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Monday, 27 January 2014

Going solo in Tamil Nadu

Traveling solo brings with it a sense of peace and introspection. Living one day at a time on her journey through Tamil Nadu, Rajbir Kaur experiences just that

The hall of one thousand pillars at the Madurai Meenakshi Temple
Last December summed up my entire 2013 beautifully. I traveled solo and was literally living one day at a time. After visiting a friend in Bangalore and traveling to Pondicherry together; I continued my journey thereon traveling solo.

The temple of Arunachaleswara in Tiruvannamalai

I visited Ramanashramam in Tiruvannamalai, where I experienced a deep sense of harmony and unity among all that is living.
Next was Madurai, where my film was screened at an international film festival. I also got a chance to visit the magnanimous Meenakshi Temple and an old palace in the city where sculptures dating back to 5th- 6th century are preserved.

A view of the rural countryside in Ramanathapuram

After Madurai, I instinctively headed to a quiet village near Ramanathapuram, where once my teacher lived. Initially, he was hesitant to tell me the address as he was very sure that it is impossible for a non-Tamil person to locate this quaint interior south Indian village. Well! he was not entirely wrong. The journey to the village was quite thrilling… I changed two buses and the roads scaped through green lush rice fields and coconut trees. Loud Tamil songs, equally loud people and the strong smell of fresh flowers that decked women’s hair fused the bus environment. I enjoyed the ride thoroughly.
I marvelled at my ability to communicate without talking too much. Every moment was a revelation on this journey. I arrived at my destination with quite an ease and was received with a lot of warmth and love even though I landed there unannounced. Maybe it’s just my mind but it actually felt like coming home. My hosts didn’t understand English or Hindi and I knew no Tamil. The only familiar word they heard from my mouth was my teacher’s name and that was enough. They welcomed me with open arms. I ate the yummiest idli and dosa there and not only my tummy but even my soul felt satiated at that place.

The Palk Strait in Rameshwaram

Transcending language barriers and having a direct heart-to-heart talk is rare to experience these days in today’s “smart" world. I feel blessed to have gone to this tiny, quiet village and met these lovely souls.
It was time to take leave. My next destination was Rameshwaram. I am not really a temple-going person; I get irked by the fancy rules of temples -- no camera, no phone, Rs 10 darshan, Rs 20 darshan, Rs 50 darshan. I wonder how much will it be worth to pay to get a glimpse of God. But keeping aside all the extravaganza around them, the ancient temples were highly energized centers around which cities were built so people could benefit. We need to disassociate from the hustle bustle around and attune to that center.
Rameshwaram, an island town separated from the mainland by the Pamban channel, welcomed me with a not-so-pleasant fishy stench that pervades the entire town. The moment the bus entered the town, I held my breath for as long as I could. I found Pamban Bridge more beautiful than Mumbai’s sea link and its view is far more blue! I also visited Dhanuskodi, a mysterious-looking place where stands the ruins of buildings lost to a cyclone and where the waters of the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal meet.

My next destination was Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of India. It’s more of a touristy place famous for its Triveni Sangam — confluence of three seas. During my visit to Kanyakumari temple, a special pooja was going on in its sanctum sanctorum in a very traditional way with dhols and naiads, which was a unique experience to witness. Having only half a day at my disposal, I couldn’t explore places in nearby Kanyakumari.
My last destination was Salem, where I went to visit Mahajeev samadhi of Mayamma. A jeev samadhi is a place where a saint consciously drops the body and the prana (the vital life force) is still intact in the body, which means the energy of the spiritual saint is very much still present. Meditating at such a place is blissful. No better way to end this chapter of travel.

The Ramnad Palace, Ramanathapuram
In Lord Rama's footsteps at Rameshwaram
The walkway to Villondi Teertham, a sweet-water well that appears mysteriously in the midst of the ocean.

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