Continued from here
The next morning, without even planning it, the entire family was up and ready early for yet another walk by the beach. I guess we were all eager to make the best of the sand and the seas when we could. Once there, Anand and I walked in the bylanes near the beach while the rest of them enjoyed their morning walk. Just as we returned to join them, we realised there was another unexpected treat lined up for us at the promenade- there was a rangoli contest as part of the Heritage Festival. There were about a 100 participants out there in the morning recreating kaleidoscopic visual treats with just coloured powder and sheer artistry.
Needless to say, this gave us a very colourful start to the day.
We had a breakfast at Surguru and realised the restaurants too were in on the Heritage Festival and had special menus with local foods. Much to our disappointment, we entered it to find they only served it in the evenings. Our review of the place – the food was good, but considering the menu only has everyday south Indian breakfast items, the money may be better spent in a simpler place.
We picked up some snacks for Bangalore from the Auro Cottage bakery and made another stop for food to eat on the way from Bon bakes, a little further ahead. Their almond cream croissants are to die for. We only tasted the food later in the day or we’d have bought a lot more of them.
Our next stop was only at the Rajagiri fort that we had missed seeing completely the first time around. This time we went straight in and it’s a surprisingly huge area, not apparent from the entrance.
Tip: Rajagiri fort has a huge number of monkeys. They are smart, quick and will take things from your hands even if not food, just out of curiosity. Do not keep your bags down and be very alert of your surroundings when consuming food.
These are some of the structures we happened on.
Granary: A huge granary with vaulted chambers each for possibly different types of produce or maybe produce from different times of the year.
Gymnasium: Just a closed large hall with not as much ventilation as one would think would be needed in a gymnasium.
Elephant Tank: This was my favourite place (as always). It’s a very large step pond that had water even in February. Somehow very few tourists noticed it since it’s on the side, which makes it even better. The pond is surrounded by a pillared arcade
Horse stables: These are endless rows and rows of sections used as horse stables and possibly also barracks.
Kalyan Mahal: This was presumably the vast area in front of the mosque. All that remains now are stubs where pillars were supposed to be and pavilion with a very polished stone in the shape of a bolster.
Mohabat Khan Mosque: It was a multi-tiered structure with layers of windows. Mohabat Khan was a very trusted friend of Raja Desing, the king of Gingee, and fought several battles beside him till his death. We were wondering if there was a way to go up this structure, but nothing seemed apparent.
While Mom went ahead, reached half way atop the stairs to the fort and came back down to find us, we made our way up while she rested. It’s not an easy climb by any standards. However, the steps are wider and therefore less precarious than the Krishnagiri fort. Dad, Sis and I made our way up and Anand reached us after a while too.
Halfway up, a splitting headache threatened to attack me in the heat and we decided to find a shady spot to rest on the way till Anand reached us. My very energetic Mom yet again made her way up to meet us and the 4 of us rested and took pictures till Anand got back after exploring the top of the fort. Since it was past lunch time by now, he too came back after almost reaching the top, concerned that the rest of us would be waiting hungrily.
At the top there is a Ranganathaswamy temple, a clock tower, an Audience hall, a granary, a cannon, the treasury and a Kamalakanni Amman Shrine and a sacrificial slab in front of it.
As per the Hindu legend, the presiding deity, Kamalakanni, is believed to be the widow of demon king Acalamaccuran.
There were some really beautiful trees of the frangipani flower (chempakam/plumeria) at the point where the rest of us waited for him. That flower’s fragrance is a favourite of both mine and Dad’s. Once Anand joined us, all of us got together on a mission to get a small branch of it for Mom to plant at our home in Bangalore. Since the branches were quite high, it involved a lot of jumping and Anand cleverly using the handle of his camera bag to try to loop it over the branch to pull it a little lower.
Meanwhile, while all of us were engrossed and pitching in ideas to help, sneakily we had a simian friend reach his camera bag and open it up to check for food! despite his angry growling and snatching at the bag, mercifully my reflexes kicked in and I managed to pull the bag away from him. Well, cameras are expensive, you got to do what you got to do. Even if it is intimidating a creature 1/4th your own size and feeling relieved it worked.
So after that little bit of excitement, the family walked back down and out of the Rajagiri fort. Just outside of it is the Saad-at-Ulla Khan mosque named after the last Mughal governor who was the Nawab of the Carnatic. However, it’s doors were closed so we could only afford a peak into it through the grills.
We drove a little ahead in the area and got to the Shiva temple. It is well maintained with lawns that make it a nice spot to sit and relax. By now we were ravenous, and mercifully had the croissants and other eats we’d gotten from the bakery. We dug into them with gusto and everyone unanimously agreed that that would keep us going a while longer after which we could lunch. Note that we ate inside the car, there are a huge number of monkeys in the vicinity and they WILL snatch your food if you are in the open.
Tip: We recently purchased a car organiser with an insulated section. We found it very useful during this trip since most places were really hot and we needed to keep such cooked food from going bad. To give you an instance of how sunny it was – At one point it was too bright to look ahead and I asked Anand to help hold my bag to let me replace my regular glasses with my shades. Turned out, I was already wearing shades 😐
Once satiated, at least temporarily, we went inside the Shiva temple, which has 2 structures, the smaller one even surrounded by a moat. Despite this being such a long post, there was still so much more to see at Rajagiri. There were another larger temple pond, a prisoner’s well and multiple temples. I guess we need some reason to visit again someday. However, we had to drive back to Bangalore and we had a long way ahead of us.
We decided to stop at the Ramana Maharshi Ashram at Thiruvannamalai. We entered into a place with loads of trees and foreigners. It is the ashram of the philosopher Ramana Maharishi who emphasised the personal experience of self-realization. There are quite a few small sections- a meditation hall, an area where the devotees chanted the Vedas (?), accommodation for devotees, a library of related books, a kitchen etc.
After a short while, we went to a restaurant just opposite to it that mercifully still had good simple lunch (though limited in variety) despite it being 3:30 pm already. Thus satiated, there ended our trip with a glimpse of both Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu that left us yearning to visit again, except maybe in cooler weather 😉
Tip: Thiruvannamalai itself has a lot of old, huge and beautiful temples. If you have the time, they may be worth the visit.
Up next : China: Beijing- The old Great wall and the new TV Tower