Birla Mandir Hyderabad | Image Resource : blogspot.com
Birla Mandir Hyderabad : The white sheen of marble Rajasthani marble of the Birla Mandir made me and my children realize that pure white is the color of serenity that gives a touch of austerity to any temple. Situated on Nuabad Pahad is this breathtakingly beautiful temple which had me charmed. We were able to view Lord Vishnu’s avatars.
The city life we live these days is overpowering and sucks the life energy out of us quite easily. It therefore becomes extremely essential for a city dweller like me to simply get away from the hectic life and leave my soul free to explore the silent expanses that exist in the most unknown corners of the world.
Samanar Hills, Madurai | Image Resource: flickr.com
I am constantly trying to identify secluded historic locations because they are places which have remain untouched and undisturbed for thousands of years and are a pure reflection of human history. The Samanar hills located in the Keelakuyilkudi village 15 km north of Madurai city is one such beautiful historic site which the Archaeological Society of India has preserved with diligence.
It was sad to know that before the Samanar hills were identified as historic sites of immense importance and significance to the discovery of 8th and 9th century evolution of Jain religion, illegal quarrying was prevalent here. A large part of the hills were depreciated due to illegitimate and indiscriminate digging. The ASI tried to undo the damage but was only partially successful. The academic minds then forced the government to take action and today the Samanar Hills have been restored quite well.
Samanar Temple cave | Image Resource: i1.trekearth.com
Jain Hill Samanar | Image Resource: 3monthsinindia.files.wordpress.com
The Samanar Hills are located at a picturesque location and even if for a moment we were to forget its gigantic historic relevance it will still be a great tourism spot. The locals have been coming to the Samanar Hills for centuries as a recluse from the summer heat and fast city life. Even during the British days a few explorers came to know of this beautiful location and became frequent travellers. The ASI became aware of this location due to these early British explorers.
The hills have several caves and were homes to many Tamil Jain monks or Samanar Monks after whom the hills are known. The Tamil monks created many carvings on the walls of these caves. The carved idols on the walls of these caves depict the life and times of the 9th and 10th century in southern India. It also transmits the message of non violence which is at the core of the Jain religion. One major attraction is the idol of Lord Mahavira which is carved in great detail in the Samanar Caves.
Mahatma Gandhi is the Father of this great nation called India but this has become his only identity among the newer generation. This is a really sad truth which I as a teacher witness every day. Our children know Gandhi only through the historical view of facts and figures. They do not that a man is remembered not just because he was a great leader who fought selflessly for India’s Independence. He is remembered because he taught Indians a way of life. He taught us that power of non-violence is far superior to the might of violence.
Gandhi Museum Madurai | Image Resource : hotelnambi.in
Gandhi was not just a leader he was a teacher. Gandhi taught Indians that they could achieve everything if they believed in themselves. It is not difficult to infer the love that Gandhi got from every small village in every corner of the country by from the fact that on his one call the entire nation used to get united in its efforts.
During civil disobedience and the Non-cooperation Movement the people left the use of all foreign manufactured products, many had the bravery to leave their government jobs and sit in the protest of the British. Gandhi realised and made an awakening that the British could not role with pure might and power if the citizens didn’t want them to do so.
Statue of Gandhi at Gandhi Museum Madurai | Image Resource : gandhimmm.org
The city of Madurai is an historic city in India and has witnessed the entire Independence struggle as a major province of southern India. The Gandhi Museum is located in a historic monument in Madurai known as the Tamukkam Palace which was built as early as 1668 A.D. by the Nayak Dynasty. The Nayak Dynasty has a rich influence on Tamil Nadu’s culture, architecture and cuisine. Later the French, the Nizam’s and the British District Collector also used this historic palace.
Gandhi Museum | Image Resource : mkgandhi.org
Finally in 1955 the palace was donated to the Gandhi Museum trust by the government of Tamil Nadu and was converted into one of the biggest and most unique Gandhi Museum of the world. The trust then extended the premises of the palace by building an entire east wing. This was the part of my trip which I can never forget. The tall pillars of books in the Gandhi Library left me speechless. This is a collection of India’s entire modern and medieval history.
A place of worship has a unique importance in human civilization. As a student and teacher of history I have come to understand the immense role religion has played in transforming human thought and the entire meaning of life. Religion allows human beings to feel the pain, the joy of others and differentiate between good and bad not only from their personal perspective but from the perspective of the entire society.
The Christian religion came to India in the 13th century and later became a major influence in the South especially during the rule of the French, the Portuguese and later the British. Christianity united the people of Madurai for good and helped keep them together even during the independence struggle.
Idaikattur Church, Madurai | Image Resource : idaikatturshs.org
The Idaikattur church Madurai is a monument and not simply a church. I have a great interest in visiting places which have witnessed the transformation of societies and I believe that being a social sciences teacher it is really important for me to bring to my students the philosophical and human elements of history. History to me has never been a study of facts; it must be a study of how facts came to be true. In the famous words of Einstein-“don’t tell me when or where this war was fought, tell me if you can why this war was fought”
The Idaikattur church Madurai was built in the year 1894 by a French missionary Fr. Ferdinand Celle on the instruction of a French lady May Anne belonging to the elite who believed that she was cured from her heart condition by the grace of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As the tale goes, she prayed for five continuous days and was completely cured when all doctors had become hopeless. The Church was later extended during the British rule.
The architecture of the Church is also extremely attractive and many tourists visit the quiet village of Idaikattur just to witness this beautiful church. It is a replica of a French cathedral named Rheims cathedral located in northern part of that country but the influence of Indian styles is quite evident. The religious integrity of Idaikattur is reflected by a fact that land on which the church is built was donated by a Hindu temple located nearby.
We had a great time at the Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal and I clicked a number of pictures to keep the memories of our visit to this grand palace alive for years to come. I was truly amazed by the exquisite architectural style of this palace. The next destination that we visited during our stay at Madurai was the Vandiyur Mariammam Teppakulam that is a beautiful bond located in the premises of the Vandiyur Mariamman Temple. This temple is located merely at a distance of 2 kilometers from the famous Meenakshi Amman Temple that we had visited earlier.
Mariamman Teppakulam Madurai | Image Resource : flickr.com
This temple pond is basically used for devotional festivals and hence has great religious significance. This holy temple pond is connected to the River Vaigai through a system of underground channels. There are 12 granite stairs on all four sides of the pond that lead the way down in the water. Like the Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal, even this temple and this pond were built under the reign of King Thirumalai Nayak. There is a raised platform in the centre of the tank that is known as the Majya Mandapam. There is also the Vinayakar temple and a beautiful garden in the premises.
This pious pond is surrounded by beautiful scenic beauty and hence tourists in large volumes are beckoned to this site every year. Devotees from all parts of the country as well as local devotees visit this temple regularly. The temple and its pond are renowned for the celebrations of the Float Festival that is celebrated with great enthusiasm in the Tamil month of Thai i.e. between 14th January and 15th February every year.
The float festival is celebrated by Tamil residents on a beautiful full moon night and as the temple is lit up in the evening the water of the Mariamman teppakulam pond turns colorful and the scene is truly mystical. Pilgrims from all parts of the South India travel to Madurai to actively participate in the Float festival. It was a great day that I spent at this site. The soulful and calm environs of this temple pond was a delight for the mind and soul.
Meenakshi Amman Temple Madurai | Image Resource : en.wikipedia.org
About Meenakshi Amman Temple Madurai : My parents always wanted to visit the famous Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai. I was not so enthusiastic about it but I was in for a big surprise. The temple was an architectural beauty and the inner sanctorum was peaceful. The statue was decorated beautifully and calmed me mentally and spiritually.
On the very first day of our stay at Madurai we visited the famous Hindu temple i.e. the Meenakshi Temple that stands as an epitome of the rich historic heritage of the city. I am quite interested in visiting historic and ancient places and hence, was really eager to visit the Meenakshi temple, which is also colloquially known as the Meenakshi Amman temple. Located at the southern bank of the River Vaigai the temple is a place of spirituality and devotion.
Sri Meenakshi Temple Madurai | Image Resource : wikimedia.org
The presiding goddess of the temple is Goddess Parvati, who is known as Meenakshi and also Lord Shiva her consort. Lord Shiva is known as Sundareswarar in this ancient temple. The Meenakshi temple serves as the lifeline and heart of the ancient city of Madurai that is around 2500 years old. The temple has been mentioned extensively in the Tamil literature. The present structure of the temple was built long back between 1623 CE and 1655 CE.
Wall Painting in Temple | Image Resource : wikimedia.org
The temple houses 14 gateway towers known as Gopurams that are around 45 to 50 meters tall. Other distinctive features of the Meenakshi temple include two golden sculptured vimanas and the shrines that are made over the sanctums of the presiding deities. These shrines are called garbhagrihas. The temple is one of the most famous places of tourist attraction and pilgrimage. It handles around 15000 visitors on daily basis. Devotees from all parts of India flock to this pious site to offer their prayers to goddess Meenakshi and lord Sundareswarar.
Fridays are the busiest in this temple as the crowd might increase to 25000 visitors on this day. The temple earns huge revenue of around 60 million per year. The temple comprises of numerous sculptures of gods and goddesses. Around 33000 sculptures are estimated to be housed in the temple. It was a delight to see such a wonderful place of historic significance.
Due to its exquisiteness and grandeur, the Meenakshi temple was also nominated among the list of top 30 New Seven Wonders of the World. This temple is one of the most prominent landmarks of Madurai and beckons tourists from all parts of the globe.