Tamil Nadu is reputed to be the cultural heartland of India and its visitors tend to be ‘templephiles’—lovers of temples. While we wouldn’t consider ourselves to be included in this group, we do appreciate a nice temple when we see one. And in Tiruchirappalli, or ‘Trichy’, we got to appreciate two incredible temples in one day.
|Rock Fort Temple, Trichy|
We started our day by boarding a crowded city bus for the ride to the Rock Temple Fort. Set 83m above the crowds of the busy bazaar are actually a collection of 2 temples situated on a huge rock outcrop that dates back 3500 billion years. Approximately 437 stone-cut steps (per Lonely Planet, but only 260 or so by our count) need to be climbed in bare feet first though in order to get to the top, but luckily most of the climb was covered. However the final steps to reach the highest temple, the Vinayaka Temple were red hot from the sun, sending the girls flying into our arms to be carried the rest of the way. Embarrassingly the locals didn’t seem to be affected, with one man even carrying Yasmine the rest of the way up. The near 360 degree view from the top is amazing and made it really worthwhile though.
|Final (hot) steps to the Vinayaka Temple|
|View of Trichy from the highest temple|
After descending from the Fort Temple, we escaped from the heat and humidity into a restaurant that we soon discovered was built within a stone temple (very cool). After enjoying a delicious lunch amid cool air conditioning, we had to venture back into the heat of the day briefly until we got back to our hotel room for a bit of ‘Tom and Jerry’.
After dinner, we set out by bus again, this time for the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple. That the Lonely Planet described it as ‘quite possibly the biggest temple in India ‘ really intrigued us. As we approached it, the first of eight or so gopurams (soaring pyramidal gateway tower of Dravidian style temples) rising up 73m high and slightly lit against the ever-darkening sky was really breath-taking. The relative coolness of the evening was a welcome contrast to the heat of the day and great for walking through the very large complex. Strangely, shops of fabric, clothing, religious ware, tea and drink, and plastic toy merchants and even jewellers lined most of the path along the way through. After our experience at the Rock Fort Temple we were glad that we didn’t try to come earlier in the day—and our feet were thankful that we didn’t either given that we had to remove our shoes at the 4th gopuram as we neared the inner sanctum and most of the large complex was made entirely of stone and directly exposed to the sun.
|Inside the 4th gopuram|
|Walking between the gopurams|
As a destination though, Trichy was busy, noisy, dirty and crowded. Traffic seemed constant, people were walking around everywhere, and above it all, the never ending blaring of horns. Then add to this the very hot and humid daytime conditions. Needless to say, it was very draining once we left the confines of our air conditioned room. Our 30hrs in Trichy was enough for us and we escaped to the mountains.
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