"CTC Ainthinai - Rajendra Chola's 1000 Year Celebration &Dr.Nammalvar's First Anniversary Memorial Tree Plantation Drive"
It was 26th night around 9:45 PM and no sign of other trip mates as Shantha was patiently taking calls from the other group mates reminding them of the ‘sharp 9:30 PM’ on the e-mail and giving directions to arrive at the pick point. As it was nearing 10, people started joining us. One member, of course with all the directions from our accountant took 2 long hours to arrive from Minambakkam :) God only knows what was his mode of transport that night and little did he know about him unless or until his introduction ;). So after our group's theatre artist arrived, we started to Madambakkam and with the organizers joining us there, we finally started off to Thanjavur. That night passed on with chit chats as the organizers were discussing the past trip adventures and misadventures ;) while some of us trying to sleep amidst the traffic, horn sounds near the toll lanes and pits and holes in the road. None of us realized it was 4 AM when we stopped for tea on the way and after a brisk tea, we got in and continued the conversation until we reached Thanjavur.
With a plan to start at 8 AM to the Brihadishvara temple, all 5 of us refreshed quickly, waited for some time for the guys and with no sign of them, took a long walk where we were exchanging our thoughts and experiences and the weather was just too perfect for us to enjoy our walk. And just as we got back, we saw the guys coming down one by one, while Massu had already tasted the food in the nearbly two hotels and was suggesting which one was the best for us to have idlis based on how the batter had fermented. Of course, it was only after our breakfast was done, did he add the feedback from the same hotel owner that the place wasn’t the best one for pooris :( much to the grief of those who had already had it in their breakfast. After one more round of tea, we started towards our first spot from an amazing itenary decked up with Chola temples.
We reached the Periya kovil, which is a UNESCO world heritage site and Siva started explaining about the cause of preserving historical sites that the group had initiated and the agenda of the trip to mark 1000 years of the Chola temples and to have a Sapling plantation drive in Elangadu for the first anniversary in the memory of organic farming scientist Dr. Nammalvar. We started moving around the temple as the organizers were trying to use one of their older letters to explore the upper portion of the temple, a restricted area. Unfortunately, we couldn't get a chance to explore that part of temple as there was some renovation work going on. As soon as Siva and Massi were back, we proceeded towards the garbagriha. One thing to notice here is the 81 dance postures of Lord Shiva. It was one and hour of observing and getting amazed at the Chola art right in front of us as each one of us were sharing interesting facts about the temple on how the temple was built by assembling stones and starting carving the stones from the top till the bottom. We slowly went around the temple observing the various deities with some touches of Tanjore painting here and there, visible as light shades. We were surprised to see that these natural colours survived 1000 years and were still visible and the effort put in the Chola kings to pass on the stories, mantras and many many things to future generations in the form of inscriptions. Few more things to not to miss here are the carvings depicting the war – one of them being an elephant holding a warrior who is sitting over a horse which in turn standing over another warrior(found on the side of a staircase to Subramanhya shrine) and the continuation on the other side of the same stairs shows the fate of the men in the war, inscriptions with donor names mentioned in right side of the temple (there are a whopping 3 lakh names mentioned and there every chance for your name to appear in that list :), man with a hat (something similar to what we wear these days) on the same side.
Then after lunch and spl Tanjore Lassi, we headed next to Darasuram Airatheeswarar temple. We first saw the Sapta swaras which has the characteristic of producing a sound similar to each one of the 7 musical note (SRGMPDN) as we step on them. Due to our enthusiastic tourist population in India, who may overstep/throw stones on them in their attempt to listen to the notes and may damage the musical quality in these steps, these were barricaded much to our dismay :(. As we proceeded in further, we were amazed as what stood in front of us, every small part of the temple was filled with a beautiful carving and everyone sprang into action trying to study what those meant. The architecture spoke more of the life of the people in those days – warfare, their ways of entertainment - postures similar to what we call Yoga/gymnastic now, people interlocking to form a full 360 degrees formation, Kanappa Nayanar, Vali-sugriva combat, an optical illusion something similar to the photoshoped images with a cow and elephant entangled from either sides, three headed Ardhanareewarar.
This way of trying to understand the carvings somehow reminded me of a Dan Brown book, where every page is one step towards a mystery or puzzle, and here I was experiencing one myself, as every other pillar and carving had a story in it to tell and a group of us were trying to read what it meant. As we were exploring the temple we came across a portion which seemed to designed for the water from top to stagnate once it falls down, that’s when Siva and Masu explained that one point of time, the temple was in gold and the circles near the water logging portion were huge diyas and the water would reflect the light from the diyas giving a golden glow to the entire place. It was going to be never ending tale to explore everything in the temple, and we headed next to the home of Siva’s friend who showed us how hand-loom sarees are made and couldn't resist checking and buying some. Then after having some hot Sugiyan, we headed to Thirukattupalli.
On the way, someone remarked that we could cook that night and then Malika, Masu, Shyam, Anu, Shantha sprang into action and put the list of items. While some of them went to purchase items, we had another round of snacks. It was around 9:15, when we settled down and Rathi and Anu started chopping vegetables quickly, as Malika our head chef was readying everything else, not to forget Karthik and Shyam for their contribution in raitha onions ;). It was around 11, when we started having the dinner and after dinner, while some of them went to get some sleep, the owls settled down for a campfire. That’s when we had a proper introduction and came to know about the rest of the members in the group much better and it was good to know some of them who were very passionate about organic farming like Mani. As and we decided to finally get some rest as the next day was the most important one for which the trip was planned, it was 2 AM and amidst all snoring sounds, we somehow got into a deep sleep, deep enough to realize only in the morning that people had changed positions owing to the late night rains. We could see few people sleeping on the side of the window, some on the stairs and some in van.
Then after a quick refresher, we stopped near a tea stall for a brisk tea and after observing a group of little cormorants, we headed to Elangadu. While Siva and Parthiban went to purchase saplings, we went to the farm. Few of them took out the shovel and started digging in while Malika, Kavith and I took out the sickles proceeded for mulching. After clearing up a major part of the land, we joined the rest of the group where we had a variety of refreshments to choose from (guava, nellikai, something similar to musk melon). As the plant saplings were yet to arrive, we proceeded to cauvery aaru for a dip that turned into a bath. The initial plan for five of us was only to stand in water and get back silently, thanks to Massi ‘s splash of water with an excuse of the group pic wherein all 5 of us got drenched completely. Then there was no need to stand still in water anymore. It’s when you hit water a long time you realize that all your swimming skills are also gone with running water itself, the area wasn’t that deep luckily, though that couldn’t stop me envying at people like Divakar and others who were enjoying their swim to the fullest. Thanks to Vijay and Shyam for staying beside me to ensure for my safety in my so-called swim.
That’s when Siva and Parthi arrived and shivering as were when we got out of water, sugar candies greeted us. Then fully drenched as we were, we quickly headed to the farm and planted the sapling for which the holes were dug out. After refreshing, we went to Prakash place for a yummy brunch accompanied by Asoka (sweet made from Paasi payuru). As we were relaxing in the house after having food, we were chatting among ourselves and as the conversation was brewing, we asked Karthi where all he had been trekking, for which Karthi responded that every second Wednesday of the Month he would be trekking (and as Ramesh and few others too joined to hear what was next as everyone was wondering what was so spl about the second Wednesday and if he would get an off only on Wednesdays) from ground floor to fourth floor (Of course he meant the maintenance cut when the lift wasn’t available). After being clean bowled like this, no more checking with others about their treks no matter how much ever they want to share.
After another set of group pics for our most enthusiastic photographers, we started to Dr. Nammazhvar’s house, where we were moved by his brother’s words and with his age, he was going on and on and was wanting to interact more and more with us as we informed him that we had come to plant a sapling on late Dr. Nammazhvar ayya’s memory. We planted the sapling right outside his house with his brother’s son and other relatives to give us company. As Massu was sharing his experience with the scientist, we posed for a pic for our passionate photographers. As we headed back with two different plans to choose from on how to spend time while heading back to Chennai, we stopped near a bridge until Prakash’s belongings had to arrive and as we were waiting and posing for another set of pics, this time the jumping snaps too for a change, we saw large groups of cormorants flying past us. Then, our next stop was Kallanai dam built by Karikala Cholan. It was a really beautiful view from the top of the dam and Mani and Vijay (with his famous Ak47 posture) was in action this time capturing the egrets in the water, the water as it was flowing through three different directions and some children as they were splashing water and playing at a distance.
It was a breathtaking view from the side of the dam as well and it was amusing to see it fully functional and withstanding the force of Cauvery till date. While we had a great time enjoying the Greater Cormorant having its catch of fish there, it was disturbing to see plastics floating in those water and all through the pathway and just a hope that someday tourists would realize the need their responsibility they owe towards the society by not littering these popular spots. After another round of photographs, we headed to our van and were checking out photographs and began another round of chit chats until the evening snack. And as the van started back to, Pranav announced that we play some games. So we started with Dumb and our super artist anu dhaan pulliyar suzhi pottu vechanga. After a fun round of dumb C, we halted in villupuram for withdrawing money for our accountant. Then after dinner in Aariyas, as we headed back to our van, Pranav introduced us to a new game ”volleyball”.. Even after trailing 15-19, finally got the game 20-19 and a victory pic.. thanks to Vijayanand, Dhivakar and Mani in that team :D..
Then there was a round of thrashing, that 2 minutes after thrashing was the most silent moment in the van as chatterbox Pranav had closed his mouth for so long in those 2 days. And as we were wrapping up, Tambaram arrived and it was a dawn of realization the weekend was finally over and Monday has begun. It was a fun filled weekend and a huge huge thank you to the organizers Siva and Massu for a wonderful trip, Shantha for staying on the top of the accounts, and the photographers Ramesh and Shyam for capturing the most memorable moments throughout the trip and their attempts to make us burst out into a laughter with mouth wide open :D (Something that they succeeded in doing), with most of the group pics being eligible for the toothpaste ad ;). Jokes apart, it was a super awesome trip with each one of us having something interesting to share and we couldn’t have had a much perfect way to end the year planting trees and growing oxygen :) around us. With new year having begun and resolutions at a peak, you cannot take a much better resolution of planting some trees this year and making our world a better place to live in.