June 2024 - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Monday, June 17, 2024

Padmanabhaswamy Temple: World’s Richest Hindu Temple

The stunning Padmanabha Swamy Temple and the theppa kulam (kalyani)

Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala, is named after this temple. The name, which literally means, ‘The Land of Lord Anantha’, is named after the main lord of this temple, who is an avatar of Lord Vishnu. I am talking about Sree Anantha Padmanabhaswamy Temple, the world’s richest Hindu temple and an iconic temple of Kerala. Photography is not permitted inside this temple and one has to adhere to strict dress code to enter this temple. As I cannot share photos from inside of this temple, I would like to share with you some unique highlights of Trivandrum’s Anantha padmanabhaswamy temple. I hope that these highlights pique your interest and urge you to visit this temple on your next trip to Kerala and/or Kanyakumari.

Here you go:

1) The Anantha Padmanabhaswamy temple is one of the 108 sacred Vishnu temples or Divya Desams in India. Divya Desams are the holiest abodes of Lord Vishnu that are mentioned in the works of the Tamil Azhvars (saints).

2) The Sree Anantha Padmanabhaswamy temple is located at a place that is considered as one of the seven Parasruma kshetras. There are references to the temple in text like the Puranas (Skanda purana and Padma purana).

3) The idol of the presiding deity of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple is noted for its composition, which as 12008 salagramams, which were brought from Nepal, taken from the banks of the river Gandhaki. Salagramams represent Lord Maha Vishnu and hence this temple gains the greatness and sanctity of a thousand great temples.

4) The padmanabhaswamy temple architecture is a beautiful mix of Kerala and Dravidian style of temple architecture and the temple features a 100 foot tall gopuram (ornate entrance gate).

Following appropriate dress code while entering the famous Padmanabha Swamy Temple of Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala

5) Legend has it that the temple was established about 5000 years ago. This is apparently mentioned in some palm leaf records.

6) Although the exact date of the temple construction isn’t known, the earliest mention of the temple dates to the 8th century. Later, during the 15th century, the roof of the sanctum sanctorum was repaired. The Ottakal mandapam in the premises was built around the same time.

7) Inside the sanctum sanctorum, Sri Padmanabha reclines on Adi Shesha, whose hoods form an umbrella over his head. The sanctum has three doors from which you can look at the head, stomach and feet area respectively of the reclining 18 foot idol of Lord Padmanabha.

8) There is a lot of wealth discovered and many mysteries lying within the vaults of the Padmanabhaswamy temple.

The large gopuram of Padmanabha Swamy Temple, Thiruvananthapuram
9) The temple is regarded as a maha-kshetram (great temple) because of its architectural magnificence, historical importance, spiritual significance and several other reasons.

10) The temple also has some interesting structural features in the form of Bali Peeda Mandapam and Mukha Mandapam. These are halls decorated with beautiful sculptures of various Hindu deities. Another structure that captures attention is the Navagraha Mandapam, the ceiling of which displays the navagrahas (the nine planets).

11) The Ottakal mandapam (single stone platform) in the Padmanabhaswamy temple is a striking feature. The mandapam is in front of the sanctum sanctorum and is built with a single slab of granite which is two and a half feet thick and measure twenty square feet in area. The abhishekams to lord Padmanabhaswamy are performed here. Its granite pillars are covered with gold.

12) The temple has nine entrances, indicating the nine orifices of the human body.

Colurful statues of gods on sale in front of Padmanabha Swamy Temple, Thiruvananthapuram
13) The temple has a large number of sacred water resources situated even in places far away from the temple. Of these, the main one Padmatheertham is located on the eastern side of the temple. Padmatheertham is one of the oldest water bodies in the city of Thiruvananthapuram.

14) Large number of bells adorn the temple. In most cases, the tip of the bell has a metal banyan leaf attached to its tongue.

15) The outer walls of the sanctum sanctorum of Lord Padmanabha and Sree Krishna are adorned with murals. Of these, the Ananthasayanam on the back side of the sanctum is termed as the largest one among the temple murals of Kerala and was painted by a Brahmin artist by name Chalayil Kalahasti. It is of 18 feet long.

One of Kerala's largest temples

This temple is definitely special and it will certainly require 2 to 4 hours of your time, depending on when you visit. If you opt for the 500 rupee special darshanam, you might be able to cut a few queues and reach the sanctum sanctorum much faster. Do remember to wear a saree or a gown if you are female and a white mundu/dhoti if you are male. Men have to enter the temple bare chested and can cover themselves using their angavastram. I hope you visit this gorgeous temple on your next trip to Kerala.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Kudrevetty: The Gorgeous Windy Station of Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve

Karaiyar, Servalar and Manimuthar Dam views seen from Kudrevetty watch tower

This is the deepest place that a civilian can access inside the rich wild interiors of Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve in South Tamil Nadu. It is the place from where you can see gorgeous views of three dams all in one 360 degree view. These dams are Servalar dam, Karaiyar dam and Manimuthar Dam. It is one of the wettest places in India during the North East monsoon. Located at above 4,000 feet above mean sea level in the Western Ghats of Tamil Nadu, this place is part of the catchment area of the Manimuthar, Kodayar and the Thamirabharani rivers. It is home to a rich array of flora and fauna that is found only at a few other places in India. It is also the windiest station inside Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve. I am talking about Kudrevetty, the laidback wild hill station of KMTR.


Along with Manjolai, Kakkachi, Nalumukku and Oothu, Kudrevetty forms the backbone of the Manjolai range of the Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve. It is a beautiful mix of tropical forests, tea plantations and tall mountains of the Western Ghats. In another few years, the tea estates will get taken over by the forest, thus returning this place to all its original glory.     
Pretty landscape between Oothu and Kudrevetty, KMTR     
Kudrevetty is also the place where the forest rest house of this range is located. This is place is surrounded by pristine jungle and spectacular views. Elephants, leopards, wild gaurs, macaques and langurs frequent this place. The tourism infrastructure is fairly basic here, but therein lies the charm as the wild here is truly wild and not well laid out like the other tiger reserves in India. Here, every sighting is based on chance and you get to fall in love with mother nature once again.    
Scenic route between Oothu and Kudrevetty, KMTR     
There are only two rooms located in this forest rest house at Kudrevetty, which means that a maximum of six people can stay here and if you include the forest staff, there will be no more than ten people for miles together. And only the vast expanse of forest surrounds you and protects you from the world like it does its wild denizens. Forest walks are the best way to soak in this wild atmosphere. There is a watch tower nearby that allows you to register all the lovely views. You will have to travel with a local or forest staff and be cognizant of the fact that you are in the core zone of the tiger reserve and that you are a tiny minority in this world of wild animals and birds.     
Sometimes, large groups visit Kudrevetty, stay here, drink during the night, listen to loud music and party hard. I wish the forest department educates such people and ensures that only wildlife and nature enthusiasts visit this part of the forests. If you do happen to visit Kudrevetty, do take your trash back with you and ensure that you do not do anything to damage the fragile ecosystem of this place.    
If offbeat wildlife destinations is your thing, KMTR’s Kudrevetty should be pretty high on your list. It is a gorgeous mix of pristine nature, rich wildlife, panoramic views, beautiful drive, lovely waterfalls and so much more. I cannot stop raving enough about this place. It is such a beautiful ecosystem that I feel bad writing about it and attracting more attention and visitors to this place. But, I sincerely hope that people visit Kudrevetty only for its rich nature and do regular holiday things at other places.
Best season to visit:

Forest Rest House at Kudrevetty - completely remote location

Kudrevetty is open all year round and can be visited in all seasons. Summers are incredibly pleasant and are a far cry from the hot plains below. The rainy season between October and December is magical here and this is when close to 3000 to 5000 mm of rain precipitates in three months and dresses up the surroundings in fresh green and full water bodies and waterfalls. January and February offer clearer weather with low humidity and this allows for clear views of the spectacular landscape that includes the tea estates, forests, mountains and the many dams. June to August is when Kudrevetty is at its windiest best due to the winds coming during the South West Monsoon season.

How to reach there:

Kudrevetty watch tower, KMTR

If you are traveling from Tiruneleveli, head towards Cheranmadevi and Kallidaikurichi. Just before Kallidaikurichi railway station, turn left and take the road leading towards Manimuthar. You will cross Golden nagar, Thekku Pappankulam, Tamil Nadu Special Force IX battalion and Manimuthar village. If you head straight from Manimuthar village, climb the narrow road and you will reach the forest check post  at Manimuthar Dam. You will have to get your permits checked here, pay the necessary fees and then drive onwards towards Manimuthar Falls, Manjolai, Kakkachi, Nalumukku, Oothu and then onto Kudrevetty.

How to get permits for this place in KMTR:

Stunning forest view as seen from Kudrevetty watch tower

To travel to Manjolai, Kakkachi, Nalumukku, Oothu and/or Kuthrevetty, you will have to get permits in advance from the forest department office at Ambasamudram. The permit costs INR 200 at Ambasamudram and you will have to pay the vehicle fee and per person charge at the Manimuthar check post. The forest check post opens at 7 AM and closes at 6 AM.

If you book a room at the forest rest house in Kudrevetty, then that booking is good enough and you don’t need to get the permits in advance.     
Where to stay:

Gorgeous blue flowers blooming at Kudrevetty, KMTR

If you wish to stay within the tiger reserve, you can book the forest rest house at Kudrevetty through the Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve website.

If you wish to stay in traditional Brahmin agraharam houses, you can try the home stays and guest houses at Kallidaikurichi village.

If simple, yet modern hotels are your thing, you can try Hotel Ambai Grand at Ambasamudram.

If you wish for a wider variety of hotels, you will have to try looking at the hotels in Tirunelveli.      
Where to eat:

Karaiyar Dam view from Kudrevetty view point

The forest rest house at Kudrevetty will prepare food for you if you happen to be staying with them. They will buy basic supplies once your booking is confirmed. However, if you have any specific requirements like country eggs, country chicken or any other requirements, you will have to inform them at least a day in advance.
There are a few family run home restaurants at Oothu where you can get some local meals along with some tea and coffee. However, you need to order your meals at least a day in advance so that the people can arrange the ration and vegetables.

There are a few tea shops at Manjolai where you can find basic snacks along with tea/coffee, but if you order in advance, you can get some food.

There are a few shack-like restaurants at Manimuthar village before the forest check post. Here, you can get basic meals and a decent array of tiffin items.    
Other tourist attractions inside Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve:

Beautiful blue flowers blooming all over Kudrevetty

1) Manimuthar Falls: The herbal waterfall inside a tiger reserve

2) Agastyar Falls: A gorgeous waterfall on the Thamirabharani river

3) Manjolai: The offbeat hill station of Tamil Nadu

4) Nalumukku: The wettest place of India during the North East Monsoon

5) Kakkachi: The highest point inside Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve

6) Scenic Iron Bridge of Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve: Pristine nature overloaded

7) Karaiyar Dam: Offbeat wildlife and nature holiday destination in India’s deep south

8) Cycling through the backyards of Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve

Other nearby tourist attractions:

Kudrevetty view point

1) Mannarkoil Rajagopalaswamy Temple: Magnificent 10th century temple with an ashtanga vimana

2) 10th Century Brahmadesam Kailasanathar Temple: Lesser known architectural marvel of South India

3) 1000 year old Papanasanathar Temple at Papanasam: Where you can wash all your sins away

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

5) Sivasailam: One of the wettest places during the North East Monsoon in India

6) Kallidaikurichi: The village of the saaral season

7) Iruttu Kadai Halwa: Icon of Tirunelveli

8) Nellaiappar Temple: A 7th century cosmic dance wonder

9) Pattamadai Pai: GI Tagged beautiful hand woven mats from a tiny Tamil Nadu village

Kudrevetty watch tower and view point inside Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve

10) Thamirabharani river delta: A motorcycle route full of rustic gorgeousness

11) 10th century Valiswara temple at Thiruvaliswaram: Hidden Chola gem in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu

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

13) Tiruchendur Murugan Temple: Sea Shore Magic

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

15) Garuda Sevai from the agraharams of Kallidaikurichi

16) The festival of Karthigai Deepam from a  traditional Tamil Nadu village

17) 13th century Kasi Visvanathar temple at Tenkasi

18) Punalur Suspension bridge: Historical gem of Kerala

19) Lesser known Kerala mountain railways: Treat for nature lovers

Karaiyar Dam and forest view as seen from Kudrevetty Watch Tower

20) Thenmala forest: Offbeat nature and wildlife getaway

21) Aryankavu Saastha Temple: Ancient temple located in the sacred forests of the Western Ghats

22) Palaruvi Falls: Kerala’s herbal waterfall that drops like milk from the sky

23) Festival of Thiruvathirai from a traditional Tamil Nadu village

24) Vintage Pathimoonu Kannara Bridge: Colonial charm of the Indian Railways

25) Thenmala Dam: A monsoon pit stop

26) The exotic tropical fruit shops of Puliyarai

27) Kallidaikurichi Adi Varaha Temple Chariot Festival: Grand cultural spectacle in rural Tamil Nadu

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

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