Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Tamilnadu Temples Road Trip from Bangalore

This is a travelogue on my recent road trip to Tamilnadu covering 7 cities/towns and more than 15 places in a span of 5 days and 4 nights. In this post, you can expect the tour plan, road map, road conditions, a brief overview of the places, and Do's and Dont's.

Till now, my longest journey in my car was a trip to Madurai and Kodaikanal covering 1047 kms. I wanted to go to the next level. And this is where the idea came up to cover remaining tourist places in Tamilnadu.

This trip is my longest solo drive so far clocking 1564 kms.


Journey Plan:


As shown above, the route is Bengaluru -> Rameswaram -> Srirangam -> Thanjavur -> Kumbakonam -> Chidambaram -> Thirukoilure -> Thiruvannamalai -> Bengaluru

Day 1: Bengaluru to Rameswaram

Previous day, I filled up the petrol and checked all the required car accessories.

On Day 1, we started at 5.40AM. When I was nearing the first toll gate at Attibele, I realized that there is more than expected traffic. Since it was Christmas season, many cars were on the road and I had not expected the traffic in my overall plan. This had an impact on my schedule on the day 1.
Tip: Don't completely depend on Google Maps for the time coverage. If you are going during holiday season, add a minimum of 2 hrs as a buffer.
It was not only at toll gates, there was a huge crowd in A2B restaurant near Krishnagiri. We went ahead to have breakfast somewhere else. After Krishnagiri, we found a hotel, but unfortunately there was a huge crowd here as well. We had no option now but to wait and finish our breakfast. This also resulted in further delay in the overall plan.

We had lunch just before Madurai at New Saravana Bhavan Classic. Now, this is where names mislead. This restaurant name looks so familiar, but this is not "typical" Saravana Bhavan. This is a moderate Veg restaurant and as we were hungry, we decided to have lunch here and proceed.

Till Madurai it was NH7, so I had maintained 100KMPH on an average. To reach Rameshwaram, we have to take diversion just before Madurai and hit on to NH230/49. Note that, this road is 2 way and hence your speed will automatically come down.
NH49

This road will lead to Rameshwaram. Since I had lost time at restaurants and toll gates, it became dark before I reached Ramanathapuram. After sun set, the driving condition became more difficult due to the high beam of the incoming vehicles. And my speed slowed down further. Of course, the driving became more hectic and sometimes irritating. It was 8.50PM when we entered Rameshwaram island.

Pamban Bridge:

Rameshwaram is an island and one has to drive past Pamban bridge to reach the island.

Driving on the Pamban bridge with a majestic view of Bay of Bengal was an experience in itself!
Pamban Bridge

When we reached the bridge, we stopped for a view. Luckily, a train from Rameswaram was crossing the sea on the adjacent railway bridge and we had a wonderful experience of viewing this amidst a strong breeze and a roaring sea beneath the bridge. All the strain of driving since morning faded away after spending 10mins on the bridge. It was worth taking the effort! After reaching the hotel, we called it a day. This was my longest drive so far in a single stretch!

Day 1 Summary:
RouteBengaluru - Krishnagiri - Salem - Madurai - Ramanathapuram - Rameswaram
Road ConditionNH7 - Excellent
NH49 - Good
Distance Covered616 KM
Time Taken15hrs including breaks for Breakfast, Lunch, Snacks, and Petrol


Day 2: Rameshwaram sight-seeing and Srirangam

We went to Rameshwaram temple around 6.30AM. We took a special darshan and our overall darshan took 1 hour.

Rameshwaram is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas in India.
The temple area is big and there was a considerable crowd in the morning especially the Ayyappa Swamy and Shri Sakthi crowd. Mobile phones are not allowed inside. You need to keep it in a locker (not exactly a locker) in a nearby store. Car parking facility is very limited near the temple. It is better to keep your vehicle in the hotel and take an auto to go to the temple. 

After visiting the temple, we visited Ram Theerta, Lakshman Theerta, and Sita Theerta. Basically, these are ponds supposedly created for Ram, Lakshman, and Sita to ward off their sins after returning from Lanka. Sita pond is poorly maintained and one cannot go near the water.
Ram Theerta

We also visited a floating stone place where they have a few stones which were supposedly used by vanaras to construct a bridge to Lanka. These stones are kept in a small water container to demonstrate it's floating properties. We hired an auto to take us to all these places. Finally, we went to beach (near temple) to spend some time.



After a breakfast in a nearby restaurant, we left Rameshwaram around 11AM for our next destination - Srirangam. To reach Srirangam, you have to drive till Ramanathapuram and then take NH210. NH210 is a 2 way road which pass through many villages and towns. Road is not very good, had bad patches in between.
NH210

In some places, the road was not even, so one has to drive carefully especially if it is hatchback or sedan.

Srirangam

It was around 5PM when we reached Srirangam. Srirangam is an island formed by river Cauvery. For Vaishnavaites, it is one of the holy places. Srirangam is also called as anthya ranga - meaning the last Ranga. The first aadhi ranga is in SriRangapattina, Madhya ranga is in Shivanasamudra (both in Karnataka). All these three places are islands formed by Cauvery.
One of the gopurams in Srirangam

There was a big queue of the vehicles up to the parking space. Yes, there was a huge crowd in Srirangam as well. After parking the car in a designated parking lot, we took an auto to reach  Shri Ranganatha temple entrance. When we entered the temple premises, we were shocked to see the crowd. "Huge" word might not be correct! All the special darshan counters were closed and they had made it a single queue. If we had decided to stand in the queue, it would have taken not less than 3hrs! With a heavy heart, we decided to skip this place. As per plan we had also included Jambukeshwarar temple. Anticipating the similar crowd in that temple as well, we canceled Srirangam and headed towards our next destination - Thanjavur.

Once you are out of Srirangam island, you have to take NH67 to go towards Thanjavur. NH67 is a 6 way and the road condition is excellent. It took 1:30 hrs to reach hotel.

Day 2 Summary:

RouteRameswaram - Ramanathapuram - Karaikudi - Pudukkottai - Tiruchirappalli - Srirangam - Thanjavur
Road ConditionNH49 - Good
NH210 - Good
NH67 - Excellent
Distance Covered300 KM

Day 3: Thanjavur Big Temple and Kumbakonam

We left hotel early in the morning and reached Big Temple a.k.a Brihadeshwara temple. The crowd was less and we had a divine darshan of Lord Shiva.
Big Temple


Big temple, as the name implies, is truly very big! It is very difficult to describe the temple in a blog post, as one has to see to experience. The architecture is marvelous, and a huge stone is kept on top of the gopuram. This itself is a wonder considering the plan and it's execution to lift such a big stone all the way to the top of the gopuram! The Shiva linga is huge! One will get a divine experience by looking at such a big linga. There is a temple for Parvathi and there is a big bull just opposite to the temple main entrance.
Bull

After having a peaceful darshan, we had a breakfast at a nearby A2B and then started our journey to the next destination - Kumbakonam.

We took NH45C, which is basically a 2 way road. The drive from Thanjavur to Kumbakonam is a country side drive passing through many villages. Almost entire stretch is full of greenery. Most of the stretch is a narrow road, so one has to drive carefully.
NH45C
Adi Kumbeshwarar Temple


Adi Kumbeshwarar temple entrance

Our first stop at Kumbakonam was Adi Kumbeshwarar temple. It is one of the oldest temples in Kumbakonam. It is believed that the name of the town Kumbakonam is derived from the legend associated with this temple. Lord Shiva is the main deity here. The temple architecture is pretty good. There was no much crowd, so we had a quick darshan of the God. 

Nageswaran Temple

Our next stop was Nageswaran temple. This temple is also dedicated to Lord Shiva. However, this is one of the Navagraha temples around Kumbakonam and this temple is dedicated to Rahu. This is also an old temple and there is an ample parking space near the temple premises.

After visiting these two temples, we checked-in to the hotel and took rest for a couple of hours. Though it was December, the weather was pretty hot. We had plans to visit a couple of more temples and so we started from the hotel around 4PM.

Sarangapani Temple

Our next temple was Sarangapani. This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The gopuram of this temple is very beautiful and colorful. This is also an old temple and the moorthi is very divine and beautiful. If you are in Kumbakonam, do not miss this temple.
Sarangapani temple entrance gopuram

Colorful paintings of gopuram

Shri Vijayeendraru Brindavana

Our next visit was to the Sri Raghavendra Swamy mutt, which is also known by Shri Vijayeendraru Brindavana. This is the place where Madhwa saint Shri Vijayeendraru taught another Madhwa saint Shri Raghavendra Theertaru. Also, this is the place where the brindavana of Shri Vijayeendraru exist. This is a holy place for Vaishnavas (Madhwas).

For all the places right from Bengaluru, we were using Google Maps for the direction. However, for this mutt Google Map couldn't find the place and we were stranded in a narrow road of Kumbakonam. Though we enquired a few people about the mutt, but no one seems to have any clue about this place. As a last option, I called my friend and ex-colleague Ram. I remember he had visited this mutt several times. When I called him, surprisingly he was also in Kumbakonam at that time! He came with us and guided to this mutt and Mahamaham tank! A big thanks to Ram for his timely help!

Mahamaham Tank

This is a huge temple tank in the middle of Kumbakonam town. It is believed that on a specific day all the rivers in India meet at this tank, and millions of people come to this place to take a dip. When we visited this tank, some repair and cleaning work was going on and hence we couldn't get down to the water.

It was a satisfactory day having covered all the places as planned. After bidding bye to Ram, we headed towards the hotel for dinner and to call-off the day.

Day 3 Summary:

RouteThanjavur - Kumbakonam
Road ConditionNH45C - Good
Kumbakonam City - Average
Distance Covered62 KM

Day 4: Vaitheeswarankovil and Chidambaram

Left Kumbakonam at 7.30AM. We headed towards Chidambaram. On the way, we had planned to visit another temple Vaitheeswarankovil. We took NH45C and after a place called Thiruvoippadi, we have to take right to get into SH150. There is a big sign board at this junction, so one cannot miss it. After 1 hour 30 mins drive, we reached the temple.
SH150

Vaitheeswarankovil


Vaitheeswarankovil Entrance
This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is also one of the navagraha temples associated with planet angaraka (Mars). Vaitheeswaran is also called as "God of healing". It is believed that prayers to this God can heal diseases. It is also an old temple and there was a considerable crowd inside the temple. After having darshan, we had breakfast at nearby Vegetarian restaurant. Though food was not that good, but decent enough to have in this place.

After breakfast, we continued our journey towards Chidambaram. We took NH45A and the road was pretty good. It took 50mins to reach Chidambaram.

Chidambaram Nataraja Temple


One of the gopurams at Nataraja temple
As the noon was approaching, we decided to have darshan of Lord Nataraja. This temple is very big and beautiful. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and he is in the form of Cosmic dancer.
Chidambaram is also one of the five pancha bootha stalam. Chidambaram represents aakasha (sky).
There was a considerable crowd inside the temple but we had good darshan of the deity. One notable thing in the temple was some people (may be belonging to the temple) were selling fried items and sweets.

Unfortunately, some people were defecating in the premises of the temple. Temple authorities should make some arrangements for toilets and ensure that the temple premises is clean.

After the temple visit, we went to hotel for the rest. Evening, we had planned to visit Pichavaram Mangrove forest.

Pichavaram Mangrove Forest

From Chidambaram city, one has to take NH45A. Watch out for sign board, you have to take right to get into Pichavaram road. This road leads to Mangrove forest.
Pichavaram is one of the largest Mangrove forests in the world.
This place offers boat cruise on the backwaters and also a beautiful view of mangrove trees which are rooted in 2-3 feet of water. There are multiple boating options. We took 2hrs rowing boating and the boatman took us inside forest area which was one of the unique experiences.
Do visit this place when you are in Chidambaram. This will surely give you an unforgettable experience.
Limited food is available in this place, so if you are very specific about the food, you need to pack. You can spend at least 3-4 hrs in this place.

We came back to the hotel by 7PM and it was another satisfying day. Here are some snaps of Pichavaram.








Day 4 Summary:


RouteKumbakonam - Vaitheeswaram Kovil - Chidambaram
Road ConditionNH45C - Good
NH45A - Very Good
Distance Covered125 KM

Day 5: Bhuvanagiri, Thirukoilure, Thiruvannamalai, Bangalore

Bhuvanagiri

We left Chidambaram at 8.25AM after having breakfast at a nearby restaurant. Our next destination was Bhuvanagiri, a birth place of Madhwa saint Shri Raghavendra Swamy. I have a separate blog post about this place, so I'll skip the information here.

After spending 30mins at Bhuvanagiri, we left the place at 9.20AM towards Thirukoilure. We took Kurinjipadi - Chatiram - NH45C - Panruti - SH9 route to reach Thirukoilure. There were lots of bad patches in this stretch. It was not a very pleasant drive in this route.

Thirukoilure / Manampoondi


Shri Raghottama Theerthara brindavana
Manampoondi is a village near Thirukoilure. This place is a holy place for Madhwas as we can find the moola brindavana of Madhwa saints Shri Raghottama Theertharu and Shri Satyapramoda Theertharu. Though it was noon when we reached this place, we had a good darshan of brindavana.

We couldn't go to other temples in Thirukoilure as all were closed. We continued our journey towards Tiruvannamalai via SH9. This route was very scenic and beautiful. Road was pretty good and it took 1hr to reach Tiruvannamalai.

Tiruvannamalai

First we went to veg restaurant to finish lunch. After lunch, we went to the main temple - Annamalaiyar. This temple is situated at the foothills of Annamalai hills and it is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is another pancha bootha stalas, and it is in the form of fire. Temple is very big and there was a huge crowd inside the temple. We took a special darshan tickets and had a divine darshan of the God. This was the last place in our journey, so we had a very satisfying tour so far. Now, mind had already signalling to go back to namma Bengaluru!

We left Tiruvannamalai at 5PM towards Bengaluru. There were multiple route options to Bengaluru. Usual route was via NH66. Many people in the public forums had expressed the horrible state of this road. Considering it was going to be a night drive, this route was ruled out. We took Polur - Vellore route and I thought I made a right decision. Though it was 100kms extra, the road condition was excellent. Till Vellore it was NH234 and the road was very good. From Vellore to Bengaluru, it is NH4 which is an excellent 6-way road.

We stopped at Vellore and Krishnagiri A2B for snacks and dinner. We reached Bengaluru at 11.50PM.

Day 5 Summary:


RouteChidambaram - Bhuvanagiri - Thirukoilure - Tiruvannamalai - Vellore - Bengaluru
Road ConditionChidambaram to Bhuvanagiri - Average
Bhuvanagiri to Thirukoilure - Average
SH9 - Very Good
NH234 - Very Good
NH4 - Excellent
Distance Covered461 KM

Tour Summary:

Overall it was another successful yet satisfying drive covering major parts of the Tamilnadu. Barring Srirangam, we had wonderful darshan at every place and also experienced unique boating at Mangrove forest. Personally, I visited one of the 12 jyotirlingas for the first time. And yes, I drove on the Pamban bridge, which is one of the must-do drives in India.


RouteBengaluru - Rameswaram - Srirangam - Thanjavur - Kumbakonam - Chidambaram - Bhuvanagiri - Thirukoilure - Tiruvannamalai - Bengaluru
Road ConditionAverage to Excellent (Check each day's summary)
Distance Covered1564 KM

In the entire tour, we had put on the AC. I got on an average 16 KMPL fuel efficiency. This is with 3 adults, 1 child and the boot full of luggage. Thanks for reading a long post, hope it will be useful if you are also planning for these places.

8 comments:

Balakrishnan S said...

Suresh , Well articulated.

Regards,
Balakrishnan

Balakrishnan S said...

Suresh, Being in tamilnadu i came to know some place names from your post :-)

Balakrishnan S said...

Suresh,Being in Tamilnadu i am hearing few places for the first time

Suresh said...

Thanks Balakrishnan for your comments. Glad to know that you found it useful!

Deepa Srinivasan said...

Suresh,
I came across your blog while searching for suggestions as I am planning for a similar road trip.
We are 2 adults wth 2 small kids.
Planning to stay in Pondicherry and thinking of visiting the above mentioned temples and brindavanas of holy saints spanning 4 days.
Pondicherry stay because the place has good stays in terms of food and hygiene.
Your suggestions?

Suresh said...

Deepa,

Since the places are spread across multiple towns, you need to stay in different places. Or are you planning to visit only specific places from Pondicherry?

There are quite a good hotels in places like Chidambaram, Kumbakonam, Trichy, and Rameswaram. From where you would be starting your journey? Which places you are planning to cover in 4 days?

Deepa Srinivasan said...

Suresh,
My places of interest are tiruvanamalai, tirkoilur, chidambaram, kumbakonam, Tanjore, srirangam , trichy and if possible would also like to visit mannargudi Krishna temple.
I am able to find a good hotel in Tanjore.
However, my return journey the second leg of my journey (first leg, thinking of covering tiruvanamalai, tirkoilur n chidambaram from Pondicherry base) from tanjore-Trichy-Srirangam-bangalore looks too distant to travel by car . Any suggestions?

Suresh said...

Deepa, got your point. Covering Chidambaram, Thiruvannamalai and Thirukoilur from Pondy will be a round about drive. I had seen a few very good hotels in Thiruvannamalai. Probably you can stay there so that you dont have to go to Pondy only for the stay. You might have to stay at Chidambaram as well.

In the entire leg, the roads are good so drive should not be a problem. Srirangam to Bangalore drive should be a stress free drive as once you hit national highway, its a breeze.

My suggestion is: plan an itinerary in excel based on the time it shows in Google Map between two places. Do take into account the stops you make for breaks and food. Do keep 1-2 hours buffer. Based on your itinerary, you can plan your stay in the respective places.

Hope it helps.