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Ride, with a slice of history!

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  • [Photo Feature]: Ride, with a slice of history!

    Statutory Warning - This post may sound more like a history lesson and hence may induce sleep. Be Warned!!
    26th and 27th Jan 2012 - Route - Chennai - Pondicherry - Cuddalore - Chidambaram - Gangaikonda Cholapuram - Darasuram - Patteeswaram - Udayalur - Kumbakonam - Chennai.
    Total of 750 kms.

    I'm a newbie here and I didn't realize this site existed until last week. So pardon me for posting about a ride I did one year back.

    A little background: I was bored of history lessons in school just as most of us were. All that changed when i first read the Tamil magnum opus "Ponniyin Selvan" (Ponni's Prideful Son - Ponni being the river Kaveri) which is about the early days of Raja Raja Chola, the greatest ever king to have ruled the old Tamil country.

    Ever since I read that book, I always wanted to do a ride that covers all the historically important places in India. So off I took on an attempt to cover a part of those places in a 2 day trip in my ever faithful Thunderbird Twinspark.

    Some teasers here. Will post more pics and details once the thread is approved.

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    The Airavateshwara temple in Darasuram - The best of all Chola temples for its beautiful sculptures

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    The fertile lands of the Chola territories. It would be hard to imagine these were dry lands 2000 years ago until one man changed the fortunes.

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    One of the many small water canals in the Chola territories

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    y ever faithful companion.
    Attached Files
    Last edited by The Monk; 03-13-2013, 02:11 PM. Reason: Text Colour
    I ride, therefore I am.

  • #2
    Travelogue Approved
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    • #3
      Hey thanks for the quick approval mods!
      So it was the republic day of 2012, and it was a Thursday. In order to maximize my chances of staying away from the office for a longer period of time, I took off on Friday as well and planned for a 3 to 4 day ride to some of the old Chola territories in Tamil Nadu. Supplementing my passion for riding with my newfound interest in history, I planned for a trip that would cover Chidambaram, Gangaikonda chola puram, Darasuram, Kumbakonam and Patteeswaram.
      Started on my Thunderbird Twinspark at 6 AM from Chennai and reached Chidambaram via Pondicherry in the ECR. As most of us know, ECR is a breeze until Pondicherry. But from Pondicherry to Chidambaram, the road was in a battered condition thanks to the recent cyclone "Thane". I could still see trees felled by the road side.
      I managed to reach Chidambaram by around 11 AM and only then did I realize that it may be impossible to get an accomodation without booking earlier. After enquiring in multiple hotels, i found one right next to the Chidambaram temple. But the availability was for one night only. So I planned to visit the shrine quickly and then revisit my travel plans.

      Chidambaram: Chidambaram has always been a special place for Hindus. Being an agnostic that I am, my reason for this visit was different. The reason being, it was a temple that was key to the Cholas. One can still see the roof of the sanctum sanctorum covered in gold, donated by Parantaka Chola about 1100 years ago.
      Moreover, all Chola kings ascended the throne on the silver steps in front of the main deity Natraja in this very temple. So it was kind of thrilling to be at the place where some of our great kings had stood and took kingship.
      Like all temples, the priest asked me rs.300 to get closer to the deity. Since I'm against preferential treatment at temples, I declined and went about my way.
      Coming back to the hotel room, it was already 2 PM. Since I could not find a stay for the next couple of days, I tried calling some hotels in Kumbakonam only to be met with negative replies. Since my stay was proving to be a problem, I planned to atleast visit the Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple for a quick ride of about 70 kms.
      So off I went to Gangaikonda Cholapuram. My next stop.
      I ride, therefore I am.


      • #4
        Gangaikonda Cholapuram: Gangaikonda Cholapuram is a small town now which has nothing much left apart from the temple that Rajendra built. The Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple is a smaller imitation of the real Big Temple in Tanjore. Raja Raja Chola's son Rajendra Chola built this magnificent temple to leave his legacy, but at the same time ensured his legacy does not overshadow his father Raja Raja by building a smaller version. Rajendra established Gangaikonda Cholapuram as the new capital of the Chola dynasty in the 11th century from the existing capital of Tanjore. Legend has it that he did not want to live in his father's shadow and that he wanted to create his own legacy in everything. While Raja Raja established the Chola dynasty as a super power in the South, it was Rajendra who spread its dynasty by conquering countries overseas. Rajendra was a pioneer in naval engineering.
        .It is interesting that this place Gangaikonda Cholapuram literally translates to "The Chola king who conquered Ganges" which was one of the names in which Rajendra Chola was addressed. His territories included all of eastern and southern India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, SriLanka and other islands in the Bay of Bengal.

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        It just amazes me that this quaint little town was the seat of power that controlled much of south east asia!

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        A magnificent edifice!

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        A well inside this Lion statue. Legend has it that this also contains a secret passage to Tanjore.

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        One of the main attractions of the temple. The big nandi.

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        The full granite temple had 2 outer walls, one of which was destroyed by the British to use the granite for their construction purposes.

        To be continued...
        Last edited by srini24; 03-13-2013, 08:20 PM. Reason: Font uniformity
        I ride, therefore I am.


        • #5
          I stayed in Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple till 6 PM and then rode back to Chidambaram which is my stay for the night. The road from Chidambaram to GangaikondaCholapuram and back through the villages is one scenic route. The sight of greenery all along this route on one side and a beautiful tributary of Cauvery river on the other side, at sunset, and on my Thunderbird , it's just a different world altogether. I would strongly recommend this route through Kattumannarkoil for an awesome riding experience through the rural greeneries of Tamil Nadu.

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          The story of the Cauvery delta, and all the goodness associated with it are due to the vision of a single man 2000 years ago. It's hard to believe this part of Tamil Nadu was actually a dryland. Then came king Karikala Chola, one of the first Chola kings, around 2000 BC. At the present day Trichy, he built "Kallanai" and diverted the Cauvery water to all of his empire to Tanjore and other places. This created the prosperous Cauvery Delta which was said to be yielding 3 times a year. Right now, this place experiences water scarcity according to the locals.

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          Break for a photo op in the evening sun.

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          This road was dotted with such little ponds and waterways.

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          One such beautiful waterway.

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          Another one.

          I came back to Chidambaram at around 7.00 PM, had food and went to sleep.
          I got a long way to cover the next day.
          I ride, therefore I am.


          • #6
            Re: Ride, with a slice of history!

            Srini, this kind of ride is still one of my dream to cover the Historical places/temples. Recently only started reading 'Ponniyin Selvan' I do envy your feelings on visiting these places after reading the epic PS. If you had extended to Poompuhar, it would have still contribute much for your ride.

            Can you add close-up shots of the sculptures in the vimanah & other place of the Temples. Thanks!

            Happy riding!!!
            Last edited by RiderMan; 05-03-2013, 09:10 PM.


            • #7
              Re: Ride, with a slice of history!

              Thank you RiderMan. I did actually get to visit Poompuhar on a car ride though. But still a ride to cover all the historical places would have been great .
              I'll try to add more pics.
              I ride, therefore I am.