Malai Naatu Divya Desams - Visit April 2013
Radha and I were blessed to visit few Divya Desams during our recent trip to India in April. We are sharing this in the hope this may provide some ideas and guidance for anyone planning to do the same.
In the 2 weeks we were blessed to pray at the following temples:
Malai Nadu (Kerala)
|TTD Devasthanam temple in T Nagar||Thiru Kachi - Varadaraja Perumal Kanchipuram||Thirukadithanam||Doddamallur Navaneetha Krishna temple|
|Sri Parthasarathy temple in Triplicane, Chennai||Ashtabuja karan||Thivallavazh||Varaha Perumal - Kalahalli (Mandya District)|
|Malola Narasimhan temple in Ahobila Mutt,
|Thiruthanka Vilakkoli peruaml (Toopul, birth place of Vedantha Desikar)||Thiruvanvandoor||Melkote|
|Pandava Dootha perumal – Thirupadagam||Thiruvaran vilai||Sri Ranganatha temple, Bangalore|
|Ulagalanda Perumal, (Thiru Ooorgam), Thiru Neeragam, Thiru Karagam, Thirukaarvanam. This one temple has 4 Divya desams||Thirchenkundrur(Thiruchitrraru)|
|Thiruvekka – Etothakari, Sonnavannam seida perumal||Thirupuliyur|
|Thirukalvanur (a Sannidhi within Kamatchi amman temple)||Mavelikari Krishnan temple|
|Adhi Kesava Perumal – Kooram||Thiruvattaru*|
Koorthazhwan Koil in Kooram
|Varkalai Janardhana perumal|
|Thiruvanji kalam Srinivasar and Kulasekara Azhwar temple|
|Thiruvanji Kalam Krishna temple|
*Though these come under Malainadu divya desams they both are in Tamilnadu.
It is fairly straightforward to visit the Divya desams around Kanchipuram, 15 in total if you leave early and arrive there before 8 am but not later than 8.30 am you could visit all of them and return the same day to Chennai. The thing to remember is the temples shut around 11.30 am some may be open till 12 pm and they then open only after 4 pm. This document does not cover the visit to this area temples. But will only address the visit to malai naatu divya desams in Kerala and 12 in Tamilnadu and Sri Varaha Swamy in Kalahalli and Doddamallur temple, Karnataka. Already one of our group members Ranjini Thirumalai visited and sent some information which was the catalyst for us to visit.
We flew to Cochin from Bangalore and travelled in a tourist cab ( Pre-booked) which met us at the airport. Though I had informed about the visit to 2 temples in Tamilnadu near Nagar Koil, they had overlooked to bring the original RC book etc for the vehicle which is required to get a permit at the border. This delayed our start by an hour. We were originally picked up in a slightly old looking car with a Holy Cross hanging and while waiting to pick up the RC book it arrived in a newer car. I thought to myself the newer car would be good while Radha noticed a Krishna in a cradle in the car and thought to herself it will be appropriate for us to travel in that car. Both our wishes were granted as we had to change to the new car since they could not locate the papers for the old one. So Krishnan made sure He came with us to make sure we completed our trip covering all the places we wanted to and some without any hitch. The driver Prasad spoke good Tamil and Malayalam and was very helpful. Though he said he knew of the places we mentioned we had to stop at several places to locate the temples , as the sign posting is not there and many do not know the Vaishnava divya desams by the names we know and almost near every one of the vaishnavite temple there is either a Shiva Kshetram or Baghavathi Kshetram. Hence I am sure this report will be handy.
We arrived at Cochin at 2 pm but actually started our uninterrupted run only around 4 pm. It is better to arrive earlier if you plan to follow what we did i.e. travel straight to Chengannur via Chenganachery. There are 3 Divya desams Thirukadhithanam , Thiruvallavazh and Thiruvanvandoor between Chenganachery and Chengannur. We completed these 3 the last when the temple was almost closing down. They do what is called SriValli a circumbulation around the temple every day. When we arrived at Thiruvanvandoor it was dark as there was no power but as in all Kerala temples the Garba Graham is lit only by wicker lamps so we could take darshan of the Lord. But out of His grace again the lights came back just before they closed the temple so they said they will wait and asked us to take darshan again this time knowing where we walked and other sannidhis as well.
People who need glasses should make sure you wear them as you will need them in all the temples to take proper darshan. We stayed in Baghavat Gardens in Chengannur a nice hotel and started early around 7 am and went to Thiruvaranvilai first. This temple is big and where Iyappan’s ornaments are normally stored. We returned to Chengannur had breakfast and then went in a different direction to Thiruchenkundrur or known as thiruchittraru locally. We then proceeded to Thirupuliyur also close by. Since we did not know and plan well we had to return to Chengannur to check out otherwise we could have proceeded directly from Thirupuliyur to Mavelikara. The Mavelikara Krishnan is known as Butter Krishna. After darshan here we had planned to visit Varkalai to take darshan of Janardhan and then reach Trivandrum. In spite of our best efforts due to the distance and traffic ( it is normal) when we were at the turn off ( 18 kms from Varkalai) from the main road the time was close to 12 the temple closing time. So we had to change our plan and decided to proceed directly to Thiruvattraru near Nagar Koil. After brief lunch at Kollam we proceeded.
One point to note about hotels in Kerala is most hotels are Veg and Non Veg but there is a series of Vegetarian hotels called Aaryas which are OK. So when you see one be flexible and finish, B/F, Lunch etc. Also please use the toilet facilities wherever available as there no stops in between.
We must have been talking amongst ourselves about Divya Desams so much the driver Prasad during this stretch asked me what it meant , which led to Alwars Divya Prabhandams etc. He got so much interested he went and enquired about the availability of Divya Prabhandham in Malayalam the language he could read. We were fortunate we got him as the driver so that we could speak freely our mins not worried about political correctness. Though we anticipated reaching Thiruvattar by 4 pm we were delayed by traffic and some wrong directions. For future when you are driving after the Trivandrum bypass towards Nagar Koil you should go past Marthandam and then turn towards Thiruvattar but we were misguided to turn much earlier by a guy who said it is shorter. It may be but the road was awful and very poor directions. In spite of all this we reached the temple at 4.55pm and the temple opens at 5 pm!!!. There is a not even proper toilet facility here . We had good darshan of Adikesava perumal and our experience was more enjoyable as just before we left for India Mala Sridhar had sent a short piece narrating former West Indian cricket star Kalicharan’s visit to this temple.
After this we left for ThiruvanParisaram but known as Thirupathisaram, Nammalwar’s mother’s place. You need to go to Nagarkoil and it is few kms to the left when you go on the highway to Tirunelveli. When we finished it was nearly 7.30 pm and I was contemplating staying in Nagarkoil and leave for Trivandrum the next day early morning. The early morning bit did not appeal to my other fellow travellers including the driver who enthusiastically said he can drive to Trivandrum without any problems. It was a huge day already but placing trust on perumal we decided to do that. Finding a vegetarian hotel in Nagarkoil wasn’t an easy task as no one clearly gave directions but we managed to find the place called Gowri Shankar a so so place and finished our quick tiffin. When we left we were all annoyed as few metres down the same road was another Gowri Shankar and much neater looking place and would have been a nicer experience for us. We reached Trivandrum around 10 pm and then managed to find a hotel to stay; not a great idea not to have booked a room already but considering we changed our plans it worked fine.
We left around 7.30 am to Sri Anantha Padmanabha swamy temple. We were not aware of temple timings. There are darshans at fixed times and it is better to visit the temple before to find the timings and go. However we didn’t have to wait long but the queue was long. So we bought Rs 100 tickets for special darshan . The driver had come prepared in his dhoti etc for the darshan and when he saw the crowd he said he will stay at the car. However to support his enthusiasm we also took him with us and had good darshan. There are several nice veg hotels close by so we had B/F and left for Varkalai.
We reached Varkalai around 10.30 am had good darshan of Janardhana Perumal. He is in a pose doing Aachamanam (part of Sandhyavandhanam). His hands keeping moving towards his mouth every day and when it reaches his mouth this universe will end. After the temple visit we went and spent some time in the Varakala beach though noon and hot, which is beautiful. You need to be careful as many bring dead people’s ashes to immerse in the water and then go to the temple to light lamps. There are several priests sitting in the beach under beach umbrellas and several grave look alike in the sand. We were not sure what they were but avoided walking over them. We felt it was part of some ceremony.
We then started to head back to Cochin and on the way ate in KTDC’s Aaram restaurant, a delicious buffet dinner, expensive by normal standards. Had several authentic Kerala dishes. The avial pumpkin payasam stood out. We reached Cochin around 3.30 checked into a hotel Mareena Regency . A Nice hotel at reasonable rates. Highly recommended. After freshening up we left for famous Thirkakara temple at 4.30pm . The traffic is quite bad being evening time and we managed to reach around 5.45 pm. Very nice big temple and had excellent darshan. We bumped into another group from Bangalore who had started from Coimbatore by road and moving south starting from Trichur after finishing 2 Divya desams in the north of Kerala, Thirunavai and Thiruvithuvacode and then Guruvayoor. They warned of crowd in Guruvayoor, in truth the head of the group really frightened us and we started worrying about getting darshan in Guruvayoor. We were planning to be at Guruvayoor the next day, Saturday and the day before Vishu when lakhs and lakhs of people are expected. I am mentioning this to show Krishna’s kindness shown to us later. We then wanted to also visit Thirupunithuzha, a famous Vishnu temple in Cochin maintained by the Royal family. On the way to the temple our car met with an accident; while waiting to turn left another car hit us from the front, did not stop at first but went and stopped further. Being in India and a tourist cab with temple closing time nearing, we lost hope we will have darshan that day. However when the driver called the owner, he told the driver as the car is drivable and we are on this tour to visit temples not to worry about the damage and move on after taking just the mobile number and car registration number. We didn’t think much of it at that time but our driver Prasad couldn’t believe the owner’s decision and said this is the first time he has heard someone being so casual after an accident. Perumal’s grace and all we could do was to thank Him when we went to the temple.
Thanks to the meeting and discussion about Guruvayoor with the group earlier at the temple, we left at 6.30 am sharp and went to Thirumoozhikalam divya desam on the way to Guruvayoor. We reached as the temple opened and the Srivalli was taking place. While waiting at the temple I asked a person whether he knew Tamil to find out the connection between Lakshmana swamy ( Rama, Lakshmana) and the temple. He said he is from Tamilnadu too and lives in Bangalore. He is a senior director in a bank , visiting Cochin to attend a board meeting and visiting this divya desam taking advantage of his visit. He said he doesn’t know the details but went and got a book on divyadesams and even left the copy with us. Nice man!!. More importantly he asked us where we are headed and said we should visit Thiruvanjikalam, Kulasekara alwars birth place giving information about the temple where Sri Velukkudi swamin has established a sannidhi for Kulasekara alwar. He also said Swamin also is maintaining the temple.
Before I cover this temple , a particular feature of malai naatu divya desams is thayar has separate sannidhi only in 1 temple, Thirunavai. In all other temples the thayar will be in the same sannidhi as perumal or at this feet or chest. As we are used to praying to thayar first before approaching perumal we all missed seeing her. We were talking about it only the previous day.
We enquired in couple of places but found the Thiruvanjikalam Kulasekara alwar sannidhi temple easily as it is close to the main road to Guruvayoor. When we entered the temple tears started welling up because in this temple which is Srinivasa temple mahalakshmi had a separate sannidhi who blessed us and then we were also happy that on a Saturday we got Darshan of Venkatesa Perumal himself. The archakar here is appointed by Shri Velukkudi Krishnan swamy and this temple has all the alwars and aacharyas.
When we finished darshan the archakar pointed out to a Krishna temple close by and said Kulasekara alwar sang Mukunda malai for this Krishna only. We felt, as we regularly chant Mukunda malai at home Krishna himself decided to give his darshan to us.
This temple had several steps and for that matter all the Kerala temples have steps sometimes steep and old people will have to be prepared to climb and sometimes may not be able to do it as well.
We left for Guruvayoor and reached around 11 am. Soon after dropping our luggage in the hotel, Gokulam resort, in the west nada, a nice place recommended by another friend from Sydney Mr. Raman. This is at walking distance from the temple west gate. The nadai was closed at the temple and we had to wait for 1.5 hours in a queue till the nadai opened and we got our turn. Though they don’t push as much as in Tirupathi, here also we could get darshan for only couple of minutes. We then bought Milk payasam at the temple and the taste still lingers in our mouths when you think about it. We went back to the hotel after a quick lunch and after resting for couple of hours went back to the temple at 4 pm to join the queue for seniors. Radha’s mother who was old was eligible and as she cannot walk freely Radha could go with her. I took a chance and stood with them hoping Krishna will be kind enough to let me in. He was and we had darshan again 2 times within half a day. So He answered our prayers from the previous day.
On the Tamil new year’s day we left early at 6 am and headed to Thirunavai on the banks of Bharatha Puzha river. You need to head for Pattambi the nearest town and go from there. This fairly well known as across the river from Vishnu temple there are temples for Shiva and Brahma and due to this this is considered similar to Kasi Kshetram. This temple closes at 11 am and will reopen only at 4 or 5 pm. As mentioned earlier this temple has separate sannidhi for Thayar. From here we enquired and reached Thiruvithuvacode. Here there are 4 sannidhis for Vishnu one each by Arjunan, Dharmaputrar, Bhima and then joint by Nakula and Sahadeva. This temple, not being very popular closes at 10.30 am and will reopen only at 4 or 5 pm.
Having visited the temples we planned and some more we felt relieved and decided to return to Cochin. On the way we also visited a falls called Adhrapalli. Being summer we did not feel it was extraordinary but some of our relatives assured it will be spectacular after rainy season.
Our trip wasn’t the most efficient way of doing it as we started at Cochin went south then north via Cochin before arriving back to take a flight from Cochin. The best way would be to arrive Trichur by train and then move south with bases at Trichur, Cochin, Chengannur and Trivandrum and take a train back from Trivandrum. If flying fly to Cochin , go north and work your way down and fly out of Trivandrum. Please keep in mind Cochin airport is some 30 km away from the city and the temples around are north of the city. There are a number of hotels in a place called Attani which is close to the airport and several good places very close to airport itself which may be the most efficient way for travel. There is a tour operator based in Ahobila matam in Selaiyur at Chennai who can organise a trip with a guide coming from Trivandrum.
I am happy to recommend our tour operator with this driver who now knows the places.
His name is Mahilkumar +91 9495557442. The driver Prasad’s phone number is +91 9946232542. Please feel free to mention my name.
Radha & Suresh Vardarajan