Tirtha Yatra - And the Experiences thereof!

The quest for a Tirtha Yatra began in the year 2019. Our friend Sundar Ramachandran ( Sundar Iyer ) had wanted to take us to the Vaduvur Ramar Temple after the General Elections. He was keen to ensure the victory of a Dharmic politician and had therefore offered to visit Lord Rama at Vaduvur along with Jaganathan and myself after the victory of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Lord Rama at Vaduvur fulfilled the wish of Sundar Iyer by anointing Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister of Bharat once again. All of us hoped to do a visit during the first quarter of 2020 but the pandemic threw a spanner in the works.

The long wait got over and Jaganathan came up with a plan to visit Vaduvur during the last week of March ( 2022 ). It was decided to make it the First Tirth Yatra to be promoted by The Verandah Club. Jagan ( Jaganathan ) suggested that we stay at ' Mantrakoodam ' near Thiruvidaimarudur and undertake a pilgrimage ( Tirtha Yatra ) of the region. A number of like minded friends decided to join us and our tribe grew by the day. B.Vishnuram, Sam Subbaiyan and his wife Sri Priya, Jaganathan , Niveditha Jaganathan and their kids Sanjana, Vedhav, my wife Sujatha and our son Madhav Balaji and of course Sundar Iyer. Jaganathan's in-laws Vijayeswari and Rajmohan joined us for a few days. It was to be a five day trip and we decided to start by about 5 AM on 26/3/22. The stay had been fixed by Jagan.

We left early on 26/3/22 and halted at Meena and Arvind's residence at Dindigul for breakfast. Their daughter Vedhika was the hostess for the day. We were served tasty pongal, dosas and vadais along with some fine filter coffee. The pongal was embellished with ghee and cashews. We moved on and reached Mantrakoodam for lunch. All of us were extremely happy to see the Cauvery Delta region after a gap of two years. Mantrakoodam is located in a grove and the property is currently being managed by the Casino Group.

The huge doors at the entrance made way for us and the traditionally clad staff at Mantrakoodam offered us wet towels on arrival. A nice shrine of Annapoorani amidst a water body added to the beauty of the resort. The Srichakram shaped fountains are real wonders. The shrine of Ganapathy added to the serenity of the place. We had a nice lunch and retired to our rooms. All of us assembled at the ' Tea Kadai ' within the campus. The tasty bajjis, chutney, tea and piping hot coffee took over our taste buds.

The Divya Desam temple Nachiyar Kovil was our first destination. It was extremely crowded and our friend Vishnu's techniques saved the day for us. The huge stone Garuda ( mount of Lord Vishnu ) in this temple looks splendid. The next halt was at the other Divya Desam temple Uppiliappan. Sage Markandeya had requested his son in law Uppiliappan to accept the simple food made by his daughter Bhoomadevi with love. Therefore the offering here is made without salt. I got some kumkumam and took the blessings of the temple elephant. The village was busy with the Brahmotsavam at this ancient temple. Devotees who are unable to visit Tirumala Tirupathi can visit Uppiliappan and fulfill their prayers. The next stop was at Thirunageswaram. The Naganathar temple is also famous for the shrine connected with the Navagraha Devata Rahu. This temple is part of the Navagraha circuit. The Abhishekam milk is said to acquire a blue hue while flowing on the icon of Rahu.

We moved to the great and grand Mahalingaswamy Temple at Thiruvidaimarudur. This huge temple has four entrances. One has to enter the temple from the southern side, offer prayers and exit through the northern entrance. The temple is endowed with a huge Nandi, shrines for Lord Ganapathy, Subramanya, Nakshatra Lingams , Goddess Mookambika and the Navagrahams. Lord Jyotir Mahalingam looks wonderful and he is surrounded by lamps. A huge Ravana trying to uproot Mount Kailash is found behind the sanctum. This temple has found a place in the seventh century canonical work , the Thevaram. We were lucky to watch the sayana arati and the songs that accompany the ritual that took Lord Mahalingam and his consort into their private quarters. It was well past nine in the night and we decided to call it a day. The sumptuous dinner prodded us to hit the sack immediately.

The second day was a Sunday. We were enriched with some tasty kesari, toast, honey, cereal, vadai, sambar and dosa. The breakfast got washed down with some hot filter coffee. Garbarakshambikai temple was our first destination. The place was jam packed. We managed to have a darshan and were happy to recall the composition of Sengalipuram Anantharama Dikshitar at this ancient temple. Childless couples are blessed with progeny after a visit to this temple. The Lord at this shrine is known as Mullaivananathar. Vanitha Mohan , the Founder of the green NGO Siruthuli has been giving all of us a day sheet calendar with Garbarakhambikai in the background. Sundar Iyer suggested that we visit the temple at Thittai and seek the grace of Guru. This temple is a Paadal Petra Sthalam is home to Vasishteshwarar and Ulaganayaki. It is believed that one drop of water falls on the Shiva Lingam once every 24 minutes. This temple attracts huge crowds because of the presence of Raja Dakshinamurthy. A Zodiac sculpture is located near the shrine of Ulaganayaki and the devotees are made to stand under their sun sign and have a darshan of the deities.

We went back to Mantrakoodam for lunch. They served us their signature podi and rice. The curry leaf powder and dhal powder was served with rice and ghee. It was a delicacy. The curd rice kept us calm and happy. Everyone enjoyed the kadalai mittai and coffee in the Tea Kadai and we began our evening sojourn thereafter. The evening took us to the famous Vaduvur ramar Temple and the Mannargudi Rajagopalaswamy Temple. Lord Rama at Vaduvur looked awesome. We thanked him for blessing us with Rama Rajyam. Sundar Iyer took a selfie along with Jagan and myself in this ancient shrine. The traffic at Valangaiman had made the evening tough but we forgot the issues that arose due to the same on seeing the handsome and benevolent Rama at Vaduvur. The bronze icon of Lord Rama at Vaduvur is said to be the best amongst its class. Sundar Iyer prodded us to visit the Vaduvur Ramar Temple along with him in 2023 and 2024. Of course we wanted the same good governance to win once again. Vaduvur is known as Dakshina Ayodhya.

The next stop was at the Mannargudi Rajagopalaswamy Temple. My friend Ramesh Sadagopan and family have been sponsoring a few utsavams in this old temple. His paternal grandfather Advocate S.Ramanuja Iyengar had been the Hereditary Trustee of this temple. I got to meet his cousins Veeraraghavan and Advocate Ramakrishnan. The Pallakku Utsavam was the speciality of the day. The family of Ramanuja Iyengar hailed from the nearby Serangulam. My friend Ramesh used to jocularly state that the entire village had just six male names - Sourirajan, Rajagopalan, Srinivasan, Sadagopan, Ramanujam and Thiruvenkataswamy. We got to see the temple elephant Bobcut Sengamalam. Her hair dress had made her popular and endearing. It is rumored that a famous shampoo brand supplies her with hair conditioners and shampoo. I was reminded of the family of Rajam Chettiar of Mannargudi. The family had been well known. Well, Ramesh Sadagopan told me that their family members would often request the presence of the deities at Mannargudi by calling them out as - Gopala , Sengkamalavalli Thayare...

The third day saw us visiting the ancient Kumbeshwarar Temple. Kumbakonam got its name based on this temple. It was the birthday of my friend Sam Subbaiyam and we offered special prayers at the Mangalambikai shrine in the same temple. I got to sing the entire Sri Lalitha Trisathi in her august presence. We were stumped to see the handsome Sarangapani in Kumbakonam. He was so named because of the divine bow ' Sarangam '. This Divya Desam temple is very famous. Post lunch we had crispy pakkodas along with our tea and coffee. The evening got fulfilled after visiting the Pullaputhangudi Valvil Ramar, Gajendra Varadan , Paalaivananathar and the 108 Shiva Temples.

Pitru Doshams would be extinguished for the ones visiting Pullaputhangudi. Gajendra Varadan celebrated the incident connected with saving the devout elephant Gajendra. Bhagavatas recalling this story and the form would be free from the ill effects of bad dreams and bad omens. The Paalaivananathar Temple is a Paadal Petra Sthalam and it happens to be the home to a huge granary. This granary was built by Ragunatha Naick ( 1600 - 1634 ) of Thanjavur. Srinivasan and his friends have been helping out at the temples found in this region. Our next temple was the one at Papanasam nearby. This housed 108 Shiva Lingams. Rama had vanquished 14000 demons and their leaders Khara , Dhushana at Janasthaana. They were part of Ravana's tribe. The Lingams had been installed by Rama himself. Hanuman and Lakshmana were part of this exercise. Our group placed flowers on all the Shiva Lingams. Sam Subbaiyan cut his birthday cake at Mantrakoodam.

The fourth day took us to the Ramaswamy Temple. We were taken aback on seeing the lovely icons of Lord Rama and his family. They were huge. The pillars had been worked upon well. One of the pillars had been embellished with the images of Rama, Lakshmana, Seetha and Hanuman. Thereafter , we gathered ourselves to the Chakrapani Temple. It is located on the first floor and is very unique. This old temple is considered to be part of the Sarangapani Temple. The temple is home to one of the 732 Hanumans installed by Saint Vyasaraja. The Darasuram Airavateswara Temple was our next spot. I had to run inside to ensure that the shrine was kept open. The priest remembered Sam Subbaiyan quite well. One Sarathkumar took us around the temple. He let us learn much about the stone sculptures found within the temple. We met a couple of weavers outside the temple. Darasuram was built by the Chola Emperor Raja Raja II.

It was a blessed evening for we could visit Swamimalai, Thiruvalanchuzhi, Patteeswaram and Thribhuvanam. Landlord Raghava Narayanan helped us in Swamimalai. The Sweta Vinayakar in Thiruvalanchuzhi was a must see. Everyone was impressed with the long corridor in this old shrine. The Patteeswaram Raja Durgai was grand. We offered special prayers here and were lucky to offer our prayers to the Rishabhavahanamoorthy. The young Saint Thirugnanasambandar had visited Lord Thenupureeswarar here and the Nandi in the temple had apparently made way for him. The Nandi continues to be offer a clear way even today. We visited the Thribhuvanam Kampahareshwarar Temple later. This happens to be last great Chola Temple. Vishnu, Sam Subbaiyan, Sri Priya and myself went around the shrine of Sarabeswarar 11 times. A visit to this temple is supposed to free one from fear and the evil effects of black magic. Mantrakoodam served us pasta and masala dosa that night. Madhav Balaji and Sanjana enjoyed the dinner.

It was time to get back home. We started by about 10 AM. Everyone thanked the team at Mantrakoodam. We promised to visit them often. Sundar Iyer offered to take us to his native village Ranganathapuram near Thirukaattupalli. We visited the ancient Gajaranyeshwarar Temple and also the Agraharam. Sundar Iyer's grandfather Sundaresa Iyer had settled down in this agrarian village as a fatherless boy. He had accumulated more than 300 acres of land and about 35 Lakhs of cash those days. He had been wedded to Meenambal. Sundaresa Iyer and his kids Swaminathan, Jeevarathnam, Thyagarajan, Natarajan, Ramachandran, Rajalakshmi , Saradha and Subramaniam had lived in this village. Sundar Iyer felt nostalgic and was very happy to show us around the old Agraharam.

The Agraharam had become a relic. Everyone opined that it would be good to restore it fully and convert it into a home stay or a senior citizen facility. This would surely be the way to move forward. Sundar Iyer proceeded towards Chennai thereafter and the rest of us visited the Srirangam Ranaganatha Temple after our lunch at Madapalli. A good darshan was possible due to the influence of the nationalist Govind. We had a fantastic darshan. Everyone offered their prayers to the Hanuman at the entrance. He had once driven away a magician who was disturbing the temple.

We had visited 26 temples in all and this included the Ahobila Mutt Lakshmi Narasimha shrine in Mannargudi. A visit to Meena and Arvind was a must. We wanted to enjoy their hospitality once more. Little Vedhav had loved the large fish pond in Meena's home. Madhav Balaji had quite an interesting chat with Arvind. It was interesting to learn that Arvind was an accomplished naturopath. He promised to share details regarding some of his methods. Meena invited us to stay over sometime and we promised to do so. The drive to Coimbatore was via Oddanchatram, Dharapuram and Palladam. We were back after the First Verandah Club Yatra. This experience sharing may encourage many more trips with lots of people during the times to come.

Mr. Rajesh Govindarajulu is one of the founding members of the Verandah Club Pvt. Ltd. He is a leading columnist, historian, jeweler, entrepreneur, and a heritage enthusiast who is earnestly working to revive the past in the light of the present. Experiential learning about the history of Coimbatore is his main course of interest and he is also a panel member of many colleges in the city.