The Largest Reserve for Water Birds Breeding in South India- Koothankulam Bird Sanctuary

Koothankulam Bird Sanctuary is the largest reserve for breeding water birds in South India.  This bird sanctuary cum protected area is situated at a distance of around 30 kilometers from Tirunelveli town, at Koothankulam village in Tamil Nadu state, India.
A pair of Black-winged Stilts (Himantopus himantopus) in the foreground with Bar-headed Geese in the background, at Koothankulam Bird Sanctuary

Around 43 species of resident as well as migratory water birds visit this bird sanctuary. Around 100,000 migratory birds comes here by December and leave by June or July next year, after laying eggs and and the young ones are mature enough to fly with them.

Koonthankulam village community is actively involved in the protection of Koothankulam Birds Sanctuary. They take care of the fallen chicks by handing over them to the rescue center.

Koothankulam Bird Sanctuary has a [amazon_textlink asin=’B079SLFPFT’ text=’Bird watching binocular’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’toursitinindi-21′ marketplace=’IN’ link_id=’3c02a231-3671-11e8-a856-2fbd485ad462′] tower, an interpretation center and a  children’s park. There is also a dormitory open for the public,  throughout the year.

Bar-headed goose from Siberia is  one of the major migratory birds here at Koothankulam Sanctuary. Common sandpiper, Common teal, Coot, Green sandpiper, Pintail, etc, are some of the other Siberian Migratory birds which comes to Koothankulam sanctuary. Apart from Siberian migratory birds, birds from Central Asia and parts of North India also makes Koothankulam Bird Sanctuary as their breeding grounds.

There is an children’s park and interpretation center, inside the bird sanctuary at Koothankulam.

How Do I Go to Koothankulam Bird Sanctuary?

Koothankulam Bird Sanctuary is at a distance of 67 kilometers from Nagercoil town and 70 kilometers from Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of India. Vallioor town, a fast growing town on the National Highway in-between Thirunelvi and Nagarcoil towns,  is at around 27 kilometers from the bird sanctuary at Koothankulam.

Suchindram Theroor Birds Sanctuary, the southernmost bird sanctuary in India, is at a distance of around 72 kilometers from Koothankulam Bird Sanctuary.

Guindy National Park, Snake Park and Children’s Park

Guindy National Park is one of the smallest National Parks in India. Guindy park has an area of just 2.70 square kilometers. Guindy National park is the 8th smallest national park in India.

It is situated in the heart of Chennai city, Tamilnadu state, India.   Guindy National park is located  next to Raj Bhavan, the official residence of the governor of the state of Tamilnadu.

Painted Stork inside Guindy national par
Painted Stork inside Guindy national park.

Guindy National Park  extends into the Raj Bhavan compound also. The park consists of  forests, scrub lands, lakes, streams, etc.

There is a snake park and children’s park on the periphery of Guindy National park, Chennai. A fossilized tree specimen, estimated to be about 20 million years old is there in the Children’s park. It is a much sought after destination for the school children of Chennai. Snake Park and Children’s park has separate entry gates with separate entry fee to be paid.

This national park at Gundy has a sizable population of Spotted Deer numbering around 2,000. The park also has around 400 black-bucks  and 24 jackals.  There are around 150 bird species, 14 mammal species and 60 species of butterflies and same number of spider species.  There are 9 species of amphibians. Endangered species like star tortoise is also found inside the National park at Guindy.

How Do I Go to Guindy National Park, Chennai?

Guindy National Park’s entry gate is situated on the Sardar Patel Road next to the Adyar Cancer Institute, Chennai. It is also close to  Anna University and I.I.T. Chennai.

Indira Nagar railway station is the nearest railway station to the park, on the MRTS  (Mass Rapid Transport System, an elevated suburban railway network). Gindy or Saidapet stations on the Tambaram – Beach suburban railway line is also close to the park. Those traveling by Chennai Metro train can get down at Gindy or Saidapet stations and take a bus or auto-rickshaw  to reach the National Park.

The Largest Temple Dedicated to Lord Shiva – Tiruvannamalai Temple or Arunachaleswarar Temple

From Arunachaleswarar temple alias Thiruvannamalai Temple is believed to be the largest temple in the world dedicated to Lord Shiva,  at Thiruvannamalai in Tamilnadu state, India.  “Arulmigu Arunachaleswarar Temple” is the official name of the temple.

Arunachaleswarar Temple or Tiruvannamalai Temple
Arunachaleswarar Temple or Tiruvannamalai Temple

Tiruvannamalai Arunachalam temple is situated on a hilltop on a 10 hectare land.The history of the temple dates back to more than a millennium.  Thevaram, a seventh century devotional poetry and  Thiruvasagam, ninth century Tamil hymns composed by the Shaivite poet Manikkavasagar, both mentions this temple.

Devotes call God Shiva as Annamalayar or Arunachaleswarar here. According to the official website of the temple, Legend behind Annamalaiyar temple is as follows.

Bramha took the form of a swan and flew to see the crown of Siva. Unable to see the crown, Bramha saw a thazhambu flower which had decked Siva’s crown falling down. He asked the flower as to the distance of Siva’s crown whereby the flower replied that he had been falling for forty thousand years. Bramha, realizing that he would not be able to reach the crown asked the flower to act as a false witness.

The thazhambu flower acting as a false witness declared that Brahma had seen the crown. Siva became angry at the deception and cursed that Bramha should have no temple on earth and that the thazhambu flower should not be used while praying to Lord Siva. The place where Lord Siva stood as a column of fire to eliminate the ego is Thiruvannamalai.

Thiruvannamalai Girilvalam

Thiruvannamalai Girilvalam is very famous among the devotees. It is the process of Circumambuling the 14 kilometers path along the temple’s outer boundary (walking around the temple compound) on a full moon day. Devotees believes that Girilvalam will bring many benefits to them. Benefits includes long life, fame, relief from diseases, health, wealth, peace of mind, etc. Tamil film Superstar Rajnikath has contributed more than a million Indian rupees towards illuminating the Girilvalam pathway.

Thiruvannamalai Deepam Festival

Thiruvannamalai deepam festival is very famous among the devotees. Three million devotees have attended the last Deepam Festival on the Karthikai Deepam or Karthikai Vilakkidu day. It will be on the full moon day, in-between November and December. You can see the huge beacon lit atop the hill top  from miles away. It symbolizes the Shiva lingam (Associated with lord Shiva) of fire joining the sky.

Hotels in Thiruvannamalai

Sparsa resort Thiruvannamalai is an Eco-friendly resort. There are many other hotels also near to the temple.

How Do I Go to Tiruvannamalai Temple or Arulmigu Arunachaleswarar Temple?

Tiruvannamalai to Chennai  distance is around 194 kilometers.  Vellore is at around 92 kilometers distance from the temple.

Tiruvannamalai railway Station is at around 2 kilometers from the temple. It is on the Katpadi-Villipuram route. Railway station code for is Tiruvannamalai  is TNM.

Nearest major airport is at Chennai.

Conclusion

Thiruvannamalai Temple is  the largest Lord Shiva Temple and Karthikai Deepam is the main festival here.

Are you going for the next Thiruvannamalai Deepam Festival? Please let me know your comments.

Saint Mary's church

St. Mary’s Church, Chennai, The Oldest British Building in India

Saint Mary’s Church is the oldest Anglican church, located East of Suez, at Fort St. George, Chennai, India. Its the first Anglican church in Asia. St. Mary’s church was constructed by the British East India Company.

Saint Mary's Church, Chennai
Saint Mary’s Church, Chennai

St. Mary’s Church at Chennai is a CSI Church and is also known as the ‘Westminster Abbey of the East‘. Construction started on 25 March 1678. Consecrated on 28 October 1680, this church was the only bomb-proof building in the Fort at the time of construction. The Present church tower was added at the end of the seventeenth century. (Fort Saint George which now houses the Tamil Nadu state government secretariat, was constructed by the British East India Company in 1644.) The church was constructed using voluntary contributions from the Governor and other officers, who inhabited the fort.

St. Mary’s church was designed by Edward Fowle or or William Dixon, Gunners of the fort. There are numerous memorials, commemorative inscriptions, wooden and glass furnishings inside the church. A painting of the “The Last Supper” by unknown artist, believed to be brought to Madras by the British troops who stormed Pondicherry in 1761, is synonymous with the Church. In 1710, a spire was added.

During the Second Carnatic War between the British and the French (1758-’59) and again when Hyder Ali invaded, Saint Mary’s Church was used as a barrack and granary.

There are 104 tombstones at the Church premises. The oldest tombstones is that of Lord Pigot, dating back to 1777. (There are a few Catholic tombstones also, which were brought to this church cemetery from a catholic church, which got destroyed.) Baptism, death, burial and marriage registers, right from the consecration day, are still preserved. The very first registers are stored at the Fort Museum and the remaining ones at the Church itself. Fort Museum has some plates and chalices on display, that were presented by Elihu Yale. There is also a large silver basin, silver flagon and communion cup on display at the Fort Museum.

The ancient prayer house which exited before the construction of the church, solemnized the marriages Robert Clive (governor of Fort St. George) and Elihu Yale. Yale University in the United States of America was funded with Elihu Yale’s gift of money to the institute.

How Do I Go to Saint Mary’s Church, Chennai?

Saint Mary’s Church is situated on Rajaji Salai (Salai means Road in Tamil language), which is one of the major roads in Chennai.

Chennai Central railway station, one of the major railway stations in India, is situated at around 3 kilometers distance from St. Mary’s Church. Chennai International airport is at around 20 kilometers distance from Saint Mary’s Church at Chennai Fort Complex.

St Mary’s Church Mass Timings

St Mary’s Church Mass schedule is as follows:

Sundays
Mass in Tamil Language at 6.15 am, 7.15 am

Mass in English Language at 8.30 am, 6.00 pm

Week Days – 8.00 am to 4.00 pm.

Suruli Falls, Silapathikaram, Agastya Rishi

Suruli Falls is a 150 feet high, two stage cascading falls near Cumbum Town in Theni District, Tamilnadu state. After falling into a pond, this waterfall again plummets another 40 feet.

Suruli Falls
Suruli Falls near Cumbum Town, Tamilnadu.

The falls is on the Suruli River, which originate in the Meghamalai mountain range. Meghamalai mountain range is part of Pothigai Malai or Pothigai hills, which is divine to Hindus.

It is believed that Lord Shiva and Goddesses Parvati were married at Mount Kailash. Due to the presence of the large number of holy beings witnessing the marriage, Mount Kailash got unbalanced. Therefore, Maharishi Aagastya or Agastya Muni (meaning Saint Agastya) was sent to this mountains by Lord Shiva. He was asked balance the world, which he did successfully. At the same time, Agastya Muni was able to visualize the wedding of Lord Shiva and Goddesses Parvati, at a Shivalingam at Tiru Kalyana Teertham, at Pothigai hills. This area is frequented by saints, on full moon days. There is an idol of Aagastya Muni, situated at the peak of Agasthyamalai.

Many 11th Century caves can be found near Suruli Falls. These caves are fine examples of Indian rock-cut architecture. Tamilnadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC) conducts an annual summer festival at Suruli falls. Chinna Suruli or Cloudland Falls is another falls, at around 54 kilometers distance from Theni town.

Suruli Aandavar temple (Subramania Swami temple) is a famous temple at Suruli hills. Suruli Velappar Temple, shaped like an OM Pranava, is one among the nearby tourist attractions. (Om is a sacred icon in Hindu religion. Om is also a sacred mantra in Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism.)

Suruli Falls is mentioned in Silappathikaram, the ancient Tamil epic written by Ilango Adigal.

How Do I Go to Suruli Falls?

Suruli Falls is well connected by roads. Tamilnadu state government buses are available frequently from Cumbum and Uthamapalayam. Cumbam is the nearest town, at a distance of 10 kilometers from the falls. Uthamapalayam town is at around 20 kilometers distance from the Falls at Surali. Theni Town is at around 55 kilometers from the falls. The falls is on the way to Periyar National Park.

Which is the Ideal Season to Visit Suruli Falls?

June – October months are the ideal season to visit Suruli falls; although there is some flow all through the year. #SuruliFalls