I had to go to Vellore to attend one of dearest ex-rommie's wedding. Ofcourse, the wanderlust had bitten me long ago and going all the way to Vellore and coming back without wandering anywhere, how can that happen? The options an and around Vellore included several like SV Aranmanai (Palace), Vellore Fort, Temples in and around Vellore, Vaniyambadi temples, Walajapet etc. However, the trip was just for a day and in that day, the evening would be spent in the wedding. So what I had solid in my hand was just the morning. In one morning I could cover just 1 place and that one place had to be the least travelled road - Walajapet Venkatramana Bhagavathar Illam!!!
Enroute to Vellore, I got down at Walajapet and enquired at a couple of shops for the whereabouts of Venkatramana Bhagavathar Illam. As expected no one knew. And as usual, the best way I take to find places I this, is to enquire in the local ancient temple (note: not the new temples). But hardluck this time on that too. The 2 ancient Shiva Temples here, Kasi Vishwanathar Temple & Ekambareshwarar Temple were closed. However some enquiry around the second hotel, lead me to the Venkatramana Bhagavathar Street. As I entered the street I did notice a house which still had its ancient structure well maintained. I crossed it and enquired a guy and even he had no clue but did say that the ancient house that I spotted was a carnatic music school. I went over to that house and indeed it was my destination!!!
So, who is this Venkatramana Bhagavathar? Anyone with a slightest idea on Carnatic Music will definately know Thyagaraja Swamigal. He was one of the Carnatic Music Trinities. And Venkatramana Bhagavathar was one of his direct disciples. He was born in 1781 and lived with Thyagaraya Swami in Thiruvaiyaru and taught music in Madurai in Tamil Nadu, before he moved permenantly to Walajapet in Vellore, Tamil Nadu and passed away in 1874.
Presently this is the home of the 5th generation of Venkatramana Bhagavathar, Srinivasa Bhagavathar and his daughter (6th generation) Sandhya. It was this very house where Thyagaraja Swamigal himself, lived for 12 days during his visit to Tirupathi.
The house is evidently ancient, being in use since 1850s. The door was the beautiful carved wooden door and there were wooden pillars that formed the 'Thinnai' or the patio. The ceiling was a typical old ceiling very similar to the Kalangal village houses. The flooring was of the Karaikudi Red Clay tiles. In short, its heritage at its epitome.
As soon as I entered the house, to my right was this huge hall and at it end, behind a screen where the images and idols of the Gods and Goddesses. On either sides of the hall were ancient paintings of great Marati composers and singers, painted in the Tanjore style.
The 2 idols there were of Lord Sri Rama and Lord Sri Krishna. These idols were gifted to Venkatramana Bhagavathar by Thyagaraja Swamigal himself. The idol of Lord Rama has 4 arms. The front arms have bow & arrow and the back arms have shell & wheel (Shank & Chakra). He's with Goddess Sita and Hanuman. The other idol is of Lord Krishna with Rukmini and Sathyabama.
Some paintings here are age old, painted when Venkatramana Bhagavathar was alive. Two were of himself with Thyagaraja Swamigal. Another was of himself surrounded by his 2 sons, Krishnaswamy & Ramaswamy and 4 disciples. These were painted by Pallavi Ellayya, one of the disciples of Bhagavathar. Some ancient b/w photographs of his sons were also there.
And as usual as I always say, as I've written in my Traveling Tips (Pt. 2 in Temple Tours), its give generously to the priest when you venture to lesser known temples. That's not just to help the priest, it'll encourage them not to leave the temple to the mercy of fate. That applies here as well...
TO REACH THERE:
From Chennai: 107km on NH4 via Poonamalle, Sriperumbudhur, Thirupukkuzhi
From Chennai: 120km via Tambaram, Padappai, Oragadam, Thimmarajampet, Kanchipuram
From Vellore: 30km on NH4 towards Kanchipuram
From Arakkonam: 50km
From Kanchipuram: 40km
To Bhagavathar Illam in Walajapet:
Near Saudambikai Temple.
Its the second house in the left of Venkatramana Bhagavathar Street.
This street is perpendicular to the Anaikattu / Anaicut Street.
Venkatramana Bhagavathar street is opp. to the Ganesh Maternity & Surgical Centre in the Anaicut Street.
The house is located opp. to Karpagam Dhanapal Complex in the Venkatramana Bhagavathar Street.
Ph.no. of S R Balaji, of Hemalakshmi Finance in Karpagam Dhanapal Complex: +91 99522 22972
Google Co-ordinates: 12.92299,79.365417
Dedicated to my Mom