If you thought we had enough of temples, well, when you are in Kumbakonam, there are two things are never ending, visit to temples and drinking Kumbakonam Degree Coffee !
After our Darasuram and Pazhayarai visit, we headed to the popular eatery, Mami Mess, we had read about it on the internet and decided to check it out. The mess is located very close to the famous Murugan Temple at Swamimalai, one of the Aaru Padai Veedu temples of Lord Murugan. The temple was closed for the afternoon, so we had to skip visiting the temple. That was a big disappointment because, we had come all the way to Kumbakonam and had to go back without visiting this important temple.
Mami Mess is a traditional eatery, serving simple meals for the last 50 years and more. The place is small but teeming with people on most afternoons.
Don’t expect a fancy meal here, you will get an ordinary Tamil Nadu meal of rice, a vegetable dish, buckets of Sambhar all served on a plantain leave, we particularly loved the Butter Milk served at the end.
To escape the mid-afternoon heat (we are talking about Tamil Nadu, hot afternoons are normal even in January !), we went back to our guest house to relax till evening before the next round of temple visits.
Mirra Guest House
One of the best parts of this trip was our homestay, Mirra Guest House. Run by a retired lady, Mrs.Vijayalakshmi, Mirra Guest House is as homely as it can get. The Guest House is a simple, traditional house on the first floor. The owner’s family lives on the ground floor. The place feels like you are on a trip to your grandparent’s place in the 1980s ! This verandah at the entrance was our favourite !
If you are travelling in a group, they will let out the entire first floor including the kitchen, you are free to cook your own meals, if you are interested. The only restriction is that it is a vegetarian household and you will have to stick to eating vegetarian food inside the Guest House.
There is a cozy living room and two bedrooms,
and a big open terrace with lots of greenery around.
We were given an induction stove and had fun making our own cup of coffee in the afternoon.
Mrs.Vijayalakshmi is very friendly and warm, we have decided we will be staying at Mirra Guest House every time we visit Kumbakonam. We were glad we chose to stay here instead of checking into a hotel, it gave us the feel of living in Kumbakonam, not just visiting it.
In reverence of Mathematics !
As evening set in, refreshed after our short break at the guest house, we set off to go around Kumbakonam town and visit the temples. We had listed only 4 out of the numerous temples in the town. Before visiting the temples, we had to obeisance to the God of Mathematics, Srinivasa Ramanujan, the mathematical genius, who lived in Kumbakonam. Ramanujan’s house has now been converted into a museum and is right next to the Sarangapani Temple.
The museum is being maintained by Shastra University of Thanjavur and they have done a good job at it. The house is a traditional, Agraharam household, you can imagine the scenes from 1900s as you walk around the house. Ramanujan’s mathematical publications, letters have also been displayed. For someone like this writer, whose knowledge of mathematics is limited only to the spellings of each subject, standing in the house where a genius once lived was overwhelming !
Photography is not allowed inside, so here is a picture of Ramanujan’s house clicked from the street.
You could imagine Ramanujam sitting outside and probably contemplating on some complex mathematical equation ! This place is a must visit for everyone on a trip to Kumbakonam, even if Mathematics is not your favourite subject, we need to celebrate our intellectuals !
Since 2006, we have passed through Kumbakonam twice, as a transit enroute Thanjavur, we never stopped to visit the town. On both occasions, the lasting image of Kumbakonam for us was the massive Gopuram of the town’s iconic structure, Sarangapani Temple.
The short distance from Ramanujan’s house to Sarangapani temple is a typical scene of a pilgrim centre – narrow lanes, colourful gopurams, temple car, shops, bustling crowds and even cows !
There is some beauty in this chaos, the spirit of a pilgrim centre but some “Swachch Bharat” is always welcome !
Considered one of the 108 Divya Desams, this temple with a history of more than 1300 years, is one of the important Vaishnava temples. Walk anywhere in the town’s centre, you cannot miss the 173 feet Raja Gopuram.
What a sight it is ! Truly, our temple architecture is mind blowing !
Step in and you are taken over by the serene temple atmosphere. May be, that’s why temples were built, where the combined positive vibes of people from different walks of life, create an aura that fills you with a certain kind of calm. Some call it God, some call it divine energy, some would simply say, it is all in the mind, the net effect is serenity !
The antiquity of the temple is evident as you walk around, these temples are so ancient that their history is hard to trace and they have been expanded, renovated, rebuilt over centuries and under different kingdoms that today you cannot say for sure who built the original temple. These temples are so huge, it is hard to even remember the layout !
Though the temple is called Sarangapani Kovil or the temple of the Lord with a Bow, the actual Moolavar or the main Deity is the Lord Ranganatha in his reclining position. Sarangapani refers to the Utsava idol of Lord Ranganatha, standing with a bow in his hand. The Goddess Komalavalli has a shrine dedicated to her inside the temple premises.
We can’t bring you pictures from inside any of the temples, as we all know, photography or videography is not allowed within the temple premises.
If you begin to see every bit of the temple and its sculpture, you will need more than an hour for one temple alone, so we did a quick tour and proceeded to the next temple.
Our next stop was the Someswarar temple, Lord Sarangapani’s next door neighbour, both the temples have a common wall ! It is interesting to find two prominent temples of Vaishnavism and Saivism built beside each other. We also found something amazing.
Check the picture above, you can see eagles circling over the Sarangapani temple Gopuram but there were no eagles on the Someswarar temple gopuram or any other building nearby. Looked like the eagles knew which was a temple for Lord Vishnu, Garuda being Lord Vishnu’s vehicle ! We found it amusing but why would eagles fly specifically over the Vishnu temple and not anywhere else? Again, your beliefs would decide what you choose as the answer.
From the Someswarar temple, you can see the Gopuram of Sarangapani temple towering over the trees and looking like it is almost touching the sky.
Since photography is not allowed inside, we bring this picture of the entrance to the temple.
We had a quick darshan, since the temple was not crowded. The sun had already set and the pleasant evening enhanced the peaceful feeling inside the temple.
Adi Kumbeswarar temple
A short walk from Sarangapani temple through the busy roads of Kumbakonam will lead to you Adi Kumbeswarar temple. This is the abode of Lord Shiva worshipped as Adi Kumbeswarar. Kumbakonam gets its name from Brahma’s pot of life giving nectar which is believed to have fallen at this place, “Khumba” is the Sanskrit word for pot and so the town has come to known as Kumbakonam and Lord Shiva, the presiding deity, Adi Kumbeswarar.
This temple, like the Sarangapani temple has been celebrated in Tamil literature for over 1300 years, these temples are so ancient that the line between history and mythology blurs !
We did not click any pictures of this temple because it was already dark and it is hard to focus your camera on a 125 feet gopuram in the dark. Suffice to say that take a tour of these temples, your exercise for the day is complete along with some blessings ! After all the travelogues on this trips, we don’t have to specifically mention about the sculptural and architectural beauty of the temples, it is a given.
One of the best points of these temples is that though they are very important, the temples are not crowded, except on festival days, during the rest of the year, one can visit them at leisure, in fact, you have to spend a lot of time at these temples. They are sprawling complexes and there is so much to explore, they are truly marvels !
As we were leaving the temple, we managed to click this lone picture of one of the gopurams, only the base of the gopuram is intact.
The last temple that we visited at Kumbakonam was the Chakrapani Temple. After 2 Shiva temples, this was a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It was almost 8 PM and we were slightly tired after walking around such big temples.
At the Chakrapani temple, the idol of Lord Vishnu has eight hands with the Sudarsana Chakra in the background, this one of the unique Vishnu temples. Also, the temple is two tiered, one has to climb a few steps to reach the Sanctum, reminded us of the Varadaraja Perumal temple at Kanchipuram.
We made a very quick visit to this temple as we were in the mood to wind up for the day, as a parting shot, a picture of the entrance to the temple.
Having completed our temple tour, we walked around Kumbakonam for a while, shopping for brass coffee Dabara and tumbler set, to take back with us. Now, every weekend, we bring out the set and sip our filter coffee in true Kumbakonam style !
A simple dinner of Dosa and sambar later, our day was done. The next day was going to be exciting for us as a long time wish was coming true.
- There are about 10 important temples within Kumbakonam town, you will need to dedicate 2 full days if you want to visit all the temples, considering that all temples are closed between noon and 4 PM.
- Almost all temples are within 2-3 kilometres of each other, you can hire and auto or walk. The lanes leading to the temples are narrow, so parking might be a concern if you have bigger vehicles. You could stop at a point and walk to the temples in the vicinity.
- Kumbakonam is the hub for those planning to visit the Navagraha temples.
- Ramanujan house is open from 9.30 AM to 1.00 PM and again from 1.30 PM to 6 PM.
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