The Chennai-Trichy highway (NH-45) is a driver’s paradise. Once you cross Chengelpet, it’s almost like NFS-MW Tollbooth challenge – it’s only you, your car, awesome roads and LOTS of tollbooths; all the way to Trichy.
Sri Rangam has to be the temple outside Chennai that I have frequented the most. It is one place we (my family) love traveling to. One such trip to Sri Rangam began on Friday when we left Chennai by road at 8 am.
The road stretch from Ulundhurpet to Perambalur is awesome beyond words, considering that it’s in India.
The number of small shops selling Kumbakonam Degree Coffee on both sides of the highway was surprising to me. Almost every second kilometer, we could find hoardings advertising about the Coffee shop that also sold a lot of other stuff. For example, “Only Coffee”, one such coffee shop, offered snacks, rice mixes, halwas and books in addition to Kumbakonam Degree Coffee.
These small coffee outlets that adorned the sides of NH-45 (GST Road) were not present the last time I travelled through this highway. On googling, I found out that “Only Coffee” stores were recently set up by a gentleman G. Samyraj who wanted to create a means of livelihood to his struggling villagers. Aping his innovation, other Degree Coffee outlets followed suit.
They don’t serve overpriced variants of cold coffee like a Starbucks or CCD. Only frothy, piping hot, filter-coffee served in gleaming pithalai davara tumblers. And it costs Rs. 15/-
Somewhere near Perambalur on the highway, we took a small detour to visit Siruvachur Mathura Kaliamman temple. The shrine here, is open only on Fridays, Mondays and the first day of all Tamil months.
We next went straight to Sri Rangam, an islet formed by rivers Cauvery and Kollidam, located less than 10 km from Trichy. The Ranganathaswamy Temple at Sri Rangam is majestic, huge and divine at the same time. With 7 prakarams (outer walls), 21 gopurams (towers) and an area of 156 acres, it is the second largest Hindu Temple in the world!
But today, it doesn’t seem as large as it sounds because of the shops and houses that have been set up to as far as within the 4th prakaram. It’s still huge, though. You could spend an entire day inside the temple and still not end up covering even half of what it has to offer.
Sometime ago, Ms. Jayalalithaa had donated two mobile fuel efficient vans to the temple to help the elderly and disabled to travel within the temple premises. Ofcourse, Sri Rangam is her own constituency.
The Puliyodharai (Tamarind rice), Sweet pongal, vadai, athirasam and other snacks offered at the Prasadam Stall within the temple premises can act as more than just a substitute for lunch.
The temple also has lots of interesting legends associated with it. Try googling them (or read them from the walls of the temple if you happen to visit the place).
From personal experience, the people of Trichy and other small/medium towns are sweeter compared to the cities, at least when it comes to telling directions to a stranger. A particular bike man went to the extent of travelling a few hundreds of metres in his bike, along with us to show the road leading to Kumbakonam.
A 100 km from Sri Rangam lies Kumbakonam, popularly called “temple town”. It’s impossible to stand at any part of the town and not have a temple in your vicinity. During British Raj, it was a prominent center of European education, which gave it the name “Cambridge of South India”. The town is also world-renowned for its Degree Coffee.
The Little Flower Higher Secondary School (LFHSS), Kumbakonam has two notable alumni – Dr. M.S. Swaminathan and Mr. R. Aravamudhan, grandfather of Nitin Srinivas. 😀
M.S. Swaminathan might have forgotten about his Alma Mater but my grandfather hasn’t. He is still very fond of LFHSS and his childhood days in Kumbakonam.
Uppliappan Koil, located about 10 km from Kumbakonam was also a part of our agenda. The temple elephants at both Uppiliappan Koil and Sri Rangam had gone to the yearly elephant camp and were found missing from the temples.
If the road from Chennai-Trichy was awesome beyond words, then the road connecting Kumbakonam-Dindivanam more than compensated for it. We were only too happy to catch the NH-45 at Dindivanam and get back home to end yet another trip that had a lot to offer.