations.

Lot of bronze artifacts are in display at this place including the famous bronze Natraja’s going up to the Chola period. Thanks to this Maharaja Sarfoji that have this huge collection of artifacts with us now.

When you go up to the roof top, there is a large skeleton of Whale in display. The area is not maintained clean and floor around skeleton is dirty with rubbish thrown across. According to the information plate there, this whale had washed ashore in 1955 and is about 90feet in length.


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Pic19 – Its ‘love’ all around on the Walls of ‘Roof of Love

All the walls on the roof are vandalized with names of people expressing their love. Its like love walls around the roof area, lol. It reminded me of the one spot in Paris where people put a ‘lock’ for love hoping it will bring that true love into their life, I had put one lock there too, lol. Maybe the ‘palace administration’ folks can think of converting this into a ‘Roof of love’, with some careful planning and commercializing with sufficient tools and beautiful gear for the visitors to come and express. An opportunity created from a problem. With luck, it could rival the bridge in Paris where visitors put a lock for their love, who knows what it could become!.

Post which, I checked out the government run artifacts emporium housed in the next building to see Thanjavur paintings. They are made in a style which is unique to Tanjavur and they are very famous. However, currently only the deity paintings are there so I didn’t buy anything. I hope they make paintings which are more of nature or animals, not all about gods or goddesses, so people can buy for their living room displays. It is also possible that the shop at the museum has got only deity collections.

I was too exhausted and mostly disappointed by the apathy and dirtiness that saw. Hence, I skipped exploring and climbing the ‘Bell tower’, right next to the Art gallery. It was a mixed feeling but felt no further interest to climb it. So, I wrapped up the visit to Tanjavur palace and walked back to Hotel.

There are amazing collections in that place. Its a treasure trove! I wish there is more interest and investment put on to preserve them, make them visible to all the visitors atleast periodically, and allow educational research or help people to learn about our history. Overall, it was a worthy visit. It helped me learn proudly about what we still have, and at the same time, feel sad about how we are ruining them.

After reaching hotel, I refreshed and rested for a while, caught up with some work and finally stepped out to have dinner at Krishna Bhavan. I liked the openness there so had dinner everyday during my three night stay in Tanjavur. This time, I stuck to simple chapati and curry,


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part4-pic20-dinner.jpg
Pic20: Ending the busy day with a simple dinner

It was a busy and satisfying day for me. I got into sleep thinking about the state of these monuments and the artifacts from history. It’s so sad that we don’t take good care of our cultural icons and least invested about either preserving them well for future generations or even using it to educate the current generations about the rich historical past.

I kept thinking about the museums and the heritage places that I saw abroad in many countries of west or east, and how they preserve, display and proudly use it for education of their people. We have lost so much to the destruction and looting by invaders & colonizers, and whatever the rest is lost due to the internal apathy and stealing. Even after so much is lost, we still have significant treasures left with us. If well preserved and showcased, they become the best attractions in the world. Thereby not only generate more tourism money, help flourish entire tourism based industry and employment, but also help our current generations to learn and appreciate about our rich history. I understand we are a poor country with too many people to feed so there is less money to spare for these things. But still I feel, if we show interest we can find ways to accommodate at appropriate balanced levels, even within those limited means, and also feel its an investment into future that pays back with a lot of new jobs and money.

I heard someone saying that ‘what we are today is the result of the evolution from our past history’. I think those are very valid words and so feel its our duty to protect that rich past history.

Overall, it was a great time exploring the Tanjavore icons and travel along with them into our rich past history. I kept visualizing about how glorious these icons would have been standing in those times and the life around them, and slept off ending the day with utmost satisfaction.

End of Volume1.

Next 'Volume2' will explore the remaining two icons of Chola empire, the pencil sketches at Darasuram and the ruins of thier 'new capital city' Also Volume2 covers my speed travel into downtown Pondicherry and two of its beaches.

Thank you in advance for reading and your valuable feedback for me to improve.

Stay tuned for upcoming Volume2 (with parts 5,6 and 7) in a few days...
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Old 13th October 2021, 12:08   #8
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Default re: Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire

Volume2 Part5:



Continue to explore Chola empire, Darasuram, and the Second UNESCO heritage marvel - Shri Airavatesvara Temple

After such a busy and satisfying day2 in Tanjavur, I started off day3 by getting up at usual 4:30am, which has become a norm now thanks to the Ashram discipline and the need to beat the hot Sun. Plan was to visit the second UNESCO marvel, Shri Airavatesvara Temple, which is about 40km away from Tanjavur and is very close to, only 3km away from, the ‘City of Temples - Kumbakonam’. I wanted to reach the Temple before 7am and google predicted about ‘1 hour 5 mins’ drive from hotel to the temple.

“Wow!, I like the change in you. So early and excited”, prodded Baloo, when I got in at 5:40am, all freshened up and fully ready for a drive.

YoursTruly: “Haha, let’s see if we get the sight of sunrise in the backdrop of this beautiful architectural marvel”, responded while punching in the destination coordinates in google maps.

Baloo: “Its the morning time, traffic will be less, so we will get there earlier than google prediction”

YoursTruly: “I hope so, but need to be careful as it is going to be a two lane road going through many small villages and towns.”

Baloo:”Should be ok as long as roads are pothole free”

We started off cautiously and life outside is it is still transitioning from dark to twilight. Roads are clear with very less traffic, mostly the trucks and people doing their morning chores. After a while, I got comfortable with the two lane winding roads and could maintain consistent speeds which are better than google predictions but no where near to be called as high speed. Two lane NH36 passed through many small towns/villages gets narrower in between sometimes. As it was early morning, the traffic on the village roads is less and roads are mostly good but not smooth though. Eventually I reached destination 15mins earlier than google prediction. I knew the return journey is going to be slower considering the bustling activity that would be on the roadsides and the two-wheelers that would rule the road at that time. Though it is a national highway, since the width of two-lane road is just sufficient for two vehicles and even overtaking a two-wheeler would need to be negotiated carefully.

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Pic1 – empty road and the first view of the 870 years old marvel

I reached the temple by 6:40am. Initially, unsure of where to park so pulled over the side of main entrance. Right across the road is a good old village Tea stall serving hot freshly made tea. One of sip of the tea took away my morning blues and rejuvenated me enough to start exploring. With the help from friendly tea stall owner, I figured out where is the parking and went straight there. This time, unlike Tanjavur big temple, Baloo also got the view of this great temple. ‘Marvelous!’ exclaimed Baloo as I pass through the side wall on my left to the parking lot. I was greeted by many morning walkers from the village. What a wonderful site for morning walks!


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Pic2 – Early morning Tea in the backdrop of Airatevara temple complex

Soon at the parking lot, I was approached by a local weaver to request me to visit his home to check out some the Tanjavur silk saree’s. He mentioned that I am early and the temple only opens at 7:45am. I told him I will first check out the temple and towards the end will visit him.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part5-pic3-sun-rise-over-entrance-ruins.jpg
Pic3: Sun raises above the ruins of outer wall arch/entrance

As morning sun starting to light up with golden rays on this vintage architectural marvel, I first walk towards the extreme outer wall ruins, where only the entrance side structures remained. It was mentioned somewhere that outer wall stones were used to construct some small dam/barrage (referred locally as lower anicut) on the river nearby. What is left now is just the ruins of arch foundation portion of the outer wall. Unfortunately, these ruins were dirty with local unruly elements using them for drinking, smoking and what not. Strong stench emanating in that area, but my curiosity prevailed to close the nose and climb up the wall to get a glimpse of majestic main temple. Wondered, how beautiful this would have been in those times. This is just the outer perimeter of the temple and this itself is majestically carved in stone and is gigantic. Think about the vastness of this overall temple complex in those days, 870 years ago.


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Pic4 – Our ‘gold’ from history, shines in the morning rays of Sun.

After that I approached back to main entrance of the temple and still got 20 mins left before its opening time. I was desperately looking for toilets around, as with this habit of drinking more water in the morning, I often get into this trouble in the early hours. Saw the toilets sign board near the parking lot and was moving towards the same with urgency. This time again, friendly weaver appeared and said these toilets also will be opened only at 7:45am and also due to water problems they are not well maintained. He offered me to visit his home and use the toilet there. I had bit reluctantly, due to bodily compulsion, accepted the invite. He is very friendly, courteous and ofcourse his intention is to show the sarees with a hope that I would buy. It’s a nice traditional home with wood pillars and terracotta ceiling tiles placed on wooden beams. Its joint family with families of his brother also living under the same roof. His children are working in cities and he proudly mentioned his daughter works in Bangalore, where I am from. Good family and its a nice village home. Typical to the older homes that we see across India, the toilets are outside in the corner close the compound. I got my life back with the urgency gone and by the time I am back his wife had laid out a few saree on the cot, the wooden legs and jute threaded surface – another typical ones we find in south villages and also in the dhaba’s in north. He explained to me that pure silk when lighted, burns like the human hair whereas the synthetic will melt, a new information that I learned. I am not really good at these and only person I could even think of buying for is my mother. I liked a couple of them one with grid design in green and nice rich borders and felt that would look nice on the elders like my mother. I also liked another pattern with dual colors depending on the angle of light and would look nice on younger females…well, heart always goes in different direction, lol. I politely told them that I need to send these pictures to my mother and only if she likes then I could think about buying. Told them that I will let them know after I visit the temple so by the time my mother will have look that pictures and think about them. On my way out, he showed me how the weaving done by operating his weaving machine for a minute. I remember seeing such thing in my child hood but don’t remember where. It was good to see how it works.


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Pic5: The inner compound wall the main entrance to the temple (still closed), smaller Nandi mandapa and caged musical stairs along with a small mandapa below inverted lotus.

I then moved back to the temple, as its the opening time. There is a small Nandi at the entrance facing the God inside. Behind the ‘nandi mandapa’ there is the ‘inverted lotus’, a typical feature at Shiva temples, on top of another small mandapa, which has no deity. On the left is a musical stairs each step supposed to give you seven musical tones of ‘sa’, ‘ri’ ,‘ga’,..and so on. Its now kept in iron enclosure and permanently locked as it was damaged by vandals. The entrance arch gopura is also beatifically designed showing the typical architecture and style used all the chola temples and carried forward to almost all the temples that we see in south. What surprises is the height of the temple compound wall, which must be atleast 20 ft. Top of the wall is dotted with statues of Nandi, who serves Shiva and protects Kailasa as a Dwarapalaka and acts like a chief of security. These small stone Nandi are separated by about 6-8ft between each of them. All of the temple, including compound walls both inner and outer, is built in granite stone and they have used the same interlocking method of construction. These granite rocks are transported from the sites which are at a minimum of 80km from the temple. Some black granite stones used are said to be ferried from the sites at Narmada river vicinity way up north from here.

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Pic6: ASI sign board displaying the warning to vandals

The temple inner compound wall wall covers about 70mt in width at the front (east facing) and back, and about 108mt on sides (north and south) and is over 20ft in height. There must be atleast 150mt distance between the outer wall arch (the ruins) to the inner compound wall arch. But both of them in straight line precision in a way that one can see the dwajastamba (flagpost) of temple mukha mandapa right from outer most wall arch. The area between the outer compound wall/ruins, whatever is the left, and the inner compound wall is being maintained by ASI like a park with curated grass and small plants. This area has now become a place for morning walks for the villagers, who had greeted me while I was entering.


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Pic7: ASI employee opens the door and enters the temple, giving us the view of flagpost / dwajastamba

I hear the doors creaking sound and rush back to entrance to see that the doors are now opened. I was super excited to enter as the one hour I spent waiting while checking around had only pumped up excitement with anticipation to see the marvel inside.

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Pic8 – Mukha -andapa facing south, carved like a Charriot (Ratha) with stairs facing East. Notice the raised veranda with pillars adjoining the compound wall and black granite figures in niche’s.

As I entered the main entrance, I was awestruck by the majesty of the carvings and finer details on the pillars. Like one of the temple staff from ASI, told me, they are the “pencil sketches but on a stone”. I already read the brief guidebook about the temple that I purchased in Tanjavur, and was anticipating the finer carvings. But what I found beats the expectations that I formed in my mind. Its amazing how 870+ years ago the sculptures carved these finer art using the basic tools with using their hands with such a precision. There were 108 pillars in the ‘mukha madapa’, after which there is maha mandapa followed by artha mandapa and then the ‘garbagudi’ or ‘vimana’ under which we have the temple deity, Airavatesvara. Each pillar is a wonder by itself. Each one boasting a story from puranas in drawing from, also having some ‘natya bhangima’, some pure god/saints/human forms or animal carvings. Many of the carvings are of one inch in size and yet one can see the finer details like the dress, ornaments, facial expressions, even fingers….amazing feat considering that this is carved on a stone. One look, I realized I need a guide and bookish knowledge is not sufficient. I went back to the temple staff (from ASI) and asked if there is any guide. He immediately called someone and said guide will be here in 5 mins. That was faster than I thought.

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Pic9: Natya mandapa on left. Notice the iron grills installed by ASI to protect the artifacts inside.

While waiting for the guide to arrive, I continued my walk around the temple, like a private tour, lol. Because there is no one else otherthan couple of ASI employees at that time. The whole complex is like opened just for me, like a VVIP tour, .

On the north east, we see elegantly built ‘Natya mandapa’ with its amazingly finely carved pillars rivaling the ones inside mukha mandapa. This Natya mandapa is now barricaded with iron grills by ASI and its being used to store the fallen artifacts. First they did not allow me inside but after a few sincere pleas they allowed me to go in with a condition that no photographs. There are a lot of stone statues and some artifacts kept for safekeeping inside. There were also boards put up by ASI describing the significance and history of this temple complex. This Airavatesvara temple was built around year 1150 by the Chola king Rajaraja2 (1146-1163AD), named after the greatest of all kings of Chola lineage, who ruled 150 years before, Rajaraja1 (985-1014AD), who constructed Tanjavur marvel the Big Brihadiswara temple. You can notice the finer evolution in the history, culture and construction by comparing these two marvels over those 150 years. According to ASI Rajaraja1 consolidated the Greatest King of Chola empire and centralized the power to Tanjavur. His son Rajarajendra1 (1012-1044AD) carried on the baton with equal reverence, power and built the second marvel at Gangaikonda cholapuram, which I planned to visit next day. After 150 years, when Rajaraja2 built Airavatesvara temple, the chola empire is saddled with the revolts across and it was no longer as stronger as it was.

There is also an interesting mythical story or legend for the temple location and the name of the deity, Airavatesvara. It says that the ‘Airavata’, the white elephant of Indra, the king of Devaloka, was cursed by Maharshi Durvasa for insulting him and lost its white color. Airavata then worshiped Shiva, like a Tapasya, at the temple location and then took bath in the temple tank/pond, which is called Yama theertha and said to be created by Shiva by stroking with his Trident. After one dip, Airavata regained its original colour and glory.

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Pic10: Closer view of the Natya-mandapa at its entrance. Zoom and see the finer carvings on pillars and on the roof with natural colors, which were added later in 16th century. All of it is granite stone.

I was lost for a while inside the Natyamandapa checking out the artifacts and the history while reading the ASI display boards. I was then interrupted by ASI employee saying that guide is waiting for me at the Mukhamandapa. Guide Abirami is very passionate about her job and she has been working with the temple for over 8 years. She is very happy to see some tourist asking for guide and thanked me for hiring guide service. She mentioned about having financial troubles due to reduced or no income since lockdown. She wore mask and taking protocols seriously as she understood the need to stay safe for everyone’s health, for more tourists to come so she could work to earn income. She spent about an hour of time with me explaining everything inside the complex. My ability to grasp all of it was severely hampered by my limited knowledge about Purana’s, but still she could meaningfully explain a lot. She told me if I needed to understand more, it would be good if read Periya purana, it seems English translated abridged version of it is available, so I could relate and understand majority of the stories, not all of them ofcourse. Its an ocean of stories out there in the temple. In addition, many dancing poses and the life in those days have been carved out in that temple in every hook and corner. Its like thousands of 4X6 photographs and even smaller stickers pasted around everywhere but instead of paper, they all are stone carvings.

Just as sample, here is the story of Rati and Manmada on one of the pillars.
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Pic11: Rati-Manmada Story square1 of the 3

Top row shows the Shiva in Kailasa doing meditation or Tapasya. Second row shows Manmada using his ‘arrow of love’ trying to influence Shiva. Shiva opens his third eye and burns Manmada. So the third or bottom row depicts Manmada falling down and Rati trying to hold him. On the right of the same bottom row, again shows Rati worshiping Shiva to forgive his husband and make him alive again. The story continues into next two squares on the same side of the pillar, starting from top and going to bottom square, which depicts Rati’s ‘katora tapasya’, winning Shiva’s ‘prasannata’ and compelling him to come forward to grant her wish, finally Rati seeing Manmada alive again but he continues to be invisible to all others. This is just one pillar and one of the four sides of the pillar. Think about the stories on the remaining 107 in the mukha mandapa. Again these squares are separated by exquisite designs and carvings of other important figures or status in miniature form.

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Pic12: full view of one random pillar in mukha mandapa.

Each pillar differs from the other in its overall design. The above pictures shows one pillar that has its unique design, differing from the rest 107 in mukha mandapa.

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Pic13: Another story depicting how Parvathi won Shiva’s love and then got married to him

The above story is about how Parvathi won Shiva’s love through her unyielding tough meditation and the penance. I tried pull all the six squares, that guide explained to me, in a collage so we get the complete gist of the story.

Square1 depicts Parvathi dedicating her love for Shiva and doing Tapasya for him. Below it shows her penance through water.

Suare2
starts with Parvanthi’s penance through fire and then continues to depict her ‘katora tapasya’ and finally winning his love

Square3
shows Shiva coming with a procession for the marriage. He is sitting on Nandi, his ghana’s (the dwarfs who serve Shiva and live with him at kailasha) are shown dancing, playing music.

Square4
shows all the other gods coming for the marriage. Depicted here, top right to left, Vishnu on Garduda, Brahma on swan, Indra on elephant, Agni on Sheep. Below is the scores of ghana’s forming the procession with their dance and music

Square5 Shows Sapta Rishi’s performing the marriage with bottom row showing the Parvada explaining about marriage rituals to his daughter parvathi.

Square6 continues with the marriage ritual with Brahma chanting mantra, Vishnu doing the kanyadaan as a brother of Parvathi. It also shows all the gods, on the clouds, witnessing the marriage.

She also explained about Murugan’s story (Shiva’s son) which is carved on six squares, starting from his birth, growing up playing with ghana’s, becoming a warrior, killing Tarakasur who had dethroned Indra, getting married to Indra’s daughter devayani and later again getting married to valli, daughter of a tribal chief. There is another story about Nandi at Kailasha and many others to immerse ourselves into.

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Pic14: yazhi near the staircase or mukhamandapa.

Chariot portion of veranda, near staircase in mukha mandapa, has 8 pillars on the three sides of the charriot’s design. Backside is attached into much larger mukha mandapa. Each of these 8 pillars have the carving of Yazhi at the bottom, like Yazhi is lifting the weight of the pillar. This Yazhi is a fusion of Lion face, Elephant tusk and trunk, goat horns, crocodile skin around face and first half of body, tiger paws, cow’s tail and pig ears. Unique feature is the tail of each Yazhi shows the direction of movement, from the entrance stairs on east, and the final one points to the exit staircase on west. Another interesting aspect is half of Yazhii are shown as male and other half shown as female.

Pillars in Mukha-mandapa also have carvings of each of the 108 dancing poses across all of them put together. This is something replicated beautifully from Tanjavur Brihadiswara. Additionally, these pillars are have many images, like a garland around each pillar, of people with musical instruments, dancing, going about their everyday lives..etc.

Let the pictures speak about the treasures that I found there:

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part5-pic15-mukha-mandapa-pillars-collage.jpg
Pic15: Carved pillars of Mukha mandapa – I dint take a good pic but had taken a video on phone while coming out from maha mandapa after darshan of Shiva. This pic combines three video grabs to give a sense of how the mukha mandapa and its 108 pillars are looking. Picture could have been much better!


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Pic16: Shiva and Parvathi – compare with the finger to get a perspective on size and finesse. Photo is not doing justice in representing what I saw and felt.


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Pic17: Ardha-Nariswara, Half male and half female form. Pardon the poor lighting. Sophistication is in its details, including the dress and pose. Not clearly visible in the pic.


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Pic18: Minature Ganesha with finer detailing.


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Pic19: Another scene on mukha mandapa pillar about ‘Gajasura Samhara’. The scene depicts Shiva ripping open elephants stomach and coming out in ugra-roopa (with anger). On the side Parvathi trying to hide her toddler son, Murugan, so he does not see his father in that ‘ugra/angry’ form and gets afraid.


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Pic20: Another carving on pillar about women playing Dandiya, its referred as kolatam here in Andhra, dint realize its prevailant in 11th century as well.


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Pic21: Even ceiling of mukha mandapa has so much designs and finer images depicted on them. Here the monkey with lion face with a rishi.
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Old 13th October 2021, 12:25   #9
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Default re: Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire

Volume2 Part5 (Continued...)



Continuing to Explore Chola Empire - UNESCO Heritage Marvel with Pencil sketched stone carvings at Darasuram



Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part5-pic22-entrance-wall-maha-madapa.jpg
Pic22: Unusual Black granite sculptures on the wall of Maha mandapa, depicting evolution in Shaivaite culture over 150 years.

In the above picture, from left to right, we see beautiful finer sculptures of Ganga, Nadigeshwara, Saraswati and Kannappa carved on black granite that is ferried from banks of Narmada. Some of the interesting aspects are the beauty and the detail in those figures. Ganga captivates with her serene beauty. The kalasa and kamala in her hands are hollow inside. You can figure out the same by making a gentle knock with fingers, that is a difficult feat for the sculpture who made this. Nandigeshwara is nothing but Nandi resembling Shiva, because of the dedication and love he had for his lord, but with folded hands showing submission to Shiva. Next one is Saraswati in yoga pose wearing Dhanjyam, indicating that its before her marriage, but boastng six pack abs!. Kannappa, being a tribal chief, wearing the leather attire and ornaments per the tribal customs, including leather sandals. The detail, the art and the beauty is unmissable.

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Pic23: Another interesting carving on one of the pillars, story of Shiva killing asura and also putting ear ring using his feet. Notice the detail on the miniature Nandi on either side.


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Pic24: Miniature Vishnu, amazingly detailed with the ornaments, feet, hands nose...picture is not doing the justice.


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Pic25: North side view of the temple. Notice the empty niche’s or place holders for statues on the right side before the gopura. These are lost black granite status like the naga bhairava in the next pictures

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Pic26: Black granite sculpted Naga Bhairava in the temple mandapa outer niche. Notice the snakes all around his body, even ear rings are snakes. This is one of the few survived figures kept in outer niche’s of the temple walls. Many beautiful ones were either destroyed or lost.

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Pic27: The ‘Trio’ – Brahma on left, Shiva in linga form with related story, and Vishnu on right. This is about a story of Shiva being the superior God among the three and it is also the backstory about why we don’t find temples for Brahma. Here we Shiva in Linga form going to greater heights with Brahma on Swan trying to find the top of linga and Vishnu in Varaha form digging the earth to find the bottom.


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Pic28: Another unique sculpture showing Ardha-Nari-Surya. Notice the Surya at the back.

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Pic29: Photos like carvings, some like post card size some like panorama prints...etc.


All depicting various everyday life activities, life in those times, sporting events like wrestling, animal sports like fighting rams, social events, household chores, dancing, mythical forms, artistic expressions...etc. This is spread across the veranda and temple base. Its like a wide canvas is provided and freedom is given to the sculptures to carve whatever artistic and beautiful scene that they feel like.


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Pic30: Ram fight, the one who won is happy and the lost one is crying,


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Pic31: One of those interesting post cards showing the ‘Male domination’. Notice male holding the ear of female, presumably, per guide, his wife.


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Pic32: You also find another card showing Female domination. Equality in those days as well!


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Pic33: One of the 63 Nayanmars/Nayanars, Bakta Kannappa plucking his eye, a famous Shiva devotee described in Periya Purana.


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Pic34: Story of Satti Nayanmar, another Shiva devotee described in Periya Purana. Like this we find all the 63 Nayanar stories on the temple walls. I don’t support this Nayanar’s methods though.


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Pic35: Female giving birth in standing method. Notice the cloth below for baby to fall, nurse preparing the medicine, doctor thinking, two other nurses assisting.

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Pic36: Elephant and Bull in one picture. Left to right you see bull if you cover elephant body. Similarly cover the bull’s body on left to see elephant. Also notice the interlocking method of construction. They are not cracks but different stones joined by interlocking


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Pic37: A miniature carvings are there everywhere. This is one on the outside on the temple side wall. A mother monkey picking lice on baby monkey.


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Pic38: Those circular raised vessel like structures are used to fill the water and then put diya’s/lights at the center. The flame reflects on the water below to cast much more brighter lighting effect.


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Pic39: ‘Gargoyle’ on Hindu temples, An interesting 16th Century addition in stucko during Nayaka period.


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Pic40: Four women fusion of poses with one face. One with split legs, one with folded legs on top, two either side with legs stretched.


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Pic41: Another interesting God’s sculpture inside the small temple on the side, disappearing form of Narasimha, which accordingly this sculpture, is the Shiva as the destroyer, taking over and ending the Narasimhavatara of Vishnu.


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Pic42: Closer view of Nandi mantapa and the musical stairs at the front. Notice the finer carvings everywhere including stairs.


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Pic43: Parting shot, with a closer view of chariot area along with stairs to mukha mandapa.


Notice the interlocking way of construction. All granite. You can see the 8 pillars with Yazhi at the bottom. Notice the finer carvings on the right most pillar, inside further you will find 90+ other similarly carved pillars of Mukha mandapa. Also notice the detail on angry and running elephant.

The whole temple is built with carved granite stones locked together like puzzle blocks put together. Look at the elephant, the horse, the wheel, and you can realize how they were put together from many stones locked together. In those days, they had poured some material to hide the gap in those locks, but that material is lost into elements over the 870 years of time. Over these centuries, the elements (exposed to wind, dust, rain and people touching or scratching) have shown some impact on these finer carvings. One can imagine how they have been looking in those initial decades.

It took me about 2.5 hours inside the temple. I just couldn’t get over the awe and I felt I barely got a dip in this vast ocean of information and the stories that were depicted. The whole construction in its interlocking method itself is beautifully done. It may not be as grand and imposing structure like Tanjavur’s brihadisvara but it scores many more points on its finesse and artistic expression. Whatever survived the invader attacks has been repaired by Nayakas in 16th century but with stucko, not granite. The oringal build is complete granite stone and no stucko used anywhere inside the temple complex or on the outermost wall. All colors used by Nayaka’s were from natural sources.

“Wondering what happened to you! Its been a long time! Happy to see you lost in admiration and thoughts, though.” greeted Baloo, as I nonchalantly walked across to him and got into drivers seat.

YoursTruly:
“One of the best days I had ever spent. There is so much information to digest in and so much more inside there that I couldn’t even touch or I did not understand.”

Baloo:
“Well, I guess for the first visit, this is probably the well utilized time. I loved the view though”

I knew he got the best seat in the Town and he enjoyed looking at the temple, lol. On my way back, I had stopped again at the friendly chai shop at the front and had one samosa along with nice cup of chai before resuming the return journey back to the Hotel Gnanam in Tanjavur.

As expected the drive took more time and with many times applying breaks to slow down to negotiate the surprise movements of bikers. On the way I munched a granola bar as I decided to have something like a brunch, an early lunch, instead. The weather is very hot but Baloo took all the heat around and kept me chilled inside.

In the evening, I walked to Brihadiswara again and sat there till the closing time enjoying the view for the third time. My mind wandered around the Chola empire in those medieval periods where they had ruled over 400 years, from around 850 AD till 1270AD. At the peak of their empire, especially during the reigns of Rajaraja1 and his son Rajendra1, together for 70 years, they were said to have the largest and powerful Naval force. It is said that Chola’s even conquered srivijaya, present day part of Indonesia, and established trading channels via singapore. They even sent voyeges into China. Their naval force is said to have lakhs of soldiers and ships that are big enough to travel long distances. It is said that they even had naval base in Andaman islands in those days. Cholas played an important role in spreading the Hindu and Buddhist influences on east asian countries.

Their seat of power is this very place that I was sitting at that moment, Tanjavur and this Big Brihadiswara Temple projected that power. Later, Rajendra1 shifted the capital to Gangaikonda Choleswaram, around 1015AD and ruled from there. There he built the third UNESCO marvel named as Gangaikonda Choleswaram Brihadiswara Temple. That marvel in the New capital city, now a forgotten village, is around 60km from Tanjavur, and that’s my next stop tomorrow.

“so, what’s next?”, Baloo, who is resting in the parking lot, interjected into my thoughts as I went past him going towards Hotel lobby.

YoursTruly: “Rest well buddy, we got another big day tomorrow!”

Baloo:
“I am always ready, my dear!”, as usual with his contagiously spirited smile on that cute and chubby face. “So, where are we going?”

YoursTruly: “We go see two capital cities, one from the past and the other is in the present”

Baloo: “Fantastico, Bring it on!”, joyfully with his usual excitement.

I entered into lift going to my room with a smile. A busy and satisfying day has ended. Got into sleep thinking about next day.
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Old 13th October 2021, 12:49   #10
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Default re: Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire

Volume2 Part6



Final stop in Chola Empire - Their 'New Capital city' for a while, Gangaikonda Cholapuram.

I woke up a few mins earlier than the alarm as now my body got used to the waking up early morning at designated timing. Its day-8 of my trip since I started from Bangalore. Somehow it felt each day pass by I am getting more refreshed, lol, as opposed to getting tired. I packed all my stuff back into bags and got down to lobby for check out. Hotel Gnanam has served its purpose well for me. No nonsense economical stay with all the basic amenities that I needed for my comforts. Rooms were spacious so never felt claustrophobic and due to COVID room service will happen only when you call them under your supervision, which I felt is good. Though I never called them as I could manage without for 3 nights stay. Checkout done within a few mins and it was smooth. I thanked the staff for the stay and loaded my bags in to the car.

Its about 5:40am and the twilight phase is just starting. The busy streets at the front of the hotel are almost empty except for a few people going about their morning activities.

“I am going to miss this place and these folks”, sighed Baloo, as I take him out on to the road with the friendly security staff guiding me in that squeezed parking lot. “They looked after me well!” added on when the security fellow giving me a customary salutation while saying bye.

“Well, one stop passed on, let’s see what we have at the next stop of life!’, I responded while carefully accelerating on the empty streets. I am expecting to cover the 60km+ drive in about one and half hour.

Baloo: “Why are you saying that we are going to ‘New Capital city’?”

YoursTruly:
“Haha, you seem to be too curious!”, teasing Baloo.

Tanjavur has been the seat of power for many centuries, right from the start of the Chola reign in mid 9th Century. Their power reached the peak during ‘the great Rajaraja1’, who arguably considered the greatest of all the Chola Kings who ruled for approximately 400 years. His kingdom consisted of, in present day terms, entire Tamilanadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, and some portions of Orissa, Telangana, Karnataka and Maharashtra, and North Srilanka, Andaman & Nicobar islands. Imagine the size of this kingdom in those days, its vast. He also possessed greater Naval power, and it is said that lakhs of soldiers were recruited for the Navy. Brihadisvara temple, that he constructed, with its grand architecture in gigantic proportions, had symbolically projected this power wide and far. After his demise, his son, Rajedra1, who is equally revered and also considered to be more fierce, took it further to expand the territory and influence. He conquered rest of Srilanka, leaving far southern parts where he did not see further value, and even went on a quest, successfully, to expand influence till Ganges in present day Bengal. On eastern sea, he attached Sumatra, present day Indonesia, to defeat Srivijaya kingdom there and exerted strong influence & we can even say some sort of control to an extent, across the present day Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Cambodia. It was said that he had even sent expeditions to China. He was the most feared Chola King and consolidated the power Centrally.

Accordingly to the texts, for some strategic reasons, he decided to build a new capital. So, King Rajedra1 chose this place, which is about 60km from Tanjavur as the ideal one and built the capital city. He named that city as ‘Gangaikonda Cholapuram’. This capital city was constructed between 1020 to 1035, which is exactly the time the second Brihadivara Temple construction in the same city was also completed. Gangaikonda Cholapuram remained as the capital city for Chola reign, for over 200 years, till they were overthrown by Pandyas in mid 13th century. It is said that the starting from Pandya war and subsequent invasions by Malik kafur, commander of Delhi sultanate, and till Tuglak’s invasion in early 14th century, saw the city ketp getting destroyed, looted and completely razed to the ground. For some reason, this Brihadisvara temple survived despite taking a lot of vandalism and bearing the brunt of destructive forces, while all the palaces and complexes around the templere were completely destroyed. But the scars remain with many of its structures were vandalized and even the some parts of vimana fell down. They were later repaired during Vijaya nagara empire and Nayaka rule. So the only thing that survived in the in the capital city, is this Brihadisvara temple. That’s what we are going to see.

“Looks like a traffic jam ahead”, quipped Baloo, as we were diverted from our deep conversation by looking at the pileup of vehicles on the narrow 2 lane road. After about 10 mins of inching forward little by little, we realized its because of the narrow single lane bridge across the large water stream. The bridge must be about 200+ meters and it can fit one car and a two wheeler or just one truck. Interesting aspect of this bridge is the walking path provided on the either side for the villagers with raised concrete edges for protection from the motor vehicles.


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Pic1- Narrow bridge with walking path either side. The raised bridge kind of thing on left side appear to be for operating the gates below to stop the water flowing, not 100% sure. Notice the people walking on the both sides, safely protected by raised concrete barricades.

There is policemen on both ends with a walkie-talkie to control the traffic flow in a way that every couple of minutes they are blocking one side and letting the flow from other side. In the above picture, look at the width of the road when you visualize the auto-rickshaw in the front and the biker together. It reminded me of the famous Kerala narrow lines in the hilly areas.

“That was an interesting bridge, lol”, smiled Baloo with excitement of carefully negotiating the oncoming bikers on that narrow bridge.

“Ok, why it is named as ‘Gangaikonda Cholapuram’, a bit long and tongue twisting”, curiosity is pulling Baloo back into our earlier conversation.

“Yep, it is indeed” responded while smiling at his cute curiosity.

King Rajendra1, after the successful conquest up to the Ganges, had assumed the title of ‘Gangaikonda Cholan’, meaning the Chola who conquered up to Ganga. Hence the new Capital city that he built had been named after him with that new assumed title, and so it is called ‘Gangaikonda Cholapuram’.

“Wow, look at that!”, suddenly exclaimed Baloo, as our attention instantly switched to the magnificent gopura on our left, right on the NH81 highway that we are travelling.

“Wow!” I immediately echoed the same words while surprised by the fact that temple is bang on the highway. I was expecting, like the airavatesvara, to take detour into village roads for a while.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part6-pic2-first-glimpse-temple-nh81-2-2mp.jpg
Pic2: a second before the temple appeared. I was planning to overtake the Auto in the front and veering towards right to do the same.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part6-pic3-first-glimpse-temple-nh81-31-2mp.jpg
Pic3: as I approach the auto, about to overtake, suddenly the magnificient vimana/gopura of the temple appears, like out of no where! Sending both me and Baloo to exclaim “Wow!”, lol

It’s 8:10am and there is no crowd at all. There were a few restaurants across the temple.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part6-pic4-view-parking-2mp.jpg
Pic4: Best parking spot for Baloo ever, the shade and the view

At the entrance I found the below ASI board describing about the excavations done.
Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part6-pic5-asi-2mp.jpg
Pic5: ASI board describing the 3 palace buildings and the kings who stayed there.

At the parking lot, I came across the ASI board describing the excavations done in around the temple area and the confirmation on the palaces that were built before. The temple is supposed to be on the northeast of palace complex, and this entire palace complex, including temple, is supposed to have been protected by huge palace wall. All that is no more.

After parking, its the time for a cup of tea, lol. First thing, we notice after seeing Tanjavur and Darasuram temples is that the compound wall is smaller than the other two. I guess, that is because it is inside the palace complex in those days. There is supposed to be an outer wall protecting the entire capital city and again an inner wall protecting the palace complex. It is said that there is a secret passage from King’s palace into this temple. We can find the similarities like the squarish design and huge courtyards, raised foundation and interlocking method of stone construction, east facing deity, south facing stairs, raised veranda around, large Nandi...etc.

As I pass through the arch, I was pleasantly surprised with the openness and the curated grass. This is stark contract to both Tanjavur and Darasuram temples where most of the inner area is laid with stones. Maybe again this is because temple is one of the buildings inside the complex in those days.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part6-pic6-view-entrance-2mp.jpg
Pic6: View of 985 years old temple complex from the main entrance arch, which has fallen and only the sides remain. We can see the large Nandi, flagstaff and the raised platform of the temple base.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part6-pic7-left-side-view1.jpg
Pic7: View on the left, south side of the temple towards the compound, right after crossing the arch.

As you see in the above picture, left side view of the temple, that is the view of south side of this east facing temple, it immediately gives a pleasant and peaceful feeling. We can see some ruins giving an impression like that there must be a columned veranda going around the temple, like the ones we have seen other two temples. This is now fully gone other than raised platform that has survived to some extent. The temple itself is on the raised foundation, which is probably about 10 feet high. There are stairs both south and north sides leading into Mukhamandapa. We see a large Nandi in open, with out any mandapa, at the front. This must have been added later in Vijayanagara or Nayaka periods.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part6-pic8-view-behind-nandi.jpg
Pic8: Nandi in the front of the temple, which probably installed during Nayaka period later.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part6-pic9-south-staircase-mukhamandapa1.jpg
Pic9: Entry into the temple is through the staircases on both southern and northern sides. What is seen in the picture is the southern side stair case into the Mukhamandapa.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part6-pic10-south-side-view-temple.jpg
Pic10: South side view of the temple.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part6-pic11-mukhamandapa-outer-wall-closer-view.jpg
Pic11: Zooming into the sculptures on the Mukhamandapa outer wall


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part6-pic12-closer-view-vimana-south-4mp.jpg
Pic12: Closer view of vimana from South. Notice the curved nature of vimana as opposed to straight lines of vimana in Tanjavur. Both of them were built one after another with a gap of about 25 years.

It is said that the some of the sculpturers, who were actively involved in building Tanjavur temple were again called up on to carve this one as well. However, King Rajendra1, out of respect to his father ‘the great Rajaraja’, decided to keep the height of the temple smaller and instead focused on improved finesse in carvings and architecture. The vimana in Tanjavur goes in straight lines with four sides right from base to the top. Here, the vimana is curved at the base and then raises in straight line. Additionally, there bulbous curves, like waves, 8 in total, as opposed to 4 sides in Tanjavur.

The ASI employee there told me, no guide available at that time, that the quality and artistic form of the sculptures here are better than Tanjavur. What I felt was, while Dharasuram Airavateswara, which was constructed 120 years later than this temple, awes you with further improved quality and packing more in small space and going miniature. However, this Gangaikonda temple is about spacing out with minimal but higher artistic expressions. I missed taking the pictures of many of these sculptures, which I regret now. Maybe needed another visit sometime later, hopefully when I can find a guide too.

Below are the couple of images that I could grab from the video I took.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part6-pic13-ardha-narisvara.jpg
Pic13: Ardha-Narisvara sculpture on the temple vimana at the base level. Notice the 3 hands, two for masculine form (shiva) and one for feminine form (vishnu). Female hand holds flower, that is being pecked by a parrot. Male hands, one holds weapon and the second rests on Bull. Its a granite sculpture but painted. It is said to be one of the best sculptures for its finesse, detail and the beauty. I like the way subtle masculine features and feminine beauty were blended into either half of that face.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part6-pic14-nataraja.jpg
Pic14: Nataraja form and the story related to this form depicted in the sculpture and the group of figures carved around it.

Nataraja form of Shiva is popularized by Chola’s and we find many bronze Nataraja statues around here going back to their origins in Chola period. In the above representation, Shiva in Nataraja form exhibits the same features that we find in all Nataraja idols (bronze or stone) across. Top right hand holds Damaru (musical instrument), top left holds Agni (fire), bottom left in Gajahasta pose (like an elephant’s trunk), bottom right giving us the assurance in Abhaya mudra pose, whole body of shiva is balanced on the Asura Apasmara (a demon), who represents ignorance and egoistic pride. Shiva’s hair is flying all around, representing that the dance movements at that speed causing the hair to fly around. In the above picture, we also see representation of Kali behind the legs of Shiva on the right. Below the feet, entire row, we see Ghana’s, who are shiva’s dwarf servants, with musical instruments. In the left column, on the top there is Surya (Sun), in the middle we have Murugan on Peakok and Ganesha on Rat, at the bottom is Nandi in human form playing drums. In the right column, depicted Chandra (Moon) and Parvathi standing next to Bull.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part6-pic15-back-side-west-view-vimana-4mp.jpg
Pic15: Back side, west, view of the Vimana. It is in shade as Sun is busy on east side.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part6-pic16-northwest-corner-view-2mp.jpg
Pic16: One of my favorite shots, view from North west corner with East sun lighting up the sky


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part6-pic17-ruins-palace-wall2.jpg
Pic17: Ruins of the palace complex compound wall on the North. This is the only structure remained other than the foundations excavated by ASI.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part6-pic18-yazhi1.jpg
Pic18: Huge Yazhi, probably made of brick and stucko and installed during Nayaka period.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part6-pic19-nandi-yazhi-together-2mp.jpg
Pic19: Unique sight of Nandi and Yazhi together at one of the shrines on the side

After exploring, around the temple complex, I entered into the main temple through the stairs on south side. As we climb up, we are greeted by two huge dwarapalaka guarding the main door on either side.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part6-pic20-dwarapalaka.jpg
Pic20: Huge Dwarapalaka at the main door of the central shrine.

Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take any pictures or videos inside Mukhamandapa, which connects to Mahamadapa and ardha mandapa. However, the structure is similar to that of what we have seen in other two temples. Lot of pillars but not much carvings on the pillars. There must have been many sculptures inside as I could see the place holders but they are either lost or relocated to other places. At Dharasuram, the guide told me that some of the good sculptures have been relocated to construct temples else where over the centuries. Ofcourse, many were destroyed or stolen. She told me that some of the good sculptures were taken by Europeans and British as well.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part6-pic21-nandi-foundation-2mp.jpg
Pic21: View of Nandi and entrance arch from Mukhamandapa platform. As seen other chola marvels, geometric proportions and lines are impeccable.

I finally came out of the temple complex after a satisfying and peaceful two hours of exploration.

I, some how felt that this Gangaikonda cholapuram temple complex is more serene and makes a calming impression on our minds. As usual there is hardly anyone other than me so I had so much open space and noise free environment to explore.

I kept wondering, what it would be like 950+ years ago in its glory with the other palaces around it standing tall.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part6-pic22-baloo-temple-2mp.jpg
Pic22: Baloo and I taking final look before leaving


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part6-pic23-favorite-view-4mp.jpg
Pic23: Parting shot – my favorite pic
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Old 13th October 2021, 13:20   #11
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Volume2 Part7



Moving from past glory of Chola empire into the present day downtown Pondicherry


After that memorable visit to the Chola’s marvel in their erstwhile capital city, I started drive towards Pondicherry, which is about 102 km per the Google maps and predicted a two hour drive. The drive was smooth and event free. The plan is to stay one night near downtown Pondicherry and head to Mahabalipuram, the fourth UNESCO heritage site, the next day morning. I heard so much about Pondicherry but never got chance visit before so I was very excited about going there. Since the time less, I decided to focus on walking around the downtown and the rock beach, and may be one more additional beach next day in the morning. I also wanted to try to some European cuisine while I was there. Hence my hotel selection was driven by walking distance to downtown, cleanliness and spacious enough to get good sleep. After scanning through many reviews, I finalized the ‘Pondicherry Executive Inn’. I booked a deluxe room, which came with some discount offer on that day. While about 30 minutes to destination, I got a call from the hotel inquiring about my arrival time.

Room is spacious and clean as I have seen in the pictures before booking. It has a small hall area, which has sofa and study table along with a tiny balcony. Bed room has large queen sized bed and has spacious bathroom attached to it. All amenities that I look for in the room are present and the room ambiance overall is pleasant. If I ever go to Pondicherry again, probably would stick to the same Hotel. There is designated parking are but I could hold a spot right infront of the main entrance with the hotel security guard looking after the car. Hotel is right across the Sardar Vallabhai patel road, which becomes beach road two blocks down the line.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part7-pic1-hotel-executive-inn-2mp.jpg
Pic1: Baloo Parked at the Hotel in Pondicherry

After checking in I rested for a while and then decided to go for good lunch. As I didn’t have any breakfast, otherthan one granola bar, I was bit hungry as well. Luckily I ran into the the owner of the Executive Inn and she first suggested that the hotel restaurant itself is good and can make whatever I order, including the European menu. I saw the menu and felt that was exhaustive but for now felt like walking into downtown and trying out some of the restaurants there. So I requested her to suggest some restaurant which has the similar or lower price range as that of their Hotel menu as I am watching my budget as well for this trip and its already on thin line. She suggested Coromandel Cafe, which is about 10 mins by walk from there.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part7-pic2-koramandal-cafe-collage.jpg
Pic2: Coromandel Cafe – joined three pictures in portrait to show the entrance and the open area on the left and back of the cafe.

I was welcomed by the pleasant ambiance of the cafe with nice tree cover and wooden tables in the open area. There is covered air conditioned area inside but I felt like sticking to open area under a tree. As it is afternoon summer time, many people were preferring the air conditioned space, which is almost 80% occupied but the open area is mostly free, giving enough options to chose the right spot. I asked waiter to suggest their best pasta and picked another side dish.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part7-pic3-lunch-coromandel-cafe-2mp.jpg
Pic3: my lunch, forgot the pasta dish name, which is recommended by waiter as it their special that day

Food was ok and I felt I had better than this before. Maybe the dish suggested by waiter may not be the best that day, but no complaints. I enjoyed relaxing in that nice open space while slowly having lunch.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part7-pic4-squirrel-feet.jpg
Pic4: Successfully fooled a squirrel to step on the feet for a couple of seconds

I must have stayed there for close to two hours with half hour gone before the dish came. But a very good little friend, a squirrel, there giving me nice company. It was scouting for any good leftover bites and even with slightest movement or sound, quickly jumps onto the trees.
After lunch I walked onto the beach road to get a glimpse of it in the day light. All the shops are closed and even streets are barricaded so vehicle traffic would not come there. I was told by the policeman that it will be opened by evening and will be very busy. So I decided to come again around 6pm.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part7-pic5-pandit-nehru-lighthouse-mahatma-gandhi-2mp.jpg
Pic5: Mahatma Gandhi statue, Pundit Nehru statue and the old light house, all are on the beach road.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part7-pic6-mahatma-gandhi-statue-2mp.jpg
Pic6: closer view of Mahatma Gandhi Statue


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part7-pic7-pondicherry-museum-2mp.jpg
Pic7: Pondicherry museum – came across while walking towards the restaurant. I didn’t go in.

By evening the whole road was transformed from deserted road to a lively pedestrian street by the time it became dark. By 7pm, all shops and restaurants were open. There were people jogging, taking evening walks and families with children playing all over. The rock beach (pondicherry beach) is full of people sitting on the rocks and enjoying the sea view, but it didn’t get crowded there is enough space to maintain social distancing. There were many tourists like me taking stroll across on that road from one end to other exploring everything.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part7-pic8-rockbeach-sardar-patel-road-2-2mp.jpg
Pic8: Beach road and the Rock beach


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part7-pic9-rockbeach-sardar-patel-road-2mp.jpg
Pic9: Another side view of the same beach road

I walked slowly from one end to other end and sat on the beach, on a rock, for a few mins enjoying the cool breeze and observing the activity around.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part7-pic10-french-war-memorial-2mp.jpg
Pic10: French war memorial

I forgot to take the picture of Kargil war memorial, which is at the beginning of the beach road but took the picture of French war memorial. There is also a memorial with informative displays for Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, which I felt is very nicely put across and with a good ambiance.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part7-pic11-ambedkar-memorial-2mp.jpg
Pic11: Dr. Ambedkar Manimandabam/memorial

By 7:30pm, I started feeling hungry and looked for nice open place to sit, if possible with a good view.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part7-pic12-lecafe-2mp.jpg
Pic12: LeCafe – my evening beachside coffee

So, I went to LeCafe on the beach side and it was a good decision as I got space on the roof top with both street and sea view. Since it is already dark, I cant see much of the sea but could enjoy the pure sea breeze.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part7-pic13-view-lecafe-2mp.jpg
Pic13: view from my table at Cafe. Its dark so sea is not visible but one can hear the sound of waves.

I ordered a small pan pizza along with Coffee. The food was basic/ok, more like fast food, and the restaurant ambiance could have been better. But the location trumps everything and am sure the owners know their strengths. I would have probably sat for about one and half hour there just enjoying the dinner, the breeze and the view. After dinner, I did a few mins of walk and then went back to hotel.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part7-pic14-baloo-balcony-2mp.jpg
Pic14: ‘Good night’ to Baloo from the room balcony.

My plan for the next day is to visit the Paradise beach, which is about 7 km from the hotel, for sunrise.

Before sleeping, I booked the accommodation for one night in Mahabalipuram. This time based on the reviews, I selected Siva’s guesthouse, which has a non-AC room on offer for very economical price. I decided to come back to hotel from beach, have breakfast and then head to Mahabalipuram.

Next day morning, as usual I got up early, which has now ingrained into my sleep pattern, and got down to Car by 5:45am. The short drive in the early morning was nice and finally entered the beach area by the time twilight phase is starting. There is a small car parking area right near the beach sands but it is facing a pile a garbage. As there other spots were already occupied, I had no choice but to park infront of the garbage. There is so much fisherman activity at some parts of the beach and their boats are parked there.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part7-pic15-paradise-beach-fisherman-area-2mp.jpg
Pic15: Fishing boats. Notice ‘Baloo’ on the right most side at the car park area.

There is a rocky raised platform that is protruding into the sea for about 50 meters. So I thought the top most edge might be the good spot to catch the sun rise.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part7-pic16-paradise-beach-left-view-2mp.jpg
Pic16: wider view of the beach on the left. This picture was taken from the rocky platform separating the beach into two halves.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part7-pic17-paradise-beach-right-view-2mp.jpg
Pic17: Other side view (second half) of the beach

There is a four member group, who had already occupied some portion at the front but I could find a good spot a few feet away from them but at the front.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part7-pic18-waves-paradise-beach-twilight-2mp.jpg
Pic18: first shot, waiting for the golden rays to emerge


I see the fishermen around already getting busy with their activities to catch fish near the bay area.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part7-pic19-paradise-beach-waiting-sun-2mp.jpg
Pic19: Another shot with a fisherman laying the net. Sun still eluded me with thick clouds blocking the Golden rays.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part7-pic20-first-rays-paradise-beach-2mp.jpg
Pic20: This is the best we could get that day for initial rays. That picture perfect sunrise wasn’t there.

Though I couldn’t see the sunrise like the way we dream of, sun rising above the water with no clouds stopping the visibility, it was a great time with the fresh breeze around and not much crowd otherthan the local fishermen going on about their daily chores.

Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part7-pic21-baloo-getting-his-dose-sun-paradise-beach-2mp.jpg
Pic21: Baloo enjoying the morning sun at the beach side, lol.

“What a unique spot that you put me in!” commented Baloo as I walked towards him.

Before I could feel proud of giving him that good spot, he added on
“one side the unbelievable serenity and other side the unbearable stench!” throwing me into laughter.


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part7-pic22-garbage-pile-parking-lot-paradise-beach.jpg
Pic22: The garbage pile that Baloo is complaining about


Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire-part7-pic23-another-viw-baloo-beach-2mp.jpg
Pic23: Another shot with Baloo at the beach before leaving.

Finally, its time to say bye to paradise beach. It was a nice time, little over an hour, that I spent there. Took a final view from the parking lot and then started our return journey to Hotel. Took a few minutes to pack and went down to have a breakfast. Its about 7:30am and I was the first guest to come down for breakfast. The food was nice and felt the owner is justified in about claiming that their restaurant food is good. It was a short and pleasant stay in that hotel and in Pondicherry. I checked out and punched in the coordinates of Siva’s guesthouse in google maps. It is showing about 2 hours drive on beautiful East coast road.


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Pic24: Parting shot – Last pic before checking out from the hotel room balcony

“I am going to miss this spot” quoted Baloo as I start to take him out.

“Its nice around here with the space, less traffic, cool breeze. But let’s see the next, am exited” continued to add on, he is a chatter box at times

Pondicherry visit, kind of a speed travel, for super short period helped me like good buffer coming from exploring the majestic chola icons and learning about their glorious medieval past. I learned so much about our history, culture and life in those days, architecture and stone carvings and marvelous sculptures.

Those few days exploring Chola icons was one of the best times i had spent in my life.

This concludes Volume2 and also concludes exploration of Chola's.

In Volume3, i move onto explore the Kingdom that was ruling over 300 years before the Cholas. The 'Pallava kings' in 6th Century, that is like 1400 years ago.

Stay tuned for Volume3 - Exploring Pallava kingdom marvels at Mahabalipuram, which is also UNESCO heritage site.

I plan to publish Volume3 in a week's time.

Volume3 is kind of independent by itself but only connected by the fact that i covered in single trip. Ideally another separate thread makes sense with link to this thread.

Thank you in advance for your time and the feedback or comments for me to improve in future.

Last edited by TurboOnTarmac : 13th October 2021 at 13:21.
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Old 13th October 2021, 13:26   #12
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Default re: Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire

I must appreciate the efforts you have taken to share this wonderful journey with the rest of us. Hats off to you!

I also understand the communication with Baloo since that's what I do with my Bagheera as well. People may think it's crazy, but hey, atleast we aren't the only ones. Oh yeah, I have a Nexon which I call Bagheera and maybe someday Baloo and Bagheera will need to find a Mowgli to complete the Jungle Book trio

Till then, keep enjoying the car and the roads.

PS: I will re-read your travelogue on a larger screen, the phone doesn't do justice to such a voluminous post.

PPS: A small trip with Bagheera in case you're interested

https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/trave...ata-nexon.html (Kaas! If only...Tapola in a Tata Nexon)
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Old 13th October 2021, 18:40   #13
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Default re: Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire

Quote:
Originally Posted by KingKong View Post
After just reading the Intro, am very excited to read your journey through the Great Chola Empire, and is that 30kmpl, Wow am surprised that a car can get it.

My car barely manages to get over 8kmpl.
Thank you, KingKong. Your super quick message has been very encouraging. It was on a non-stop stretch, the silk board flyover in Bangalore, that i got this mileage in part City and part ECO modes in gentle 60 to 80kmph speeds. Haven't got that kind of mileage on normal driving conditions.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Zignor View Post
I must appreciate the efforts you have taken to share this wonderful journey with the rest of us. Hats off to you!

I also understand the communication with Baloo since that's what I do with my Bagheera as well. People may think it's crazy, but hey, atleast we aren't the only ones. Oh yeah, I have a Nexon which I call Bagheera and maybe someday Baloo and Bagheera will need to find a Mowgli to complete the Jungle Book trio

Till then, keep enjoying the car and the roads.

PS: I will re-read your travelogue on a larger screen, the phone doesn't do justice to such a voluminous post.

PPS: A small trip with Bagheera in case you're interested

https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/trave...ata-nexon.html (Kaas! If only...Tapola in a Tata Nexon)
Thank you, Zignor. Love to meet a Mowgli as well on this forum soon
This car is very dear to me and is an integral part of my daily life. Solo drives are a different ball game where what we have is the man, machine and roads. The attachment just keeps growing, its a crazy one, yes.

For this first attempt at writing a travelogue, I used this 'persona of Baloo' to make it an interesting to read otherwise as rightly said, a voluminous travelogue. My friends loved this take when i showed it to them in draft form and a friends kids laughed and curiously read a few passages which otherwise never would have got their attention. We need our younger generations to appreciate our treasures.

There is so much treasure out there in those sites and icons. I barely scratched the surface with this long writeup. I had transported self into those times where these structures magnanimously standing and projecting the power, showcasing culture and drawing world around to them. There is an ocean of information, art and knowledge out there. I tried my best to balance the size and content but will try to improve for future.

I read your travelogue and it was nice to meet Bagheera. You have a great comic sense in your words and it keeps the people glued in. Nice write up.

Thank you again for investing to read on big screen. Looking forward to your views.
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Old 14th October 2021, 09:36   #14
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Default re: Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire

Excellent post. Thank you for this very detailed write up. Really appreciate the commentary.
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Old 14th October 2021, 10:45   #15
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Default re: Baloo & I: Reset at an Ashram, and drive into the glorious past of the Chola empire

This travelogue comes at the right time as I sit down to plan my 3000km road-trip to the glorious Gujarat in Jan'22. I plan to pen down my first travelogue here and your travelogue has given me the extra push to plan well and jot down the finer details for a good travelogue.
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