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Embedded Photos: 1.Smiling Children, Srirangam Temple, Trichy, Tamil Nadu 2.Mural, Srirangam Temple, Trichy, Tamil Nadu 3.Shopping Kiosks, Srirangam Temple, Trichy, Tamil Nadu 4.Floor Marking, Srirangam Temple, Trichy, Tamil Nadu 5.Our Hotel Room Door, Trichy, Tamil Nadu
Two Years & Twice Around the World...  

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November 22. TRICHY "The Giant Mandala of Srirangam" In the morning we were both pretty tired in morning, especially me.  We were in a 24-hour hotel so technically we had until almost midnight before we had to check out.  I crashed a while longer while Rob went out to look for an alternate place to stay.  By daylight our hotel didn't look much better.  The guidebook described a leafy garden area but vegetation just meant bug haven in a humid climate.  Rob returned with a much better option in a hotel across from the central bus station, Hotel Mega (pronounced Meega).  We repacked our stuff and hauled ourselves over to the Hotel Meega.  Our room was up a few floors and, it just so happened, the elevator was out of service.  It had workSrirangam Temple, Trichy, Tamil Nadu, Indiaed when Rob was there only minutes before but when we had our bags it decided to go on the fritz.  We trudged up three flights of stairs and were directed to a corner room at the back. The door was marked with three white lines and red dot in the middle, which seemed like a good omen. Inside it was quiet, clean, had satellite TV, a decent ceiling fan and, the big bonus, air conditioning!  

We grabbed some coffee and breakfast at a stark but efficient restaurant just down from the hotel.  It was popular with the locals and people were busily scooping up their hearty meals off of fresh banana leaves with their left hands.  We weren't quite ready for such a big meal so I just had some coffee while Rob ordered some cereal.  It was a vegetarian restaurant so they didn't have eggs.  The coffee came in a small glass sitting in a larger dish that had the milk in it.  We picked up the duo and stared at it quizzically, wondering what was the proper way to combine the two.  I awkwardly started to pour the milk into the coffee and waiter came over to assist.  He swiftly poured the coffee into the milk, which was the larger container so that made sense.  Then pouring from some distance to create some froth he poured the mixture back into the cup.  It didn't all quite fit.  He then returned the cups to the table.  It was the traditional way of drinking coffee in South India but we had spent too many days at Coffee Beanz in Ernakulum being served western-style coffee drinks. This was much more fun and tasted great.

Srirangam Temple, Trichy, Tamil Nadu, IndiaAfter breakfast we returned to the room and relaxed for a bit longer, enjoying the quiet cool of our new room.  It was Rob's turn to catch up on some sleep before we undertook sightseeing in Trichy.  By the time we emerged again we needed some lunch.  Rob's veggie breakfast hadn't really cut it and I'd just had coffee.  Instead of venturing into another vegetarian place we decided the restaurant at the biggest hotel around would be safe.  The Hotel Sangam was across the middle of town and didn't get overwhelming reviews as a hotel but we also didn't find any digs at the restaurant.  It would certainly serve something with meat and would be easy.  It looked like a manageable walk from our hotel but turned out to be farther than our map showed.  We took a small road that went down alongside the bus station and then it just seemed to keep going, getting more rural looking in the process.  We eventually emerged out on a busier road and asked directions to the hotel, which wasn't far.  For its "four-star" status the Hotel Sangam wouldn't turn any heads.  It was a bland white building that had four or five stories.  We entered through the lobby and made strait for the restaurant, roomy carpeted place with neatly set tables and table clothes.  Naturally this is where the tour groups stayed and we saw a couple come and go.  I ordered the thali lunch while Rob got a western meat dish of some sort.  It was all just what we had expected and we were both happy with our meals.  

The day was starting to get away from us but after our late lunch we were sufficiently energized and ready to sightsee.  We negotiated a tuk-tuk outside the hotel and rode out to visit Trichy's main attraction, the Srirangam Temple or in its entirety the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, a sixty hectare mandala-shaped temple complex that stood about 6km Srirangam Temple, Trichy, Tamil Nadu, India outside of town.  It felt farther than 6km because of the sprawl of Trichy.  The landscape was mostly flat with patches of green but we could see the Rock Fort protruding into the horizon.  It was a 83m high rock fortress that reminded me of Sri Lanka's Sirigriya.  There were several temples up the mountain but none were open to the public.  We decided to leave it for another day, if we got it at all. Also across the horizon we began to see the gopuras of the Srirangam temple rising above the foliage.  The temple sat on a flat island in the river that represented Vishnu sitting on a coiled snake that protected him from the ocean of chaos.  Srirangam was one of the larges temples in south India dedicated to Vishnu.  Together with Shiva and Brahma, Vishnu is part of the Trimurti (triad) of Hinduism.  His most well known avatar (incarnation) is Krishna, the mischievous seducer of milkmaids. It must have taken us a good half hour to reach the outer wall on the south side where we were greeted by a 73m high gopura that was just finished in 1987!  The temple complex dated back to the 10th century but had been largely restored after a sacking by Muslims in the 14th century.  

As we arrived at the south gate we could feel the sky getting darker.  We didn't really have that much daylight left to see the temple so we acquiesced to our driver's offer to take us into the core of the great mandala, for an additional fee of course.  He turned left and drove along the outermost wall, turning at the corner to head along the west face of the complex.  There were a total of seven concentric rectangular courtyards that made up the mandala, a diagram of the spiritual universe for Hindus and Buddhists.  The three outer courtyards were dedicated to the temple community in the form of housing for the priests, musicians, etc. so our driver shuttled us all of the way into the outer wall of the fourth courtyard, again to the southern entrance.  There we took off our shoes and left them in the tuk-tuk so we could enter the courtyards that were dedicated for worship.  

As it got darker the temple brightened with little lights.  There were very few people visiting the temple at night, which made for a very relaxed atmosphere, so different from Sri Meenakshi in Madurai.  From the south gate a pathway of shops stretched towards the outer courtyards.  Inside the fourth courtyard the stalls continued but only until the third wall, leaving much of the temple Srirangam Temple, Trichy, Tamil Nadu, India center to a more peaceful setting.  The temple shared some features with Sri Meenakshi, including the shopping arcade and a "thousand-pillared" hall.  We were prohibited from entering the last two courtyards but were still allowed ample space to wander within the fourth courtyard.  There were many smaller shrines embedded in the walls and some larger shrines that stood alone around the back of the complex as well a large tank that was gated off.  We just strolled leisurely around and complex, peeking in where it was okay.  According to the guidebook the touts could be annoying at Srirangam but at night there was nobody to bother us.  We were greeted with smiles by some of the pilgrims, many who were families with children.  At the very back of the complex we ran into a group of children that were running around.  They encouraged us to take their picture, posing with big smiles.  They didn't want anything but to be in the photo so I showed the them the results on my little screen.  They gave me chuckles and the parents and grandparents gave smiling nods.  

The moon was bright overhead, glowing through a thin layer of clouds. I tried to capture that calming atmosphere with my camera but it was impossible.  Outside one of the larger shrines was a flower seller with his rainbow of buds spread out on a cloth.  We continued around the complex, keeping the central shrine to our right.  There were more small shrines tucked away, some that we could enter as non-Hindus but the activity slowly dwindled away.  There were 21 gopuras throughout the complex, getting smaller in size towards the middle of the complex.  To the east we noticed a bright white gopura reaching into the black sky.  It was on what looked like the fifth courtyard walls and the area between looked like it was under construction.  We stepped closer to take a look and interrupted a man peeing behind a door in the darkness. That is two for two out of our temples visits in Tamil Nadu but we didn't catch the first guy in the act.  

Trichy, Tamil Nadu, IndiaAs we rounded the front of the courtyard again we passed a window where food was being given out to needy people.  There people could donate to support the temple's food program.  We wound up back in the "shopping arcade" and I added another souvenir to my collection, a roller shaped tin like the ones I'd bought in Madurai.  This one was a metal tube perforated on the outside with a plastic handle attached.  Rice flour was put inside and then the roller created a trail of images across the ground.  We found our driver waiting for us patiently, with our shoes, and hopped back in the tuk-tuk.  He whirled us out the same way we had come in but the complex was more calm and quiet than ever. I had the sense that we were passing through some deserted part of town as we went through those outer three walls.  

By the time we got back to town we were hungry again and ended up back at the Hotel Sangram.  Twice in one day was quite a splurge but we couldn't manage doing anything different that night. 


SRI LANKA Colombo Oct 25 Oct 26 Oct 27-29 Nuwara Eliya Oct 30 Oct 31 Kandy Nov 1-5 (1) Nov 1-5 (II) Polonnaruwa Nov 6 Sigiriya & Dambulla Nov 7 Colombo Nov 8

INDIA Ft.Cochin Nov 9-15 (I) Nov 9-15 (II) Nov 16 Nov 17-18 Madurai Nov 19 Nov 20 Tiruchirapalli Nov 21 Nov 22 Nov 23 Chennai Nov 24 Nov 25-26 Nov 27-28 Ft.Cochin Nov 29 Lakshadweep Nov 30-Dec 4 (I) Nov 30-Dec 4 (II) Trans-India Train Dec 5-7 (I) Dec 5-7 (II) Siliguri Dec 8 Darjeeling Dec 9 Dec 10-13 Dec 14 Sikkim Dec 15 Dec 16-20 Dec 21-23 Dec 24 Dec 25 Darjeeling Dec 26 Dec 27-Jan 2 Siliguri Jan 3 Jaigon (Bhutan) Jan 4 Kolkata Jan 5-6

THAILAND Bangkok Jan 6-13 (I) Jan 6-13 (II) Jan 6-13 (III)