Thursday 29 August 2013

Madras Week Celebration on Bicycles 2013

               This years Madras Week Celebrations in commemoration of 374th Madras Day had two heritage rides on bicycles to offer and the double bonanza kick started with an Heritage Ride to Royapuram on 18th August 2013, cycling enthusiast from different walks of life gathered on a Sunday morning at the entrance of Madras University relinquishing their precious early morning slumber and even before the arrival of twilight with the accompanying welcome drizzle a peleton of 30 plus cyclist took off from this starting point to explore and relish the past vestiges of Madras. The first place to visit was the Plaque at High Court Compound Wall Judges entrance the Plaque mentioning Bombardment of Madras on the night of 22nd September 1914 by the German cruiser "Emden" and how the missile fell at this spot and took away the portion of the compound wall. Next on line was the nearby Obelisk adjacent to Dare House (Parry's Corner) it mentions the Boundary of Esplanade as on 1st January 1773. Soon we rode past a series of Heritage buildings located on this part of Rajaji Salai earlier called First Line Beach, the SBI Local Head Office and the GPO, then came the Cupola of Lord Cornwallis in front of Chennai Collector Office an empty cupola consisting of the Statue of Lord Cornwallis till 1925 which was later moved to the Museum. After these came the HISTORY in making a visit to the Royapuram Railway Station the oldest operational Railway Station in India which became functional in June 1856. The station was the gateway to Madras and it was at its grandest when Prince of Wales Edward VII visited it on 17th December 1875. Now entering Royapuram our next stop was the St.Peters Church built in 1829. The finish point of the Heritage Ride was at Parsi Anjuman, Royapuram which houses an 100 year old Heritage Building and nearby is located the Parsi Fire Temple called Dar-e-Mehar it was built in 1910. At the end there was a vote of thanks to the sponsors of the ride, all the participants, a group photo session and distribution of refreshments.
History at Royapuram Railway Station 
                 On 25th August Madras Day Heritage Ride to Triplicane and Mylapore, the route was a replica of the Madras Day Heritage Ride 2012 and around 25 of us began from Madras University proceeded to Sri Parthasarathy Temple, 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 nearby is the Bharathiyar Illam where the national poet Subramaniya Bharathiyar spent his last few years of his life during early 1920's. Next was the Vivekanander Illam 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). Riding through the Marina Beach 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 we reached Santhome Church built over the Tomb of St.Thomas in 16th Century by the Portuguese and later rebuilt by the British in 1896. Zipping past Dabba Chetty Shop famous for its country drugs and herbal medicine since 1885 we halted for some time at Pey Alvars Birth Place where the 6th Century Vaishnava Saint Pey Alvar was born, The finish point was Sri Kapaleeswarer Temple Mylapore built in 7th century by the Pallavas, to the famous Saiva Saints of Tamilnadu called the Nayanmars the temple was located on the sea shore setting aside the debate we ended the ride with a cup of coffee at the nearby popular mess.
At Vivekananda House
                       The bonhomie, camaraderie and most importantly the feeling of bliss in getting transported to our wonderful past was what all of the participants would have cherished to take back as memories on return and trust these two heritage rides which were orchestrated to perform those tasks with efficiency would have accomplished. Once again thanking all those who were involved in making the Madras Day Heritage Ride's 2013 a grand success. Till next time ... 

Thursday 8 August 2013

Higgs Boson & Must See Series for Cyclist

During the month of July 2012 when the monumental discovery had taken place in search of the Elementary Particle or God Particle in the world of physics called Higgs Boson, I had done a series in Cycling Yogis called "Higgs Boson Must See # 1 - # 7" it was about how our ancestors who had lived hundreds of years ago also thought if not precisely on those similar lines of Scientific Reasoning and I identified around 7-8 places which I felt had in them those attributes of Scientific Reasoning going beyond the barriers of caste or creed. After personally visiting these places the thought of our ancestors quest for scientific reasoning became a source of pride about our glorious past and thus came forward a clarion call to all my cyclist friends as "Must See" places to Ride in Tamilnadu. Now I am compiling these short tit bits into one condensed article.

Higgs Boson - Must See # 1 
Tiruvellarai near Tiruchi Swastika well, also known as Marpidugu Perunkinaru, was dug by Kamban Araiyan. One inscription found in this well is in poetical form and describe the immortal life of man. It belongs to 8th AD. This is also called locally as the Mamiyar-Marumagal Kulam (Mother-in-law Daughter-in-law Tank) since when taking bath in this tank both of them are not visible to each other. 
Swastika Well

Higgs Boson - Must See # 2
Mahabalipuram, the Krishna's Butterball in this place is a giant natural rock perched on a hillside, seemingly in defiance of all laws of physics it's a common sight to see visitors placing hands under the stone posing for pics, which looks as though they are holding it.The rock provides welcome shade if you dare to sit underneath it, and local kids have discovered that the slippery nearby hillside also makes a great natural slide.

Krishna's Butter Ball
Higgs Boson - Must See # 3
Nachiyar Kovil near Kumbakonam  the Kal Garudar which is the vahana for this temple at Nachiyar Kovil . A magical event during Garuda Sevai, Garuda increases in weight manifold. During street procession (Margazhi and Panguni), an unbelievable event takes place at the Nachiyar Koil. While only 4 people carry Garuda out of his Sannidhi, as the Lord goes out of each Layer and prakaram, he is said to increase in weight, that 8 people, 16 and then 32 people are required to carry Garuda out of the temple. Finally, when the Lord is taken outside the temple, Garuda increases in weight so much that 128 people are required to carry the Lord. On his way back, it is said that Garuda mount decreases in weight and finally when he is back in the Sannidhi, only 4 people are required to carry him.

Kal Garudar, Nachiyar Kovil
Higgs Boson - Must See # 4
Thanjavur Brihadeeswarar Temple also called the Big Temple, its widely believed that the shadow of the Gopuram (pyramidal tower usually over the gateway of a temple) never falls on the ground.

      Thanjavur Big Temple  

Higgs Boson - Must See # 5
Iyengar Kulam near Kanchipuram, the Mandapam in the basement (underground) was filled with water on its sides during the festival days. The famous Nada Bhaavi Utsavam (festival) of Kanchipuram Sri Varadaraja Perumal takes place here during Chitira Pournami (April/May) 

Iyengar Kulam near Kanchipuram
Higgs Boson - Must See # 6
Sri Rangam, here its widely believed that the physical body of Bhagavad Ramanuja is preserved even today in a sitting posture in the Sannidhi (Sanctum Sanctorum) dedicated to him on the southwest corner on the fifth round opposite to Sudharshana Alwar Sannidhi, within the Srirangam temple Complex as ordered by Lord Ranganatha himself. The whole world is wonder struck at the feat of preservation of the mummies of Egypt and the body of St. .Xavier in GOA in India. There is no Thirumanjanam (bath) for this Idol. Yearly twice it is Thirumanjanam of Pachai Kalpuram and Kumkuma Poo (Saffron).

Bhagavad Ramanujar at Sri Rangam

Higgs Boson - Must See # 7
Thirukazhikundram near Chennai at Vedagiriswarar temple in Thirukazhkundram the priest feed a pair of eagle like bird every day. Exactly at noon, the birds would fly down from the sky to partake of a prasadam of wheat, rice, ghee and sugar from the temple’s priest.The pair of birds have been fed many generations of priests counting years to many centuries.It is still a real puzzle for the Scientists about this unusual fare for the vultures, at Thirukazh. Specially the fact that and only two birds used to show up, although vultures are fond of gathering in goodish numbers to feast on corpses is a mystery to the scientists. As the tradition continued for centuries, many generations of vultures must have been involved int the fair, passing on the tradition, perhaps from mother to son, or husband to wife. Zoologists define this culture as an imitation of patterns of behaviors of one animal by another. Viewed from this perspective, the vultures of Thirukazhkundram certainly qualified as rather unusual animals of high culture.But it is really sad the centuries long tradition is lost and probably never be recreated as the unusual vulture also must have fallen prey to the human civilization since 1998.

Priest feeding the Eagles at Thirukazhikundram
The eighth Must See could be the Statue of Sri Atti Varadar placed inside the Kanchipuram Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple Tank which is taken out for worship once in every 40 years. There could be many more such Must See in our wonderful Tamilnadu which I have not overcome or heard perhaps if you have a story to furnish its always a welcome. Trust my cycling friends would pose with some lovely photographs at these locations in the days and years to come. With this I conclude these little tit bits that came as a series in Cycling Yogis during July 2012 which is now been compiled as a single article. Till next time. 

Thursday 1 August 2013

Recent Recce to Royapuram

"It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of the country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle" 
- Ernest Hemingway

The recent few recce to Royapuram along with my cyclist friends in connection with the Madras Day Heritage Ride brought new insights on the way I had perceived our city over the years first being a pity that I lacked total awareness about this Northern part of Chennai and secondly I came to know how strategically important this region was in the making of the present day Chennai. Our recce rides always began from the Gandhi Statue at Marina Beach and we crisscrossed through the landmark sites located all along the beach notable being Ice House (Vivekananda House), Chepauk Palace, Madras University, Napier Bridge and Fort St George. Pedaling onto the Rajaji Salai subway at RBI possibly the oldest in the city only to resurface near the entrance gate for the Honorable Judges of the Madras High Court and standing beside the plaque just adjutant which mentions about the bombardment of Madras by German cruiser 'Emden' on the night of 22nd September 1914, my mind conjures with this region and its surroundings which are replete with history. On my left stands the George Town earlier called Black Town which housed the first settlements of Madras and the Port of Madras to the other side of the road, briefly looking into the history of the Madras Port which is possibly the second largest in India and nearly 130 years old, it was simply an open road stead and sandy coast swept by storms and occasional monsoon. This man made port had its first constructional activities from 1861, in the year 1881 it faced the wrath of a storm the worst in Madras History, to reputed historian S. Muthiah it was Sir Francis Spring who during his tenure between 1904-1919 as Chairman of the Port committed himself to the meeting the challenge flaunted by nature in creating the Madras Harbor, it was also him who nurtured the talent of Mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan who worked in the Port for some years. Riding through Parry's Corner junction we now come across a series of Heritage buildings located on this part of Rajaji Salai earlier called First Line Beach, a few notable being SBI, the GPO, the erstwhile Bentinck's Building where now stands the Chennai Collectors Office, Customs House and HSBC, the opposite side contained the Beach Station and eastern entrance to the Port, to historian V.Sriram the road meant "in its time it was the most important road of the city" riding further across and with a mini climb over the bridge we reach our destination Royapuram. This part of Chennai could have perhaps got its name from Rayyar the Tamil equivalent for Peter in whose name exist the church built in 1829 called St.Peters Church which is inseparably connected with the Christian Boat owners and men who worked for the East India company during 18th century. Royapuram also houses the Parsi Fire Temple Dar-e-Mehar constructed in 1910 and after a visit to these places our last stop was the one and only Royapuram Railway Station, this station came into beginning on 1st July 1856 and is the oldest operational station in this part of the world, leaving rest of its story to history we concluded the nearly 15 km recce inclusive of the return with some awesome breakfast at a famous eatery in Triplicane. Till next time ...
At Royapuram Railway Station