Friday, June 26, 2015

Sri Vaikundam - Part 2 (Tirunelveli - Tamil Nadu)

You saw my 1st post on Sri Vaikundam, I told you about a mandapam filled with astonishing sculptures like Thirukurungudi. Here!!!

The exquisitely Vijayanagara Yaali Pillars!

Even the loop of the Yaali isn't left alone!

The same humans forming Horse & Elephant here too!

The Kodungaigal filled with animals here too. Isn't the mom & child monkeys adorable!

More monkeys!!!! On either sides are Ugra Narasimhar & Narasimhar!!!

More coming soon!!!

Refer to the previous post.

Dedicated to Prof.Swaminathan & Co.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sri Vaikundam - Part 1 (Tirunelveli - Tamil Nadu)

Ages ago, when I was a little kid, my parents had taken me to Nava Thirupathi (The 9 auspicious temples of Lord Vishnu considered equal to Tirupathi). I don't remember a thing of it!!! But this time when I went, my only stop was Sri Vaikundam. I was so blown away by its beauty. In simple words, it was as gorgeous as Thirukurungudi. 
The first instruction that I got was that as soon as I enter, I'd see a gorgeous mandapa on the right, ignore it and go in, have a darshan, coz the sanctum sanctorum closes soon, then take a circumambulation, see the monkeys, then come out and see that mandapa. Monkeys? I had that exclamation that you're having now!!! 
So in I went, took a darshan. Lord Vishnu here is called Choranathar or Kallarpiran. His consorts here are Choranayaki and Vaikundanayaki. Another important shrine here is of Surya or Sun God. The nine Vishnu temples are dedicated to the Navagraha or 9 planets of Hinduism. Here its Sun God!

Then I took a circumambulation, I figured out what those monkeys were. Just like many other temples of Tirunelveli, here too, atop the sunshade extension and many other places, there are simple animals, birds and reptiles depicted everywhere! Here it was mostly monkey and more active and in all grandiose than anywhere else.

The Devi's shrine on the side also has an elaborate mandapam. The pillars here are beyond exquisite. 
The pillars have a pushpa bodhgai (dropping floral detailing on either sides of pillars just below the roof). That's common, but here no 2 looked alike. 
Every flower was different! At some places the flower was replaced with a fruit eating upside down parrot.  

Some of the pillars had a snake detailing atop and few had a monkey also, depicting a lovely play between them, or is it a deadly fight?!!!  
Coming back soon with more about the temple and the sculptural awesomeness of this place!!!


Dedicated to Prof.Swaminathan & Co.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Dunkin Donuts & More - A Review (Chennai - Tamil Nadu)

Ithu Sweet Vada Thaana?

That was quote on the a full front page ad on the newspaper when finally Dunkin Donuts opens in Chennai!!! Vada is a south Indian savory snack made of gram flour, which has a similar shape like donut!!!! So a day before they opened, a few of us were there to check out their menu and enjoy their food. 

At Chennai its opened at one of the very new awesome mall callead the Phoenix Mall, at the ground floor, easily accessible from the parking lot! The interiors and installations are very quirky and I totally love it! 

One wall had heads in profile made of various materials and colors and prints. Another wall had a very retro newsprint ad look. And my most favourite, a wall that looks like a black board with writing that look like chalk writings that talk about a typically mind reads the cosmopolitan youngsters, which was designed by a Chennai based artist Karthik!!!
And there beside it is the food counter!! Yummy yummy donuts, in so many colors and flavours!!! The best thing about this place is that its not just Donuts, its much more!!!
To start with the CEO India of Dunkin Donuts Dev Amritesh introduced the chefs here. Chef Peter is an expert in Pastry and Cakes, Chef Felix is an expert in Coffee, its blends etc and he's an expert mixologist as well. chef Suparna, has worked in Taj Chennai for 10 years and what's more proof for a sweet tooth than being a Bengali!!!
According to Dev Amritesh, though Chennai is different when compared to Mumbai to Delhi, the cosmopolitan youngsters are pretty much the same in all places. So how does Dunkin Donuts differ from other food places. Well, there are the gourmet food places and then there are the quick service restaurants. Dunkin Donuts strives to fill the gap between the 2. The USP of Dunkin Donuts is a new kind of food that's layered, textured, flawed / twisted / wicked, combinatory play, spiked, complexified comfort, and life inspired!!!
The first thing I tried was a Naughty Lucy Burger. It has both the veg & non veg variants and I obviously went for the veg. It oozes with molten cheese filled veg patty, veggies, raw mango relish and jalapenos between soft buns. The raw mango flavour was way too yummy that reminded me of my granny's cooking!!! Crunchy Joe burger was similar but with crunchy buns which I personally didn't like much.
Then came Wicked Wrap and Not So Wicket Wrap which were the typical wraps. Here the dough was multi grain and this too had the raw mango relish. This has a crisy quotient with nachos into it. Wicked wrap has chicken, Not So Wicked has veggies into it.
This was followed by Iced Tea. The version I tried was called the Spiked Ice Tea. I totally loved this one and it has Pepper, Star Anise, Cinnamon, Cloves, Mace, Ginger and Lemon Grass. In simple words, its the biriyani of iced tea!!! Lolz!!!!!
Next to this came the Tough Guy Burger in its original form & brute form. Guess what makes it tough - mustard sauce. The patty in the Brute veg version, had Rajma in it which I found a bit weird! The patty in the original veg version, had Elephant Yam in it which again I found a bit weird!!!
Again somehow it reminded me of my childhood when my Punjabi neighbours always fed me with food made of mustard oil. They source their mustard sauce from Bangladesh! The aroma and intense flavour is something that I always loved. There at an American Donut shop, I was reminded of my chilhood -  with granny's flavour & neighbour's flavours!!!
Next came the cold coffee which was topped with almonds and it was divine! And by this time, I had completely forgotten that the place is specializing in donuts. And that very point, came the donuts!!!! There are 3 types of donuts here - the very typical Ring Donuts which are rings with toppings, then the Shell Donuts which are rings with toppings and centre filling as well, and the Munchkins which are more like stuffed spherical buns! 
My favourites were all Shell Donuts. Very Very Blueberry which is topped with Blueberry flavoured Chocolate Ganache with a Blue Berry jelly centre and Its a Mistake which is topped with White Chocolate with a Chilly Guava Centre!!! Hug me was almost like a mini cupcake with chocolate cinnamon topping!!! All three are too yummy!!!
I loved their packaging too. One was a 6 donuts pack made of cardboard with a handle! The typical carry out package was very American! A brown paper cover with their branding, with no handle also.. Howzzat!!!
And the wrap up was with a super strong dose of expresso. So your donuts are priced at Rs.57 each. Get there and fill up your tummy!!!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Sankara Narayanar Koil (Tirunelveli - Tamil Nadu)

Sankaranarayanar Koil of the popular temples is this region. One fine evening, we set off to visit this place. Even before we reached the temple, on the very crowded road that leads to it, has a little temple of Vinayaka. At the first glance, it does look like a modern structure. However on a closer look, that itself is an ancient structure below the vimana, which has a  yaali row and some koodu with sanyasis.
We Right at the entrance of the main temple, on either sides is the Kodi Pen or the Lady with the creeper. Errr.. Wait.. No.... Its actually the Kodi Bhootham, a little celestial being in the place of lady! 
This is followed by a gorgeous wooden door complete with small panels of various Gods and scenes from mythology, some of which I could figure out and some I couldn't!
Soon after I crossed the door, on either sides were some panels, one of which totally took me by awe - a birthing scene! Remember a similar one at Modhera!!!  
Inside, in the Maha Mandapa were the typical Vijayanagara styled huge yaali pillars. In the midst of yaali, there were the Manmadha (Kamdev) and Rathi (his consort). The paintings all over, the pillars, the ceiling, everywhere were beyond gorgeous! 

You saw a post dedicated to just those, earlier. The entrance to Ardha Mandapa again has a arch made of wood complete with intricate sculptures. The Nandi looked pretty curious flicking its tongue. 

What memerized me the most here were the almost full sculptures, but a wee bit stuck on the back making them reliefs, protruding the outer walls of Ardha Mandapa. And some of these sculptures were so unique like PanchaMuga Brahma, Brahmeshwarar, Dhajamkara murthy, Kartha veeriyan, etc! On the opposite side were Arupathumoovar (the 63 saivaite saints), saptha maadha etc.
And here you can spot the Pandyan symbol of dual fishes with a pole between them on the ceiling! The temple was begun in 11th C under Pandyas and later on the Vijayanagara kings also did all they could to expand it! 
The kodungaigal (terracotta tile like structure sculpted in granite) were here as well. However not so gorgeous as in Pudukottai!

And you know what's amazing here! A man, who gave up his life for this nation, also has a shrine here - Pulithevar!!! In 1755, even before the first war of Indian Independence, Pulithevar fought bravely against the Bristish Raj! His entire shrine is made of wood filled with, beyond exquisite sculptural detailing!
The main deity here is the Sankara Narayanar. Sankara refers to Lord Shiva and Narayana refers to Lord Vishnu. The deity here is half Shiva and half Vishnu. The adornment of the sculpture is rather interesting!!! Shiva being a wild man, sans any jewelry and hardly any clothing and Vishnu being a lover of exquisite outfits & jewelry, here the adornment is indeed mind blowing. An independently standing lamp in the form of a woman (Paavai vilakku) with a long braided hair is a must see!!!
Its believed that Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu came together as Sankara Narayana towards the request of Goddess Gomathi (Parvathi) to prove that both are equal!


Dedicated to Prof. Swaminathan & Co.
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