Wednesday 15 September 2021

Madras By Cycle - Medical Heritage Trails of Chennai - Book Launch

Madras By Cycle- Medical Heritage Trails of Chennai - Book Launch on 22nd August 2021

Book Cover 

Madras has an unique Medical Heritage and History, there seems to be an immediate need to connect this rich past and share it especially at time when the pandemic has been hitting us hard. The book attempts to document frontline workers and selfless doctors of the past, hospitals, medical institutions including pharmacies and much more. The book consisting of 10 Trails also looks back at the many medical firsts of Madras, including the realm of native medicine and not to mention the hidden histories. Being cyclists friendly it contains QR Codes for easy access to all the locations via smart phone interface. 

The book consisting of 10 Trails with QR Codes is the sixth book in the series of our publication. The book was launched on the occasion of Madras Day by Dr. Alby John IAS District Collector Tiruvallur on 22nd August 2021, Mr. Ennarasu Karunesan and Dr. Anuj Singh received the first set of copies.  The event was held online and was on Facebook Live from Probikers OMR. 

The Book is available FREE OF COST to City Lovers, Heritage Enthusiasts and Cyclists. 

Dr.Alby John IAS 
District Collector, Tiruvallur 

Book Launch at Probikers OMR 


TOI Chennai Times dated 22nd August 2021

DTNext dated 23rd August 2021

The Hindu Metroplus dated 26th August 2021

The Hindu Downtown dated 22nd August 2021

Madras Musings dated 1st September 2021

New Indian Express dated 13th September 2021
Copy to be uploaded  ...

Friday 19 February 2021

9th edition Republic Day Heritage Ride - Tirunelveli

23rd, 24th & 25th January 2021

Flag Off by Tirunelveli Collector Shri. Vishnu IAS 

The 9th edition of Republic Day Heritage Ride by Cycling Yogis 2021 was conceptualized and chartered to cover holy shrines of Nava Tirupathi and Nava Kailsam located around 2000 year old historically significant Tirunelveli (meaning sacred paddy edge) aka Nellai/Thinnaveli (local dialect), the home of only non-perennial South Indian river Thamirabarani and known for world famous Iruttukadai (meaning dimly lit interior) Halwa (since 1900). Nellai is abode of Nellayappa Swamy temple which is posited to have been built around 16th century and houses the acclaimed musical pillars. The territory also hosts boundless agricultural fields (paddy, pulses, maize, millets, banana, coconut, groundnut, etc), majestic Courtallam, Papanasam dam, Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve & sanctuary. The sage Agastya who is purported to have coined Tamil language from Podhigai hills (also the birthplace of Thamirabarani). Impressive recce and comprehensive study guaranteed sleek conduct of event from start to finish. All COVID norms including use of face masks and hand sanitisers were followed. Hotel Janakiraman at the heart of the city near Thirunelveli Junction provided serene stay, yummy food and good hospitality. Probikers dispensed technical support through Mr. Rajashekar. The ride was inaugurated by District Collector Mr. Vishnu IAS in the presence of Nellai bicycle Mayor and members of Nellai Nature Club, Nellai by Cycle group and tour participants. Honourable collector also released the book cover of upcoming bicycle trials of Thamirabarani by tour captain Mr. Hari Pradhan (an entrepreneur and nature activist). 

Day 1

Day 1

The tour kickstarted with first of Navatirupathi temples Srivaikuntam Perumal Temple which is approximately 22 kms from Nellai. Nungu sarbath (Palm fruit juice), nannari sarbath and panam kizhangu(Palmyra Sprout) were offered as healthy refreshments en route. Mr. Ajay (photographer by passion and engineer by profession) covered the entire tour through his magical lens to give each one of us great moments. Srivaikuntam temple is one of 108 divyadesams and sung in divya prabandham. There was a demon called Somukasuran who abducted four Vedas after defeating Brahma. Vishnu incarnated as Vaikunthanathar fought and killed the asura and restored the Vedas. Deity here is also referred to as Paal Pandian as a cow performed anointing at a place where deity was submerged for years. The temple is associated with Surya(Sun god). The deity is also referred to as Kallapiran as he helped a thief called Kaladushana who prayed to the Lord. Then we marched ahead to sixth of Nava Kailasam Sri Vaikuntam Sri Kailasanathar temple (associated with planet Saturn). Sage Urosamar wanted to install Shivalingas and pray in order to attain mukthi. He sought advice from his guru Agastya who instructed him to throw flowers used for Shiva pooja into Tamirabarani river and wherever the flowers reach shore there he would install Lingas.  Out of the flowers floated by urosamar in Tamirabharani river, the sixth flower reached shore here. This shrine is famous for Sani dosha pujas (like Thirunallar). Believed to be built by Chandrakula Pandiyar and Madurai Nayaka. Bhoothanadhar (safeguarder of the temple) idol here is made of wood and is given preference during Chithirai Brahmotsavam. During 18th century floods entire Sepparai temple was washed away completely but Bhoothanadhar was washed ashore at Sri Vaikuntam and is considered as god's gift to temple and people. Temple has unique pyramidal entrance cover. Third temple (attributed to moon god) on day 1 was Sri Vijayasanar (Paramapatha Nathar) located in Varagunamangai, Natham. There was a Brahmnic called Vedavi who did vigorous penance chanting at this site "Aasanathai" mantra and attained liberation from life and hence the deity is referred to as Vijayasanar. It is also believed that Perumal has given dharshan to Savithri and agni. It is firmly believed that people who die here will be free from ills of rebirth. Fourth on the itinerary was Kaichina Vendha Perumal (dedicated to Budhan) A striking feature about the temple is that the lotus feet of the Lord can be seen from window of passageway. According to puranas, Lord Vishnu along with Sridevi was spending time peacefully at Thamirabarani. Bhoodevi grew envious and hid herself in underworld which darkened the entire universe. Lord Vishnu pacified her and saved the planet. Hence the deity is referred to as Bhoomi Paalar. People who worship here are believed to be freed from negativity and bad effects due to planets. Fifth temple on cards was Sri Mayakoothar Perumal (dedicated to Sani Bhagavan). There was a staunch devotee named Vedasaran whose wife Kumudhavalli was abducted by Achmasaran through magical tricks. Lord Vishnu killed him by dancing on his head and restored wife to Vedasaran. Since Garuda helped Vishnu in rescuing Kumudhavalli by carrying him on his back from the Himalayas, he will be located along with vishnu. Lord Vishnu also accepted their daughter Kamalavathi who had penance towards him. Tholaivillimangalam aka Irattai Thirupathi Aravindalochanar (dedicated to Raghu) gave us a fitting farewell. Deva by name Vidhyadharan was involved in recreational activity with his wife when Kuberan happened to pass through. Kuberan got angry as they failed to notice him and cursed them to become balance (Thulam) and bow (Vill). As couple pleaded for mercy, Kuberan asked them to reach this place and start penance towards Lord. Days passed when a rishi Subprabhar noticed a divine aura at the spot and discovered balance n bow and brought back to their original form helping them to go back to Devalogam. The shrine doesn't have a Rajagopuram and people visit and pray for successful marriage and good progress in education. 

Day 2

Day 2 

Started with Alwarthirunagari Sri Adinathar (dedicated to Guru) which happens to be the birthplace of Nammazhvar. Nammazhvar as a child was unresponsive and their parents left him at the feet of Sri Adinathar and the child crawled and got into the hole of a tamarind tree and meditated in lotus position for sixteen long years. Madhurakavi azhvar reached the place and posed a riddle to Nammazhvar to which he responded impressively breaking his lifelong silence. Dharshan was followed by yummy breakfast and famous Alwarthirunagari traditional filter  coffee. Second innings begun with Sri Vaithamanidhi Perumal Temple at Thirukolur (birthplace of Madhurakavi Alwar). Kuberan was cursed by Lord Shiva for his evil thoughts and pleaded for mercy and was asked to do penance at Thirukolur. Lord Vishnu blessed him and restored his wealth and powers and hence people who offer prayers here are blessed with wealth and prosperity. Makara Nedunkuzhaikadhar Temple (dedicated to Sukhra) welcomed us to Then Thiruperai. Sridevi though was fair and beautiful somehow felt Lord Vishnu showered more love on Bhoodevi though she was dark. Hence, she requested Sage Dhurvasar to change complexion of Bhoodevi. When Dhurvasar was on his way to meet Lord Vishnu, Bhoodevi was relaxing on lap of Lord and didn't notice sage's arrival. Irked by her action, sage cursed her to turn fair. When she pleaded for mercy, Sage directed her to take up the name Thanga Thiruperai and do penance at tamirabarani. When she was taking a holy dip in river, she caught hold of fish shaped ear rings which she administered to Lord. Pleased by her love, god granted her original dusky skin tone and took her in his arms. Another interesting fact is that Lord wanted to see instruments played, cultural acts displayed and kids playing in streets and requested Garuda to move away slightly. Located in the same place is Sri Kailasanathar who blesses devotees as Swayambunadhar. The base of Linga is designed like a lotus flower. There is an interesting story about this shrine. Once a British officer wanted tender coconut but was told that the tender coconuts in the vicinity are not meant for human consumption but dedicated to anointing deities. Irritated with response, he asked if these coconuts had special horns and ordered plucking of one for drinking. He noticed horns emerging out of it and realised his mistake and pleaded for clemency. Rajapathy Sri Kailasanathar (dedicated to Kethu) was next on cards. Then Kailasam was glittering amidst lush fields. Here the Navagrahams are in the form of Lingams. As floods ruined the old temple, it has been renovated and maintained. Once can notice four chakras surrounding the deity. Next shrine was Serntha Poo Mangalam (the area where final flower washed ashore) where river Thamirabarani meets the sea. This gains a lot of importance as Urosamar attained mukthi with grace of Lord Shiva here and people perform pithru tharpanam at theerthakarai. People also lighten moksha deepam at this shrine for their ancestors. Worshiping at this temple is believed to have the same effect of worshipping Lord Shiva in Kachanur. Murappanadu Sri Kailasanathar shrine (dedicated to Guru) known as Nadukailasam or Dhakshina Gangai marked the climax of 110+ km long day on saddle. It is believed that one of the Chola King's daughter was born with horse-like face. King pleaded to Lord Shiva and the God himself appeared before the king and asked them to take a dip at Thamirabarani at Murappanadu upon which the princess face changed to female face. There are a lot of unique features about this temple: Nandhi has horse head, there are two Vinayagars at entrance instead of Dwarabalagars, two Bhairavars. Another striking feature is that there are only two rivers which flow from north to south in India - Ganges in Kasi and Thamirabarani in Murappanadu. It's believed that shrine got its name from murai padi nindra nadu which means "the place where sages stood in order and prayed to Lord" to protect them from demons. There is also a story that the brave woman chased away a tiger using winnow (muram - used for removing gangue from rice grains) and hence the name Murappanadu. 

Day 3

Day 3

Sri Gothaparameshwarar temple at Kunnathur kickstarted final day of heritage ride. People pray at the raghu psthalam (only temple where one can see snake craved on lingam) for Kaladhosham, Nagadhosham, marital and child birth related problems. This temple is considered to be equivalent to Thirunageshwaram temple. Kodaganallur Sri Kailasanathar hosted us on our second destination. This temple is associated with Sevvai. Sri Ammanatha Swamy temple (dedicated to moon) at Cheran Maha Devi (the place where sacred rivers get together) was the penultimate destination. Nandanar who was a Dalit was not supposed to enter the temple and prayed from outside and the Lord himself order Nandhi to move slightly away so that Nandanar could see him. This temple is believed to have been built by two sisters who were manually pounding rice for living with help of Lord himself who tested their devotion and granted all wealth required for construction. People lit coconut lamp here as Lord himself in disguise of poor Brahmin who sought food and ate it under lighting of coconut ghee lamp lit by sisters. It is also believed that taking a dip in river near rock (Vyasar theertham) for 41 consecutive days holding a fast (one meal per day) grants all wishes. Last but definitely not the least comes very famous 1000-year-old Papanasanathar temple (papanasam means destroying sins) which is attributed to Surya or Sun god. Lord Indira suffering from Brahmmaghathi Dhosam as he killed Dhwasta (son of sukracharya) got relieved of his sins even upon entering the region. The turmeric water from Abhishekam of Ulagammai’s idol is drank by women and is believed to increase longevity of Mangal Sutra and grant happy wedding and child boon. As there was huge crowd of Devas and Sages at Mount Kailash in North, Lord Shiva ordered Agastya to go to Podhigai malai in South to strike balance and hence it is believed that Lord Shiva and goddess Parvathi appear on first day of Chitirai to grant wedding dharshan to Sage Agastya and his wife Lopamudra. Beauty of the shrine is that the entire Linga is made of Rudraksha and hence the name Rudraksha Nathar. The temple is believed to have built by Pandyas and developed by Nayakas. This temple also has a separate shrine for Lord Nataraja as he is believed to have appeared before Sages Patanjali and Vyaghrapada dancing between horns of a bull. Prior to visiting Papanasam, medal distribution ceremony (Medals were designed beautifully and sponsored by Mr. Vinay) took place at sri Bhaktavatsala Perumal temple, an ASI heritage site where Dr. Francis Roy gave away medals to riders followed by Swachh Bharat Pledge. Many riders completed their maiden 100 which was special. Senior citizens rode enthusiastically and we're on par with young riders. Plenty of medicos were a part of the tour which created health/fitness awareness amongst all. Women riders were icing on the cake. Finally bidding adieu after taking blessings of Nellayappar and grabbing few kilograms of Iruttukadai halwa to just to reach platform on time to board the train was a roller coaster experience which will be etched in gold in memories. 

Sab Ka Malik Ek!

Dr. Saiharish Raghavan



Tour Featured in TOI Madurai edition dated  30th January 2021