South India Temple Trip

travelogues | india


From 21 Dec ’01 to 2 Jan ’02, I went on an extensive trip of South Indian temples (most in Tamil Nadu and parts of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala) with my parents and sister. We started from Hyderbad, went to Tirupati and all the way to Kanyakumari, the southern-most point of India covering many temple-towns in the journey. Both my parents had undergone major surgeries in Hyderabad just two weeks before.


Day 1 Hyderabad –
Day 2 Tirupati – Kalahasti – Tirupati – Tirumala – Tirupati
Day 3 Tirupati – Kanchipuram – Mahabalipuram
Day 4 Mahabalipuram – Pondicherry – Chidambaram
Day 5 Chidambaram – Vaidyaswaran – Mayiladudurai – Kumbhokonam – Thirunagesham – Thiruvinnagaram – Kumbhokonam
Day 6 Kumbhokonam – Swamimalai – Thiruvalanchuzhi – Thanjavur – Tiruchirapalli
Day 7 Tiruchirapalli – Thiruvanaikaaval – Srirangam – Tiruchirapalli
Day 8 Tiruchirapalli – Madurai – Rameshwaram
Day 9 Rameshwaram –
Day 10 Kaniyakumari – Suchindram – Nagarkoil – Trivandrum
Day 11 Trivandrum – Kovulum – Trivandrum – Kanyakumari –
Day 12 Chennai –
Day 13 Hyderabad

DAY 1: Fri 21 Dec ’01


Location Sites Remarks Dist/Time
Hyderabad (train)
Set off in a train from Hyderabad with Ma, Dad and Anita didi.
=> 592 km

DAY 2: Sat 22 Dec ’01


Location Sites Remarks Dist/Time
Sri Govindrajaswami temple
We bought the sudarshan tickets for Sri Venkateshwara temple. Had time until evening. =>1 hr
Kalahasti Vayulingam
Vayu Lingam – Shiva Lingam as the‘air’ element. Former Indian President R Venkatraman was in the temple when we visited. =>1 hr
Tirupati    Came back to Tirupati and hurried to the Tirumala hills for queuing up. =>1 hr
Sri Venkateshwar temple
Our sudarshan queue time was around 8:00 pm. We got to see the deity around midnight. The wait was worth it – the darshan was enthralling amidst chants of ‘Govinda Govinda’ . The ladoos we got later were the most delicious I’ve had till now. =>1 hr
Tirupati   Rested early morning   

DAY 3: Sun 23 Dec ’01


Location Sites Remarks Dist/Time
  Took the bus to the ancient temple and saree town of Kanchipuram – once the capital of the Chola & the Pallava dynasties. => 3.5 hrs
Vishnu Kanchi (Chipkali mandir)
One of the 108 Temples & Celestial Abodes of Vishnu revered by the Tamil hymns of the Alwars of the 1st millennium CE  
Kanchipuram Silk Weaving Factory
The guide took us to a factory where weavers were weaving the famous Kancheepuram silk sarees.   
Amman Temple
The Tamil saying Kanchi Kamakshi, Madurai Meenakshi and Kaasi Visalakshi illustrates the importance of the Shakti shrine in this temple.   
Sakkiswarar Temple
It was built by the Cholas.   
Sri Ulagalandar(Vamana)Temple
This temple is dedicated to Trivikrama (Vamana), who is called Sri Ulagalandar, “the Lord who measured the world with his three steps.”   
Kailasanatha temple
It was build by Pallava king Rayasimha in late 7th century – the oldest temple in Kanchipuram.  I loved this temple’s architecture.  
temple (Shiva Kanchi)
It was constructed in mid 9th century by the Pallavas. It has a 200 ft gopuram with more than 10 stories of intricate sculpture. There is a 3500 year old mango tree inside the courtyard.  Witnessed the royal-style evening aarti with oil lamps lighting the door – an enthralling experience.The huge linga is known as the Prithvi-linga (earth), one of the five element lingas of South India – the other four are Agni-linga (fire) at Thiruvannamalai, Appu-linga (water) at Jambukeswara, Vayu-linga (air) at Kalahasti, and Akasha-linga (ether) at Chidambaram. => 2 hrs
Mahabalipuram   Night halt at a hotel near the beach   

DAY 4: Mon 24 Dec ’01


Location Sites Remarks Dist/Time

Shore temple at sunrise
Went early morning to the beach to view the majestic Shore temple at sunrise – I’d only read about these and had been wanting to see this beautiful temple couple. They’re among the most photographed monuments in India.  
There are five monolithic temples, each created in different style. They are also know as Pancha Pandava Rathas, and four of the Rathas are supposed to have scooped out of a single rock formation.  
  mandapams The Mandapams or porticos are grand specimens of art. Scooped out of solid rock on a hillside, each mandapam depicts exclusive carvings rich in detail.    
Krishna Mandapam
A serene pastoral scene at the Krishna Mandapam shows Lord Krishna lifting the Govardhan Mountain, to protect his kinsfolk from the wrath of the God Indra.   
Arjuna’s Penance
This skilfully carved rock is the largest bas – relief sculpture in the world. It gets its name from the figure of an ascetic believed to be Arjuna, doing penance to obtain a boon from Lord Shiva. However, the figure may be Bhagiratha who entreated Shiva to let the river Ganges flow over the earth.  
  Vinayaka temple    
Mahisasurmardini Cave
It consists of 10 cave temples, with fine bas-reliefs on its panels of enduring beauty. On one side is Lord Vishnu in sleeping posture. On the other is a huge theatrical panel showing Goddess Durga’s fight with the demon Mahisasura.   
Varaha Cave
The Varaha Cave portrays two incarnations of Lord Vishnu, as Varaha & Vamana. Particularly noteworthy here are 4 panels of the famous Pallava doorkeepers, in a mood of contemplative reverie.Visited the Shore Temple once again (this time from close), before catching the bus to Pondicherry.  => 2 hrs
Pondicherry Aurobindo Ashram   => 1.5 hrs
Chidambaram   Night halt   

DAY 5: Tue 25 Dec ’01


Location Sites Remarks Dist/Time

Nataraja Temple
Temple dedicated to Nataraj (Shiva in Tandava pose), and one of the five element lingams (ether/sky lingam).  Witnessed the early morning aarti. => 40 mins
 Vaidyaswaran Vaidyaswaran Koil   => 20 mins
Mayiladudurai Mayurasamy Temple   => 1 hr
Kumbhokonam     => 9 kms
Thirunagesham Thirunagesham Koil   => 20 mins
Oopliuppan Koil
One of the sacred 108 Vaishnava Divya Desams.   => 30 mins
Kumbhakonam Sri Ramasamy temple    
Vishwanath temple
  Kumbheshwarar Night halt at Kumbhakonam   

DAY 6: Wed 26 Dec ’01


Location Sites Remarks Dist/Time
    => 9 kms
Karthikeya temple
Swamimalai is 4th among the 6 padai veedu (sacred shrines) dedicated to Lord Muruga. He expounded the meaning of the Pranava mantra OM to his own Father Lord Shiva Himself.  => 1 km
Vinayaka temple
Sweta/Vellai (white) Vinayakar (Ganapati) is the center of worship here. Legend has it that the demigods fashioned this image out of the foam that was generated when the milky ocean was churned by them in their quest for nectar.Anita didi & I saw the deity being bathed with milk and then decorated.  => 2 hrs
Thanjavur (Tanjore) Brihadeshwara temple    
  Thanjavur Palace    
  Saraswati Mahal Library    
  Art Gallery, Memorial   => 54 kms 1.5 hrs
Tiruchirapalli (Trichy)   Night halt    

DAY 7: Thu 27 Dec ’01


Location Sites Remarks Dist/Time
Tiruchirapalli  Rock Fort Temple   => 20 mins 
Thiruvanaikaaval  Neer Lingam   => 20 mins 
Srirangam  Sri Ranganathasamy temple, etc.   =>30 mins 
Tiruchirapalli Night halt  

DAY 8: Fri 28 Dec ’01


Location Sites Remarks Dist/Time
    => 128 kms 3.5 hrs
Meenakshi Sundareshwar temple
 Madurai (city of nectar) is the oldest city of Tamil Nadu. The Meenakshi (sister of Lord Vishnu, who gave her in marriage to Lord Shiva) temple has 2 main shrines, no less than 12 Gopuras, a tank and innumerable Mandapas. At every turn is superb sculpture, magnificent architecture.I fell ill in Madurai due to food poisoning. Was infused with glucose for 2 hours in a clinic. Was giddy in the Meenakshi temple. => 172 kms 4 hrs
Rameshwaram We couldn’t get any hotels, so spent the night in the verandah of a kind sadhu, the contact of a colleague from Innova.  

DAY 9: Sat 29 Dec ’01


Location Sites Remarks Dist/Time
Ramanathasamy temple     
Lakshmana tirth  
Ram tirth  
Sita Kund  
Vibhishan Mandir  
(Lanka view)
Ram Jharokha (Gandamadhan Parvat)  
Ramanathasamy temple  
Shankara Math Spent the night in the bus to Kanyakumari  => 314 kms 9 hrs

DAY 10: Sun 30 Dec ’01


Location Sites Remarks Dist/Time
Sunrise at Triveni Sangam 
Kamraj memorial  
Gandhi memorial  
Kumari Amman
Sri Padaparai  
Vivekananda Rock
  => 30 mins
Thanumalayan temple
Suchindram has a temple dedicated to a deity who is the representation of the combined forces of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. It has a beautiful gopuram, musical pillars and a tall statue of Hanuman.There was a huge crowd gathered for an annual procession outside the temple. I missed hearing the music of the pillars though. => 20 mins
Nagarkoil Went to Nagarkoil to take a connecting bus to Trivandrum  => 1.5 hrs
Trivandrum Night halt 

DAY 11: Mon 31 Dec ’01


Location Sites Remarks Dist/Time
Trivandrum  Padmanabhasamy Temple    => 20 kms 
Kovulum  Marine Aquarium     
  Beach    => 20 kms 
Trivandrum Velur Lagoon Tourist Village   => 87 kms 3 hrs
Kanyakumari Spent the night in the train => 15 hrs

DAY 12: Tue 01 Jan ’02


Location Sites Remarks Dist/Time

AsthLakshmi temple
Spent the new year going around Chennai. The auto rickshaw driver was rude though, as is typically said of Chennai. 

Kapileshwar temple
Situated in the Mylapore area of Chennai, this temple was constructed in the 13th century.

Marina beach
Visited Marina beach, the second longest beach in the world (4.5 kms). Spent the night in the train => 14 hrs

DAY 13: Wed 02 Jan ’02


Location Sites Remarks Dist/Time
Hyderabad    Back after accomplishing an impossible trip