Sunday, December 28, 2008

A trip to Tiruvannamalai

Like all things in my life, it started as a whim and slowly progressed to almost a fanatic desire. I wanted to go to Tiruvannamalai and right now at that. When I put forth my idea to hubby dear, he was enthusiasm personified. Obviously! Considering how he likes driving his new toy every opportunity he gets. I was more than happy to indulge him (indulge, you ask? Ya ;) ). So we started planning. I “researched” for hours and hours together on the Web – read blogs on others’ trip to Tiruvannamalai, zoomed in and out of Live Maps and Google maps a million times, assembled a big map of the Bangalore – Tiruvannamalai route in Photoshop, and lived and breathed Tiruvannamalai half of my non-sleep hours! After our initial plan to go on last Saturday failed, I was crestfallen. But I quickly gathered my spirits and we decided to drive down on Christmas day.

It turned out to be a fantastic trip that all of us immensely enjoyed. We started at 5:30 in the morning and took the NH7 - NH66 route. Reached Tiruvannamalai at around 11 AM with a half an hour break in between for breakfast. It was a smooth ride until Krishnagiri where NH7 branches off into 2. And there came the first hurdle of the day. Which road to take? After asking the highway patrol police, who seemed to be placed there by divine grace just to give us directions, and ignoring their advice (blame me!), we continued on NH7 a few kilometers. Doubts starting assailing me – I was not sure if the research and the subsequent route I had chartered out had been correct enough! The road seemed to be leading to Dharmapuri!! Finally, I found the courage to tell my by-now-glowering hubby that we got to turn back and go the way the cop pointed out! Oh, the atmosphere inside the car would have melted glaciers, believe me! I decided to keep my mouth shut after that! At least about the route! So after coming back on the NH7 Krishnagiri outpost, we turned on to the Chennai/Pondicherry route. This is the road that turns left from NH7 near the Krishnagiri flyover – you have to take the left road that goes below it. Continue on for a km or so and there are clear signs that indicate the route to Tiruvannamalai/Pondicherry – a right diversion from the Chennai route.

From this point on, the roads are both heaven and hell. Heaven because they are so scenic surrounded as they are by ripe green trees and plants. Hell because the roads are so bad that they don’t let you take your eyes off them to enjoy the scenery! It’s sure bad for the driver at least, as hubby put it. The rest of us were happy enough clicking away to glory save for the jumpy ride now and then. Oh, ya, I almost forgot to mention - though there isn’t much traffic, you have to watch out for the country-buses which believe the entire road to be their property. We saw an Alto that was almost pushed to the extreme side of the road by a speeding bus! And watch out for those I-can-give-the amusement-parks-a ride-for-their-money-potholes! The road doesn’t improve much until Chengam though there were freshly laid stretches of tar in-between. We stopped at a nice deserted spot for breakfast and then continued on to Tiruvannamalai. Found a decent parking place adjacent to the temple wall and we were happy! I, for one, had thought it will be difficult to get a parking space near temple and was feeling blessed. Least did I know what was in store for us at the end of the day. More about that later.

As soon as we entered the temple, we were awestruck by the grandeur of the gopurams. Man, there were so many of them.

After standing in the queue for what seemed like over 2 hours (being a holiday), we finally had our darshan and came out both tired and elated. Kid was happy having seen Monkeys and their babies. We were happy to find a Sweet Lime Soda pushcart waiting to serve the exhausted devotees right inside the temple!! After having our fill, off we went to the next item on our agenda. The Girivalam - Circumambulation of the Arunachala hill. Usually it’s done by feet but considering that we planned it to be a one day trip and having a kiddo in tow, we decided to do it on four wheels!

We reached our car and were dreading getting inside it what with the sun having been directly blazing over it, when we got an even more rude shock. Our front tire had gone flat! Hubby almost fainted. His new toy and god how can this happen to us? When we pulled in to park, everything was perfect. So what would have gone wrong? We had no time to waste and luckily found a tire shop very close by. We were thanking our stars that there was one so close by when the owner of another parked car in the same line came over and said that even his tire had gone flat. Ha! hold on now, do we smell a rat here? even his tires were in good condition when he pulled in and by the time he came back it had gone flat. Now, it can happen to one car, but to both? And both of them being the only KA (Karnataka) vehicles in that line…. ha, something fishy indeed! This was almost proved when the mechanic pronounced that nothing has happened to the tire – somebody has just let the air out. Hmm, somebody was playing some bad pranks. Very bad. Maybe even the mechanic shop people. Who knows? It would definitely be a good business model. Coincidentally, on our way back after Girivalam to the temple, we saw another KA Mercedes noisily sledging the road with a flat back tire!

We did not want to dwell on it too much. But I did think about alerting somebody – but who? As tourists usually do, we continued on way to Girivalam. We found all the 7 lingams easily except for the Indira Lingam – which seemed to be off the main roads. We even took a nice lunch break at a wayside bull temple.

It had become almost 6:30 by the time we reached back to the temple from where we planned to retrace our steps to NH66 to Chengam. Since Thirukovilur, the next item on our agenda is a good 35 km away and it wouldn’t have been possible to return back the same day if we had gone ahead, we dropped that part of the plan and headed back home to Bangalore.

The trip back to Bangalore seemed to be the longest one we had. All of us were tired and sleepy. More so, hubby dear who did not have a back-up driver in any of us. Imagine! We had got up at 3:30 in the morning to cook/pack our breakfast and lunch! Just the stretch between Krishanagiri –Hosur- Bangalore took us over 3 hours! Seems hubby almost fell asleep lulled by the hypnotic highway lane lights. So he decided to play safe and keep the average speed to 50 at the cost reaching home faster with a possibly nasty experience on the way. We reached home dot 12 in the night. Ha, it did not turn out to be a one day trip after all :)

We were a happy lot. And I cannot be more contented that my whim has been satisfied. Ha, the pleasure of seeing your desires come true. :)

The route we took:
Bangalore – Hosur – Krishnagiri – Uttangarai – Chengam - Tiruvannamalai

What we planned to do:
We had planned to visit Tiruvannamalai, do the Girivalam, then drive down further South 35 km to Thirukovilur to see two more ancient temples and wrap up the trip with a short visit to Manalurpet (another temple) on the way back to Bangalore via Tiruvannamalai,. That was the plan. But unfortunately, we couldn’t go to Thirukovilur or Manalurpet. Perhaps next time!

Other sources that will help if you are planning to trip to this place:
Ravi’s account of his trip to Tiruvannamalai
Team-BHP forum discussion on possible routes
Wiki on Tiruvannamalai
“Official Website” of the temple
Another nice Website for information on this place that also provides the temple events calendar, info on nearby places, etc
Girivalam route map

The pictures from the trip are in the sidebar including the map I made from Microsoft Virtual Earth. Enjoy!

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