The auto that we engaged from our home to Madivala, had a break failure, just as we neared the St. John's Signal from inner Ring Road. The first thrill was to experience a drive on a breakless vehicle for about a km :-) We stopped near the Ayyapan temple, and walked to ABT Boarding point.
The new sparkling ABTX Travels coach arrived at Madiwala at 6:15 PM and after securing our luggage at the rear, the journey began. The bus zooomed on the Elevated Electonic City Expressway, and reached Hosur around 7:10. Around 7:45, the bus stopped at A2B for dinner.
Having had an expensive feast at A2B, the bus started around 8:10 PM. Next Stop at Salem (10:30 PM) at ABT depot. the distance from Salem to Kovilpatti was about 322 kms and Google Maps showed it would take about 4 hours 32 minutes. So, at that time I anticipated that we would reach there about 3:30 or so.
My Father (along with Mother and sister) coming from Chennai, had told me that they would reach Kovilpatti by 4:00 and I had told them that we would reach around 5:00 or so. As I started to relax, I checked the map on my N8 in between. Came Namakkal at 11:15, Karur at 12:00, Dindugul at 12:30, Madurai at 1:00 and Virudhunagar by 1:30, Satur by 1:45. At this point, i got scared, and called up my Father.
In all frenzy, we got down at Kovilpatti at 2:00 AM. Can you imaging ? Yes, we were standing on the road at a ghostly time :-) Meanwhile Father had called up Driver Sakthivel, and asked him to come to Kovilpatti Bus stand as soon as he can. We had tea at the New busstand, and decided to wait.
Around 2:20 AM, another ABT bus stopped. My wildest imagination, suggested that this could be the bus from Chennai. And yes, it was. In fact my father in his doze, told me around 1:45 that he would be between Tiruchirapalli & Madurai. But, courtesy the express Highways / NH7, and thanks to the tollgates for eating about 15 mins extra, they reached stifle late at 2:30.
Can't imagine the speed of these buses on the highways, they should be cruising arround 120 - 130 minimum.
Around 3:30 AM, Sakthivel, with Tata Sumo arrived on the scene, and we proceeded to Sankarankovil. During the way, we experimented with FM transmission from my N8 and my sis' N79. But, due to the poor antenna on the car, we had to turn it off.
We reached Sankarankovil around 4:30 AM, and Ramasamy Pattar was waiting for us. We had a quick sleep in one cottage, and got up around 6:00 AM, thanks to the routine power cut from 6:00 AM to 9:00 AM.
After having tiffin at a nearby hotel, in Battery operated CFL bulbs, we proceeded to the temple. We offered Archanas to Pillayar, Sankaralingeswarar, SankaraNarayanar, Gomathi Amman and Shanmugar. We also lit the "Mavilakku Mavu" and offered a 9 Gajam Saree to Lord Gomathi Amman. It was here that the fiery amman, burnt a small part of Amma's saree, but it happens, and we had to take it in our stride.
We had ordered for 3 Prasadams - Chakra Pongal, Puliyodharai and Thayir Saadham. Having settled the bills including 2 year chanda, we had prasadam in our room, and started from Sankarankovil to Tiruchendur around 12:00.
Here are some Photos taken at Sankarankovil.
Here are few photos taken on the way from Sankarankovil to Tiruchendur.
We were able to cover the ~100kms odd trip via Tirunelveli in about 2 hours. We had booked a A/C Deluxe Family Suite at Siva Murugan Lodge, via our Kattalaikkarar - Maharaja Raman. After taking rest for about 2 hours, we went to a Vishnu Durgai Temple, and lighted lemon deepam. Then, about 5:30 we proceeded towards the temple.
After taking a few snaps of the shore and having wet our feet at the divine waters, we went inside the temple and met Raman. Raman had made elaborate plans for us till about 10:00 in the evening. We had these darshans:
1. Vaira Thirunaamam alankaram (6:00 to 7:00)
2. Abhishekam (Rs. 1500) - (7:30 to 8:30)
3. Ekantham (9:00 - 9:30) followed by Chevali, where Lord Muruga is taken around for 5 rounds around the temple.
4. Palliyarai Deeparadhanai (9:40 to 10:00)
It was very satisfying darshan, thanks to Maharaja Raman. We started from Tiruchendur towards Kovilammalpuram, next morning ~7:30 after having breakfast at Hotel Mani Iyer.
Few snaps taken at Tiruchendur -
We took the route towards Sattankulam, Nanguneri, kovilammapluram (deviation from Nanguneri to Kalakkad route). We reached there at around 10:00 AM. One of our Uncle had come from Nagerkovil, and he being a preist, performed Abhishekam and Poojas at all the temples around Kovilammalpuram.
For more details on Kovilammalpuram leg of our tour, see http://kovilammalpuram.blogspot.com/
Then we proceeded to Tirunelveli, on the way on my N8 checked the PNR status of our Wait listed ticket from Tirunelveli to Tiruchirapalli. Gosh : Chart Prepared and still wait listed. After having prepared to slug out on train, we had a brief stoppage at Chithappa's Godown, and had dinner near Junction. Then proceeded towards new busstand, to alight a bus to Tiruchi.
The Experience - Tirunelveli to Madurai to Trichy
What happened in the next 6 to 7 hours, shall remain in our memories for a long time. We were greeted by Crowds and no buses from Tirunelveli to Trichy. Chitappa adviced to go to Madurai (Mattuthaavani) and then to take a bus to Trichy. As it seemed to be the best choice at that time, we got into a bus (Non PP, Non Bye pass rider) to Madurai. A Bye pass rider would take about 2 hours, where as this bus took us to some little known towns taking a detour on every possible occasion on the cruisable NH7. After boarding the bus at around 8:30 PM, we reached Madurai Mattuthaavani Bus stand around 12:30 PM.
What greeted us here was the sprawling bus stand, with no easy marks to locate the area where buses to Trichy would be stopping. And, to cap it all was the crowd. Every bus to Trichy was filled up before the current passengers could step down. Such was the situation on that day...
Our presence of mind, suggested that its better to look out for a cab / car to Trichy, and fortunately we located a taxi stand. After some bargain, we were able to finalize a tata indica for 5 of us for Rs. 2100.
Just when we thought our plight for the night would be over, I was slowly realising (sitting next to the driver) that it wasn't to be yet. Imagine a driver dozing off when driving in 80 and speed suddenly dropping to 40 (on bare empty roads) and a Huge volvo zipping on your left, pushing the creeping car by the wind it generates.
I was trying my best to keep the driver engaged in words by asking him Qs, his response were all in one word. Even increasing and decreasing the audio volume did not help. The driver himself realized this, parked the car on the highway, and said he wanted to have tea.
After having consoled ourselves after the 10 min break, that this would be the last stop, we started off. Slightly better this time, nah... again the sleepy driver. Just when we were praying... burst and a screeching halt. Front right tyre puncture.
Thank God, he had a stepney wheel. Having cleared all our luggage from the rear and kept it on the roads, we all felt like "Standing on the road, in the midnight" had come true. After 15 minutes, he had the wheel replaced, but I could sense that he was not happy with the condition of the replaced tyre either.
He then called up his various cab driver friends who had gone to Trichy on that day, and were on their return to Madurai. One such driver, helped by providing another spare wheel. The driver was adamant to fit this new tyre, but we had to starve him saying that we were only 15 mins from Trichy and that he could do it after dropping us there. He then agreed.
By God's grace, and with much lesser trouble we reached Trichy Junction and Hotel Sevena by around 3:30 AM. Fortunately, our advance room booking (courtesy: http://hotels.bookingsonline.in/) held good, and we had a brief sleep till about 6:00 AM.
After a quiet BF, and 15 mins waiting, the Ambassador cab rolled in (and must say with a good driver). We started towards these temples:
We reached Srirangam around 9:00 AM, and took the Rs. 250 ticket. Within 30 mins, we were blessed to witness the nava deeparadhana at Lord Sri Ranganadhar Sannadhi. Then after having darshan of Lord Ranganayaki, Lord Chakrathaazhwar and some Butter Milk, we proceeded towards T.V.Koil.
Few photos taken at Srirangam Temple-
It was scorching heat on our heels, as we alighted from our car, and we rushed to meet Jalakandeshwarar, as it was nearing 11:30 already, and the temple would close down by 12:00. We got ourselves a Rs. 10 ticket for a darshan of Jalakandeshwarar.
Then after choosing the shadowy path to Sri Akhilandeshwari Sannathi, we had to wait till 12:00 clock, for Ucha Kaala Dharisanam. The speciality of this temple is the vishesha pooja performed by a saree clad gurukkul. We took Rs. 50 ticket and was able to enter the sanctum sanctorum and get a very close darshan of Goddess Akilandeshwari.
If ever there was a bitter temple experience, on this tour, it was here. With crowds berserk, and in the maddest heat, we had no choice but to fall prey to a third party darshan broker. He told us that there was a long queue to the ticket counter and it would take more than 2 to 3 hours for the darshan.
Not knowing what to do we went ahead with him. As we had plans to offer a saree to Mariamman, one of the broker said that he needs to register the saree with the temple authorities and then only one can offer it to the Lord.
Then one of their guys took us via some estranged paths to the Lord Mariamman. We got a ghostly welcome from the priests and we were indeed a bit upset when they dumped the saree on Mariamman, and told us that's it. Then we were pushed forward by the crowd and completed one pradakshinam. At that time another person pretended to be very friendly and told us that he could provide us one more darshan. At the same time our original broker also said that he could offer one more darshan, and I asked my mother, wife and sister to go one more time. I got to know that they were later abused by the priests "What you all don't have any work? other than coming over again and again?"
Well having taken it in our stride, we came out of the temple. Then came the long bill by the broker -
Darshan = 5*100 = 500
Lemon Garland = 200 (We dont remember to have seen this)
Flower garland = 200
Panner Bottle = 75 (Luxurious?)
Saree Registration = 100
Coconut + Beetel leaves = 100 (Wow, the best deal?)
Salt & Pepper = 100 (Hmmm... not even organic would cost this much?)
Others = 100 (Wonder what it is?)
Total = Rs. 1375.
After some argument, we were able to settle him for Rs. 1000. Gosh, it was not so enjoyable and cherishable experience, but it is the price one has to pay in these temples. But nevertheless, the POwer that we gained on seeing the Lord, made us to forget all these...
As it was about 2:00 PM, We then decided to proceed towards a good A/C Hotel. The driver took us to Hotel Maayas (near Chathiram Busstand). After a decent lunch, and loads of butter milk, we then proceeded to Woraiyur Vekkaliamman.
Woraiyur Vekkali Amman
We lit lamps to Vishnu Durgai and amman, and also offered Saree to Vekkali Amman. The fees for saree is Rs. 7 and special darshan - Rs. 25. We had a very satisfying darshan at this temple as always.
We then proceeded towards our hotel room, and decided to take some rest. After about 6:30 PM, we spent few hours at Femina Shopping Mall, and helped ourselves to some few gift items.
The Return via ABT
We had dinner at our Hotel Cafe, and having settled the hotel bills, our cab driver dropped us at ABTxTravels office. For a 70kms ride, for about 14 hours, the trip had cost us only Rs. 1250.
Our ABT bus to Bangalore arrived at 10:45, and immediately in 5 minutes came the bus to Chennai. We reached Bangalore Silkboard at 5 AM and our parents had reached Tambaram around 4:30 AM.
Upon reflections of the trip, we had satisfying darshans at almost all the temples and our kula dheivam. And the words of Govindan Mama had also come true. Nevertheless, it was a cherishing and renewing experience.
Route Map #1 (Kovilpatti - Sankarankovil - Tiruchendur - Kovilammalpuram - Tirunelveli)
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Route Map #2 (Trichy - Srirangam, Thiruvanaikavil, Samayapuram, Woraiyur)
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