Saturday, March 26, 2022

Chennai Trip - 6

Tuesday, March 8

Many months ago, a blogger friend of mine, Rajesh K of Destination Infinity, wrote in the comment section of my blog that I should let him know the next time I was in Chennai so that we could catch up for a cup of coffee.

I had kept that in mind when I planned this Chennai trip. I emailed him my schedule and we decided to meet up today. He was very gracious to invite my wife and me to his home. 

We met up around 4 pm. There wasn't any proverbial ice to be broken, and we got talking with Rajesh, his wife and mother, as if we knew them for a long time! That's the sort of connection that blogging brings about! We didn't realise how nearly a couple of hours had gone by!

Among the topics we talked about was how offline meetings of bloggers was very common during the mid-2000s, when blogging was the most dominant social media platform. During those times, bloggers not just met up but also joined hands to launch social campaigns and projects. 

This was my first meeting with a blogger pal in nearly 15 years. Hopefully looking forward to such meetups.   

Here's Rajesh's post on our meetup

Friday, March 18, 2022

Chennai trip - 5

Tuesday, March 8

We went to the beach to listen to the waves and see the expanse of the horizon for one last time before leaving. There, I found a fisherman taking out his boat to the sea. This 4 minute video was shot at 11 am. See how he waits for the right moment to ride over the waves; and then gradually he becomes just a speck.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Chennai trip - 4

[  Chennai trip - 1   Chennai trip - 2  Chennai trip - 3  ]

Tuesday, March 8

We totally forgot about the sunrise; the seashore is just 10 minutes walk from the hotel! 

Woke up by around 6.45 am. Should have got up earlier. I realised what we had missed when I went out for a morning walk. The photo below was clicked at 7.11 am.

(Click on the photo below for an enlarged view.)

Not surprisingly, all the restaurants near the beach serve seafood. We didn't find any that had a good breakfast menu. So, today morning we decided to check out a vegetarian restaurant, Hotel Sri Ananda Bhavan, located on the main road, which is around 10 minutes walk from the hotel.

They had what is called a 'mini breakfast'. It's not actually 'mini'. It's 'major'! 

It's like a combo, of all traditional south Indian breakfast items - masala dosa, idli, puri, pongal, vada and a sweet along with accompanying dishes like sambar and chutney, plus tea or coffee. All for Rs 150. That's a very good deal. I remembered to take a photo after I had a couple of bites of the irresistible masala dosa! 


9 am. After breakfast, we walked about a kilometer to the north-west, and started with what is popularly called Krishna's Butter Ball, a gigantic granite boulder, as you can see from the photo below, resting on a slope.

You need to buy a ticket to enter the protected premises. But at the entrance, we saw a notice stating that the Government of India has waived the entry fee for the day to all monuments managed by the Archaeological Survey of India, on account of International Women's Day! Wow!!

This boulder is 6 meters tall and 5 meters wide. It's said to have formed 1,200 years ago, and weighs around 250 tons. Though it is called Krishna's Butter Ball, it has nothing to do with Lord Krishna of the epic Mahabharata who loved butter. Probably, a figment of good creative imagination of someone who wanted to give it a name. 

This is one of those many 'balancing rocks' around the world that have been formed by natural causes. 

It's said that there have been a few attempts by kings and even once during the British Raj to move it down to ensure the safety of people below it. But all attempts were unsuccessful.

A distant view of the boulder from the northern side.

I couldn't find any official scientific explanation as to why it hasn't got dislodged all these years. But I read many experts attributing it to the firmness of the rock's attachment to the surface and also to fact that the centre of mass is within its base. An analogy for easy understanding is how we manage to stand on a slope without falling.

Some of the other monuments nearby are:

Dharmaraja' Rock-cut Throne

A rock that has been cut in the form a water tank, probably
for the sculptors and artisans who worked on the monuments
in those times. However, it's called Draupadi's Bath.
In the epic Mahabharata, Draupadi is the wife of
the five Pandava brothers.  

This is a unique sculpture carved out of one granite rock
representing elephants, a monkey and a peacock.


This is a huge set of sculptures carved on a solid rock, (pictured below) measuring 29 meters x 13 meters. It was done in the mid-7th century to celebrate the victory of Pallava dynasty emperor Narasimhavarman I over Chalukya king Pulakesin II.

A closeup of a part of the rock-cut relief.

The subjects of this rock relief are events in the epic Mahabharata: Arjuna's Penance and Descend of the Ganges. 

Arjuna's Penance refers to the austerities undertaken by Arjuna, one of the five Pandava brothers, in order to obtain Shiva's weapons. 

Descend of the Ganges refers to the penance undertaken by the king Bhagiratha in order to get the Ganges from the heavens to the earth.

There are a few more cave temples and other monuments, all nearby.

It was around 11 am, and we returned to the hotel. Need to pack and check out by 12 noon. 

That's the end of Mamallapuram segment. Returning to Chennai around 1 pm. It's about one and a half hours by road.

(To be concluded)

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Chennai trip - 3

[  Chennai trip - 1   Chennai trip - 2 ]

Monday, March 7

From Padur, we reached Mamallapuram by 12.30 pm. The place used to be called Mahabalipuram earlier.

One of the major tourist centres in India, this coastal town was a port city during the reign of Pallava dynasty which ruled a good part of south India between 275 and 897.

I have realised that one of the best ways to explore a place is using Google Maps. That's precisely what I did.

There are lots of monuments here and a few museums. If you want to see all of that it will take one full day, and it could be quite tiring in the generally hot weather of this place. So, it's better to stay over for a day and go around at a leisurely pace.

We set out around 1 pm.

(Below are a few photos. Click on them to enlarge.)


Shore Temple complex

Structural temples are those built using different rocks. This is often contrasted with rock-cut or monolithic temples that are built from one single piece of big rock. It served as a landmark for the ships passing by. Overlooking the Bay of Bengal, this is the most popular monument in Mamallapuram, and forms a part of the Group of Monuments that was recognised as a World Heritage Site by the Unesco in 1984. It is one of the oldest structural temples, made of granite, around AD 700.

There are three shrines in the complex; the main one and another are devoted to Lord Shiva and the third to Lord Vishnu. The pyramidal structure is 18 m tall, and all three shrines rest on the same platform.

There is a beach nearby. It was crowded with young boys and girls trying to beat with heat by getting drenched in sea water.

On the way to the beach, there are plenty of shops selling curios, toys, religious artefacts, besides eateries and tattoo parlours.


India Sculpture Museum

After lunch, we walked around 300 metres south-west to the Sculpture Museum. There are a number of religious sculptures on display, some of them seem to depict scenes in Mahabharata. However, there are no explanatory notes for any of them. That's a big drawback.


Olakkannesvara Temple

Carvings on the temple 

We walked about a kilometer south-west and reached this granite temple that is situated atop a small hillock. Built around 640, it's considered to be India's first lighthouse. We can climb up to the top of the temple and get a good aerial view.


The lighthouse

The specifications of the lighthouse

View from atop the lighthouse

View from atop the lighthouse

Very nearby to the north-east is the modern lighthouse. It's a 26 metres tall structure, built in 1887. The way up is very narrow and the steps are steep and very close to one another. From the top we get a very beautiful panoramic panoramic view of the surroundings. 


Mahishasuramardini Mandapa

This is a monolithic cave temple built sometime between 630 and 668. The cave has an oblong façade. According to the plaque put up by the ASI, "The most significant feature of this cave temple is a sculptural depiction of Somaskanda, Mahishamardini fighting Mahisasura and the depiction of Vishnu as Aanatasayi." 


The Panch Ratha

We then walked around 2 km south to another monument called Panch Ratha or Five Chariots. Each of them is a monolithic structure carved out of a single rock. It's an incomplete work because the king, who initiated the construction, died in 668. They are popularly named after the Pandava brothers, though experts say these have no relation to the Mahabharata epic. But the names have stuck. The largest of the monuments is 13 m × 11 m and the tallest is 12 m. 


In this town known for its ancient religious  monuments, this museum stands apart. With as many as 40,000 specimens, it's a window to the widely diverse aquatic life. It's situated a little over one kilometer north-west from the Panch Ratha. 

The complex, maintained on a par with global standards, was opened on Sept 6, 2013, and comprises five museums - mineral museum, seashell museum, pearl museum, aquarium and dinosaur museum.

Mineral museum

Seashell museum

Stamps on seashells brought out by different nations 

Pearl museum


Dinosaur museum

The complex is the creation of a seashell lover named  Raja Mohamed, a fish merchant by profession, who hasn't had any formal education in marine science. He travelled the world over to collect seashells.

This is a must-see for any visitor to Mamallapuram.

By the time we finished Seashells museum, it was around 6.30 pm. We took an autorickshaw back to our hotel, as we were quite tired. We must have walked close to 10 kilometers. We covered south and south-west of the Shore Temple. Tomorrow will go to the north-west part.


The hotels by the seashore

The beach is just five minutes walk from the hotel. So, before going to the room we went to the seashore. It wasn't crowded as the only people who come there are the people who stay in the hotels nearby.

(To be continued)    

Monday, March 7, 2022

Chennai trip - 2

[  Chennai trip - 1 ]

Sunday, March 6


Today morning was the wedding of my friend's daughter. The nuptial ceremony was in accordance with Arya Samaj customs. It was the first time I was seeing such a wedding.

Arya Samaj is a social reform movement started by Dayanand Saraswati in 1875.

What I liked the most in this ceremony was how the priest explained the meaning of Vedic chants, hymns and prayers (which are in Sanskrit) in very simple terms, especially for the bride and groom.

This is a distinguishing feature of Arya Samaj weddings. This is so different from other Hindu religious ceremonies wherein no one explains the significance of the elaborate rituals, and as a result most people don't understand anything.


The wedding was held at Dakshin Chitra, a centre of cultural heritage, arts, and architecture of South India, located at Muthukadu on the East Coast Road.

After the wedding we went around this place. A treasure trove of south India's history and traditions, it takes us back in time as we see buildings constructed in old architectural styles. Various artefacts give us a glimpse of the different facets of life in those times.

(Click on the photos below to get an enlarged view)

There are plenty of stalls where work of artisans are put up for sale. 

Before the pandemic struck this centre was a beehive of activities like art performances, seminars, etc. Now, they are gradually returning as life fast limps back to normality.

To know more about it go to:


The place we went to next in the evening will be of interest to my blog pal Yamini MacLean. This place is about 15 mins drive to the north of Dakshin Chitra on the ECR.

It's an open air temple, which doubles up as a meditation park, constructed by the Chinmaya Mission, Chennai, in 2015, the birth centenary of Swami Chinmayananda.

The main deity is Vishnu in Matsya Narayana avatar. The 12 foot tall idol is surrounded by 108 granite pillars, each 9 ft tall, with spiritual inscriptions on them. After sunset the whole place is beautifully illuminated.

After spending about a couple of hours there, we  headed back to our hotel by around 7 pm. Checking out tomorrow, and heading to Mamallapuram, or what used to be called Mahabalipuram. 

(To be continued)

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Chennai trip - 1

Friday, March 4

I am in Chennai for the wedding of a friend's daughter.

Travelled by Shatabdi Express. It's after so many years that I am travelling by this train. It takes 5 hours to cover around 350 kms, with just one halt, at Katpadi, after it leaves Bengaluru at 6 am. 

The lack of on-board catering service was felt. The government had removed it from trains when Covid struck. Apparently government has resumed this only in very few long-distance trains. 

If cafeteria can function, I don't understand why food can't be served on all trains.

Saturday, March 5

Checked into a hotel in Padur. 

When my wife and I entered the room that was allotted to us, we were surprised to see that it was a three-bed room. (One double cot and a single cot). 

One cot is a waste. Probably it could be allotted to a family of three. 

I checked with the reception, told them we are only two. We don't need three cots.

It wasn't an oversight on the part of the hotel. I was told that all their family rooms have three cots.

(To be continued)