October 2023 - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Friday, October 20, 2023

Kallidaikurichi Adi Varaha Temple Chariot Festival: Grand Cultural Spectacle in Rural Tamil Nadu

The Great Rath Yatra of Kallidaikurichi makes its way through the agraharam streets

The Rath Yatra or the Chariot Festival is one of the best temple traditions to see in India. The Rath Yatra is actually the main event of this festival and there are key events that precede and succeed this temple chariot festival. I got to see one grand cultural spectacle in entirety at a traditional village in rural Tamil Nadu. This is the temple chariot festival of Kallidaikurichi’s Adi Varaha Perumal temple that spans 9 days and is locally called as Brahmotsavam.

Held in the Tamil month of Chithirai (April 14 to May 15), the annual festival of Brahmotsavam is the grandest festival of the temple and the entire temple and the agraharam streets surrounding the temple wear a festive look for 9 days. This Brahmotsavam is a great program of festivals extending over nine days. During this period, every morning and evening, Lord Adi Varaha perumal is taken out seated on a huge vehicle and carried through the different agraharam streets of Kallidaikurichi.

Big Rath Yatra of Kallidaikurichi seen from the top of my home's terrace

The commencement of the utsavam is marked by a ceremony called the Dhwajarohanam, or the hoisting of the flag. Prior to every start, holy water from the nearby Thamirabharani river is brought to the temple for all ablution rituals. This is followed by Sankalpam (holy declaration) , abhishekham (holy bathing), alangaram (holy decoration) and vahana seva. In this vahana seva, the lord is taken in a procession around the streets of Kallidaikurichi on different vahanas (vehicles). Each vahana has its own significance and conveys the lord’s message in its own way.

From the first day of the Brahmotsavam to the ninth day, the lord takes to the different streets of Kallidaikurichi every morning and evening in his different vahanams. Below is a day by day breakdown of the different vahanams and their true meaning. As the lord visits each street in his different vahanams, the devotees adorn the fronts of their homes with colourful homams and offer coconuts, fruits and betel leaves to the lord while admiring his new look and seeking his blessings.

Day 1: Sesha vahanam

The meaning of Sesha is ‘to serve’. Adi Sesha is a thousand-headed serpent, on whom Lord Maha Vishnu rests in his abode, Vaikuntam.

Day 2: Hamsa vahanam

Hamsa or Swan means ‘pure’. Hamsa is believed to have a high intellectual capability, and can distinguish the good from bad. It is for this very reason that Lord Brahma uses Hamsa not only as his vehicle, but also to chant the vedas (The Vedas are believed to have emanated from the soul of Vishnu).

Night 2: Aswa vahanam

Horses form one of the four wings (ratha, gaja, turanga and pada) of the military forces in the ancient times. Aswam, a symbol of energy, means ‘one who runs fast). Lord Vishnu travels on a horse when he goes for paruveta. According to Hindu mythology, the horse was born along with Sri Mahalakshmi, Airavatham and Amritham during Sheerasagaramadhanam.

Day 3: Simha vahanam

Simha (lion) is a symbol of regality and power. According to the Bhagavad Gita, the lord is the Simha among animals (mriganamcha mrigandroham). The Lord is also called Hari (which in turn means Simha) and Hari sits on Simha. In other words, we have the phenomenon of the Lord sitting on himself.

Night 3: Mutayalapandiri vahanam

In the night Oonjal seva is conducted. The deities then ride under a pearl canopy. Mutyam (pearl) is a symbol of purity and royalty.

Day 4: Kalpavriksha vahanam

Kalpavriksham is a tree that is believed to grant boons and fulfil wishes. The vehicle shaped like the Kalpavriksham signifies that the Lord grants boons and fulfils the wishes of his devotees.

Night 4: Sarvabhoopala vahanam

Sarvabhoopala means ‘all the kings of mother earth’. According to the Hindu religion, kings, like Lord Vishnu, should always protect their people (na vishnuhu prithivi patihi).

The beautifully decorated rath during Kallidaikurichi Brahmotsavam

Day 5: Mohini Avatarotsavam on palaku (palanquin)

According to legend, the devatas and asuras performed Ksheerasagaramandhanam that resulted in amrit (nectar which when consumed grants immortality) and other sacred qualities. The devatas and the asuras fought for the possession of the Amrit. Lord Vishnu then assumed the form of Mohini (a beautiful woman) and procured the Amrit for the devatas.

Night 5: Garuda vahanam

According to the ancient Hindu texts, Garuda, the king of birds, is a replica of the Vedas (vedatma vihamgeswara), while Lord Vishnu is the God of the Vedas. Therefore, the lord sees himself in Garuda. In the Vaishnava Puranas, Garuda is called periyatiruvadi, meaning the first devotee. Therefore, Lord Vishnu selected Garuda as his vehicle for the most important day of the Brahmotsavam. Garuda vahanam is the greatest of all the vahanams.

Day 6: Hanumad vahanam

Hanuman is one of the greatest devotees of Sri Rama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Hanuman served the lord so faithfully that even the lord could not thank Hanuman enough. Devotees believe that they are indeed blessed if they catch a glimpse of the Lord on Hanumad vahanam.

Night 6: Gaja vahanam

Gajam (elephant) is also called the samajam (born from Sama Veda). It symbolizes wealth (gajamtam aishvaryam). It also symbolizes the Airavatam – the vehicle of Indra, the head of the heavens in Hindu mythology). It can also be attributed to the elephant in Gajendramoksham (story from Mahabhaghavatam), which is saved from a crocodile by Lord Vishnu.

Day 7: Suryaprabha vahanam

Surya (the Sun), the son of Aditi, is another form of Lord Vishnu (Surya Narayana). Hindu mythology supports the heliocentric theory and believes that Lord Vishnu is the centre of the universe (dhyassada savitrumandala madhyavarthi).

Night 7: Chandraprabha vahanam

Chandra, means the Moon, which is considered cool and pleasant. According to Hindu mythology, Chandra is the commander of the mind (chandrama manaso jataha). He is also the king of aushadham (medicine). It is believed that riding in the Chandraprabha vahanam is a soothing experience for the lord. The Lord’s contentment will bring peace to devotees’ minds and result in a good crop.

Day 8: Big Rath Yatra

On the penultimate day, Rathotsavam is celebrated, in which the Lord is seated in a ratham (chariot) and taken in a procession in the morning. The route taken by the Lord is called the Rathaveedhi and it does a circumambulation of the Adi Varaha Perumal temple. Tens of thousands of devotees come early in the morning to offer their prayers to the lord and then hold on to the chains of the chariot to pull it through the Rathaveedhi. It is believed that those who witness Rathotsavam will not be reborn (rathotsavam kesavam dristva punarjanma na vidyate).

The idols of Daruka (the charioteer of Lord Sri Krishna) and the four horses (Saibhyam, Sugreevam, Meghapushpam and Valahakam) are placed before the decorated idols of the Lord and his consorts. This symbolizes that the lord’s charioteer is driving the chariot.

As the Ratham goes around the Rathaveedhi, one can hear chants of ‘Govinda! Govinda! and Adi Varaha! Adia Varaha!. The energy is high and devotees offer food and drinks to the people pulling the chariot. Ambulances and police are on standby in case of any emergencies. It takes close to three hours for the Rathotsavam from start of its journey to end. People from nearby villages, nearby cities and even families of people hailing from Kallidaikurichi, but living all over the world, arrive to see this Rathotsavam from close quarters. The Ratha is colourful, the energy is infectious and the festival a grand cultural spectacle.

In the evening, the lord and his consorts are taken back into the temple amidst full fanfare.

Day 9: Last Day

On the last day, Pallaki seva and Chakrasnanam mahotsavam is performed in the morning. Water from the Thamirabharani river is brought to the temple and the processional idols are bathed with it. Abhisekham, alangaram and mahamangalarti is done. Then the garuda flag is lowered. This signifies the end of the Brahmotsavam festival.

The Kallidaikurichi periya ratham pulled by the devotees

It will be a dream come true if you can experience all the nine days of the Brahmotsavam up close. The rich heritage, the amazing culture, the colourful vehicles, the powerful hymns and the infectious energy can all be experienced at once. And to top it all, you get to seek the lord’s blessings on all the days. If you cannot attend all days, then you should definitely make time for the Big Rath Yatra or the Rathotsavam, the grand annual festival of the Adi Varaha Perumal temple.

How to reach there:

The nearest airport would be Tuticorin airport, located 75 kilometres away. Tuticorin has daily flights connecting it with Bangalore and Chennai. The other nearest airports are Madurai (180 kms away) and Thiruvananthapuram (140 kms away).

The nearest large railway station is Tirunelveli junction, which is well connected with the rest of the country. The nearest railway station is Kallidaikurichi itself, but only local passenger trains stop here.

The nearest large bus station is Tirunelveli. Regular buses ply between Tirunelveli and Kallidaikurichi throughout the day and night. Kallidaikurichi is 35 kms from Tirunelveli and a typical bus ride takes about 60 to 70 minutes.

Lord Vishnu on elephant vahanam - Adi Varaha Perumal Koil Brahmotsavam

When does this festival happen:

The Adi Varaha temple chariot festival takes place in the Chithirai month (between April 14 and May 15). The festivities span 10-12 days, with each day marked for a different activity. The big rath yatra takes place on the final day of all the festivities.

Adi Varaha Perumal Koil Brahmotsavam Rath Yatra, Kallidaikurichi

Where to stay:

Kallidaikurichi is the kind of place where you should stay at one of the agraharam homes. It will allow you to experience the true culture of this village. You could either stay with any of your local friends in their homes, at any local guest houses or at airbnbs.

If you prefer hotels, you can try the modest Bhaskar Lodge at Kallidaikurichi and the slightly better Hotel Ambai Grand at Ambasamudram. For higher quality hotels, you will have to head to Tirunelveli, about 35 kms away.

If you prefer staying in nature, try any of the forest bungalows located inside Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve or the farm stays or resorts near Courtallam (50 kms away).

Perumal returning to the temple after the Great Rath Yatra of Kallidaikurichi

Where to eat:

Kallidaikurichi has a few places to eat like Kannan mess where you can find tiffin items like idli, vada and dosa. For something more elaborate, try Hotel Ramanas or Hotel Gauri Shankar at Ambasamudram, two kilometers away.

If you are staying at a guest house with an in-house kitchen, then you are all set for food.

If you are staying at a house or in an Airbnb, you can try the meals and tiffin items of Varaha mess or Delhi mama. They offer a wide variety of choices and food is usually delivered to your door step.

The great Rath Yatra of Kallidaikurichi culminates the 10 day Brahmotsavam

Other famous festivals to see at Kallidaikurichi:

1) Garuda Sevai from the agraharams of Kallidaikurichi

2) Maha Shivaratri

3) Karthigai Deepam

4) Pongal

5) Thiruvatharai

Kallidaikurichi Rath Yatra nearing the end of its journey

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Kallidaikurichi to Manimuthar Dam: A top scenic and rustic cycling route

2) Thamirabharani river at Kallidaikurichi: A great Western Ghat river to take a refreshing bath

3) The hidden gem called Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve

4) Kallidaikurichi: The village of the Saaral season

5) Kallidaikurichi Anaicut: Gorgeous picnic spot nestled in the lap of nature

6) 1000 year old Papanasathar Temple at Papanasam: Where you can wash all your sins away

7) Manjolai: The offbeat hill station of Tamil Nadu

8) Mannarkoil Rajagopalaswamy Temple: Magnificent 10th century temple with a Ashtanga vimana

10 days of Brahmotsavam culminates with this Big Rath yatra taking to the streets of Kallidaikurichi

9) Sivasailam temple: 1000 year old temple surrounded by the lush mountains of the Western Ghats

10) Sivasailam: One of the wettest places during the North East monsoon in India

11) Karaiyar Dam: Offbeat wildlife and nature holiday destination in India’s Deep South

12) Courtallam: The herbal bath holiday destination of Tamil Nadu

13) 10th century Kailasanathar temple at Brahmadesam

14) 10th century Valiswara temple at Thiruvaleeswaram

15) Manimuthar Falls: A great forest waterfall

16) Agastyar Falls: A great waterfall to bathe in the Western Ghats

17) Paana Theertham Falls: A hidden waterfall gem of Tamil Nadu

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Saturday, October 14, 2023

My Village Home in Kallidaikurichi, Tamil Nadu

Kallidaikurichi - my village home

It has been a little over a year since I moved my base from Bangalore to my ancestral village of Kallidaikurichi in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. I still have my house in Bangalore, but I spend more time in my village home than in my city home.

Kallidaikurichi is the village of my paternal grandmother and it holds a special place in my heart right from my childhood days. I have always been visiting often, especially after my dad’s passing, but it was last year when I started spending a significant amount of time here. The plan was to take care of my grandmother and renovate our ancestral home. I got the opportunity to spend time with my grandmother and take care of her before she moved on at the rich age of 98. Thankfully, my grandmother got to see most of the completed renovation work and I was very thrilled to see the genuine happiness in her eyes. The home is named ‘Akhilandeswari’ in remembrance of my grandmother.

This village home of mine in Kallidaikurichi in India’s deep south is surrounded by the Western Ghat mountains on three sides. There is a Kannadigan canal behind my home and further north is the Thamirabharani river. It is located in the beautiful agraharams that are surrounded by temples on all sides. To my south is the Adi Varaha Perumal temple. To my west is the Ramachandra, Sringeri Sharadamba and Chidambareswarar temples. To my east is the Murugan and Ayyappa temples and to my north is the big Shiva temple on the opposite bank of the Thamirabharani river in Ambasamudram. Royal Enfield, India Cements, Oriental Bank of Commerce and many other notable brands were born in this village. In its hey days, it was a thriving Brahmin settlement and even till date, it is one of the more well maintained agraharams of Tamil Nadu. Such is its popularity that a lot of movies are shot here.

Just 10 kilometers from my village home is the forest check post of the Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, one of the more pristine and lesser known tiger reserves of India. And because of this proximity to the Western Ghats, you are never too far away from waterfalls, dams, mountain vistas and wildlife. In fact, monkeys, langurs, peacocks, more than 50 species of birds, many species of reptiles and oodles of butterflies can be spotted right from the terrace of my village home.

Agriculture is the main source of income for the people living here. Paddy and banana are the main crops here, though a lot of people grow tuber vegetables and brinjal too.

The above picture is in essence the view that I see every day, the culture that I embrace every day and the bright and warm sunshine that bathes the village every day. Yes, this tropical village can get seriously warm at times, but its lush nature, peaceful surroundings, rich culture and friendly people more than compensate for the high temperatures.

Do drop by home for a cup of coffee if you happen to be in the vicinity! And do stay tuned for more photos and more village experiences.

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Friday, October 13, 2023

Dubai After Dark: Unforgettable Experiences Await

Burj Khalifa, Dubai

The modern skyscrapers of Dubai make it the perfect destination for the rich and famous. However, people from all over the world come here to enjoy its many shopping malls, souks, parks, beaches, and much more on a budget too!

There are so many features unique to Dubai alone, such as being the city with the largest suspended aquarium. In the Emirates Mall, you can find a massive indoor skiing arena, and its IMG World of Adventure is the largest theme park in the world!

Complete your Emirates booking to reach Dubai from your country's capital city or any key metro city close to you and enjoy a fun-filled vacation time with your family. It is not just wonderful to explore during the daytime but also at night when it comes alive with glowing lights. Here is a look at some exciting ways to spend your time at night in this bustling city:

1) The best way to enjoy fantastic light effects at night in Dubai is by visiting the Dubai Garden Glow. It has some very interesting optical illusions, which make exploring it so exciting. There are many illuminated, brightly coloured scenes here that are striking, enchanting, and lovely.

2) Make a trip to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, right after 6 p.m. Make a trip to its highest floors, from where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the city at night, with surrounding skyscrapers and the city lit up. As you leave the place, you can see the fountain, which glows exotically in many lights and is also the stage for numerous performances.

3) If you love sports, then visiting Dubai’s Dark Padel courts is just what you need. Padel is a new and fast-catching sport that you can best enjoy at night under illuminating neon lights in the play area. Everything gets transformed into such colours, and the sport played in such lighting is exciting and fantastic.

4) In the Dubai Festival City Mall stands a fountain that is the centre stage for fantastic laser light shows every night, which are free to watch. It’s a scene that has impressed many enough to get an entrance into the Guinness World Record twice.

5) Make a trip to the Dubai Fishing Harbour and find the Crystal Clear Watersports Centre to enjoy kayaking at night. You will be kayaking in a glass-bottomed kayak that is lit by beautiful fairy lights. You can also view the impressive skyline at night with all its lights lit up, making a grand scene.

Dubai Mall, Dubai, UAE

6) Cool at the ice rink in the Dubai Mall, where you can spend hours with friends on skates. It’s open on Friday and Saturday, and it's always filled with people sitting and enjoying themselves with their friends and family.

Palm Jumeirah, Dubai, UAE

7) Make a visit to The Pointe at Palm Jumeirah, where you can take a ride on an electric catamaran. Their cruise is indeed exciting as you get to see the Dubai skyline from the waters and also enjoy the Palm Fountain when it is all lit up and impressively shooting water to about 105 metres high.

8) If you are into photography, then you certainly would want to indulge in night photography across the beautiful Dubai skyline. Gulf Photo Plus offers the opportunity to do this through its night photography workshop. You will be taken to various attractions that can be photographed under dazzling lights in different ways.

Dubai Creek, Dubai, UAE

9) Book an Abra ride across Dubai Creek and enjoy viewing the lovely Dubai skyline. As the night progresses, you can see so many places lit up with different coloured lights, and the entire scene is a must to photograph.

10) How about indulging in a desert safari that gives many experiences such as quad biking, camel riding, barbeque dinners, and sand skiing? The companies that offer such experiences will pick you up at your location in the afternoon and then drop you off the next morning.

You can enjoy exploring such locations at night by opting to fly with Emirates Airlines from your country. Once you have arrived, book into a hotel and pick up those places that you must visit at night to have an exciting time here. These places can be easily reached by cab, and when you get there, you will have a fabulous experience that leaves behind lasting memories.

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Tuesday, October 03, 2023

A Journey Through the Most Basketball-Obsessed Countries

A Journey through the most basketball obsessed countries

Are you a big fan of basketball? If you are, this is your chance to find out about the countries that love basketball just as much as you do! Let's use this 1xbet site as a guide and go on an amazing journey together to explore some of the world's most basketball-obsessed countries. Get ready to learn about their unique cultures, all united by a shared love for this fantastic game.
1) Lithuania: A Country Full of Basketball Love

In Lithuania, everyone loves basketball. It's more than just a game. It’s a way of bringing people together. Young or old, the excitement for basketball is in everyone's heart.

What to Do in Lithuania:

a) Visit the Rytas Vilnius Arena: Experience the energy of a local basketball game and feel the strong spirit of Lithuanian fans.

b) Lithuanian Basketball Hall of Fame: Take a journey through history and honor the legends who have made Lithuania's basketball so special.

Explore Lithuania:

Discover hidden basketball treasures in Lithuania. Talk with local fans and learn about the famous games and great players that have made the country's basketball history so rich.

2) Philippines: Where Basketball Brings Everyone Together

In the Philippines, you'll find basketball everywhere, from the busy streets to the peaceful islands. The country’s basketball association, PBA, is a source of pride and unity for the community.

What to Do in the Philippines:

a) Play Pickup Basketball: Enjoy friendly games of basketball and experience the warm Filipino hospitality.

b) Attend a PBA Game: Feel the thrill of a PBA game and join in the contagious excitement of the passionate crowds.

Discover the Philippines:

Explore the world of Filipino basketball culture. See how basketball brings joy and unity to every part of Philippine life.

3) Spain: Enjoy the Thrill of Basketball

In Spain, basketball is celebrated with a lot of excitement. The Spanish league, Liga ACB, shows off the best of Spanish basketball talent.

Traveling in Spain:

a) Explore the exciting world of Spanish basketball

b) Enjoy the lively games of Liga ACB and visit famous places like the Palau Blaugrana in Barcelona

c) Talk with local fans and learn about Spain’s love for basketball

4) Australia: Where Basketball is Growing Fast

In Australia, more and more people are falling in love with basketball. The growing National Basketball League (NBL) is a sign of the nation’s increasing passion and talent for the game.

What to Do in Australia:

a) Watch an NBL Game:  Dive into the world of Australian basketball and enjoy exciting NBL games.  

b) Visit the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame:  Walk through the history of basketball in Australia and celebrate the people who have helped basketball grow in the country.

Discover Australia:

Explore different parts of Australia’s basketball world. Find out about local programs and communities that are helping basketball grow in the country.

Conclusion: A Fun Worldwide Basketball Adventure

In this exciting journey, each country has its unique basketball story to tell. Your exploration is more than just watching games. It’s about making new friends and sharing the joy of basketball with them. The world of basketball is a big, welcoming place full of different cultures and histories.

So, let's go on this grand adventure through the world’s most basketball-obsessed countries. Enjoy the mix of experiences, stories, and friendships that the global basketball community happily shares. Let this worldwide basketball journey fill your travels with exciting adventures, fun stories, and the warm embrace of the global basketball family.

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