Connecting with our heritage in the kingdom of the Gods
An invitation from a friend posted as a commanding officer in the Territorial Army at Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu for a holiday was hard to resist. I couldn’t say no to the generous offer of my large-hearted friend because I had never been to the southern state. “History, heritage and culture of Tamil Nadu is awe-inspiring and the temples in and around Tiruchirapalli may surpass your imagination and expectations by miles,’’ the friend had said.
For us, vacations almost always meant going to overcrowded and jam-packed hill stations in the neighbouring states. Travelling to a remote, exotic destination of historical significance, seeing heritage temples in the company of a childhood friend was something new.
My wife and children lost no time in packing their bags and after changing three planes in a day, we reached Tiruchirapalli by the evening. My colonel friend, smartly dressed in his highly decorated uniform was there to welcome us with open arms and a bear hug. While on our way to the Army guest House, we noticed a number of things that made us want to pinch ourselves to see if we were dreaming. Almost unlike any other place in India, people were following traffic rules, not honking their car horns and traffic was smooth and slow. The city had a laidback ambience.
My friend had planned our itinerary meticulously, ensuring we pack in as many visits to heritage sites in and around Tiruchirapalli as possible during our brief stay.
Meenakshi Temple in the city of Madurai close by is a heritage marvel built in the twelfth century. Magnificent sculptures and statues of maidens, elephants and gods and goddesses looking as if they could spring to life any moment adorn the vast corridors of the temple amid the intricately carved pillars.
The gigantic structure and beautiful architecture enthralled the mind and soul and one was transported back in time to marvel at the knowledge, intelligence, patience and skill of the artisans and craftsmen of ancient times.
The Brihadeeswara Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva in Thanjavur built by Chola dynasty kings in the eleventh century was another ancient wonder that left us awestruck, as did the size and splendour of the Rockfort temple in Tiruchirapalli, built on an 83-metre high rock by the Pallavas and Cholas between the 5th and 11th century.
Three days spent in the Kingdom of the Gods was an eye-opening experience. Spirituality, divinity, history and heritage of the monuments made us travel back in time and feel proud of our rich and kaleidoscopic heritage. For our children, the short trip to Tamil Nadu was a great learning experience. They were moved by the scale and magnitude of the vision of our ancestors.
Last but not least, we were impressed by the immaculate tidiness of the cities we visited. Tiruchirapalli, positioned 39 in the Swachh Bharat rankings, is striving hard to be amongst the top 10. We saw numerous signboards at public places, that read: “Keep your house clean God is coming, keep your city clean, PM is coming”.
The entire city was filth free and after dustbins are emptied into the garbage truck, DDT was sprayed around the trash bins to keep insects and flies at bay. The city was encroachment free and from vegetable shops to fruit juice vendors, all the people worked within the four walls of their own units.
All in all, it was a great experience.
The writer is a doctor based in Amritsar, Punjab