Thursday, August 09, 2007

Travelogue: Coimbatore to Guruvayur

The last 10 days were littered with trips to Bangalore, then slightly north of it to a waterfalls that River Kaveri creates, Coimbatore and Guruvayur. This time I visited (saw it from the outside as the temple was closed) a new temple en route to Guruvayur and it turned out to be a very scenic place .

Thiru-VithuvaKodu in Thamizh and Thiru-MithaKodu in Malayalam is a temple situated 2 Kms from Pattambi Railway station. It is one among the 13 Malai-Naadu (Kerala) Divya Kshethrams, part of the larger 108 kshethras. It is en route between Sheranur - Calicut and can also be reached on the Coimbatore - Guruvayur route if you skip Thrissur route and take the Pattambi route. You need to ask for directions once every kilometer. Its 10-14 kms from Guruvayur-Pattambi junction. This is a Krishna temple, similar to Guruvayur, but it also has sculptors of the Pandavas. What makes it really special is its location. It is situated milli-meters away from a river called Bhaarath-Puzha, which is probably half a kilometer wide and is filled with water to the brim. The temple seems to be perched on top of a hill'ish sort of mound jutting into the river. The temple is on the part of the mound above the river. Add to it several hundred trees that surround the place and you literally get heaven on earth. The slight drizzle and the clouded skies made the whole place look like a picture. The place looked extremely private and I was told a decent swim was also possible in the river. This temple is open between 6:30 AM to 10:30 AM and from 5:00 PM to 7:30 PM (though many in coimbatore complained that they don't open until 6:00 PM). It is a government temple, part of Devasom.

Coimbatore is a fantastic place. Its a stinking rich place too.The number of filthy rich people per square foot would astound you. Apart from being close to the textile hot-spot 'Manchester of India' - Thiruppur, it is prime marketing test bed for luxury car manufacturers. With its cool temperatures it would make an excellent place for these software tech parks. Added to that Kovai thamizh is probably the sexiest thamizh around. Like pretty much everything else concerning Tamil Nadu it is poorly marketed. Whenever I visit Guruvayur, I usually prefer an overnight train from Madras to Coimbatore and a 3 hour drive (a fantastic scenic drive) to Guruvayur. Mainly because there is no good place( I mean a clean luxurious place with a clean restaurant) to stay in Guruvayur. That the drive is simply awesome and you get to buy fresh Nenthram Chips is an added reason. This time that drive was a let down. The road was damaged by rain and it took us over 4 hours to get to Guruvayur. The chickenguniya scare meant that I did not even venture into the dirty restaurants of Guruvayur - even by mistake. Nenthram chips was also out of question for the same reason.

On the subject of food while at Guruvayur; There is a fake Saravana Bhavan that, from memory, sux. Krishna Vilas is reputed to be a good restaurant that I haven't yet checked out. The Asbestos covered path to the temple starts in the middle of the road until the main entrance of the temple. There are a few restaurants in that path. I have eaten in all those restaurants bar one, and they are all bad. Especially the brahmin hotel that is at the start of the road. I haven't seen a more uncomfortable yucky restaurant in my life. As much as I think that Malayalam is the sexiest language in India, I do not think high of Kerala food. The size of the rice (which is compared with size of plucked-out eyes) is a big downer. The thickness of dosai should be 0.5 millimeter in the center and 0.7 millimeter on the side. Not 0.5 and 1 cm (or meters) which is really Uthappam specs (Karnataka, please note this point - and kaara chutney baeda, please).

Guruvayur is not crowded during weekdays and this is off-season. So the wait wasn't more than 20 minutes. I could in fact come out and do a second darshan. I guess everybody now knows that Guruvayur has started allowing women dressed in salwar into the temple. This is done to facilitate people from N. India. In case you didn't know before, you heard it here first:-). My father was clamoring for shirts-allowed rule, which in my opinion has slim to negligible chance of getting implemented. Usually my complaint (well lets say kurai) with Kerala temples is that the idols are extremely small. The 'saligrama' size idol is what one would find in Badrinath (which is also a Namboodhri based temple). The idol sizes (for most Vishnu temples) in Kerala is smaller than that. My estimate is that the average idol size is 30 cms tall and 15 cms wide. It might be slightly bigger but I guess you get my drift. It would be interesting to do some research on the reasons behind this variance among temples in South India. Temples located in areas that later became part of Tamil Nadu are seriously huge (for example Thirukarangkudi temple near Thirunelveli is really really huge - somewhere above 90th percentile in terms of hugeness with Thirupathi being around 60th percentile) - whereas temples that are just a few kilometers away from Naanguneri, now part of Kerala have miniscule idols. Another interesting thing about Kerala temples is the absolute silence. None of the 'govinda govinda' 'amma magamaayi' 'appane' 'jai radhe shaam' yells can be heard here. I remember my uncle walked into Anantha Padmanabha Swamy temple, Thiru-anantha Puram chanting Vishnu Sahasranamam. He recalls the incident with a one liner; 'Since I was queitly chanting it, I was quietly asked to shut up'.

So anyway back to topic. I usually come out of Guruvayur thinking 'Krishna saw me' rather than the more active 'I saw Krishna'. The area surrounding the main idol is so dark and the idol itself is so small that you end up staring into - well - a poorly lit place. You can't really say for sure, if you really got the shape of the idol or not. For the past one week preceeding my visit to Guruvayur that was the subject of my complaint. The Guruvayur temple's idol is located a 20-25 feet away from the queue/viewing area. Its almost as if the idol is inside a dark cave. Given that you will hear the Jaragandi equalant - 'nadakkum' sound within 2 seconds you barely have time to figure out whats what, before you are whisked off. The ornate deepams that are found in Kerala are lit only at some points during the day. Given the way my probabilities work, they are never lit when I am around. This time luckily, they had a Kalinga Nartham get up for Lord Krishna. I learned that the idol is always in the same standing posture, but the Sandal carving and decoration in front of the idol changes. The lights were lit and I could see the cross-legged Kalinga posture. Since the crowd was minimal they let me stay for close to a minute before saying 'nadakkum'. The temple timings for Guruvayur is usually not well advertised. I know for sure that they close between 11:30 AM and 12:30 PM. I have done a Nethriya Darshan at 4:30AM. So they are certainly open between 4 AM and 1:00PM with a 1 hour shut-time in between. I have no clue about evening timings.

On the way back Annalakshmi is a pretty good restaurant to eat in Coimbatore. Anna poorna has a good set up in People's Park. This time, on the day I visited, the court decisions on the Coimbatore blast were given out and so there was some commotion. An enduring memory of Guruvayur always persists. There is a stage right outside the temple. Many many years ago my grandfather took me for a Kathakali performance of Ramayana enacted in that stage. It was a stunning performance. Their facial contortions and effects made me a fan but that wasn't all. In the end, Ravana runs into the crowd. He literally runs until the last row of the stage. Rama shoots an arrow into Ravana from the stage. It not only hits Ravana straight on his back but the arrow pierces into the costume and sticks. I have no clue what material the arrow and Ravanas clothes were made of. You need to have some talent to pull that off.

10 comments:

Arvind said...

LOL about the silence in temples comment. I've experienced it. Yes, I've always been struck by the difference in temples too. The states are right next to each other and yet so different. Here's another difference - in Tamil temples, you can usually see the deity while you make your way for your turn. However in Kerala, you usually circle around and you get a very quick glimpse of the deity.
The last time we were in Thrissur (last year) for the Aanai-Ootu, my Dad's pocket got picked!
Thanks for the good read. I wish you had included pictures though.

I said...

ulagam sutrum arai-kizhavan aytaye ba.

Sakthivel said...

done bring ur chennai cooum stink into salurbrious Kovai. U chennai guys speak the worst tamil. period. something seriously wrong with u guys. too haughty i suppose

Anonymous said...

Next time when you go to guruvayoor skip those hotels..Near the temple there is a small mami mess where you can get authentic home food.

Keezha Tharaila ukkandhu saapidanum..but awesome food..

Anonymous said...

Speaking of temple practices, I haven't been to kerala in 13 years but what I remember from my last visit is that they have this peculiar way of circling the shrine in Shiva temples such as the one in vaikom..it's not a full circle, you go like half way and then come back counterclockwise. (or something like that, never figured out how to do it). I wish some Malayalee could shed light on this.

-varun

Vidya said...

@Hawkeye
I am glad someone blogged about that Dosai in Guruvayur! My childhood images of Guruvayoor of have been traumatized because of this dosai and this 'brahmin hotel' to which my father was rather partial to. And if you thought Guruvayoor was unclean you should try Palani!

padma said...

hi,
nice read .u brought out many nostalgic memories.can i add a small piece of information?there is a krishna iyer store which sells the cheapest and beautiful kasavu sarees.
u have to make a mention of pal payasam.
hmm talking all this ,may be the purpose of visit(mohana kannana kannaan vendi allo )might be forgotten.
the route frm covai to guruvayur has lovely houses, beautiful nurseries and the scenery wow .
enchanting travel towards the Enchanter.

Anonymous said...

To the question as to why In some keral temples you have to go clockwise first and then anti clockwise,first of all this is only to be done in Shiva temples or around shiva idols and not any other dieties.

it's bcos the oovu(the place where the water from the sanctum sanctorum comes out) signifies shiva's hair and the water signifies Mother Ganga .so corssing that means stepping on Shiva's hair.

Hence the clockwise and anticlockwise circum ambulation.

P.S there are good hotels in guruvayur.you just dont know where to go.Go to hotel vanamala kusumam hotel's restaurant.it's good.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Good Hotels are available in Guruvayoor. Krishna Inn is a 3 Star hotel. I have stayed there several time. And there are 2 or 3 star hotels available. You have to search for good. It won't come to you.

J said...

Hawkeye

Loved this post especially the line where your uncle was quietly told something :)
Recently I did a trip to the Divya Desam temples and among them the temples in kerala you mentioned. Divine.
https://www.facebook.com/notes/jeyakumar-sathyamoorthy/divyadesam-dd-trip-prologue/291948480846422

https://www.facebook.com/notes/jeyakumar-sathyamoorthy/the-temples/309329385774998

https://www.facebook.com/notes/jeyakumar-sathyamoorthy/god-my-take/320180594689877

I dont have a blog but share some of my thoughts and experiences on FB for my friends. I am sharing this with you as the topic is the same and just an excitement to see someone with same wavelength and interest..