Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Memories of my visit to Brihadeshwara Temple

The hobbies of penfriendship, philately and radio listening had given me an elderly friend from Thanjavur. He was renown in those circles as he had long experience and had like-minded friends from all over the country and also with many radio stations. He was T.K.Soundararajan (TKS).
This is a picture of his younger days

In 1987, an intimation arrived at our office that an athletic meet would be organized at Karaikudi. I saw a good opportunity to meet this man as Thanjavur was almost along the route from Mysore to Karaikudi. When I wrote to him about it, he was happy and when the date closed in, he informed where exactly I must alight. I also had written about my interest in visiting the lovely Brihadeshwara Temple of which I heard so much.

Tamil Nadu is one of the best when it comes to road transport and one can travel at any time of the day or night from and to any point. Such is the efficiency. Hopping point-point is a common thing there. Mysore-Sathyamangalam, Sathy-Erode, Erode-Namakkal, Namakkal-Trichy, Trichy-Thanjavur was the route I chose. The total time would be about ten hours. One need not wait for buses for hours, they are ready for you, somehow! Once you get down at a point, you almost step into the next one near it and vrooom! That’s how the system works there in busy Tamil Nadu even in the wee hours and right through the night in fact!

I had written TKS about my schedule and the approximate time my bus would reach Thanjavur. After the long journey of 10 hours, I had alighted at the exact spot as per direction of TKS, to which the bus conductor and the other travelers helped. It was 4 pm. The plan was to stay overnight with him and move over to Karaikudi and join our Athletic team the next day.
By inquiring passers-by, I located his address which was close by. TKS’ was in a small colony with little apartments. My door knock was responded by the lady of the house. She welcomed me in Tamil and she knew I was arriving. TKS had not returned from work. After a wash, she gave me typical Madras coffee. TKS was to return in about an hour or earlier.

After coffee, she asked me “Tamil terimaa?” (Do you know Tamil?) Boastingly, I replied in fluent Tamil, “Mmm, koncha koncha teriyaadu.” She smiled thinking I was joking but I was serious. Tamil was the only language she knew and those were only some of the very few Tamil words I knew!! So, even a light conversation did not take off to engage me till TKS arrived. She asked a few questions in Tamil which I understood and nodded.

After some restless minutes feeling funny due to the language barrier, I left the place telling “Walking poitu varey.” (… will go for a walk). I wiled half an hour looking here and there and into the main street that led to the bus stand, then traced my steps back to 5/35 (which was his door number which was so familiar to me due to the letters written to that address) hoping to see my friend’s face for the first time.

Ah, there he was welcoming me! A short man, simple chap, but very knowledgeable. He was a lecturer in a college. Soon, another cup of coffee and some snacks engaged us in a very enjoyable discussion mostly relating to our common hobby and various things. He showed me his radio, QSL card collection, his correspondence with many people and radio stations and many gifts the stations sent him for his interest. It was fascinating. He was very organized. Another thing about him was that he never wasted paper. I learnt from him how he recycled envelopes by turning them inside out! Also, he used to write letters on any piece of paper like this:

Time had flown by and dinner time was there already. Typical simple south Indian dinner was affectionately served by the lady and it was just like my home. (Their two children were on in town at that moment.) “Saapadu nalla iruku” (food is nice) I told after dinner. This time also she smiled, but slightly differently.

Sleeping arrangement was made in the hall for me with a mat and pillow. TKS also slept in another corner as there was only one room in his house.

TKS was to leave for work at about 10 am the following day. As usual, we had “Madras Coffee” in the morning. “Get ready to visit Brihadeshwara Temple now” he said. It was early in the morning and he had two bicycles. “Do you know how to ride?” he asked, expecting a “Yes”. One of my favourite modes of movement is, even today, the bicycle. So I was more than happy to ride along.
This is the famous Big Tower

Soon we were both pedaling on peaceful roads (as it was morning) in Thanjavur on our way to the “Big Temple”. We reached the place in less than ten minutes. I was stunned by its imposing size and beauty. The clean premise added to the calmness of the pleasant morning as the sun had risen only an hour before and there were just a handful of people visiting at that early hour.
We parked the bicycles inside the temple premise (another unusual thing to do in such a famous tourist destination!) and went round, later into the sanctum sanctorum. Outside, he showed me the idol of Lord Nataraja, worshipped by dancers and explained how the top portion of the tower was placed. It is a single piece carved out of a huge boulder which, as the story goes, was pushed up a gradient-ramp built a few miles long!
Simply, the “Devasthaana romba nalla iruku”! (Temple is very nice.) Really!
Big Tower again

Those were days when we did not own (film) cameras to capture images.
So let me share a few taken by my friends who visited there last year.

Nandi Bull

The magnificent Brihadeshwara Temple celebrated its 1000th year recently and in a grand fitting manner. Read what my blogger friend shares about the event. A couple of pictures and a short video also is embedded there.

Well, TKS and I had a “nalla” homely breakfast after our return from the temple and after a while it was time for me to say “poitu varey” (actually means going and coming, but said to mean ‘good bye’) to Mrs.TKS. Now she had a wider smile at my Tamil! TKS left me at the bus stand (which was not very far) and saw me board the bus to Karaikudi. We exchanged departing pleasantries as the bus moved.

I reached Karaikudi in 2 hours and joined the team. That was the last I saw of TKS and we exchanged some more letters later, until one day a letter returned to me undelivered. Later I came to know from another common radio friend from Chennai (Madras) that he was ill and that was the last I heard about him. I am still wondering about his welfare.

In the athletic events in Karaikudi, our team lost in the 4x100 relay, I came 4th in long jump and lost to the eventual winner in the 100 metres sprint.

When I remember the Big Temple, memories of TKS always spring up along with my first and only stint at Athletics.

Long later, I learned that “teriyaadu” meant “do not know” and realized why Mrs.TKS smiled at my Tamil vocabulary!

Inside the temple premise




Very nice post, Dinakar, and thank you for linking my post to this. Your memories are bright and clear, and you have presented interestingly the character of Mrs. TKS. I smiled along with her.

The pictures are very good - this temple is one place one can go on seeing again and again.

Dinakar KR said...

Raji, thanks very much. My second visit to that Temple is yet to happen. I am just unable to recollect the face of Mrs.TKS.

Yesterday morning when I woke up from sleep, suddenly, this memory sprung up. I don't know why. There was no plan either. The inner voice that must be! Cancelled my morning walk and sat with the keyboard with a cup of coffee.. there you are, it was ready by afternoon. Gave finishing touches at the workplace. I'm happy too.

ravi said...


This website of a group of colleges in Tanjavur lists a Prof. TK Soundarajan as the Head of Chemistry Department. Might he be the same person?

Austinbhats said...

Good one Dinakar--Being a Tamilian--I could feel your Tamil "nalla".
Journey to temple is very well captured in mind.Thanks.

Dinakar KR said...

Thanks Ravi. It could be him. I'm now writing to the college with my query. An e-mail contact is given in that college website.

Varma said...

Hello All! Can anyone let me know TKS, contact address and mobile No. in Tanjavur.


Varma Penmetsha , Hyderabad Mob : 9849136131

Nrusimhan said...

interesting.. did you connect to him later?

Dinakar KR said...

Thanks for reading. I wrote 'I was still wondering about his welfare'. I'm still wondering. Never met again. The mails also stopped coming. I vaguely remember that he wrote he had a heart condition that slowed him down.

Nrusimhan said...

He is doing good. He is my small grand father. I am very surprised to find this blog...

Gokul said...

Dear Mr.Dinakar
My name is Chithra Ramu, the first daughter of TKS. I think I was not at home at that time during ur visit, studying in College.
Today only I came to know of ur post. I am very happy that u had posted a vivid description of my father TKS and Thanjavur and life in those days. I must thank you first for rekindling the early day memories , the epic house 5/35 where we all grew up and for the photo of my young father.
My parent (both) are there in Thanjavur but in another address - 24, Thangam Nagar, Medical College Road, Thanjavur 613007. His mobile no 9944377529. His landline 04362272269. Of course he will be shuttling between his three daughters where his services are required ( to take care of grand children) so u can contact him in his mobile.
Mrs. TKS can speak english now. Both of them are now 73 and but for the sugar problem of my father, they both are hale and healthy by God's grace.
I thank you once again for remembering my father TKS.
Chithra Ramu

Dinakar KR said...

Thank you Chitra Ramu. At last, you noticed this blog. I'm glad to know that your mother is able to speak some English now - and I am happy to say that I've not made that Tamil mistake again! Thanks for the numbers you provided. I'll soon talk to him. I only hope he will remember me. Is that you or your sister who was studying in Bangalore when I came? I had tagged his name with the hope one of you would find it on the Net. My purpose is now served. Thanks again.

Dinakar KR said...

Thanks to Nrusimham also.

Gokul said...

Dear mr.Dinakar
It was me who was working in Bangalore. Actually my mother remembers ur visit. My father might recognise u if he sees u. It is with the age I suppose. Pls do keep in touch with my father as and when u find time.
Chithra Ramu

Dinakar KR said...

Thank you Chitra. I spoke to him this afternoon and he remembered me. He has already been provided [by his SiL]with the print out of this blogpost. I am so delighted. Those were days when we had met that there was no telephone in our house. We only exchanged 'paper letters'! I'm so glad your mother remembers my visit. She might still be laughing about my 'Tamil'! I still preserve all his letters written to me. Those were great days!

Gokul said...

Sure Mr.Dinakar.Those old golden days cannot come back now. Though the technology was not advanced, we used to enjoy life sometimes being happy / quarrel even for petty things. Now that technology is advanced, we are able to avoid some telephone calls by just seeing the number. Pls do visit our parent at Thanjavur and see for yourself the changes in a town like thanjavur.