Apparently, and unsurprisingly, everyone calls Tiruchchirappalli Trichy. It’s just under an hour by express train (30 rps) from Thanjuvar and we arrived at Trichy Junction at 10 in the morning and took the tuk tuk straight to the hotel. After our experience in Puducherry we are much better at negotiating a good rate with the driver although we suspect that a local would laugh at what we settle on.
In Trichy, however, we did most of our travelling around the city’s far flung sites by public bus, beginning with a 7 rupee trip on the No 1 bus 6 Kms north through the city to Srirangam. After our encounter with the motor bike horns on the streets of Pudicherry’s French quarter, this was revenge time. The bus’s horn sent out a deep deafening boom more suited to a fog warning for North Atlantic shipping than a city bus and we thundered through the streets scattering pedestrians, cyclist and rickshaws as we went, past the preserved steam locomotive outside the station, through the traffic fumes and under the sign which optimistically read ‘Green Trichy Clean Trichy’ and into the Bazaar District. We squeezed through streets lined with wholesale onion sellers, onions and shallots in vast quantities, white, pink-skinned and red in mounds on the street or piled in hessian sacks; there was what must have been a lorry load of dried red chillies heaped on a street corner; open fronted shops displayed coils of jute and shiny metal boxes; there were timber sellers and carpenters turning out simple tables and stools. We passed the cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes and the Rock Fort Temple and then took the bridge over the almost dry bed of the Kaveri River to the island of Srirangam and the Sri Ranganasathwamy Temple.
Sri Ranganasathwamy has the reputation as the largest temple in India and is almost a city in itself with 49 separate shrines and seven gopuram or temple gate towers leading to the inner sanctum, forbidden to non Hindus. We entered through the first, a gigantic 71 metre gopuram, ranked as Asia’s tallest temple tower and passed through lanes lined with shops, flower and religious trinket sellers and restaurants until we reached the temple proper at the fourth gopuram where we left our shoes.
The temple is dedicated to Vishnu and large Vishnu symbols are painted on the high walls. Perhaps we are being unfair, perhaps it was the heat, or perhaps we were just templed out, but we were a little underwhelmed and didn’t give the place the attention it almost certainly deserves.
That couldn’t be said of our impression the Jambukeswarar Temple or Tiruvanacoil which we visited the following day after our climb up the 400 plus steps of the Rock Temple, a Puja blessing en route, and its view over hazy Trichy.
Sri Jambukeswarar was without doubt the best we had visited in Tamil Nadu. Partly it was the approach through the two gopuram and the quiet green courtyards that separated them, partly it was the attractive play of light and shade in the colonnaded temple itself, but principally it was the sense of the temple going about its own day to day life in a way that is often missing from some of the temples that attract many tourists.
Men and women sat making flower garlands; others sat and chatted on the distinctive red and white striped steps; devotees bought the little offering candles and set them glowing in steel trays; men and women stood in groups of two or three before the shrines waiting for the priest’s blessing; a mound of hay was piled against the temple wall and, in a room off the temple itself, we could see the cows in their stalls being milked. A man with a microphone made an announcement and two others unrolled and held up to view a six yard length of saree cloth, wrapped it and repeated the process with other lengths of cloth. It may well have been part of the pre-nuptial ceremony that was taking place in the temple.
A group of families and friends was gathered around and taking photos of a young man in white and a bashful young woman in a stunning blue and gold saree who were seated on a mat waiting to receive the priest’s blessing. Seeing our interest, the friends invited us over, made way for us to take photos and told us that the couple were due to marry on the following day and that this was part of the extensive ritual. There was nothing solemn about it. There was a lot of laughing and joking from the young men and smiling from the young husband to be but, to be truthful, the young bride seemed a little overwhelmed by it all, understandably so perhaps.
We spent the best part of two hours wandering around Sri Jambukeswarar and took away some of our best memories of Tamil Nadu. Tomorrow, back to Kerala.
The photos on the blog were taken with a mobile phone. Check out Rob’s travel and landscape photography website for images taken with a camera of travels in India and beyond at