Friday 7 December 2012

Prelude to Tour of Tamilnadu 2012 Heritage- Day 7

Auroville - Mahabalipuram 100km

The final day of the tour and what an awesome tour it has been,woken up by these mesmerizing memories and the chirping of the birds December mornings in Auroville is a thing of beauty and joy forever. Soon assembling at the start point for the last time we set of for the final destination Mahabalipuram. Riding past theinner roads a revisit to the Workshop of Pallava's becomes inevitable. To the early European Travelers this place was something mystical,this port town was known as "Land of Seven Pagodas" it was William Chambers first to write about Mahabalipuram in 1772 & 1776 (Asiatic Research Vol 1,Calcutta) followed by James Golidingham in 1778 . The first major study on inscriptions here was done by Benjamin Guy Babington in 1828 and presented to Royal Asiatic Society,the first major guide on these monuments was written by Lieutenant John Braddock and Reverend William Taylor but it was E. Hultsch 1892 who published whole of Mahabalipuram Inscriptions.There are many great scholars who contributed to understanding of the Wonder that is Mahabalipuram but they are divided on the opinion and its generally conclude that Narasimhavarman 1 (630-668 AD) constructed most of the monuments and later was followed by his successors till Rajasimha Narasimhavarman (700-728 AD). The monuments can be divided into four different categories which is also based on the chronology they are Rock Cut Shrines,Monolith Structures,Bas Reliefs and Structural Temples. Lets get a bit into some little details as we pedal. 
Rock Cut Shrines

In this type a rock face is excavated to make place for Temple Elements like Sanctum and Mandapa. The Adhi Varaha Cave Temple also called (Tiruvalandhai) is the most famous,this is under continuous worship till date and here is the earliest images of Pallava King with his queens most probably the oldest Royal family portrait in India,once again fixing the King's name is confusing exercise was it Narasimhavarman or Mahendravarman scholars are divided.The Mahishaswaramardini Cave Temple contains exquisite structures of Pallava Art depicting Durga as Mahishaswaramardini and Vishnu in Anathasayana pose.The other Mandapa's include Ramanuja Mandapa, Koneri Mandapa, Kotikal Mandapa, Trimurthi Cave Mandapa, Pancha Pandava Cave Mandapa, Dharmaraja Mandapa, Atiranchanda Mandapa and finally Yali Mandapa (Tiger's Cave) which was a Festival Pavilion.

Monolith Structures or Ratha's
These are free standing Temples cut out of solid rocks,around 10 in number and possibly attributed to Narasimhavarman 1 the Pancha Pandava Ratha's are the most generally known, but they are in no way connected to Pandavas of Mahabharatha. Out of the five Rathas the Dharmaraja Ratha is the biggest and the most iconic of all,it also contains inscription in which a Pallava King is attributed as "Atyantakama" , the Ganesha Ratha is possibly the oldest and most complete of Rathas others include Pidari Ratha and Valaiyankuttai Ratha.
Bas Reliefs
A Mahabalipuram special its where a rock face is carved extensively with figures and other plastic art,elements usually depicting some mythological scenes, The pinnacle of Pallava's glory and a monument of great interest is the Arjuna Penance,its a 90 feet by 30 feet monument lets call it a canvas. It is where the amalgamation of chisels and expressions of artists started to take shape in crude stone and what resulted is one the best and unparalleled piece of fine art never tried in the history of Indian Architecture. There are many theories about its theme but two emerge consolidated they are Arjuna's penance to obtain Pasupatha from Shiva and the other Ganga's descent from heaven to earth. There are about 146 figures to some only 90 in this panel,the magnificent relief has few important events depicted in the upper part of the panel,middle fissure and two side but most outstanding is the movement of various figures to the middle of the cleft. The Krishna Mandapa nearby is also noteworthy a lot of celestial figures,Krishna lifting the Govardhana Hill and milking of the cow are the most appreciated part in this panel.
Structural Temples
These are built up masonry temples and were the last additions to Mahabalipuram monuments in the same period of King Rajasimhavaraman in this group comes the world renowned Shore Temple, located very near the sea this super structure modeled on the Dharmaraja Ratha style the octagonal shikara puts it into Dravidian style of architecture, it contains three shrines and made of finely cut granite the main shrine is dedicated to Shiva,it forms the part of UNESO World Heritage Site this temple also contains some inscriptions. The other structural temples include Olakkanneshvara Temple and Mukkunda Nayanar Temple.
    The 7th Day ride nostalgically brings us to Mahabalipuram and thus we come to the end of 865 km Ride,the tour had been an amazing journey of the past on a bicycle, relishing on the ride moments I take leave and seek your intelligent apologies for the errors committed during my write up on this tour since to error is human. If not for the works by great scholars of Tamilnadu History this write up would not have been possible I am ever grateful to them and I would like to whole heartily thank Tamilnadu Cycling Club especially Mr. Vasanth Ramaswamy for providing me an opportunity to explore the treasures of this land and share it with you all ... till we meet again its Adios Amigos.

References: Nagaswamy.R "Mahabalipuram", Srinivasan K.R "Temples of South India", Indian History and Architecture (e-publications)

Arjuna Penance, Mahabalipuram

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Prelude to Tour of Tamilnadu 2012 Heritage -Day 6

At Auroville (Thanjavur-Kumbakonam-Sirkazhi- Chidambaram-Cuddalore-Auroville -185km)  Part-2

Back to our cosy hotel rooms at Auroville the day's ride had been hectic thus ushering a feeling of mission accomplished,being the penultimate day of the tour its time to get nostalgic,the bonfire adds flavor to this tempo six wonderful days have passed by Day 1 Flag Off still lingering fresh in the memory as the December chillness sets in under the green canopy of this Universal Town,its time we get to know more about this place.
Sri Aurobindo retired from active participation in the Indian nationalist movement in 1910 after being acquitted in the ‘Alipore Bomb Case’ finally sought asylum in French Pondicherry. In 1926 Sri Aurobindo turned over his responsibilities to Mira Richards ‘The Mother’ who became the spiritual head of the Aurobindo Ashram. She continued Aurobindo’s stated purpose to function as an agency facilitating the evolution of humankind into ‘Supermind’, a sort of divinity on earth.She however,was not only a yogic Oracle of sorts, but also, it would seem, had a natural talent for organization. Under her aegis the Aurobindo Ashram began attracting people and funds that would promote her ‘dream’ project in her own words "a place that no nation could claim as its sole property, a place where all human beings of goodwill, sincere in their aspiration, could live freely as citizens of the world, obeying one single authority, that of the supreme Truth;a place of peace, concord, harmony, where all the fighting instincts of man would be used exclusively to conquer the causes of his suffering and misery, to surmount his weakness and ignorance, to triumph over his limitations and incapacities; a place where the needs of the spirit and the care for progress would get precedence over the satisfaction of desires and passions, the seeking for pleasures and material enjoyments.”
In February 1968,with Government of India approval,the community of Auroville was inaugurated,soon the UNESCO following suit by endorsing this place.Its master plan strikingly empty for the moment consisted of a formal expression of Mira’s (The Mother) vision that of four arms radiating from a center marking off four zones of activity residential, cultural,international and industrial.It has been nearly 40 years since that time,what has worked as a completed project is the Matri Mandir at the canter of the plan;as well as several innovative architectural projects that are remarkable for their elegance and commitment to environmental concerns.It is time to look again at this little community in the deep south of India. By 1965 Mira (The Mother) and the Aurobindo Ashram felt sufficiently ambitious to plan the construction of a city that came to be called Auroville from the French Aurore for Dawn and Ville for City,apart from the obvious connection to Sri Aurobindo. The French architect Roger Anger became Mira’s (The Mother) chief consultant for the project.The plan for the city evolved nominally from Mira’s series of sketches for the project that varied from a central focus with radiating arms to more organically free-flowing lines enclosing spaces. Common to these was the central meditation space the Matri Mandir whose design went through a series of changes before a final concept was chosen for construction in 1971.
The Matri-Mandir in its final form consists of four massive concrete columns that support an inner circular chamber the floor being at 14m and the roof at 29m. The outer edges of the columns forms a circle in plan  and this means that the space-frame (grid of triangles) that forms the outer skin of the structure is in volume similar to a flattened globe.The outer skin is covered by a mesh of gold-encased discs; the inner chamber is lined with a skin of tinted glass.From the entrance, two helical ramps serve as entry and as access to the inner chamber,in the center of which is placed a crystal globe, illuminated by a single ray of (sun) light from the heliostat mounted on the roof.The site immediately around the Matri Mandir is landscaped in three ways: the first is an existing banyan tree on the site; the second is an urn containing soil from different countries (as a symbol to the internationalism of Auroville);and finally there are the Matri Mandir gardens and associated landscaping. but at least one powerful association is that of the primeval egg (here representing developed human consciousness) breaking free from Matter (here represented by the earth/ground). This double dialogue between a present state of being and an imagined,utopian future is what gives the Matri Mandir its unique symbolism not dissimilar from that of the Baha’i temple at Delhi.This is where the resemblance ends: though the Matri Mandir is an elegant composition as an integrated part of its landscape, and utilizes the ‘primeval egg’ symbology very well in its form.As an experimental Utopian city Auroville has also been the site of innovative experiments in architecture combining local material,ecological solutions and cost-effective techniques of construction.A few projects can be briefly illustrated here:

Bharat Nivas, or India Pavilion, consists of a Series of buildings,not all of which are completed, and is intended as a cultural center and showcase for India within the international zone of Auroville.Of these the Sri Aurobindo auditorium is complete.This 850-seat space is the largest of its kind in this region.
As its name suggest,the Atithi Guest house offers temporary accommodation for visitors and artistes,and uses a mix of local material and labor to create a series of spaces that cluster around a central focus.Visitors Center constructed in 1998 with a grant from HUDCO and the Foundation for World Education,the Visitors Center is Auroville’s chief reception and information focus for those new to the community.It combines local brick and construction with low vaults,arches and corbels to create an interlocking network of spaces that blend in with the landscape.The building emphasizes using natural and renewable energy sources for lighting and ventilation.Apart from the work cited above,the Last School by Roger Anger,Anupama Kundoo’s own residence,AndrĂ© Hababou’s Surrender Housing Community are notable landmarks.Also of relevance are Piero and Gloria’s earliest experiments in community housing built for the most part with thatch and bamboo in 1972-73.Finally,an example of collaborative participation is the Students Guest House, as part of the US Pavilion. The Design/Built program of the University of Washington,Seattle visited Auroville in 2002.A team of students and faculty,led by Sergio Palleroni,modeled this shelter inspired from the ‘outdoor room’ ambiance of a banyan tree.The Auroville experiment, started as one person’s mystic dream in 1968, is far from complete,but to its credit, Auroville has been the site of numerous innovations in architecture and building construction ferrocement technology, low cost alternatives, and reusing local material and building technique. It is home to a small but effective cottage industry that exports its products worldwide.Thus imbibing this Universal Thought of Auroville our wonderful day comes to an end with the last day of the tour Day 7 to Mahabalipuram now on the radar.

Reference: Ashish Nangia "The Auroville Experiment"

Tired looks after a wet 200 km Ride from Thanjavur  to Auroville 

Wednesday 31 October 2012

Prelude to Tour of Tamilnadu 2012 Heritage -Day 6

Thanjavur-Kumbakonam-Sirkazhi-Chidambaram-Cuddalore-Auroville (185 km)  Part-1 

Being the penultimate day and having the longest ride distance 185 KM of this tour an hectic day starts, fellow riders assemble early in the morning at the start point,after the usual briefing the ride begins,cycling past the lush green fields on a cold December morning with breakfast midst the highways, just crossing the town of Papanasam and Swamimallai the capital of bronze icons we catch up with Unesco Heritage Site at Darasuram the Airavetswara Temple (refer Day 4 Part-2) located very near to Kumbakonam also called as Tirukudanthai this city is unique because it is one of the very few multi-core temple cites and its urban fabric includes Temples, Chatirams, Mattams, Agraharams and Paditorai's (ghats) making it on among the best surviving Tamil cities.Located in delta between Cauvery and Arasalar it was the Chola's (3rd AD) first to settle here and made it their second capital after Uraiyur near Trichy,the Medieval Chola's (7th-8th AD) brought in Sabha with political autonomy to administer this region,they were followed by Pandyas (13th AD),Hoysalas (14th AD) who were later overpowered by Vijayanagar Kingdom and their subordinates the Nayak's (16th-17th Century) it was during this period the city saw lot of additions and finally came the British.This city is famous for its Temples but the highlight of all is the Mahamakam Tank a part of the renowned Kumbeswara Temple,this place witnesses huge gathering of people during the Mahamakam Festival held once in 12 years mention is also made to the famous Vijayanagar King Krishnadevaraya's participation in this festival.Other famous places include Sarangapani and Sri Oppiliappan.Temple, the Navagraha Temple Tour package associated to this place is world famous. The British for their part contributed by starting the Govt Arts College Kumbakonam (1867) which contained stalwarts like G.U.Pope, U.Ve.Swaminatha Iyer and Thiyagaraja Chettiyar,mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujam studied here between 1904-06,thus bidding adieu to the Cambridge of South India we proceed through Tiruvidamarudur birth place of Saint Pattinathar, Aduthurai, Therazundur to some associated with Poet Kambar and reach Mayiladuthurai (Mayavaram) for a Pit Stop,an antiquated town with references to Chola, Nayak's and Maratha activities this town is surrounded by lush green paddy fields,enjoying this green wonder we reach Sirkazhi the town which hosts the famous Bramhapureswarar Temple,close by are the world renowned Tirunangur Vaishnava Temples and the Vaitheeswaran Kovil. Now on to ECR and pedaling across to Chidambaram where we stayed during Day 4 of this tour and after a long extended ride we reach Cuddalore a place known for few heritage sites like the Tiruvahindhrapuram Temple located amidst a small hillock on the banks of Gadilam river,the Inscriptions in the western wall of this Temple during the period of Raja Raja Chola 3rd mentions the year 1232 AD and few more dated to 11th Century are the earliest references to this region Cuddalore Town itself is located in Tirpadiripuliyur which houses an ancient Padaleeswarar Temple. Fort St David built in 1653 and its ruins are nearby to Devanampattinam it was the capital of British South India which moved to Madras after 1758, the legend Robert Clive lived in Garden House which according to some is today the District Collector Residence.Few mention that the oldest school in India with full western curriculum called St.Joseph School (1886) and also on of the the oldest Mosque in Tamilnadu are situated in Cuddalore. Exploring this city which saw an intriguing battle between the French and British for possession we now enter the French territory of Puducherry and the Universal Town of brotherhood the Auroville ...

Reference: "A History of South India" K.A. Nilakant Sastri, "Kumbakonam Art Architecture and Urbanism" P.Carl, Wikipedia and Google Search.

At Darasuram Temple (Unesco World Heritage Site)

Sunday 7 October 2012

Prelude to Tour of Tamilnadu 2012 Heritage -Day 5

Thanjavur (Local Loop)  A Day at Sarasvathi Mahal Library 

Today being a Thanjavur City Ride the morning starts with a heavy dose of breakfast,the support staff especially the Masseur who had a hectic time for the last four days can relax a bit,the shutter bugs can get more time to shoot.The hotel lobby presents a holiday look the rider's assemble and after a small briefing our pedaling session begins,the history of Thanjavur city is unique,it dominated the cultural scene of Tamilnadu till 20th century.Its a place renowned for Paintings,Carnatic Music, modern day dance forms of classical and folk genres of dance and dance dramas temples where once existed Devadasis,the Palaces and the Libraries. After a ride to the Great Living Chola Temple the UNESCO Heritage site Brihadeesvara Temple our next big stop is the Sarasvati Mahal Library and the adjacent Thanjavur Palace,with the disappearance of Chola's around 13th AD there was a lull for a brief time and later Vijayanagara Kingdom took over,the Nayaks,the Maratha's and later British ruled Thanjavur respectively. In "India's Best Kept Secret: The Sarasvathi Mahal" pioneer in Thanjavur history Pradeep Chakravarthy mentions about the role of Ragunatha Nayaka (1600-1633) who built Sarasvati Mahal Library and the others kings who followed him especially the Great Maratha King Serfoji-2 (1798- 1832) and their contributions to this library, he also mentions about certain unique manuscripts in this library,most of which you cannot find in any other library.

On Food:
A book titled Raghunatha Nayakabhyudayamu,by King Vijayaraghava Nayak (1633-1673) on one day in the life of his father Raghunatha Nayak,the builder of Sarasvati Mahal it gives us an accurate and extremely elaborate picture of what it was like in the court of one of India’s most opulent kingdoms in the sixteenth and seventeenth century,contains many things worth talking about,the king’s daily routine, costume, jewellery,processions and dancers.The royal feast of the King contained the following items is worth mentioning 1.Appalam (paapad) and sesame seeds flavoured chicken 2.Coconut and curry leaves stuffed red chicken 3.Black gram and bengal gram Chanagi choornam stuffed chicken 4.Sugar, butter-stuffed milk chicken 5.Kattuk kozhi (a wild fowl) onions and garlic 6.Nuluva kozhi (a fowl of some sort) 7.Fish fries 8.Cluster beans (kothavarai) poriyal 9.Several vegetable dishes 10.Beeranji (Biriyani) with many fragrant spices 11.Podimas with crushed vadam 12.Appalam and vadam (deep fried snacks) 13 Lemon rasam and salted rasam 14.Sweets a.Peni b.Mande c.Laddu d.Purnakalasam e.Gajjeyam made of semiya f.Adhirasam g.Modak with pulses h.Sarathulu i.Managupoolu mul murrukku j.Therattipaal k.Coconut milk l.Paneer payasam m.Jeera payasam n.Cold payasam o.Sooji payasam p.Ceekarani sugar rice q.Basundi r.Fruits with or without honey s.Dates from the islands(Maldives) 15.Many types of mixed rice 16.Kari vadai, curd vadai and Aamai vadai (vadai without a hole in it) 17.Roti Crisp,coconut,sambar 18.Water with spices ... there are some recipe books during the Maratha period and were authored sometime in the seventeenth century called Bhojna Kuttukalam and Sarabhendra Phakshastram. Interestingly the Maratha's are credited with the creation of Sambhar,when a Maratha cook added tamarind (a Tamil staple not used in Maharashtra) to Dhal. A interesting recipe dealing with Egg Pickle is also available.
Astrology and Astronomy:
Countless books in the Sarasvati Mahal library deal with astrology and some of them are unique.The first one is called the Pakshishastra.The Jinendramala is a very interesting work on astrology because it was authored by a set of Jain monks,it mentions fortune for animals.The Shakunashastra is like playing ‘book cricket’,this is a book that you open randomly and depending on the painting on that page you know whether it is a good omen or not and whether you should undertake a particular action or not.The Ramachintamani Prasnam is another very interesting volume.The Kalaprakashika is again a work on astrology in Sanskrit.This is not meant for fairly wealthy people but for farmers.So it talks about when to start sowing and reaping,
Vaastu and Kama Sastra:
There are several versions of Vaastu Shastra in the library.If a Vaastu consultant believes that there is only one version,he can be told he is mistaken because there are as many different versions of Vaastu Sastra as there are of Kamasutra.These texts are in Sanskrit,Tamil and Teluguand various versions deal with construction and planning of houses,palaces,cities and temples.Vimanarchana is a text in the library devoted to the construction of temples.
The Ratnaprakashika a Sanskrit text deals with different kinds of gemstones.The book tells one how to find them and where not to find them,and convert them into saleable gemstones.All these details make it a guideline book for the jewellers,luckily it has been published.
Music, Dance and Drama:
There cannot be another place in India that has done as much as Thanjavur did, in such a short period for dance,music and drama.Bharatanatyam,was codified in Thanjavur. Carnatic music the way we know it today,the structure and classification of the ragas again from Thanjavur.One of the most important drama traditions that continue even today is the Melatur Bhagavata Mela.The Narasimha Jayanti festival takes place sometime in May and is a serious five day affair in Melatur.The Melatur village itself was granted to the villagers and the grant deed is present in the Sarasvati Mahal library as a beautiful, long scroll believed to be one of the longest scrolls in India.The Ragalakshanimu is one of the many many treatises that classify different forms of raga,here each of the ragas in the Carnatic system is identified or given the form of a beautiful woman.A significant portion of the library manuscripts are on dance dramas that were performed as well.The Nritya-ratnavalli is an example of a Bharatanatyam text that goes into a lot of detail into the permutations and combinations of body movements and the kind of exercises that dancers should perform to keep themselves fit also in this group are the Kuravanjis (Dance Dramas).
Many books in the library are about medicine.There are also books about how to eat well and look after yourself and how to create your own remedy for common illness.There are also books on how to treat Animals.Maratha King Serfoji -2 himself is said to have been a very accomplished Eye Surgeon and there are case sheets of surgeries that he handled in form of beautiful painted pictures of how the eyes looked before and after the surgery and how they looked six or seven months after the surgery. The Library also has several volumes on various Ayurveda Texts.
On Horses and Elephants:
The Ashwashastra and the Gajashastra are two beautifully illustrated works both in Sanskrit and Marathi that tell you everything that you need to know about horses and elephants. They talk about how you should capture them,how you should train them,how you should identify their sickness,how should you take care of them,how you should tell their age,all sorts of facts and then just in case you are religiously inclined they also give you some mythical information about horses and elephants.
Eighteenth Century European Books:
The Sarasvati Mahal library also has a lot of Coffee Table books published in Europe during the 17th - 18th Century. One of them is on Chinese Torture another one is on costumes in China,costumes in Turkey,scenes of English Countryside,books like this that were purchased from the UK.
Summing up the availability of manuscripts which also includes Sanskrit Literature, Illustrated Texts and some incomplete texts a mention about thousands of bundles of Modi Documents must be made,it is a form of Marathi shorthand in Marathi script which contained the day to day activities of the Government but unfortunately could not be translated since Marathi used in Thanjavur was different from Marathi in Maharastra Viewing this expansive list,the ride to Sarasvathi Mahal and Day 5 comes to an end ... awaiting Day 6 and the 185 km Ride.

 Reference: "India's Best Kept Secret: The Sarasvati Mahal" by Pradeep Chakravarthy (IIC, New Delhi)

At Saraswathi Mahal Library 

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Prelude to Tour of Tamilnadu 2012 Heritage -Day 4

Chidambaram -Jayamkondan-Tiruvaiyaru- Thanjavur (120km) Part-2  The Great Living Chola Temple's 

The evening at Thanjavur presents a different contrast compared to the other days the reason being till Day 6 morning everything is going to happen at this same venue, catching up with few riders amidst their conversation is always fun,a few badly need to know about the reputed military eateries nearby,a few in inquire mood about local pubs and some want to drop into to the nearby Cinema Halls,over hearing these interesting conversations the scene now shifts to Great Living Chola Temples,the three great Temples are, Brihadiswara Temple at Thanjavur,Temple at Gangaikondacholapuram and Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram which were built by Chola Emperors Rajaraja Chola 1, Rajendra Chola 1 and Rajaraja Chola 2 between 11th-12th AD respectively,these temples are an exceptional testimony to the development of the architecture and the ideology of the Chola Empire and the Tamil civilization.They represent an outstanding creative achievement in the architectural conception of the pure form of the Dravida type of temple (characterized by a pyramidal tower), taking these as the criterion the Brihadeeswarar Temple was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, Temples of Gangaikondacholapuram and the Airavatesvara Temple were added as extensions in 2004 ... 

The Brihadiswara Temple:

It is the most ambitious structural temple built of granite by Rajaraja Chola 1 (985-1014).The temple is within a spacious inner prakara of 240.9 m long (east-west) and 122 m broad (north-south), with a gopura at the east and three other ordinary torana entrances one at each lateral sides and the third at rear. The prakara is surrounded by a double storeyed malika with parivaralayas The sikhara, a cupolic dome, is octagonal and rests on a single block of granite, a square of 7.8 m weighing 80 tons.The majestic upapitha and adhishthana are common to all the axially placed entities like the ardha-maha and mukha-mandapas and linked to the main sanctum but approached through a north-south transept across the ardha-mandapa which is marked by lofty sopanas. The molded plinth is extensively engraved with inscriptions by its royal builder who refers to his many endowments, pious acts and organisational events connected to the temple.The brihad-linga within the sanctum is 8.7 m high. Life-size iconography representations on the wall niches and inner passages includes many of the Hindu deities.The mural paintings on the walls of the lower ambulatory inside are finest examples of Chola and later periods which depict the contemporaneous scenes with legendary ones.
The Gangaikondacholapuram Temple:
Built by Rajendra Chola I, completed in 1035 AD.Its 53 meter Vimana (sanctum tower) has recessed corners and a graceful upward curving movement, contrasting with the straight and severe tower at Thanjavur. It has six pairs of massive, monolithic dvarapalas statues guarding the entrances and bronzes of remarkable beauty inside. The lay out the sanctum with its axial units, the Chandikesvara shrine, the cloister mandapa with the subsidiary shrines and a gopura is similar to Thanjavur. The location of two smaller shrines,the South and North Kailasa (now the Amman shrine) are different. But the architect of this edifice has shown remarkable intelligence to correct some of the shortcomings in the design of the Brihadisvara at Thanjavur like the provision for erecting a wooden scaffolding in the masonry of the sanctum, the pleasing elevation by appropriately changing and placing the hara elements etc.The temple has sculptures of exceptional quality like the dancing Hindu gods and goddesses in the west,south and north niche of the walls.But the most outstanding sculptures are found in the niches by the side of the northern entrance steps to the sanctum.
The Airavatesvara Temple:
Built by Rajaraja Chola II (1143-1173), this temple is a gem of Chola architecture. Though much smaller in size when compared to the Brihadisvara temple at Tanjavur and Gangaikondacholapuram, this temple is different as it is highly ornate in execution. The temple consists of a sanctum without a circumambulatory path and axial mandapas. The front mandapa known in the inscriptions as Rajagambhiran Tirumandapam, is unique as it was conceptualized as a chariot with wheels. The pillars of this mandapa are highly ornate.The elevation of all the units is elegant with sculptures dominating the architecture.
Thus summing up a short encounter with the details on these temples, Day 4 ends on a nostalgic note ...

Reference: ASI Publications on The Great Living Chola Temples,UNESCO World Heritage Site Publications, Wikipedia and Google Search

At Brahadiswara Temple Thanjavur

Monday 24 September 2012

Prelude to Tour of Tamilnadu 2012 Heritage -Day 4

Chidambaram -Jayankondan-Tiruvaiyaru- Thanjavur (120km) Part - 1 

December is always special,the climate and festivities bring on an holiday mood,once such is this Cycle Tour now onto Day 4,having completed 400 km so far and bidding adieu to the Cosmic Dancer we get on to the road leading us to Kattumannar Koil an epic town located next to the legendary Veeranam Lake,we pass by this place remembering the Tamil magnum opus Ponniyin Selvan and a song from "The Floods" its first chapter "Come,oh ye young maidens, Look at the North river bubbling by! Come watch, oh ye friends, Look at the White river rushing by! Come, oh come all ye girls, To look at the Cauvery tumbling by! ..." both the lake and this town are antiquated and have references to hectic Chola's activities since 9th century AD and it is also the native place of Nathamunigal (9th AD) the founder of Sri Vaishnavam, proceeding further and passing through Meensurutty,lo behold the towering temple vimana of the UNESCO heritage site of Gangaikonda Cholapurm Temple built by Rajendra Chola 1around (11th AD) can be seen from a long distance,there are umpteen number of information material available about this temple and all most each have the same run of the mill kind of information,but Hermann Kulke in the book "A history of India" debates few theories about the causes of the expansion of Chola Empire and the sudden upsurge of construction activity especially by Raja Raja 1 and his son Rajendra 1. Did they just follow the old injunction of conquering the world (Digvijaya) so as to prove their valour as Universal Rulers (Chakravartin) ? Were they mainly interested in plunder as one American Historian (G.W.Spencer) puts it ? Were their maritime expeditions part of deliberate policy to establish monopoly of trade in S.E Asia ? reading of K.A.Nilakanta Sastri answers these questions,according to him all these motives influenced their action,transfer of Ganges Water fits well with the first theory,long list of jewels and gold donated to the temple of Thanjavur and Gangaikonda Cholapuram by Chola Kings and Generals provide evidence for the second and lastly Chola's wanted to control Eastern Trade Route which passed through Malaca and Sunda Straits held on by Srivijaya Empire, thus peeping into Chola Kings mindset and circumbulating this living Chola Temple we pedal across and we cut across the famous Ponneri Lake (Cholagangam) built for the same purpose like the Temple to commorate victory over Pala King of Bengal by Rajendra Chola 1 (11th AD) another place to visit here is Maligai Medu witnessing the palace ruins of this once metropolis of Chola's (ironically the British used the stones of this place for building the dam at Anaikarai) we pass by Jayamkondan,the road to Tiruvaiyaru takes us through Paluvur and turning on towards Tirumanur this region contains abundant greenery and scenic beauty,while crossing Tirumanur Bridge the Cauvery here flows from the historic Kalanai, except for the occasional wayside cattle posing hindrance riding on this stretch reach Tiruvaiyaru a town located on the banks of River Cauvery,the Samadhi of Saint Thyagaraja (1767-1847) the trinity of Carnatic Music is located here,sitting and contemplating at his Samadhi on his composition "Endaro Mahanubhavalu" is a bliss in itself and soon pedaling through Tirukandiyur we reach our destination the city of Thanjavur. As we check in to our hotel rooms we have quite a lot of time to explore Thanjavur in the evening of whole Day 5 ... 

References "A History of India" Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund, "A History of South India" K.A. Nilkanta Sastri, "History of Tamilnadu" N.Subramanian and "Ponniyin Selvan" English Translation Indra Neelamegham and Google Search.

At Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple (Unesco World Heritage Site)   

Monday 17 September 2012

Prelude to Tour of Tamilnadu 2012 Heritage -Day 3

Tiruvanamalai-Tirukoilur- Ulundurpettai-Vridachallam-Chidambaram (145km) Part - 2 Chidambaram and Chola Bronze's

The corridors of the hotel rooms hustle and bustle with evening activity,most of the riders attired in their casuals are busy chalking out their plan of action for the evening,as the buzz gets going lets travel back to the past,this town has its name derived from the Tamil words citt (wisdom) and ampalam(atmosphere) and refers to the Hindu temple dedicated to the Lord Shiva as Nataraja, the cosmic dancer. It is entered by lofty tower gates, and its hall is supported by more than 1,000 pillars. Its history dates back to the Sangam Literature (1st-3rd AD),many kings and kingdoms patronized this temple,most inscriptions available here pertain to the periods of Cholas,Pallavas,Pandyas and Vijayanagara Kingdom.Chidambaram stands as a gateway to the "Chola Bronzes" while the stone sculptures and the inner sanctum image empowering the temple remained immovable,changing religious concepts demanded that the deities take part in a variety of public roles similar to those of a human monarch,resulting in large bronze images created to be carried outside the temple to participate in daily rituals,processions and temple festivals,a much larger and a much greater number of bronze sculptures were cast during the Chola period,these were made using lost wax technique and principle bronze alloy called Pancha Loham,the years 950-1070 AD marks their most interesting phase,among the many the most famous of all the bronze icons is that of Nataraja,in his masterpiece of essays on Chola Art "The Dance of Siva" Ananda.K.Coomaraswamy concludes "In these days of specialization, we are not accustomed to such a synthesis of thought; but for those who 'saw' such images as this, there could have been no division of life and thought into water-tight compartments.Nor do we always realize, when we criticize the merits of individual works, the full extent of the creative power which, to borrow a musical analogy, could discover a mode so expressive of fundamental rhythms and so profoundly significant and inevitable.Every part of such an image as this is directly expressive, not of any mere superstition or dogma, but of evident facts.No artist of today, however, great,could more exactly or more wisely create an image of that Energy which science must postulate behind all phenomena.If we would reconcile Time with Eternity,we can scarcely do so otherwise than by the conception of alternations of phase extending over vast regions of space and great tracts of time.Especially significant, then,is the phase alternation implied by the drum, and the fire which 'changes' not destroys.These are but visual symbols of the theory of the day and night of Brahma.In the night of Brahma,Nature is inert, and cannot dance till Siva wills it:He rises from His rapture, and dancing sends through inert matter pulsing waves of awakening sound, and lo! matter also dances appearing as a glory round about Him.Dancing, He sustains its manifold phenomena.In the fullness of time, still dancing, he destroys all forms and names by fire and gives new rest. This is poetry ; but none the less,science.It is not strange that the figure of Nataraja has commanded the adoration of so many generations past: familiar with all skepticism, expert in tracing all beliefs to primitive superstitions, explorers of the infinitely great and infinitely small,we are worshipers of Nataraja still" thus pondering on these lines a sumptuous dinner gives way to the night slumber as we ride onward into the Chola territory for the next few days.

References: "A History of South India" K.A.Nilakanta Sastri, "The Dance of Siva" Ananda K Coomaraswamy and Google Search

At Lakshmi Vilas Heritage Hotel Chidambaram

Thursday 13 September 2012

Prelude to Tour of Tamilnadu 2012 Heritage -Day 3

Tiruvanamalai-Tirukoilur- Ulundurpettai-Vridachallam-Chidambaram (145km) Part - 1

A glance from the hotel room window exquisitely exposes the call of Annamalaiyar and bustling early morning activity of this temple town,getting into the scheme of things the day begins with cycle check up,loading up the requirements for the ride since today the heritage sites to pass by are few and so its just going to be cycling all the way.Pedaling onto the State Highways that leads us to Tirukoilur,we reach this historic town located on the banks of River Pennaiyar,This was called the Nadunaadu and Chola's inscription's mention this place was located in Madurdaka Chaturvedhimangalam a subdivision of Kurukkai in Maladunadu,this place was under the Atiyaman Chieftains and was the capital of Malayaman as mentioned in Purananuru (2nd AD) through the writings of Avvaiyar (1st-2nd AD,incidentally an intimate friend to Atiyaman) and Paranar,the Satyaputra Inscription at Jambai near to this place mentions the ruler as Atiyaman Neduman Anchi. The Tiruvikrama Perumal Temple here is very ancient,the first three Alvars (Mudal Alvars,6th AD) met each other here according to the Vaishnava pantheon.It contains numerous inscriptions one is by Vira Rajendra Chola (1057-58) it mentions that Narasimha Verma a feudatory of Maladunadu reconstructed the central shrines of the temple with granite,it witnessed many activities by the on coming kingdoms till this place was used by the British as a fortress during the Carnatic Wars.Another historic place here is the Veerateshwarer Temple.But the most important information available is this was the birthplace of King RAJA RAJA CHOLA the Great (985-1014) also called as Arulmozhi Varman (remember Kalki's Ponniyin Selvan),this is vouched by Tiruvalangadu Copper Plate Inscriptions which mentions the Chola Lineage,also according to the pioneer in Tamil History K.A.Nilakanta Sastri his mother was Vaanavan Mahadevi daughter of Malayaman Kaari dynasty of Tirukoilur.King Rajaraja Chola built the famed Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur,he accomplished many overseas victories,he was one of the best Chola kings (titled Mumudi Cholan) who established a powerful Chola Empire.Other important sites include Kabilar Kundru a mini hillock temple for Saint Kabilar on the river,nearby places include Killur,Manampoondi and Anthilli Temples,the first Danish Missionary Siloam Arcot Lutheren Church (1869). After a brief halt we next proceed towards Ulundurpettai,the Konenkuppam Periyanayagi Madha Shrine constructed by the great Jesuit priest Father Beschi (Viramamunivar) (1680-1742) is just few kilometers away,the most important place nearby is Koovagam where the Koothandavar Temple famous for its annual festival of transgender and transvestite individuals in the Tamil month of Chitrai (April/May).this festival has close association with Aravan Cult in Mahabharata,another landmark place is famous Parikal Narasimhar Temple,now crossing over the National Highways we reach Vridachallam one of few towns with a Sanskrit name in Tamilnadu,this route takes us through a few landmarks located in the nearby vicinity notable are Sethiyathope closely associated with Tamil Saint Vallar (1823-1874), ancient temple's of Srimushnam and Kattumanar Kovil,Veeranam Lake biggest in this part of the world are near to this place ... thus pedaling around 140km we reach the town of Cosmic Dancer the Thillai Natarajar of Chidambaram.Its mission accomplished, the evening sojourn to Chidambaram Temple is something to look forward ...

References: K.A.Nilakanta Sastri " A History of South India", N.Subramanium "History of Tamilnadu" and Google Search

On the way to Chidambaram 

Monday 10 September 2012

Prelude to Tour of Tamilnadu 2012 Heritage -Day 2

Kanchipuram- Gingee-Thiruvanamalai Part-2 Thiruvanamalai

After "a date with Gingee Fort" and a soothing shower,hit the road again but by walk to have a glimpse of this historic temple town known to have been the sanctuary for Siddhars since the days of yore,Ramana Maharishi being the most remembered, catching up with the history of this place we come across the Annamalaiyar Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva the present masonry structure and towers date back to the 9th century A.D.This has been determined from an inscription in the structure made during the reign of Chola kings who ruled during the 9th A.D it was also under the Pallava Kings who ruled from Kanchipuram before the 9th A.D,the 7th century nayanar saints Sambandar and Appar, have mentioned the deity in the poetic work Tevaram.Many dynasties have contributed to this temple but notable being the Vijaya Nagar Empire.The temple is famous for its Massive Gopurams,the 11 tiered East Rajagopuram towers to a height of 217 feet, while the fortified walls pierced with 4 gopura entrances offer a formidable look to this vast temple complex.The 1000 pillared hall and the temple tank were built by Krishna Deva Rayarar of Vijayanagar. Each of the prakarams(outer courtyard) has a huge Nandi and several towers such as the Vallala Maharaja Gopuram and Kili Gopuram. Karthigai Deepam is great grand fest of Thiruvanamalai this great grand fest reaches its high spirituality by lighting Mahadeepam at Arunachala Hill which is 2900 feet high and this festival is celebrated for 10 days. Every full moon night, tens of thousands of pilgrims worship Shiva by circumambulating the Annamalai hill barefoot. The circumambulation covers a distance of about 14 km is called "Girivalam".Thus after a quick walk around this place return to the hotel to enjoy the dinner and later view the captures of the day from few co-riders camera's before getting to bed and begin to ponder about the Day-3 Ride which promises to be fascinating ...

References : Wikipedia on Tiruvanamalai and Tiruvanamalai Temple.

Tiruvanamallai Temple (Pic:

Friday 7 September 2012

Prelude to Tour of Tamilnadu 2012 Heritage -Day 2

Kanchipuram-Gingee-Thiruvanamalai (130km) Part-1

Awakened by the devotional songs from the cone speakers which reverberate the early mornings around Tamilnadu during the month of Margali,getting done with morning chorus and munching the lavish spread of breakfast the riders assemble at the starting point,after the briefing set of to what will be called "a date with Gingee Fort" thus bidding adieu to Kanchipuram crossing the Palar Bridge and on to the road which takes us to Vandavasi the ride zips past quite a few historic places located in the nearby vicinity like Ayyangar Kulam, Uthiramerur (known for Inscription on Local Self Governance by Paranthaka Chola,970 AD),Mamandur Cave Temples and Thennangur. Crossing Vandavasi here took place the historic "Battle of Wandiwash, 1760" the British defeated French and gained the supremacy of India, passing the St.Lourdes Shrine (1890) Chetpet,built on a small hillock incidentally this is one of the biggest Church in Tamil Nadu,we reach Gingee ... the opulence and grandeur of this place is such it was called "Troy of the East" by the Britishers.This Fort contains three hills the pivotal Rajagiri,the Krishnagiri and Chandragiri, even though some stone carvings point to Jaina activity in these hills during 2nd-6th AD and later to the Pallava's,evidences are available only from Chola's (9th AD) advent and thus begins the battle for the possession of this fort,it changed hands from Vijayanagar Empire, Nayaks, Bijapur Sultans, Marathas, Mugals, Carnatic Nawabs, French and finally to the British. It was a neighbors envy and owners pride but of all the chronicle's the ballad of Desingu Raja stands tall midst the ruins,but the most interesting observation about this impregnable fort comes the Frenchman Jean Deloche and his epic work published in 2000 "Sengi (Gingi) Ville fortifie du pays Tamoul" (Sengi the fortified town of Tamil County),he mentions that for a student of military architecture,it is the only one in India where a full sequence of the defense systems used in the subcontinent, from the Vijayanagar period to the European conquest, can be observed. It is also the only one where we can follow, for at least four centuries, the adaptation of the defense to the progress of artillery, he also glorifies the water management for the availability of water thought the year in this fort as something outstanding.Getting into elements with the past for a brief time we ride to reach our destination Thiruvanamalai ... after a soothing shower at the hotel now awaits the Day 2 (Part -2) the walk in the park at Thiruvanamalai.

References: "A History of South India" K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, "History of Tamilnadu" N.Subramanium and "Sengi (Gingi) Ville fortifie du pays Tamoul" Jean Deloche and Google Search

At Gingee with Doctor Sahab 

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Prelude to Tour of Tamilnadu 2012 Heritage -Day 1

Chennai-Mahabalipuram-Kanchipuram (120km) Part -2 Evening Promenade of Kanchipuram

Refreshing ourselves after what had been a hectic day,the evening stroll across this Temple Town takes us to the past,considered one of the oldest towns in India,its earliest mention come in the Sanskrit Text of Patanjali (2nd BC),in Tamil mentions from Purananuru(2nd AD),in Perumpanaru Patai (Pathu Pattu) and Tamil Epic Manimekhalai (4th AD),this town had strong Buddhist connections apart from Bodhidharma, Emperor Ashoka (3rd-2nd BC) built many Buddhist Vihara's here and Chinese Traveler Hiuen Tsang (7th AD) visited this town,thus the history goes on ... but one thing for certain that must be mentioned is the Pallava Art & Architecture both in Mahabalipuram and Kanchipuram,they are constituted by cave temples, monolithic rathas (chariots), sculpted reliefs and structural temples like the Arjuna's Penance.the Pancha Pandava Rathas and the Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram and in Kanchipuram apart from the Kailasanathar Temple,the Vaikunta Perumal Temple built by Nandhivarman the Second (8th AD),this is a Multi Tiered temple and is a jewel built in Sandstone.The uniqueness of the temple is its circumambalatory passage each pillar carved with lions and the walls profusely carved with the king's coronation and numerous inscriptions which later led to writing of Pallava's Chronology."The Body of God An Emperor's Palace for Krishna in Eighth-Century Kanchipuram" by D Dennis Hudson is a book which speaks volume about this Pallava's tryst with Stone and this temple monument ... and rejoicing on a visit to this temple the evening gives way to the sumptuous dinner,checking up the bicycle once again and an early sleep to catch up with Day-2 Ride to Gingee and Tiruvanamalai brings the curtain down of Day-1 ...

References "A History of South India" K.A.Nilakanta Sastri, "History of the Tamils from the Earliest Times to the Present Day" P.T.Srinivasa Iyengar,"The Body of God An Emperor's Palace for Krishna in Eighth-Century Kanchipuram" Dennis Hudson and Google Search.

Explaining history of Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple at Kanchipuram

Saturday 1 September 2012

Prelude to Tour of Tamilnadu 2012 Heritage -Day 1

Chennai-Mahabalipuram-Kanchipuram (120 km) Part-1

The start of the tour is always exciting new jersey,group photo session,meeting new co-riders,new routes and flag off. With all set and done the peddling begins,the road bikes,the hybrid's,the MTB's and followed by support vehicles.On to the new route breezing past the hustle bustle of City Traffic we take on the ECR Road also called as "Vadagaperuvazhi" by the Cholas since this road facilitated trade with S.E.Asia. Crossing Kovalam and Tiruvidaventhai Temple were our first blushes with Heritage begin,this temple has some oldest inscription dating back to 11th Century,one mentioning about a gift given to temple by a Kerala Merchant of Kondungallur to feed and support the Brahmins. Moving on across further we zip past the Alavandar Shrine in Nemmeli,the Tiger's Cave a Theater for performing arts according to historian Pradeep Chakravarthy,we reach Neer Per Thurai (Mahabalipuram) the first of many Pitstops,this place was an important trade center for Horse imports and had a thriving trade with Kerala.The ancient Tamil Text "Pathu Pattu" 2nd Century AD,mentions this place as an happening city with free flow of Liquor and also of Drama's in the evenings.This place was an hub for Pallava's Art and Architecture and their fascination with stone,this port city contains the best of them that mentioning all requires another extensive page.The Vaishnava Saints called Alvars have sung about this place it is also the birth place of Bhudhat Alvar.This place witnessed large scale destruction due to sectarian clashes during the 10th Century between Saivas & Vaishnavas.Bidding adieu to Mahabalipuram for few a more days we cross the temple of Tirukazhikundram and reach Chengalpattu.Crossing the National Highway we are received by the vast expanse of the Palar River bed on one side of the road and towards Palayaseevaram a small hillock with an ancient Narasimha Temple from where the a beautiful panoramic view of the region is possible,we pedal towards Wallajah and reach the outskirts of Kanchipuram the sight of the ancient Western Gopuram of Lord Varadaraja Perumal Temple welcomes us and basking in the glory of the Fortress like Walls of this temple we reach our destination ... soon refreshing ourselves,the evening promenade of this Kanchipuram Temple town continues with the Day-1 (Part-2) of our Prelude.

  • References to the above content : Pathu Pattu (Peruvanatu Padai 9.11.31), Tirumangai Alvar (Periya Tirumoli),South Indian Temple Inscriptions ASI Publications, A History of South India K.A. Nilakanta Shastri and Google Search. Also from the lectures by Historian Pradeep Chakravarthy on ECR Road

  • At the Flag Off - Tour of Tamilnadu (Heritage)

Monday 20 August 2012

Madras Day Heritage Ride - 19th August 2012

Our first heritage ride on bicycle got off to a wonderful start on a pleasant Sunday morning of 19th August 2012. The reason was to celebrate the 373rd Foundation Day of this great city named Madras, being a self proclaimed historian cum cyclist I turned up to our starting point the Gandhi Statue by around 4.30 am only to be surprised in seeing an American cycling friend of mine with his foldee bicycle awaiting for the start of the show, as time tickled fellow cycling friends and other Old Madras aficionados started to creep in. After a small briefing about the ride and an introduction to Madras Day, the significance of Marina Beach came into focus, this place having reference in the songs of Vaishnava Saint Pey Alvar (6th Century AD) and proclaimed to be second longest beach in the world owes its name as well to its first beautification project with promenade in 1884 by the then Governor of Madras Elephinstine Grant Duff, the imposing DGP Office with its masonic architecture which is just few meters away mentioning that this building started its service as the Police Headquarters in 1865 and its construction cost during 1830's was only Rs. 25000 and a group photo with Mahatma Gandhi statue as the backdrop our ride into history began. The next stop was the Indo-Saracenic styled Senate House of Madras University which was constructed between 1874-79 designed by the British architect Robert Chisholm and the nearby Chepauk Palace the official residency of Nawab of Arcot between 1768-1855 which consisted  of Kalsa Mahal and Humayun Mahal. Getting back to the saddle we pedaled towards the interior located Tiruvallikenni Sri Parthasarathy Temple and the nearby Patriotic Poet Bharathiyar House. This ancient Vaishnava Temple has its earliest inscription reference to Pallava King Dantivarman (795-846 AD) apart from the songs of Vaisnava Saints the Alvars Next to this temple is the Nationalist Poet Bharathiyar House who spent his last few years of his life during early 1920's. After seeing these places our next destination was back again on Kamarajar Salai the Vivekanander Illam also known as Ice House which was built by Frederic Tudor in 1842 and used as an ice storage facility it was purchased by one of the Mandyam Iyengars living in Triplicane, Swami Vivekananda who stayed in Triplicane for some time owes much to these Iyengars for his presence at the Chicago Parliament of the World Religions (1893). From this place it was a straight pedal pushing to Mylapore region first in the line was Santhome Church built over the Tomb of St.Thomas in 16th Century by the Portuguese and later rebuilt by the British in 1896. Taking on the Kutcheri Road we zipped past Dabba Chetty Shop famous for its country drugs and herbal medicine since 1885 to the 6th Century Vaishnava Saint Pey Alvars Birth place and after a brief stop over here we reached our final destination the Mylapore Kapaleeswarer Temple which was built in 7th century by the Pallavas but to the famous Saivaite Saints of Tamilnadu called Nayanmars the temple was located on the sea shore, setting aside the debate of its precise location for another occasion the first heritage tour came to an end at the precincts of this renowned Temple with a group photo and vote of thanks to all the participants, special mention being made to our immaculate photographer cum cyclist Bharani Shivakumar and Mr.Vasanth Ramaswamy of TCC who put me on to the Madras Day. All is well that ends well ... the first heritage ride came to a wonderful finish at the Rayars Mess with a hot filter coffee courtesy Mr. Suresh. Till next time.
Participants of the Madras Day Heritage Ride 2012

Tamil Newspapers dated 19-08-2012

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Memories of my first ride on Valentines Day 2010

Srinath Ragunath at Start Point
                     To many 14th February Valentines Day is symbolic with love between a boy and girl but to me fortunately or unfortunately it was on this day in 2010 that I rediscovered my love for cycles and cycling. Getting fed up with "monotony of being within four walls" which the neighbourhood gym provided, the year long favourite morning aerobics class coming to a sudden close since aerobics instructor moved to another city, vacuum arising in commuting due to selling of all the vehicles in an one day swift operation followed by a verbal altercation with share auto driver who demanded me to sit in the place he wanted me while coming home from gym were series of events leading me to buy a cycle. Having no knowledge about cycles and eager to avoid money being
Pattu at Scenic Spot
spent on other mode of transportation on the 13th February 2010 along with my friend I landed up at BSA Go Adyar to buy a cycle, a white coloured MTB Schwin on the display impressed me a lot and a test ride was more than enough for me to go for it but there was shortage of money since I thought minimal amount was adequate and bicycles can never cost big, lucky my friend who accompanied me went back to my home to fetch the remaining money while I was waiting for his return to make the payment and take delivery of bicycle between a man bit dark in appearance wearing formal and busy speaking on his mobile phone entered the showroom soon after he came to the billing section where I was seated and thus begun our conversation. This man was none other than Suresh Kumar during our conversation he wanted me to join the CRX Reaxion Ride to Mahabalipuram scheduled for the next day morning and told me that the ride would be a great fun and assured me of help since I was a newbie. Upon arrival of my friend we made the payment and took delivery of the bicycle eagerly awaiting the next day ride to Mahabalipuram which would be my first cycling experience after school days.

Near Scenic Spot 
 A very cool February morning and the darkness adding flavour welcomed us and as participants began to assemble at the starting point in Tiruvanmiyur few cyclist with their helmets and lights in their cycles garnered attention but it was with an UFO feeling, the briefing about the ride and the start of the ride now look like a distant dream but one cannot forget some notable faces like singers Miss.Tanvi Shah and Mrs. Anuradha Sriram in the gathering. Now getting on with the ride till ECR Toll it was nothing but darkness and as we reached Scenic spot which was a pit stop the day light began to ascend. The destination coming closer pedalling became slower but the thought of a lavish spread of breakfast at the Raddison Hotel keeps me going. For the first time ECR Road looked very beautiful even though one gets to travel
umpteen number of times on this route all through the year,
Suresh at Hotel Raddisson
this could have been due to cycling, it even felt like an wonderful experience most importantly because you are riding as a group. All through the ride Suresh would cheer me even as an array of super bikes like Hyabusa's & Honda's zipped past and at last I just managed to reach the finish point of the 40km ride Mahabalipuram,  At the hotel the outside circular area was filled with cycles and cyclist who's faces were now clearly visible most of them chatting to each other about their ride experience and timings of the top ten finishers. Soon after a sumptuous breakfast and a quick visit to the sea shore we wait for the bikes to be loaded and the bus which transports us back to Tiruvanmiyur. With everything in place bidding good bye to this Heritage town of Mahabalipuram and a sound nap in the bus we reach the starting point and collecting our cycles peddle back home with memories of this momentous ride. The day turned out to be historic in many ways, it brought forward passion for cycling and opened up new vistas in understanding of life with this excellent machine.