Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thirumalapuram Cave Temple (Tirunelveli - Tamil Nadu)

After Virasigamani our next stop was Thirumalapuram aka Varunachi Malai. It was in a very perfect setting. A big, absolutely slopey, smooth hill with a little cave temple on one of its facets! With a few plam trees in front, the view was magnificent.

This is in a bit better condition than Virasigamani. There are 2 pillars and 2 pillars attached to the walls. This was excavated by Pandyan Kings in 750 CE.
The medallions here are many more than Virasigamani and the fluted cornices look more beautiful. 
Similar to the Lower Cave of Trichy, here too there are 3 sections with 3 relief sculptures. The first one is a beautiful dancing Siva with a bhootha gana and rishabam on either sides!!! 

Second a standing Lord Vishnu with 4 hands and 2 seated bhootha ganas on either sides. At last is a seated Lord Ganesha. 
On one side is the sanctum sanctorum with a Siva Lingam. On either sides of the entrance of sanctum sanctorum are dwarapalas. 
On the opposite wall in another relief sculpture of Brahma with 4 hands and 3 visible heads.
On the centre of the whole hall, facing the Siva Linga is a monolith Nandi. Its completely broken and all that's left are a couple of legs!!!

All the sculptures in this cave were painted and even the ceiling was painted like Sittannavasal. All we see today is a hint of a few strokes and small painted patches. 

Quite weirdly at the corners were these patterns. Fish shaped on one corner, leaf shaped on one corner, white in 2 corners, black in 2 corners, all embossed... Are they fossils, or painted, is it natural or man-made or what are they??? I have no clue!
Atop the hill was a modern church. I dunno how was it constructed in this ASI preserved hill! 

TO GET THERE:

Dedicated to Prof. Swaminathan & gang.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Veerasigmani Cave Temple & Jain Beds (Tirunelveli - Tamil Nadu)

Recently I ventured to Tirunelveli, fondly called Nellai. Of course the specific places I visited were mostly the roads less traveled. This is gonna be a series, and here it begins with Veerasigamani, a cave temple.

Its a tiny little cave temple, similar to Mandagapattu. There are 2 pillars in the front and 2 pillars along with the walls on either sides. Right at the centre is the monolithic Sivalingam and a Nandi in front of it. The Sivalingam has a square base.
On its door, on either sides, there's the relief on the wall of 2 dwarapalas. Further on the side walls are 2 disfigured men. On the right, after dwarapala is another man.

The dwarapalas were similar to Mandagattu, not having protruding incisors, with just 2 hands, with a hint of smile. One of these guys has mustache and a clubbells. 
Of the 2 disfigured men, 1 just has a bearded face, and the whole body is disfigured. The other guy has even the face disfigured, by the whole body outline is obvious. The 5th person is next to the right dwarapala.
Between the pillars are fluted cornices to attach to the ceiling and some circular medallion reliefs on pillars. On one of the pillars is the Chola Pandya inscriptions on 7th C CE. Who are these Chola Pandyas??? I'll tell you about them in the upcoming posts.
On the outer walls, out of the excavated cave, on either sides are small excavated shrines. On the left is a Lord Vinayaka and on the right is Lord Vishnu. 
Quite unusually, here the Vishnu has 3 hands!!! There seems to be no mutilation, infact no space for the 4th hand at all. 

Just like Dalavanur, here too, a climb upon the boulders atop the hill from behind the cave temple, leads to the Jain Beds above!!! The view from atop, as always is mind blowing. Down below was a Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest. 

There were about 8-9 Jain beds with inscription on one of them. I was told that there's another set with a Vishnu Padam (later addition) on the other side of hill which sadly I couldn't access...
Coming up with more places, esp. more caves soon. Wait n watch!!!

TO GET THERE:
64 km from Tirunelveli Railway Station
30 km from Tenkasi

TO STAY:
Tirunelveli has hotels in all price points.
You could also consider staying at Coutrallam.

Dedicated to Prof. Swaminathan & Gang

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Zone by The Park Hotel (Coimbatore - Tamil Nadu)

The wait is over. Here comes the review of the Zone hotel, Coimbatore. First things, first, I went there on a Jet Connect flight. A little ATR 72 500. That’s the smallest flight I’ve been in. The moment the airport bus dropped the passengers near the aircraft, almost everyone laughed at the size of the craft!!! It had open propellers and the pilot gave it a push to see if its rotating properly!!! The wings were above the windows and the total number of seats were 17 x 4!!! I was pretty much scared about turbulence, but guess what we reached 5 mins early and that was one of the smoothest flights I’ve been in!!!
Reaching hotel, the first thing that caught my attention was the auto that stood near the reception. It was a completely restored auto with quirky prints and colors and more quirky merchandise on it and also some OTG food stuff to buy. 
I was welcomed with a freshly cut tender coconut. The overall ambience at the reception and lobby was so quirky and colourful.
The seating were teal blue, brown combo with orange accents. The lights were octagonal.
The corridors have a orange, red and white carpet and the are again grey with orange accents. The geometry and bright orange accents were the essence of the decor.
The room was cute and little, with a double bed, a single seater sofa, a flatron tv, a table, mini fridge etc. The bed was too comfortable with a very soft and warm duvet! The TV was technologically at par with hdmi port, usb port, 3.5mm jack etc. 
Along with the regular tea bags, milk & coffee powders that every hotel gives, here in little glass jars, the South Indian delicacies of Murukku and Seedai were also there! Best thing about the hotel - there’s complimentary wifi everywhere in the hotel! 
Plans are to introduce tabs that help doing everything from switching on or off the tv to ordering room service in a couple of swipes, very similar to ITC Grand Chola! There are 55 regular rooms and 1 suite room and the prices start at 3500 bucks. 
The restaurant at the ground floor is called The Bazaar. Its so so quirky and I so much love it! The wallpapers are retro ads and posters. On one side is a ceiling high shelf with so many local retro stuff refurbished - Petromax lamps, Goli soda bottles, vessels called ‘Sombu’, ceramic pickle jars, glass storage jars etc. Could help but get reminded of ‘Petromax light-e dhan venuma???’. If you love Tamil Cinema, you’ll definitely know this dialogue!!!! 
A little street cart on the side, reinvented with 2 induction stoves insets, with a chef, for those street food cravings and in case you wanna get creative with the chef and try your hand in cooking!!!!!
The buffet has a platter of veg, non veg, South Indian, North Indian, a bit of Mediterranean etc. There’s a section with a furnace for fresh hand tossed pizza... The food was awesome. Right from healthy salads to deep fried stuff, the array was huge! I particularly liked the veg kebabs, which had the perfect smoky flavour. A section dedicated to the sweet tooth looked awesome, with both baked goods and Indian sweet meats! The variety was very good in both Veg & Nonveg sections, which is something I really appreciate, being a veggie.
As usual I have my own sadness - no variety in eggless desserts!!! Nothing could match Lemon Tree Hotel which had 3-4 option in eggless cakes in their buffet, which I never ever saw in any other hotel at all!!! Hearing my melancholy, the chef made me a mango pannacotta. But that too has gelatine!!! 

Just behind the restaurant is the bar called The Z Bar. I bet its gonna be one of the most happening places in Kovai. The lighting and music were great. Here an orange cocktail and very cute shot glasses at the bar like skull and fist!!!
One thing crossed my mind. This is more of a business hotel than a holiday hotel. Would business people really like such quirkiness??? But then again I thought, of late, many youngsters are becoming entrepreneurs and they’d definitely like quirk. Also I got reminded, of a conversation I had once with a middle aged business man. He said “In business meetings we’re always surrounded by sober colors both in clothing and furnishings. Its better to see something colourful once in a while”. This hotel perfectly fits the bill!!!

Hotel's Contact:
Zone by The Park Hotels
33/3, Avinashi Road, Coimbatore - 641 018
Ph: +91 422 4005000

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Kovai Flower Market Photowalk

Recently I was in Kovai, staying at the new hotel there called Zone - by The Park. How was the hotel? For that you've gotta come back again for the next post. The guys there took to for a morning walk at the Flower & Vegeble Market and I made it a photo walk. This reminded me so much of the Koyambedu Flower & Vegetable Market and Mofussil Bus Terminus photoshoots I've done earlier. I've gotta dig out those pics & post them here. 
Anyways, back to Kovai - here are some flowers.....



 .... and faces.....








 ... and a very scary face with a scorpion on its tongue!!!
Come back soon to know about the hotel in the next post!!!
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