While making the directory of temples in and around Tirunelveli, I could sense the beauty of the place and temples in the backdrop of Western ghats and the Tamirabarani river. Since then I was longing to visit the place and we (I, my wife and my uncle) set out on a 4 days visit to Tirunelveli from Aug 31st to Sep 3rd. Initially I booked for 3 days but later on seeing the volume of the temples, I extended it to 4 days. I booked the ticket to Valliyur, the next stop after Tirunelveli since my original plan was to stay at Valliyur and cover Valliyur, Thirukkurungudi, Kalakkad and Nanguneri. Then just on the last day, I decided to get down at Tirunelveli itself and book a cab for the entire 4 days which turned out to be better. I booked the most popular cab people in Tirunelveli – Standard Cabs (google search on Standard cabs Tirunelveli will fetch the details).
Note: This is a travelogue of the trip covering around 45 temples in 4 days. Considering the length of the trip, I give below only a gist of the travel information and not repeating the temple legends, the temple timings, the archagar phone nos and other details on the religious aspect in this since they are already documented in detail along with in the “Directory of Tirunelveli temples 1 and 2“.
We arrived at Tirunelveli junction by around 5 AM and the cab driver was waiting at the station. After a nice coffee at the exit of the junction, the driver took us to the Standard cabs office. We were offered a room to take bath and get ready which we did in an hour and set out for the day’s journey by around 6:30 AM on the Kanyakumari highway to Nanguneri / Valliyur.
First we had the Vinayagar worship at a beautiful highway road side temple of Navagraha, Navasakthi Vinayagar. The driver was in the age of late 20s and after knowing that our trip was planned only for temples for 4 full days, he got excited and showed us many temples in the trip which even I was not aware of. In all the temples he was sprinting even before us for the dharshan! On the way to Nanguneri, first he took us to a Shiva temple at Ponnakkudi, around 2 kms diversion from the highway, which is an “Agni” sthalam for Lord Shiva. This ancient temple is undergoing renovation and was yet to be opened at that time. So we could see only the exterior. I understand that there are 5 temples of Lord Shiva around Tirunelveli which represent the pancha boothas of nature. There is Then Kalahasthi temple for “Vayu” (Air) at KariSoozhntha mangalam near Pathamadi but I don’t know the other three temples (the readers who know them may please comment).
Then we reached Nanguneri Divya desam by around 8:15 AM.
The speciality of the temple being the Perumal is taking oil abhisheham everyday with Gingili oil and Sandalwood oil which is being collected in an open well.
The oil has medicinal properties and supposed to cure many incurable diseases. In spite of the well being open to rain and sun, the oil is clean, sweet smelling and sweet tasting. The driver indicated a person carrying the abhishega water in a pot as the retired judge of the Supreme court or High court settled there doing the Swamy kainkaryams. Otherwise, there were many no of bhattars posted for temple service but sadly majority of them were found very insincere. We watched the oil abhishegam for Perumal and other deities which were done sadly without any devotion and care. No electricity, no generator, no sufficient light from the oil lamps to have a good glimpse of the deities but plenty of bhattars on duty roaming around!
Then we set out for Valliyur Murugan temple and reached there by around 9:15 AM. It’s a cave temple at the base of a tiny hill with two beautiful temple tanks in front and a neatly laid girivala path around the hill.
The Saravanapoikai tank was created when Murugan struck His spear to the ground as requested by His consort. It is a big and beautiful one with clear water where many local people and devotees take bath.
There is one more temple tank very next to the Saravana Poihai and just in front of the temple entrance, equally beautiful and well maintained, was found to be in use by the villagers for a wash after toilet very openly without any shame. Can you imagine this is that temple tank I am talking about?
When you visit, plan a bath in the Saravana Poigai (careful, not the other one) and do a Girivala round around the beautiful hill. The entire surrounding is fantastic and will be enjoyed by the nature lovers. The sanctum is carved out in a rock and the temple as such is not so big.
We had a wonderful dharshan of beautiful Murugan with consorts.
Our next stop was another Divya desam at Thirukkurungudi, the native town of TVS people. We reached there by around 10:45 AM. It’s a vast temple, being very beautifully maintained by TVS group. The location of the temple with clean streets all around is just beautiful.
We could see lots of people sweeping and cleaning the temple. I could imagine how massive a task it is to maintain such a vast temple and TVS has to be complemented from the bottom of the heart for it. When will a time come when HR&CE does the same to the other temples? The temple is popular for many wonderfully carved out sculptures in many mandapams.
There was rain and we understood that it was the first time raining there for that season! A dumb bhattar guided us to the madappalli and arranged for a Prasad of curd rice with Karuveppilai podi in good amount that was very delicious. It became our breakfast as well.
This Divya desam is a group of 5 temples one of which, the Malaimel Nambi temple, is on a hill in the midst of a forest which can be reached only by jeeps waiting outside the main temple.
The jeep charges Rs 800 for the whole trip and it was a 45 minutes back-breaking journey through a road-less not-so-dense forest terrain.
Private vehicles can go upto the Forest checkpoint shown below. Jeeps are waiting here also. We have seen many people walking also which could be a very nice experience and more comfortable than jeep as well! Walking may take about 45 minutes.
The hill temple is in a beautiful natural forest environment and the small Nambiyar water stream with a crystal clear water adds beauty to the location.
I took bath in the ice cold water and the refreshing feeling of it just could not be described in words. I would like to visit this place many more times, for sure. Very sincere bhattars were doing the poojas there and the Perumal is beautiful standing alone. Lots of monkeys were playing and fighting around with the people.
Before going to the Malaimel Nambi temple, first I wanted to visit the other 3 temples at the base but my cab driver, the jeep driver and the flower vendor lady all insisted in chorus that I first complete the dharshan of Malaimel Nambi and so I yielded to them. But it was a grave mistake at the end since by the time we returned back at around 1:30 PM, all the bhattars were taking an afternoon nap and we were asked to wait for an hour or so. So we left without visiting the other sub-temples there.
When TVS has done so much to the village and the temple, it is surprising that they had not built a single good toilet! There is no hotel at Thirukkurungudi and so we had to postpone our lunch.
Note: Later after visiting the temple, I got the information that a couple are doing a yeomen service to the devotees with home stay and home food. Any no of people up to 40 can be accommodated with home food and they are doing this at a reasonable cost as a kaingaryam.
Shri D Ramanujam, No. 31, Sannathi Street, Thirukurungudi 627115
Phone: 04635-265692 / Mobile: 93605-48252
We reached Kalakkad and took lunch at Ganesh Bhavan. It’s a typical small town hotel but the lunch was wonderful and we complemented the owner also. Then we went to the huge Shiva temple at Kalakkad. The Rajagopuram with numerous stucco sculptures and paintings in the interior of the Rajagopuram is the speciality of this temple.
Since it was a New moon day, there was an Annadhanam on that day and so the main shrines of Shiva and Ambal were closed but temple interior was open. We could have dharshans of all the deities excepting main Lord and Goddess. This temple also has numerous beautiful sculptures. We were alone going around the temple and saw a single old man sweeping the temple sincerely at that time all alone. Later I learnt that he is doing this on his own without any single paise remuneration from anybody and without any expectation for the past so many years! Quite heartening to realise that still there are some people like this left in this world.
We then proceeded to Mela Karuvelankulam Sri Soundara Pandeeswarar temple. It is one of the Pancha Natarajar temples including Chidambaram whose Nataraja idols are sculpted by the same sculptor. It was around 4 PM and we were told that the temple will open only by 5:30 PM. Here also, we were shown the interior of the temple by a nearby caretaker but the main shrines could not be seen since the keys were with the main Gurukkal only.
Our next stop was Cheranmadevi Nava Kailasam. We reached by around 4:45 PM but the temple was yet to be opened and another family was waiting for the archagar. When I called up the archagar, he said very casually he will come only by 5:30. We refreshed ourselves in the nearby Tamirabarani river and waited for the archagar.
Only later I realised that an ASI maintained Bhakthavatchala Perumal temple is nearby and we could have visited that during the wait time. Anyway, after the arrival of Gurukkal, we had a nice dharshan of the deities.
Note: In the Navagraha temples of Kumbakonam region, the respective Navagrahas themselves are worshipped whereas in Tirunelveli Nava Thirupathis and Nava Kailasams, the bosses of the Navagrahas – Lord Shiva and Vishnu – are present as Navagrahas and so considered superior in many ways.
We then reached Bhaskar Lodge at Kallidaikurichi where we had booked a room.
Actually Hotel Gowri Shankar at Amba Samudhram is a better option since they have a wonderful Veg restaurant attached but it was full for the weekend even 2 weeks before.
We had no regret over Bhaskar Lodge either. Since we had the car, every time we went to Ambasamudhram Gowri Shankar (2 kms from there) for our food. Gowri Shankar has less no of rooms than Bhaskar Lodge and so the former is booked faster and difficult to get.
Continued in part 2…