Trichy and Srirangam…


His business is still on, and still at the same spot

I reached Trichy city after the eventful trip in the dinky buses. There was a time I used to call this city my home – when I was this little schoolboy bemused with his first pimple on the cheek, clad in maroon uniform shorts and driving a Streetcat cycle. This was also the city that saw me grow from being the little schoolboy into an interesting adolescent, my first big crush, and then a mature graduate ready to move out of the small city into the big bad world outside. 

Eight years after I left the city, I went there for a friend’s marriage. It was a surprise how little the city has changed. Whilst I find Bangalore a different city with every passing year, years have not had any impact on Trichy. The Central Bus Stand has hardly an unknown spot, the bunch of hotels around the bus stand still stand the same, the roadside shops, flower dwellers still seem seated where I remembered them, the one-way roads continued to be so. And it looked like the signboard of the school I studied, had not been repainted ever since.

We refreshed quickly on our rooms and set out to the Srirangam temple. Unbelievably, the ticket from Central Bus Stand to Srirangam still costs four rupees! The bus took me through places I remember walking in my childhood days – a Pastry shop and ice cream joint where I ran out from school to grab a mouthful, the bus-stops I stood, the road leading up to my college – everything stood as if frozen in time.

The Rajagopuram of Srirangam temple

Between all the nostalgia, the fun began when I got down in Srirangam. An old man suddenly grabbed hold of my hand and said (in Tamil), “Give me one rupee”. I said trying to relieve my hand, “Excuse me? Can you leave my hand first?”

“Give me one rupee.”
“Yeah, but leave my hand will you?”
“Give me one rupee.”
“First leave my hand.”
“Give me one rupee.”

And I used my left hand to reach out to the wallet behind my jean and stretched out a one rupee coin. He plucked it out of my hand and went his way leaving me gaping.

But Why?

I resumed walking towards the Rajagopuram, said to be the tallest in Asia. As I entered the premises of the Agraharam (the area encircling the temple), highly orthodox flavors of a Tamil Brahmin culture began to abound – men wearing Veshti (dhoti), women in nine-yard sarees, Kolam (rangoli) on the roads, shops selling stuff used in typical religious rituals.

There were also a few faces staring at me in some strange way. One of them asked me in Tamil to leave my slippers at his shop and when I turned to face him, quickly switched to English and repeated the same thing. That’s when I actually realized that the “I heart NY” tee shirt (remember those typical ones you get in New York?) may not have been the best choice to wear in Srirangam.

The sacred lamp, in sepia

Being a Saturday, the temple was crowded and we squeezed ourselves through the crowd. Srirangam reflects another of those astonishing constructions that many South Indian temples are famous for – parts of it carved out of a single stone. Admiring the architectural splendor of the temple I was shocked to find a board that prevented non-Hindus from entering. If a temple cannot tolerate a fellow human just because his belief is different, aren’t we being hypocritical about all the talking of God being one and all such crap? They say non-Hindus spoil the purity of the temple. Well, how do you know a Hindu entering the temple is pure in the first place?

Mix with some water, lemon and ice

We moved on to the temple store to eat my favorite Puliogare. The MTRs and ready-mixes only go so far, but anything for a temple-made Puliogare! After clicking some photos around the temple we started our exit and ran into a human traffic jam. A huge number of cycles and people had got tangled within themselves (though I couldn’t imagine how) in a narrow junction and we detoured into the agraharam taking the longer route to the bus stand.

That took us through lanes hosting houses that have been standing for many decades, some, for a century. The long dark pathways inside the house, the thinnai – a seating place in the entrance, the entrance itself decorated with rangolis extending till the middle of the road, made one feel as if transported back in time. Srirangam would never see a high rise building or a shopping mall. Tamil Brahmin traditions and culture have taken such deep roots that people here live the city solely for its orthodox tradition. The past hasn’t given much way to the present, and neither will it in the future.

And I also helped myself to three glasses of Nannari Shorbet – a delicacy more famous in Southern Tamil Nadu, and one that I just couldn’t stop drinking. For seven rupees it gives you a huge relief from the scorching heat and tastes next to nothing. The heat was too much, and we bought ourselves a bottle of water – which happened to be costlier than the Shorbet – and took a comfortable seat on our return bus.


57 Responses to “Trichy and Srirangam…”

  1. Really good post. The Srirangam Rajagopuram pic is amazing.
    I’ve been planning a trip to Tanjavur (supposedly my native place) & nearby places for a very long time now. Will try n make the trip later this year…

  2. 2 Taks

    Kishore, lovely post. Yeah, I agree … theres nothing greater than a Nannari Sharbat to soothe our throat (& our soul) after being in the sweltering heat
    BTW, I also had a ‘Streetcat’ cycle in my school days :-)

  3. 3 prat

    long time no post?

  4. 4 Arun

    wow…so is Trichy ur native???…i luv those golden old days when i used to travel from Pudhukottai for a weeked bash at my aunts place…Hav u heard of Allur if u r from Trichy…lot to read…will do tonight and reply..btw the Abbreviation was quiet humorous, who is tht smartass? :-)…and redg quote…wht else it could be “I get up in the morning and sleep in the night” …i hope u got some witty look upon u tht day…

    • 5 venu

      yes there are lot of good things are there in allur village, right now i am in allur village.

  5. 6 balasubramanyam k s

    Hey Arun,

    r u from Allur village. I too am from allur village. Can u leave your co-ordinates. I last visited allur in mid 80s and not after tht.

    Regards, Bala

    • 7 venu

      hi buddy, are you from allur, even me too. which street r u belonging in allur. i am from west street.

      • 8 Balasubramanyam K S

        Hi, my grandmother’s place used to be in front of Padasalai. Landmark used to be one well in front of the house. I still recall some previous generation people such as Pitchai Iyer, Yagyeswara Ganapatigal, Seethabhai, Athanguti etc. The back side of the house used to be railway line and hence dont know east/ west

  6. Dear Mr.Kishore,

    A nice account of the lovely municipal town, Sirangam by you. I long to settle down there one fine day….

    It may interest you to know why Non-Hindus are not allowed inside such Hindu tmoples. The history tells us shocking info that during Mugals rule and when Mallikapur invaded South India and in particular Srirangam temple, his army men looted the temple and killed hundreds of scholars and devotees who tried to prevent their advances on horse back by lying down on the roads, only to be trampeded mercilessly and killed, before entering the temple premises. Pl check up the facts with historians also abt it. Then your eyes will be filled with tears as it happened to me …

    thanks again for your nice notes abt SRj


  7. comments given above pl

  8. 11 kishore

    Srirangam is such a holy and pleasant place.The information given by Mr.Kishore is very nice.

  9. 12 KS

    HI ,

    Can you please tell me what is the best way(mode) of travel to srirangam from bangalore.

  10. 13 vasu

    Dear Sri. K.S.Balasubrahmaniam, vanakkam Allur SHIVAN temple is under renovation !! kindly pay a visit & participate in this noble work, thanks a lot,

  11. 14 venu

    hi vasu…

  12. Not one word of Ranganatahn? விழுந்து சேவிக்கவில்லையா பெருமாளை? வெறும் அவலங்களும் புளியோதரையும் வெய்யிலும் மட்டும் தான் கண்ணில் பட்டதா?

  13. 16 kala

    ya dear our days in srigangam, I too remember.

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