Friday, January 25, 2013

Chitharal - A blissful experience

The final turn was really a sharp bent where a cemented surface formed the parking lot to a historic place located in a remote hamlet of Marthandam - a township in Tamil Nadu, very closer to the Kerala Tamil Nadu border. The three cars were parked in the scorching sun and the 15 member gang alighted from the chariots. All our eyes fell on the magnanimous structure standing with its head high. It is not yet another man made concrete high rise. It was a natural rock formation. 

One of the boulders precariously perched on the slope of the rocky mountain soon became the topic of our discussion. I was still in an investigative mood and was looking everything with suspicion, thanks to the famous detective stories of Satyajith Ray christened Feluda.(I got to know about this book from one of the most intellectual bloggers around who writes just like columnist of leading newspapers - Roshmi Sinha). One such boulder was used to kill a character in a story which I read just previous night. My argument with my co-brother was that someone might push that big stone down and it will come down heavily on our steeds. He echoed my sentiments and began calculating the path which it might take if pushed down. Soon better sense prevailed when his father in law intervened and asked us to use our brain for other good things in life. 

A little ahead lies, umpteen number of steps to climb up to reach the Chitharal Jain Temple - a rock temple which is still maintained in its original shape untouched by humans, in the name of modernisation. The smell of sunscreen lotions was soon felt and I could see that all lady folks including my 4 year old little girl applying loads of it. Heights of beauty consciousness !! 

The team slowly started climbing up even though several deterrent thoughts were being aired on the logic of climbing uphill in this kind of burning climate.
This journey was planned only yesterday night as my co-brother and wife along with his in-laws came for a 4 day visit to Thiruvananthapuram. His father in law being an ex airforce person had one of his best friends from airforce life settled here in Thiruvananthapuram - Mr "J" and another best friend Mr "V" settled in Ernakulam. J uncle initiated this trip and came along with his wife, son and daughter who happen to be twins.V uncle also tagged along with his handsome young son. My wife her brother and wife, her sister and my two kids completes the party. Yes it was a big gang, but we had acquainted with Mr. J and Mr. V only today morning. The concrete laid path with occassional steps seems to go up endlessly and none of us were quite sure what is in store for us at the end of this journey. 

The eagerness of seeing the unknown acted as the propellent and the climb up progressed slowly but steadily. The pace was really slow, thanks to the umpteen number of photostops and the facebook maniacs amongst us wanted to click profile pics every now and then. Interesting to see that facebook has been embrassed by the young and the old alike and it seems to be order of the day to post images and updates on facebook at least every day. As expected, the ladies were walking in such a way that minimal amount of energy is spend, just like the way they are said to be using their brains (pun intended ;) The colorful umbrella and the walking style reminded me of the models out in a ramp walk.

As the elevation increased, so does the beauty of greenery around. A stream amidst the thick green cover added spice to the whole ambience. 

Even after reaching this height the upward trail seemed to have got no endpoint in sight. But the increase in wind flow, simply blew away fatigue. Another 5 minutes walk and we reached a point from where there seems to be a detour. But the alternate track was through a well rounded rock. We chose this path. Gripping was a little bit difficult, but keeping our body swayed towards front we managed to climb up. A glance behind can send shivers to the light hearted, but this trek was really worth it. Those who went up first looked like they could touch the sky. 

But still the Jain temple is no where in sight. So the trek continued but now we had the close company of the clear blue skies and relatively heavy winds.

Clicking spree soon became viral as everyone was seeing capturing others using their digicams or mostly on mobiles. They cannot be blamed though as the scenery was so exemplary that one will instinctively feel like capturing the frame for some sweet memories later on in life, but wonder how, one is going to revisit all the images which he/she take on a digicam, as the number of images which is shot on a single trip will be amounting to hundreds. By the time we reached this point we got know the three ex-air force men really well and began to envy the friendship they share. They were of help to each other in times of trouble and in good times and shared a bond much more than their closest relatives. It felt really good to see that they share the same kind of friendship even today after retiring from the force about a decade ago. 

As I was busy clicking solos and group pics, I saw my elder son shouting as if he is Columbus, who discovered America all of a sudden. He was excited seeing another huge rocky hill nearby and wanted to climb up. He was pointing to the boulder in the middle of this panoramic view. 

Within no time my son along with his cousins were far away from us running, jumping, crawling and doing all sorts of antics to climb up the boulder which looked very much like an elephant's back.

Watch the above picture closely and you can see three homo-sapiens climbing up the back of that huge elephant shaped rock. Meanwhile I was finding the puff clouds and the blue sky as the perfect backdrop for silhouttes and made all those near me as models. The experiment results were quite promising 

Even though I took lots of shots in the same mode the one which gave me utmost satisfaction was this one. A jump by J uncle's son. He was literally flying in this momentary freeze of time.

Ample time spent here, under the scorching sun, but not even a trace of fatigue. The winds blowing across and the magnanimity of the surrounding was enough to keep fatigue at bay. The trekking party resumed journey and the top point seemed to be near. Only one more big boulder was in front of us. 

No, you don't have to be a mountaineer to climb up in that nearly vertical surface. There is a small path way through the side of that rock. A little more ahead we could see what is on top of this rock, our destination. A beautiful temple.

Once the destination is in sight, the pace increased and within no time we were on level with the top most point, the temple, the rock cut temple is now just a few yards away.

This place must have seen a lot of history, it could have seen generations of people visiting here, it must have known about the transformation taking place in the world. Even when the world around it is changing this place stayed the same, thanks to it being declared as a protected monument by the archeological department of India. The entry itself was unique. We have to scrap through this path. 

The path became narrow as we entered, now it is going steep

Carefully tread down the rock cut steps and reached a wide open space with the rock cut temple on one side. The inscriptions on the side tells about the story of Jainism. Even-though I am not well versed with the history, I kept wondering how rock inscriptions could stand the testimony of time. Wonder what we will leave behind as part of our history and tradition coz in this digital world whatever we create has only momentary existence when we consider the durations which historians look into. 

Further tread down the steps and the architecture of the temple slowly unfolds.

Walk through and we reached the entrance of the temple. Get inside and the only light is that of lamps. Everything is kept original.

There is a pond amidst the rocks right in front of the entrance. Touch the water and it is so cool, even-though it is directly under the hot shining, sun.

More inscriptions are present here, but this time they are not in pictures, but in different scripts. Wonder whether any one has decoded what is written here.

Close up shots of those inscriptions, for the use of anyone interested.

Now I almost made one round of this rock cut temple, each side is presenting a different view, the back side through which we entered was a narrow rock cut lane, followed by picture inscriptions, then came the entrance to the temple, the next side had the scripts and the temple looked really royal from this side. 

Aha another big rock is here. Within no time I climbed up the rocks and was completely enthralled by the view. This is the top point and the 360 degree view which one would get from here cannot be explained in words or cannot be captured in the frames of a camera. You have to be here to experience it. Nevertheless I took some shots to quench my photographic desire. 

Another post card shot 

Gazing around, I could see, plains covered in green veil fluttering in the air, water bodies Cris-crossing, the same old boulders through which we came up, overlooking the puffy blue skies, it was pure bliss !! 

By this time I was alone, I had completely forgotten about the party, it was me and my camera alone. Moving ahead through the rocks, I got another beautiful view of the temple, this being the best point to view the rock cut temple. 

I salute you nature, I salute the wonderful sculptors, I salute those responsible for keeping this prestine and untouched, for giving me such a wonderful experience. I stood at this point gazing at the temple for a long time with my mind completely in a standby mode, only to be woke up by the call of my kids, who were yelling from the front of the temple to join them. Only then I realized that I was standing far away from them and in another world. Slowly I tread the rocky path to join the rest of the clan. 

As I reached the closer to the temple, I could hear a melodious voice, quite worthy of the atmosphere here. There is no electricity here and so the deafening speakers are absent here, the melodious voice was coming directly from the vocal chords of a human. It was coming out from J uncle who was completely immersed in a world of his own rendering a classical song with the whole party sitting around, most of them with their eyes closed, enjoying the rendering at a place where there is no other noise to disturb us. 

A lound applause followed by a void seemed to fill the air when J uncle finished his song. But more good was yet to come. His son and daughter soon followed with another superb song and all of us were in for a surprise experience. We never expected such a treat. My co-brother's wife, his sister and my kids too joined the party and everyone was getting involved. 

Time just flew, we had targeted just one hour for Chitharal visit, but it was already past 1 O clock when we decided to start our trek back and that too with a desire to spend more time here. We could have spend the whole day here. Music continued even during our trek back. Each one of us were thrilled. By this time we got used to the sun. By the time we reached the bottom, this place had etched a special place deep inside our heart. Even-though we had plans to visit Kanyakumari, when we started in the morning, this gem of a place simply made all such ambitions fly away and we were not complaining. 

We still had time to make a quick visit to the Asia's largest Aqueduct - "The Thottipalam" (click here to read about my earlier trip to thottipalam) and the historic "Padmanabhapuram Palace" (Click here to read my earlier travelogue to this palace) before making our return. 

The place - Chitharal was special, but more than that the people whom we travelled with was special, got to see a live example of hardcore friendship, enjoyed a live concert at the most conducive environment, I dedicate this post to the three friends who share that excellent bond between them. 


I was surprised to see that I have not posted travelogues in this blog for the last few months. I donno why. It just happened. Infact I started to write this post almost 4 months back. There is reason why I completed this today. 

I had a surprise interview by the local FM station, Club FM 94.3 about my travelogues. This blog is one of the reasons why I was interviewed and I just felt bad about not posting for so many months, eventhough I keep on traveling. once the interview was over I vowed that I will post at-least one post today. I thank Club FM 94.3 and the wonderful persons whom I met today as part of the show.


R Niranjan Das said...

Nice post with some wonderful photos.
Nice to know about your interview.

Vasco Da GirDhar said...

Beautiful blog and amazing photographs.

Anonymous said...

"As expected the ladies were walking in such a way that minimal amount of energy is spend, just like they are said to
be using their brains"..waoh...what a wonderful male chauvinistic view ...its true that we need to use only a little of our brains to manage male folks mostly fools like u"


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