Wonderful write up from Mithun:
GKC- Plantation drive
Last weekend few likened minds escaped the city grim to celebrate the Great Rajendra Chola’s birthday and also drive the Ainthinai motto of Tree plantation further. This being my first 2 day trip with CTC Ainthinai I, was a complete stranger to this group but was received very well, to my amazement the group was holistic and each one of them were fully aware of their agenda and were completely sincere in their effort, this was my after thought about the event. The group got its complete form at Sholinganallur with one addition at Pondy and was bustling from the start, there was never a moment of silence in the bus and people got to know each other without any formal introduction (this happens only in CTC) and I interacted with almost everyone in the group during the course. I silently observed that there were 2 couples in the group, a college kid and her mother (a house wife), a senior citizen, three young ladies and few men with the free will to be the change, and then I thought to myself what a combination is this ?? Yet the conversations were perpetually free flowing and besides which I managed to sleep.
We reached Udayanathham the next morning, quickly refreshed, had tea and started off for tree plantation, we planted around sixty saplings at three beautiful Government school locations and the more refreshing sight was the smiling Kids, which I think is a perfect reflection of their stress less life and I could see how quickly it spread among our group as the children grew fonder with us and helped us with the plantation. I learned from a shopkeeper that the two main sources of Income in the village were weaving and agriculture though we were all happy seeing the kids I had this strange feeling that their lives could be much better because I felt the kids need more equipped education facilities to progress and safeguard their production capacity ,having these thoughts in my mind our group and the kids completed the plantations and took pictures and some of us couldn’t resist to jump into a nearby pond for brief cool swim and later assembled for drinks and after which we started for lunch. After lunch we had a quick clean up time and moved on for sightseeing, our next agenda.
We started our heritage visit with Maligaimedu which is believed to be a part of Raja raja’s Palace remains which was excavated in recent years, I felt lucky to stand in a place where the greatest kings of our country lived and wandered around. We then started to the visit the Grand temple built by Rajendra Cholan.
So grand was the sight that my soul surrendered to its might!!
I was able to feel the pride that Rajendra Cholan felt after raising a monument for his faith which now speaks his legacy as we were very lucky to have Anand and Siva among us who shared all their expert knowledge on studying the architecture, stories of Rajendra’s Valour ,devotion and the beliefs of Hindu religion and the exploits of the adhi yogi “Siva”. We all started sharing our own thoughts after the walks around the temple which turned to debates on power of Cholas, beginning of time , evolution of Hinduism , oldest religion etc then we realized that our understandings and beliefs are contradictory and are mostly based on assumptions as we’ve lost our authentic trail in history which would base our claims. I think these monuments had stood time only to give us hope as these are the standards set by our ancestors to show the wealth and capacity that our soil holds, they tried to constantly remind us to live up to them. Now we are called people of the third world but when we look at these structures observe their architectural wonders and learn their history we realize the capacity, knowledge and technology we had in every field finds no match in any corner of the world.
The team that debated
We then moved on to the Museum where we saw old Chola coins & seals which are the proofs that Cholas had more sophisticated administration and monetary systems but due to their decline we have lost their ideologies in trade and governance and now we heavily model our systems on our powerful trade partners rules. We also witnessed how did they record and transfer their knowledge to their future generations through palm leaf, carvings and metal plate writings, we continued talking and decided to cook our dinner after winning over some oppositions who wanted to eat at some hotel and moved to our night halt at Kadambur temple where we had merry time cooking, playing with dogs, chit chatting and finally had our dinner by mid night (thanks for all those who helped cooking) and slept peacefully.
The last day we went to four places we started by visiting the Kadambur Temple , it is a Swayambu lingam which was formed from a drop of Amirtham and the architecture was so astounding that the entire temple looked like a chariot . We then visited a temple which had a tunnel connecting the palace of Cholas within the Sanidhi and learned from the priest that this was the place where the Chola king rested, sought counsel, made important decisions and spent most of his time. Our next visit was to Katumannar Koil Anandheeshwarar Temple, this is a small but an important temple the walls had inscriptions all over it and Anand our expert showed us some important inscriptions which read about the assassination of Athithya Karikala Cholan (Raja Raja’s Brother) and how they captured the assassins and punished, he said the assassins and their families were expelled from Chola Nadu for their betrayal. We then headed to the artistically wonderful Dharasuram temple where the temple and its architectures were so painstakingly carved out with perfect precision by our ancestors, there is no inch of rock in the temple that is not carved and decorated there were many illusionary and mysterious carvings that are beyond our imaginations and as usual our history enthusiasts Anand and Siva gave many explanations about the carvings and depictions which the whole group enjoyed with awe. We concluded our journey by visiting a place called Udayalur which is believed to be the tomb of Raja Raja Cholan, this place was very simple amidst of a banana farm with a Shiva Lingam on the tomb it was an emotional moment for me to see the great Raja Raja resting at peace. It was a great tour starting from his legacy and ending at his tomb, we then had lunch and our small group talk where we formally introduced ourselves to the group and started off to Chennai with the satisfaction and inspiration that our ancestors imposed on us with their mighty temples.
To conclude-- It excited me so much that how like minded people’s voluntary association can implement change with such ease and be the base in forming a new society without being deprived of any human emotions. It made me think that this is a smooth revolution without any struggle or bloodshed because it had the fun element of an outing with friends, gave a satisfaction of contributing to a serious cause which would shape and transform the character of each one & the society as a whole and the heritage visits was so inspirational that it redeemed my hope to live. Though the trip was about plantation and heritage visit the most important part was us & how we felt, what we accomplished together and how we plan to expand .It is our duty to resurrect our culture and traditions and form societies like our group which is holistically productive by creating valuable individuals. I only pray and wish we carry forward the attitude and expand our association and it is so exiting to dream of having a society like our group.
I thank the organizers and all the volunteers for arranging and making this trip a memorable one. Each one of you inspire me and I am so happy that I am a part of it, let’s continue to have many more happy associations and travels for the cause.
And some happy times captured…..
Nobody cried cheese but you can feel the happiness in this picture.
Awesome write-up from Sandhya:
Around 25 of us started from Chennai on 7th Aug for a weekend plantation drive cum heritage trip to mark the 1000th birth anniversary of Rajendra Chola. Little did we know on what was in store for us, as the journey started with a few silent moments and hushed discussions; And as it was midnight, Ananth woke up, :P and was bustling with energy and an endless mokkai, that sleep seemed to the last thing one could imagine. That still wouldn’t deter a few Kumbhakarnas who were snoring in last few seats in the van. Unable to bear the headache after a point of time, Sahitya and Rathi literally tied their shawls firmly to cover their ears in their attempt to get some sleep. His services could have come of some use in giving company to our half dreaming driver, however he chose to stay in the back seat experimenting the push backs on the seats and keeping few people awake. Late in the night, aunty and few others also started their conversations in the front in their attempt to keep the driver awake.
We reached Jayamkondam in the morning and after a brisk tea and a quick refresher, we moved to Udayanatham for the plantation. Sun god was all beaming on us as we reached the school in Udayanatham around 8 and started digging pits and planting sapling alongside the breakfast. As we finished off a round of saplings in sports ground in high school, we were joined by the enthusiastic primary school children. We had ice creams with the school children, after which the children were all out in the action planting saplings. One of small ones had his birthday the same day and it was painful to know that he was suffering from cancer. We sang a birthday song for the small boy and then after a photography sessions and some more interaction with children, who were very keen to share few of their stories, the guys went for a bath in a pond nearby, while few of us came back to the school. Then after a round of paneer soda/color, we started back to Jayamkondan. We had planted 48 saplings in the school campus that day and couldn’t plant a few more owing to lack of space in the campus.
After lunch, we had another refresher in Jayamkondan, (Of course the guys needed a fresh bath after all that itching from the dip in pond earlier) and started with the heritage series on our itinerary.
Maligaimedu: Our first stop in our huge list of heritage sites planned for the trip was Rajendra Chola’s palace, a protected historical monument. As we reached the ASI excavated site, we could see ruins and some brick walls. As we were checking the size of the brick, someone from the group added that the bricks in the Chola period came from a village Sengal medu, which was also in our itinerary. We went to a small corridor nearby the ruins of the palace, which had various stone markers and idols collected from the site during excavation. Few people tried to read the kalvettu and then after observing each of these forms and a detailed discussion on few, we started to GKC.
Gangai Konda Cholapuram (GKC) Brihadeeshwara Temple – As we reached GKC temple, a UNESCO world heritage monument, Ananth took the centre stage explaining the various forms of Shiva and the background behind each one of them to four of us, as we saw the image of each form carved so intricately on the sides of the temple. After studying the details in the massive Nandi in the front of the temple, we moved on to the stone carvings on the side walls of the temple.
History of Chandikeshwara – The sculptures on the side walls of the temple corridor explain the history behind the emergence of Chandikeshwara, and the reason for this god present in all temples in closer proximity to Lord Shiva. As the history goes, a young village boy was upset after seeing a cowherd assaulting cows in his village and he took up the duty of tending the cows thereafter. And after this happened, the cows in the village got happier and started yielding more milk than what it could hold. Hence this village boy made Shiva linga out of sand and used this excess milk to bath the shiv lingas. As this news spread throughout the village, his father became angry of his action and stepped on the sand lingas, reacting to which, the boy cut off the limb of his father. Seeing all this happen, Lord Shiva gave darshan to him and as the village boy wished, he was granted a boon that he would always be in closer proximity to the Lord, which relates to the fact that all Shiva temples show Lord Chandikeshwara shrine facing the linga.
Bhikshatana – Legend has it that the sages of Tharuka forest became very proud and ignorant after marrying very beautiful women and Shiva had to take the form of a beggar to teach them a lesson. Lord Shiva takes the form of a nude beggar and Lord Vishnu, the form of Mohini as they visit the forest to quell the arrogance of the sages. The wives of the sages get seduced after seeing the nude beggar and follow him leaving their husbands. A battle ensues as the shocked sages watch their wives follow a beggar and finally Shiva reveals his form and the sages realize his greatness. This story is carved in detail on the side walls of the GKC temple.
Kanaku Vinayaka – Once Rajendra Chola summoned one of his ministers and demanded the accounts for the temple construction. The minister was unable to provide the details at that time and after praying to Vinayakar, he was able to recollect the details and provide the accounts to the King. The Kanaku Vinayaka is represented with a pen on the right hand.
Lingodbhava –As history goes, there was a challenge between Vishnu and Brahma on who was superior among the two. Lord Shiva assumed the form of fire and challenged both to find the origin of the flame (aadhi and the antha). Brahma took the form of swan and flew towards the sky to find the source and Vishnu took the form of Varaha and searched in earth. The representation of Shiva in this column of fire in front of Brahma and Vishnu, is carved in stone, as the Lingodbhava. Ananth added that Thiruvannamalai (a panchabhoota stala - fire) signifies this column of fire. While neither of them were able to find the source of the flame, Brahma is understood to have lied to Vishnu that he saw the origin of the flame as he flew to the top. Lord Shiva got enraged with this lie and cursed Brahma that he would never be worshipped in temples in earth. This explains why there aren’t any temples dedicated to Brahma in Tamil Nadu.
Additionally we saw and discussed various other forms of Shiva and other gods in the GKC temple corridor – Sankaranarayan, Nataraja, Gangadharan, Aalinganathar, Ardhanareeshwar and various dance postures of Shiva, Dhakshinamurty, Saraswathi, Gaja Laskhmi, Durga and other goddesses. Chola art work has always amazed many on the engineering and the manpower involved in their construction.
The massive four armed Dwarapalakas caught our attention as we took a closer look, we could see a giant elephant appeared so puny and was swallowed by a serpent, which in turn was twisted around the mace of the dwarapalakas. We amazed by the creativity of the Cholas to visualize and convey the greatness of the god with the massive structure of the door keepers. And as we walked in someone explained about the three forms of gods – Siva (round), Vishnu (octagonal) and Brahma (square) present in one Shiva linga. This temple has the biggest Shiva linga among the temples in South India and after darshan, we were observing the art work inside the temple in detail – The bhoota ganangal, various nayanmar stories carved on the walls. Someone in the group also added that the Shiva linga in Thanjavur Brihadeeshwara is regarded to have a masculine form and the one in GKC has a feminine form.
As we walked in front, Ananth showed us the Navagraha which was carved out of a single stone in the shape of lotus. Then we checked out the Simhakeni and Mahisura Mardhini shrine and waited for Siva and rest of the group to arrive as Ananth, Naga, Vinod, Mithun and Ranga sir had some serious discussion on evolution of Tamil and the missing civilization and various myths and facts related to it. After a long time, the rest of the group joined up and we took some group photos and started to the next stop after some tea and ice creams.
Ranjendra Chola Museum at GKC: We reached the museum and checked out the photographs of various idols that we saw in the temple. Coins, weapons, carvings, maps and many other items in the museum were the proof of the legacy of the Cholas and they have passed on their legacy across generations among Cholas and Chalukya Cholas by conveying a lot of information in inscriptions and carvings.
Finally we moved towards Kadambur and as one group in car went on to buy items for cooking. We reached the house where we had to spend that night and relaxed there in swing, went on a walk in search of ghosts and helped out ourselves with some snacks until the cooking items arrived. As soon as Manoj, Vinod and Siva arrived, one group was actively preparing everything for the vegetable rice while few of us started a round two of the discussion on myth and facts of evolution, Mahabharatha and many other things. Vinod added that an alien spaceship was retrieved in 1940s and the technological advancements over the years is just a reverse engineering of an older era. And as our discussion went on, the biryani was ready and then we had our dinner and slept.
We started the next day with a visit to the Kadamdur Amrithakadeshwarar temple.
Mel Kadambur Amrithakadeshwarar Temple: The temple is built in the form of a chariot depicting an interesting story. As the history goes, devas churn the ocean and get the nectar but they start consuming it without worshipping Vinayakar. So, Vinayakar takes the nectar (Amrut) pot (Kada) with him and while passing through forest, a drop of it falls in the Kadamba forest and becomes a Swambu linga, which is worshipped here as Amrita-kada-eshwarar. Later, devas pray to Shiva and Vinayaka and get back the nectar pot. As the mother of devas, devamatha was worshipping the swayambu linga every day, Indra decided to change the temple as a chariot and drag it to deva loga, however Lord Vinayaka steps over the chariot and grounds it. The story has been recreated as a stone structure by the earlier Cholas (Kulothunga Chola) and the structure is shown to be slightly slanting with one wheels of the chariot buried partially in ground. The entire temple structure has the stories of all the nayanmars in one layer of stone (among all 18 layers) and various forms of gods of goddesses. Intricate sculptures of Ardhanaresshwarar with Nandi, Bhairavarar, Suryan, Vishnu, Murugar, Dhakshinamurthy, Gangadharan, Aalinganamurty, Mahisura mardhini and carvings with the stories of many other gods and goddesses, lion attacking an elephant, etc can be observed all through the temple structure in other layers. As we were checking out a carving which seemed to depict a massacre, Ananth added a lot of information of how religion conversion was in practice in those days and the carvings shows how Cholas defeated the jains and tortured them when they didn’t convert to Saivism after they lost the battle to Cholas. After approaching the Navagraha shrine, Ananth showed us the stone carving on sides of Indra idol depicting what appeared to be an elephant delivering a baby and another elephant helping it out. Then we came across the Kunjithapada Nataraja with Vinayakar and all other gods seen in a dancing position.
Kizh Kadambur Temple: This temple was a small arrangement and the Cholas used to worship the linga here until Kadambur temple was constructed. The side walls of the temples seemed to have been damaged over the years and only few idols could be seen in the sides. As we came out, we were greeted by a swarm of butterflies. We had never seen so much in a small space and the shutterbugs went shooting to their hearts content.
Next we proceeded for the breakfast, while four to five of them got down to have the biryani leftovers and visit the Chengal medu temple, which had the Shakthi form same as the one in GKC temple.
Sengal medu Mahisasuramardhini: Mahishasura mardhini with ten hands seen killing the demon same can be seen here. Only 4-5 who had the biryani made a silent visit to this place ;)
After breakfast and ice creams, we proceeded to the Kattumannar temple. The temple was about to close and the temple priest opened the doors as we reached the temple.
Kattumannar Anandheeshwarar Temple, Udayargudi: One of the oldest temples in the history of Cholas in the times of Paranthaka Cholan. Veera Narayana Eri which is closer to this temple also has a mention in the Chola history. We paced through the temple as it was nearing its closing time and Ananth showed us an inscription which details the assassination of (Adithya) Karikala Cholan, Raja Raja Cholan ordering the punishment for the conspirators (Ravidasan) by ordering them to leave Chola nadu before sunrise of the next day along with the entire family. What followed next was some minor detailing/discussion about the Chola family hierarchy and sons of Sundara Cholan.
Darasuram Airatheeshwarar Temple: We reached Darasuram at noon time and we had to run across corridor to our bare feet getting burnt while checking out the corridor. Unlike last time, wherein we had leisurely spent time in each stone carving trying to figure out the story, this time we speeded up through the corridor checking out the Chakra, Buddha carving, sculptures of gods and goddesses, various forms of men and women dance forms, balancing, various arrangement showing balance of people in 360 degress formation, yogic positions, vali-sugriva combats, an optical illusion with buffalo and elephant. Few of them like Manoj Kumar were also posing solo for their matrimony pictures, happy with the fact that there were p