Archive for January 2008
In my previous post on the Lakshadeepam trip to Trivandrum, I had mentioned that there “have been a few controversies surrounding the temple over the last few months”. I didn’t touch upon it since I thought most of the readers would know about what was going on. However, Apple had asked for the details of the controversy, and that sparked this post :).
Well, it is pretty simple, buddy. It all started with a local court delivering a landmark judgement — the Travancore Royal Family cannot lay claim on the temple; the State Government should take a decision on who should administer the temple. On the same day, came the allegation that the State Government is following a hidden agenda against the Hindu places of worship, especially considering the wealth inside the temple.
Then came the news that the State Government is not intending to take over the temple, but would take a decision in consultation with the royal family. The last controversy I heard of involved the Executive Officer — that he is a Christian.
I am sure the temple has seen far better days than this, and I would pray for the future of the temple, since these days humans decide the fate of Gods (sometimes rightly so, though I am not sure about this particular instance!).
If, God forbid, the temple is taken away from the purview of the royal family (who had taken care of this great temple for more than two and a half centuries with utter dedication and devotion, and without reverting to crass commercialization seen in most other big temples), the next best thing to happen would be to have a separate Devaswam or Trust in the mode of Guruvayoor Devaswam.
This would be far better than leaving the administration of the temple to the State run Devaswam Board, especially since it is virtually assured that for five years out of ten, the Government will be run by Atheists. Frankly, I don’t have anything against either the Theists or the Atheists, but it is just not right if one group were to “administer” the activities of the other!
Just in case you are wondering what this fuss about the royal family is all about, read this article in The Hindu to get an insight about why this royal family is different and simple. Travancore is just plain lucky to have had such intelligent and talented rulers taking care of the state.
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We had been to Trivandrum to witness the Lakshadeepam ceremony at the Sree PadmanabhaSwamy Temple on the first day of the Malayalam month of Makaram (Jan 14th, 2008). Lakshadeepam is celebrated once every six years, and I have been pretty lucky not to have missed any one so far except the one in 1978 that took place when I was just a day old! The last two Lakshadeepams (2002 and 2008) were sheer fun and time for reunion with friends and family, especially friends since we had drifted ways after spending quite a long time at the Chottupura Street together as kids.
Day 1 (12-Jan-2008): Arrival at Trivandrum
To begin at the beginning, we (Preethi and me) left Chennai on Fri, 11-Jan-08 to reach Trivandrum by noon of Sat, 12-Jan-08. As is the norm these days, we landed at Reghu’s place where Periamma and Periappa were eagerly awaiting us. While we were having lunch, Rema (my cousin) and Thylu Mami came to Periamma’s place, and we spent some time catching up with them. Later in the afternoon, Rajesh (Rema’s husband) came with their daughter, Aparna. Thus, we met the whole Rema family at Periamma’s place itself.
We had already planned to visit Sarath, Rema and Ananthan that evening, and luckily Harish came along with his car to take us around. He wanted to go to Palayam Hanumar Kovil, and thanks to me, managed to go everywhere else except Palayam.
Sarath and Manju were blessed with a baby girl, Veda, on 14th of December last year, and we decided to go there first. Veda had just been bathed and was in a sleepy mood while we arrived. She was crying as Manju’s (Sarath’s wife) mother handed her to Preethi, but the moment Preethi held her, she stopped crying. After spending a couple of more minutes there, we bid adieu to them, taking the blessings of Sarath’s grandma, who had come visiting him. Harith was looking forward to start the next phase of his career with TATA AIG.
Next stop was Shangumugam beach! We spent some quality time there witnessing the sunset and putting the camera in the SE k550i to good use. Harish had his powerful Konica handy, and he too snapped away, showing us how powerful the zoom in his camera was. Once the sun was set, we decided to not travel to Palayam and decided to go to the Shangumugam Devi temple, just across the road.
Once out of the temple, I told Harish that I wanted to go to Thaliyal where my cousins Rema and Ananthan have moved into their newly constructed homes. I asked Harish to drop me at Ramesh’s place so that I can take his father’s Honda Activa and go to Thaliyal. We had barely reached Ramesh’s place and I was opening the gate that the power went off (it was the last day of load shedding in Trivandrum). Harish then offered to take us to Thaliyal, since he too had to visit his relatives in Karamanai gramam, which is about a km away from Thaliyal.
He dropped us at Thaliyal Junction with a promise to pick us up after 20 minutes. We visited Ananthan’s place first and then went to Rema’s place. This was the first time we were visiting Rema’s newly constructed house. From there, Harish dropped us back at Sir’s place where Mami prepared hot, crispy dosas for us. We spent the rest of the night chatting with Periappa and Periammai till we decided it was time to hit bed. Thus, ended Day 1.
Day 2: My Birthday (13-Jan-2008): Trip to Kanyakumari district
A couple of days before we were to leave for Trivandrum, Harish had floated the idea of visiting the Thiruvattaar Adikesava Perumal Temple during the Lakshadeepam trip to Trivandrum. For the uninitiated, Thiruvattar is a place in the Kanyakumari district, and this temple is very similar to Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Trivandrum, but is centuries older than the latter. Kanyakumari district was part of the erstwhile state of Travancore till the Central Government decided to divide the states on linguistic basis in the 1950s. The Thiruvattar temple was also taken care of by the Travancore Royal Family and even today the festivals in the two temples happen at the same time.
I thought it was a nice way to spend a day, and since there were a few other places in the vicinity — including the Padmanabhapuram Palace and the Waterfalls at Thripparappu that Preethi had never been to — I was more than enthusiasitc about the idea. We discussed the idea with Mahesh and Ramesh, who readily agreed, and so the trip was on, and scheduled for the Sunday (13-Jan-08) which also happened to be my birthday.
However, to complicate things a bit, Mahesh and Ramesh were to arrive in Trivandrum only that morning from Coimbatore and Chennai respectively, and so we had to leave a bit late to ensure that they could also join. Thus, we left by 1000 hrs knowing pretty well that it would be late by the time we would reach back Trivandrum. But, what better way to spend your birthday than with your best buddies (who don’t remember it is your birthday ;) ) on a trip to places you last visited more than 10 years back. This was sure to be a trip worth my while!
On the way, Apple called to wish me on my birthday and while I was answering the call, the gang got to know about the occasion. Talks started about how I should be giving a treat that day and I decided to sponsor the lunch in some five star hotel ;).
We decided to go to Nagercoil first to visit my Chithappa and Chithi. Harish, Mahesh and Ramesh managed to play cricket for a few minutes with the kids on the banks of the Krishnankovil pond. After spending sometime at Chithappa’s place we proceeded to Hotel GauriShankar to eat meals. Luckily, they had only meals and my birthday treat for the six of us (including the driver) plus mineral water cost me a whopping 182 bucks! ;).
From there, we thought it would be wise to visit Padmanabhapuram Palace (PP) first. We reached PP by 1345 hrs and the Palace was closed for lunch break (1300-1400 hrs). PP would be familiar to those who have watched His Highness Abdullah, the great Malayalam movie of the 80s (how time flies!). To properly visit and understand the grandeur of the palace, it would take a whole day, or at least half a day. We compressed the trip to just about 2 hours and were out of the Palace by 4pm, thanks to the rumor that the entrance to the Thripparappu Falls would be closed by 1630 hrs. There is a lot to understand about the architecture and the paintings in the Palace but, we just couldn’t spend enough time there.
By the time we were out of PP, we were tired and thirsty, thanks to the whirlwind tour of the vast palace. If at all you happen to be in this part of the world, there is a wonder drink called “Narnari Sarbath” which would cost you about Rs. 2 per glass. We drank a few glasses each, while Preethi also had a Nungu. From there, we rushed to Thripparappu only to find that the falls would be open till about 1830 hrs.
We swiftly purchased the towels and shorts and climbed down the steps that leads to the Falls. What followed was sheer fun. The whole gang stood under the falls for what seemed like eternity, while poor Preethi became the watch, mobile, specs and wallet bearer ;) (thanks dear). I had never bathed for so long in my life, especially at a waterfall (remember, I visit Courtallam every year). It was a quarter to six by the time we decided to call it a day at the falls. On the way up to the parking lot, we had tea and snacks. Snacks included Milagu Bhajji and Ulli Vada, and I was eating the latter after more than 10 years. Aah! The little pleasures of life!
It was time to move to Thiruvattar, and we reached the Adikesava Perumal Temple by a quarter past six. We rushed inside, had the darshan before they closed the sanctum sanctorum for the evening Deeparadhana. In Kerala, this break can last up to 30 minutes, and we didn’t had the time to wait so long. Ramesh and Mahesh had urgent stuff to do at Trivandrum that evening. So, we had the darshan of the main deity, and also visited the Thiruvambadi (which is being renovated) Krishnan. From there it was back to Trivandrum, and on the way there was a small detour to collect Lakshadeepam entrance pass for Mahesh from some onam kera moola (remote area) of Trivandrum district ;).
We had dinner at Harish’s place (nice, hot Chapathis with Mixed Vegetables curry) that day and from there reached Sir’s place by 2230 hrs to seek his blessings on my birthday. Finally, we reached Reghu’s place by 2300 hrs. Thus, ended a fantastic day — a day all of us would remember for a long, long time to come. We did miss Apple a lot and he later said he missed being there as well, and would have definitely made it to Trivandrum, had he known about our little trip.
Day 3 (14-Jan-2008): Lakshadeepam Day
This was the day for which we had come all the way from Chennai — the day of the Sixth Lakshadeepam (since I was born). I had some work in the morning outside and so rushed out to finish that with Ramesh. Ramesh’s mom had invited the gang (we two, Harish and Mahesh) to have lunch at their place. Before going there we visited Gomathy Mami’s place and my home (to meet the tenants) and then proceeded to Ramesh’s place. Here, we managed to offload the 300 odd pix taken so far in that trip into our pen drive, and free up the space in the phone.
We had a fantastic lunch session there, chatting all the way through lunch. Ramesh’s mom was feeling giddy by the end of it and I would assume she would never make the mistake of inviting all of us together :).
I had some work at the Post Office post lunch, and Mahesh took the group in his car to the North Gate of Sree PadmanabhaSwamy Temple where the Fort P.O. is located. As I was doing my work inside the P.O., Mahesh so graciously got us all cheap cone ice-creams :). So, though we couldn’t make it to Archies this time (despite discussing the possibility each day), we did had ice-cream. We parted ways after deciding to meet at Ramesh’s place at 1730 hrs to go watch the Lakshadeepam Seeveli that night.
We returned back to Ramesh’s place around 1700 hrs and since I had some time, went out to take some snaps of the West Nada of the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple and also took some snaps of Sir at his favorite temple — the Kailaseswaram Arasumoodu Ganapathi Temple. I still remember the shabby state that temple was in till Sir decided to take it upon himself to renovate the temple with the help of the Devaswom Board and well wishers.
By 1745 hrs, everyone had gathered at Ramesh’s place and we decided to leave early so that we can watch the Seeveli from our favorite spot — near Thiruvambadi, but facing the West Nada, and just in front of the huge lamp post in the Northern side. We managed to reach inside early enough to find that spot not being taken yet. We sat there for two and half hours, chatting and discussing the events in each other’s lives. We also watched a huge bull (easily 8 feet long) and a horse being ushered into the temple for the Seeveli.
At 2030 hrs, the Seeveli (circumambulation) started in all its traditional gaiety and splendor. We were really lucky to have been there on that day and watch the procession. There have been a few controversies surrounding the temple over the last few months, and for once, everyone forgot all that and immersed themselves in the beauty and sanctity of the Seeveli. The Hindu has a good report of the event. The function was attended by more than 20,000 people.
Aswathi Thirunal Gouri Lakshmi Bayi, of the Travancore Royal family sums it up the best: “It is uncommon to come across a temple which is able to adhere to long established tradition braving the winds of change without compromising on the performance of rites and rituals which are considerable here..This is the only temple in known history which has been fortunate enough to conduct the Laksha Deepam without break from the time of inception of the festival in January 1750 AD“
I must also add that this was one of most well organized Lakshadeepam’s in my memory (which spans the last 4 Lakshadeepams — 2008, 2002, 1996 and 1990). In 1990 I was living in Trivandrum, by 1996 I was at Palghat doing my Engineering, in 2002 I was in Bangalore, and now I am in Chennai. Where will I be in January of 2014? I don’t know! But I would love to be back in Trivandrum for the Lakshadeepam for sure. I was attending a Seeveli after a gap of more than four years and hence it was doubly sweet. This was also the first Seeveli that Preethi was attending (in the temple), and she too liked it a lot. Sunil couldn’t get inside the temple; though he witnessed the event and the fireworks from the Eastern Gate of the temple.
That night we had dinner at Mahesh’s place (good old Sevai and Pulissery with lots of Pappadam) and since we had Ramesh’s bike on loan, we didn’t have trouble moving from Ramesh’s place to Mahesh’s and then from there to Periamma’s house to spend the night.
Day 4 (15-Jan-2008): Pongal Day
This was the day we were to return back to Chennai, and hence I tried my level best to spend as much time at Periamma’s place as I could. However, Ananthan had asked me to have lunch with them on this day, and he promptly called at 0800 hrs to remind me about the same. He had just returned from Guruvayoor after conducting Thulabaram for his three year old son, Bharath. We spent the morning visiting Lakshmi Chithi and going out to buy Banana Chips to take with us to Chennai. I strongly recommend the Chips shop opposite Chennan Potti kadai. It tastes damn good and is fresh too. In fact the last two times, we waited there for 15 minutes to ensure that we get chips fresh out of the oil.
We reached Ananthan’s place for lunch and they had prepared a grand feast. It was unfortunate that we couldn’t eat much since we had to travel that evening. Bharath was just waking up from his sleep once we finished lunch, and after spending a few more minutes there, we left Thaliyal and reached back Periamma’s place. In between we dropped in at Gomathi Mami’s place to collect our dinner for the train :). So, in case you are wondering, I would hardly starve for food in Trivandrum.
We left Trivandrum by Ananthapuri Express that evening, and for the first time in about 10 years I felt a pain while leaving Trivandrum. Is it the nostalgia associated with the place you grew up in? Is it due to the handful of boyhood friends who continue to be one’s dearest even after 20 years? Is it the age that makes me weak and think along these emotional lines? I wouldn’t know, but the fact remains that today, after a week, I miss the place. This has not happened in the last 10 years. I did feel a lot while leaving Trivandrum the first time, way back in 1995, but has never felt like this since. In fact while at the temple, Harish brought the idea of coming back to Trivandrum for good, and we all thought it is a worth-while dream to cherish and look forward to.
Thanks for reading this pretty long post. Take care and be well.
Update1: We didn’t make use of the rather poor video recording in the k550i, but Preethi managed to capture a minute of the action at Thripparappu. You can’t see me, because I was seriously in love with the water (for a change) and you can see Harish rushing towards me at the very end.