With the sweet combination smell of various flowers at Thovalai flower market still in our nostrils we proceed towards Thiruchendur. This place’s claim to fame is on the basis of an old temple to Lord Murugan. That makes it a major Hindu pilgrimage place in Tamilnadu. I say Tamilnadu and not India because Lord Murugan has not manged to have a large following outside the state of Tamilnadu. His brother Lord Ganesha’s marketing department has been more successful, giving him an all-India presence and penetration. One should always learn from one’s brothers. Or, perhaps the brothers had an agreement not to compete in each other’s territory. Who knows?
Before we reach Lord Murugan’s abode by the seaside, we come across a few other interesting places.
We cross Ponnarkulam with its famous Restaurant ‘4 Idlys & 1 Vadai’
We come to Kundakulam. As we do not have any expertise in the field of Nuclear Power, we are refused entry to the power plant.
We gulp down the insult with sweet green coconut water at the road junction and continue on our way.Anna selects the best coconuts for us considering the fact that we have come from far-away place.
As I mention the green coconuts, let me make a couple of observations here. Between the Green Coconuts of the various states of India there are important differences, the main one being one of retail pricing. In Gujarat, the price ranges from Rs 10 to Rs. 40/- and on this I, have commented in an earlier post. In Kerala there is a remarkable consistency in pricing. Here there is a clear case of price-fixing. This would have invoked the Anti-Trust laws in US. The price of the green coconut at all places in the God’s Own Country is Rs. 30/- as if fixed by God himself. I could not find anyone charging more or less. And we consumed this every day and sometimes twice a day as we travelled. In Tamilnadu, there is no unity among those selling. The price varies from Rs. 20/- to Rs. 30/- . The range becomes wider in Andhra Pradesh, but about that later.
The other difference is the blade, the instrument for cutting the coconut changes. Here is the Tamilnadu version of it. You will find something different in Kerala. Unfortunately, I do not have a picture.
We find the bridge below with the Ashokan Pillar, the official emblem of Republic of India on both sides of the bridge. This appears to be a practice in South India. We noticed this in Karnataka and here in Tamilnadu but not in Kerala.
Manapad -Kulasekharapatnam are a couple of place where make a brief halt. I don’t know which is which. These are seaside towns with an illustrious history of trading, in the distant past, with the Arabs as well as Europeans, not to speak of the next door neighbour Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. Marco Polo the famous Venetian traveller has recorded this town in his writings. I need not add that he visited the place although he has not left any traces behind.
The approach to the town is in a bad condition. Plastic waste burning all around. Marco Polo would not have approved of this.
We head to the famous Holy Cross Church at Manapadu which is very visible form the highway. To reach this place we had to pass a narrow road and one of the homes was preparing for a marriage ceremony later on in the day. We had to drive through the ‘Mandap’ prepared for the wedding. I am sure Marco Polo had also to go through this situation, the only difference being Marco Polo did not have a car. I wonder how he managed his travels.
At the turning to the church we could see this curious structure.
On a closer look at the inscription we come to know that this used to be a radio Station started in the year 1946, by the British of course.I guess the Radio Station was used to warn the fisher folks of the cyclones after they had passed by.
Not much activity at the church. There is not much activity in the town ( or village) either. We return back to the highway after taking some photographs. I understand that there are a couple of temples around here. We did not see them. The biggest problem for us in the southern states was the fact that in the smaller villages only the local language (Tamil in this case) is spoken. Even the secondary school students we tried to engage in conversation could not progress much with English.
We move on. The landscape is pretty particularly as you approach Thiruchendur.
We reach Thiruchendur for a late lunch. We book a room at Hotel Tamilnadu trusting the state government enterprise. The good thing about these old hotels owned by the tourism establishments of the States is that they are very spacious unlike the new hotels which tend to have very small rooms.
The afternoon is for the Temple and the beach. The temple of Lord Murugan is an impressive structure befitting the dignity of the son of Lord Shiva.
It is marred only by the irreverence and bad behaviour of the Rose-ringed Parakeets who use the upper parts of the temple building for their amorous activities which requires holes to be made in the holy temple.
It is a picturesque atmosphere inside the temple complex as in many other temples of south India.
The beach is only so-so. The Borassic palms provide some relief.
The official vehicle allotted to Lord Murugan is a Peacock and there are plenty of them around the temple, ready to provide service to their master at short notice.
The places around the temple are infested with fortune-tellers of all kinds including those using parrots to decide your future.
I always thought that this profession is a male monopoly, No, at least not here. These women badger you with the offers of their services. The only way to avoid them is to say ‘Tamil teri ille’- don’t know Tamil. They go away as they do not speak any other language.I fail to understand the qualification requirements for fortune-tellers. They need to be regulated.
Starfish appear to be found in the sea off this coast very easily. I found many of them being dried for sale and that too on the temple premises. I am sure Lord Murugan would not approve of this.
We also visit a Church at Thiruchendur. South of the town near another beach is located this church.
The church compound has the idols of many saints.
Thiruchendur town appears to be quite old with those typical narrow streets of the old towns. We also drive around outside the town and have a look at this temple. The scenes depicted here are not within by knowledge and I will be thankful if someone helps me with interpretation.
Text by Suryakiran Naik
Pictures by Suryakiran Naik & Veena Naik