Celebrating Kongu Nadu – II – Coimbatore – The city of many flavours

If you are a regular traveller by bus, don’t watch the latest movies at cinema halls. With every bus ride, you get to watch the newest movies in town, like on our ride to Coimbatore from Palani, we re-watched “Bahubali”, this time in Tamil. If only we had known, we wouldn’t have spent those Rs.500 at the theatre, whatsapping out of boredom !

The multi-faceted city

The purpose of our visit to Coimbatore was to accompany our mom, who was to join us from Nellore, to the Isha Yoga Foundation, something on her travel list for a long time.The plan was to reach Coimbatore a day earlier before her arrival, do some local sight-seeing and visit the Isha Yoga Foundation the following day.

It was a fun 3 hour ride as we passed through the heartland of Kongu Nadu. Kongu Nadu is the ancient name for the Coimbatore-Palani-Salem region. The history of this region dates back to the Sangam Era and houses some of the industrially and commercially rich cities, beautiful hill stations, premier educational institutions and places of historical and pilgrim importance and not to forget the great food !

While travelling on this route, you will pass through Pollachi and when the bus stops at the depot, don’t forget to snack on the fresh, juicy, pineapple sprinkled with chat masala !!

After Chennai, Coimbatore is probably the most important trade centre in Tamil Nadu. Called the “Manchester of South India” for its cotton textile industry, Coimbatore is a city of myriad flavours – urbanisation, history, education, spirituality and culture.

Alighting at the Ukkadam bus stop on the city outskirts, we took the local city bus to Coimbatore Rail Junction, close to where we had booked our hotel room. With Google Maps to help, you are no longer a stranger in any city, we knew where exactly the bus was going and where we had to get down ! But, technology can never replace the feeling of visiting a new place and taking in its sights and sounds.

Travelling through the busy areas of Coimbatore felt like a ride through Chennai, especially looking at the British era schools and colleges.

It was lunch time when we checked into Hotel Sree Murugan, a short walk from the railway station. While booking hotels in most cities, try OYO Rooms, you get good deals at decent hotels.

Sambhar for the soul

For lunch we headed to Sree Annapoorna Sree Gowrishankar hotel, suggested by friends as the most popular, traditional eating joint in Coimbatore. It was only a 5 minutes walk from our hotel but we took an auto and shelled out Rs.30 since it was already 3 PM and we were starving. It is amazing how auto drivers have the talent to find out that you are not a local, despite speaking the local language fluently !

Anyway, it was all forgotten when we took the first bite of the Sambhar, a bowl of Sambhar like no other. In fact, everything else ceased to exist around us, we had soaked ourselves in the Sambhar. Forget the Chicken Soups, we need more Sambhar for the soul ! We must have had Sambhar by the litres and the lunch at Sree Annapoorna Sree Gowrishankar was unbelievable to say the least !

We stepped out of the hotel gasping for breath because of what they call in Telugu “Bhukta ayaasam”(“wheezing caused by over eating!”) and forced ourselves to walk to the hotel. A short break later, it was time to do some local sight seeing.

Perur Patteeswarar Temple

After food, history is this writer’s favourite topic. While checking the internet for places of interest around Coimbatore, we came across Perur Patteeswarar Temple and there was no missing it when we read about its history. This Shiva Temple is believed to have been built during the reign of the legendary Karikala Chola, taking its history back to 1500 years.

We took an Ola Cab (yes, Coimbatore has Ola Cabs) that dropped us at the Perur Patteeswarar Temple. Perur is a small village, 8 kms from Coimbatore. Enroute we passed the dry river bed of the Noyyal River on the banks of which Coimbatore city is located.

The Patteeswarar Temple, as it stands today, hardly has any remnants of its ancient history. The temple has been expanded, renovated and rebuilt over centuries since the main shrine was built by Karikala Chola and this is how it looks today.

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From the road, the temple looks like any other newly renovated temple but when you step in, the grandeur takes over !

The familiar sights of the spacious corridors, massive pillars, sculpture, typical of most temples in Tamil Nadu, greet you as you enter the temple. It was time for the evening Harathi while we were there. The conch blew and the sounds of the drums filled the air, you could feel spirituality reverberating in the dark interiors of the sanctum as you stood back and let the sight of the Shiva Linga lighted up by the oil lamps and the fire of the Harathi fill up your sight. Whether you believe in God or not, these are events that you must experience for the way they take your mind and body into a trance, some call it Divine, some call it sound and light effect, the net result is bliss !

Photography is not allowed inside the temple, so we cannot bring you pictures of this ancient temple. We only managed to click pictures of the temple structure from outside.

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Not a huge temple but one with all its ancient grace and beauty. We walked around for a bit, visited the pillared hall with its sculptural exhibits, it will remind you of the Madurai Meenakshi temple.

We sat in the quiet and peaceful environs of the temple before taking leave of it, the temple elephant too was winding up for the day and passed by close to us, almost making us jump at the sudden sight of the enormous animal ! Took us back to the time when many years ago, we saw the temple elephant coming out the sanctum of the Srirangam temple during the early morning Viswaroopa darsanam, it was an unbelievable sight ! Imagine visiting a temple at 4 AM and the first thing you see is a huge elephant walking out of the inner chamber !

To feel a place, travel local !

Next, we headed to Marudamalai, one of the important temples dedicated to Lord Muruga, considered on par with the Aarupadaiveedu temples. The first this writer heard about Marudamalai was way back in the late 1990s when the famous song “Marudamalai mamaniye Murugayya” would blast over the loud speaker every year when exam preparations were in full swing ! So, when we came to know that Marudamalai was close to Coimbatore, we had to make a visit to the temple.

We definitely missed our car during this trip but it also gave us a chance to travel by local transport, a great way to know more about a new place, especially if you know the local language. So, at Perur, we waited for a local bus to take us to Marudamalai. The Government run buses are few, so the locals depend on a mini-bus service that connects the nearby villages and towns.

While we waited for the bus to arrive, we took a walk through the village, people were going about their work, some relaxing outside their homes on the pleasant evening, we spotted some dilapidated houses, each one must have been atleast a 100 years old !

After about 20 minutes, our bus arrived, we were told the bus would take us till one point, 2 kms from Marudamalai and from there we could take another bus to Marudamalai. It was fun travelling with the locals and listening to their banter on daily life. A short distance from Perur, we spotted the state run direct bus to Marudamalai just when our bus had been stalled in the middle of the road as the driver picked up an argument with some passerby. We took the opportunity and boarded the direct bus to Marudamalai.

The Great Jewel of Marudamalai 

It was almost 7 PM when we reached Marudamalai. The Murugan temple is located on a hilltop which can be reached either on foot or one can take a bus to the top. The roads were dark and deserted except for the shops that are common in pilgrim centres. We boarded the bus that was to take us to the hilltop, a 10 minutes ride from the base.

As the bus rode up the hill, we could the lights of Marudamalai and nearby villages twinkling below, it was a stunning sight !

The Murugan Temple at Marudamalai is a small, simple  temple and looks like a newly built one, though the temple website says its history goes back to the 12th Century. We couldn’t see much of the surroundings as it was dark.

There was hardly any crowd and we completed our darshan in about 10 minutes, seeking blessings of the Great Jewel of Marudamalai, “Marudamalai mananiye Murugayya, Lord Muruga’s idol was beautifully decorated. A short walk around the temple and we were ready to leave and for the sake of memory, clicked this picture of the temple.

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While we walked back to the bus station, the view of the valley below was breathtaking. We didn’t have much time to click a good picture as the bus was ready to leave but as they say, something is better than nothing !

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Same goes with this one, clicked just before we boarded the bus back to the foothill, the outer view of the Marudamalai temple.

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Back to the base, we boarded a bus back to Coimbatore city. The 13 kms ride took some 45 minutes, enroute we passed by popular the Bharathiar University. It was dinner time when we reached Coimbatore, a tad tired but having thoroughly enjoyed our little trips to Perur and Marudamalai.

Back in Coimbatore, we searched for the Coimbatore famous “Kalaan”, a mushroom preparation, our friends had told us a lot about it but we couldn’t find it anywhere near where we stayed. So, we settled for a “light” dinner at another well known eatery, Geetha Cafe but it turned into another Sambhar fest with the Idlies, Dosas, Kuzhipaniyarams and Upma !!

Coimbatore truly has many flavours to it, be it the food, culture or heritage. We were going to explore the spiritual flavour the next day.

Info tidbits

  • Perur is about 15 minutes drive from Coimbatore, there are buses plying from the city to Perur, you could even take an auto or a cab.
  • There are a few food stalls near the temple if you want to grab a quick bite.
  • Marudamalai is a 30 minute drive from Coimbatore, if you are taking a bus add another 10-15 minutes. You can find direct buses from Coimbatore.
  • The temple is open from 5.30 AM to 1 PM and 2 PM to 8.30 PM
  • Being a popular pilgrim centre, availability of food is not an issue.
  • Accommodation facilities don’t seem to be available near Perur or Marudamalai, Coimbatore is the best option.
  • While in Coimbatore, do not miss lunch/dinner at Sree Annapoorna Sreee Gowrishankar and Geetha Cafe.

 

 

 

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