The Adventure of the Maamandur Trails
  • Dear all...

    A tiny village with two shrines (one of them an open-air Mariamman Koil with
    a single inscription on a stone behind it). Green fields surrounding the
    area, with little cart-tracks meandering through them. A fairly big-sized
    temple, with waving trees in the courtyard. A bunch of curious villagers,
    intent on finding out the purpose of any visitor- much like an Intelligence

    A trip to a place like that ought to be refreshing for a bunch of
    accountants, computer-savvy techies, and transcriptionists.

    Well, that's exactly what we thought too.

    On June the 15th, a bright, hot Sunday, I, Kamalakkannan, Krupashankar,
    Lavanya and Anuradha picked up Dr. Kalaikovan's book 'Varalaaru'- and
    started on a journey to Maamandur- a tiny village 11kms from Chengleput
    [There's another Maamandur, called 'Thoosi Maamandur (don't even ask me
    about the reason for such a name)- that contains Pallava Inscriptions and
    rock-cut temples- but we voted that for another day]. We took a train to
    Thambaram, where a grinning Kamal joined us- and after that, it was another
    train to Chengleput- where we arrived, huffing and puffing (the train, that
    is)- at around 12 PM. (I remember thinking that it was a weird hour to visit
    temples:-).The sun seemed to welcome us, for it shone down fiercely, making
    the tar roads glow a rich, shiny black.

    We walked out to the bus stand and waited expectantly. There were dozens of
    buses churning up dust
    towards Madurai and Trichy- but, as luck would have it, none towards
    Maamandur. Fortunately, when we had almost given up (with Krupashankar
    staring at the packets of butter-milk longingly)-this Matador came along and
    opened its door obligingly for us, so we hopped in.

    The Gods decided that since we had obliged them by starting on an
    expedition, we might as well go the whole way- so the van dropped us off at
    an intersection that seemed to lead to the dirt road. The dirt road, of
    course wandered off into the wilderness. We trudged a good two 2 kilometres
    (while Kamal regaled us with tales of his childhood:-) inside the trail to
    get to the village proper. And what a village (read first para, please.).

    Our first stop was the temple, which was locked for the afternoon- and no
    amount of cajoling would make the priest let us in- so we pulled open the
    'Varalaaru' book in hand and looked at what else was available. There was a
    Maariamman temple at the next fork, which supposedly contained some
    inscriptions, so we walked there- and behind this Pallava period 'Kotravai'
    silai- there was a chipped off stone. Curious villagers of the 'Maamndur
    Welcoming Committee' gathered around ("Etho kalvettaamilla?" "ennathu,
    kalvettaa? appudiyellaam onnum kedaiyaathE?")

    We had some fun then:-) trying to read 17th century inscriptions. It was all
    we could do make out the weird characters. But 17th century Thamizh is
    pretty close to modern-day Thamizh- so it was kinda allright. Lavanya and I
    stood around the chipped-off stone, trying to decipher the characters, while
    Kamal stood with the book in hand, telling us if what we read was right
    ("athu 'aa' illai, 'uuu'...."). Anuradha and Krupashankar looked on, trying
    to read the words themselves. Here's what we read (and we read it very well

    1 naLa varusham
    2 shriman kattiya ....[maa]
    3 vaNdUr udaiy[a*]r picha nayi[naar thE]
    4 vathaanam keezai vayalum...........
    5 mpadil thirumadai vaLaagaththilum
    6 ERina kaikO[La]rkku adaivOlai ku
    7 duththa yithiruvaasalil yirukkuch chi
    8 l a[n]thara[a*]yamum ecchORu muL
    9 pada varushaththukku thaRikku mUnRu paNa
    10 m koLLak kadavOm[m]maakavum
    11 intha tha[n]mma[ththu*]kku akutham pa
    12 NNInavan *kenggai karai
    13 yil kaaraam pasuvaik konRa thOshath
    14 thilE pOgag
    15 kadavaargaL* (note these lines)
    16 aagavum thaa
    17 naththaar
    18 ezuththu
    19 ivai narasaiyar ezuththu
    20 ivai U[ra]var soRpadikku
    21 thiruvaruL thaazhvaar ezuththu

    It may sound gibberish at places- but be sure to connect the last letter of
    each line with the first word of the next line- and you're sure to get the
    meaning after a few tries:-)))

    Briefly, waht it means that the people connected with the upkeep of the
    Maariyamman temple gave the kaikOlars of that village an AdaivOlai (sort of
    an agreement). The kaikOlars were supposed to pay 'mUnRu paNam' every year
    to the temple- and whosoever disobeyed the inscription would suffer the fate
    of a man who had killed a sacred cow on the banks of the River Ganga (that's
    where I've put the asterisk marks). Sounds impressive, huh? :-). We spent
    hours on this line. Somehow, its one thing to read an inscription in a book-
    its quite another when you see it etched in stone, by a sculptor, all those
    centuries ago. You're touching a piece of history- and that's a feeling no other.

    In the middle of it all, we took some time off for a few ice-creams
    (whatever else they mightn't have, Maamandur is well-stocked with salesmen
    on cycles), and the packets of butter-milk. Anyway- we spent two hours in
    the scorching sun, reading it again and again, wiping it off with water
    (borrowed, how else?), and reading it till we could decipher it without the
    help of the book.

    Finally, feeling very victorious, we packed our bags to the Manduganaathar
    temple- which persisted in remaining locked up. We gazed over the village
    scenery- and then Kamal hit upon the idea of spending the afternoon, under a
    'veppamaram' he'd spotted. We trudged off towards it, and flopped down under
    the huge, spreading branches.

    It was heaven, you know. Fields and fields of paddy spread out from where we
    were sitting, touching the horizon. A few trees dotted the landscape. Lush
    greenery stretched out in all directions, and a cool wind breezed through at
    intervals. A tiny shrine was opposite us. For all we knew, we might have
    been transported to the 10th century- it was so peaceful. (If it hadn't been
    for a telephone line, I might almost have believed it). As it was, it was
    all we could do to keep from falling asleep.

    Which we didn't. Two hours were spent lying at the base of the tree, in talk
    and gossip, from the latest e-group to the dynasties that might have ruled
    Maamandur. We'd brought no lunch (and in fact, lunch was very far from our
    minds at that moment)- so we ended up gulping handfuls of Glucose (for
    instant energy, you see:-)- and washing it down with water.

    By 4 PM, the temple complex was open- and we trooped in. It was a nice
    temple, really- wide verandas, a big courtyard with trees (which the
    archagar's family made full use of)- but we got a shock when we began to
    search for inscriptions.

    They'd painted every darned pillar white!!!

    No inscriptions, nothing. All we could see was huge, white chunks of stone.

    In spite of all this, there was a sere
  • Ah-ha! Pavithra,
    Good travelogue, as always. Guess what u missed? ;)
    The bus journey to maamandur. Yenendral, maamandur endraaley
    ninaivukku varuvadhu: angu irukkum roadside kadaiyum adhil paadum
    gaana paatumdhan :) Invariably all southbound long distance buses
    stop there. Pity u missed it :)
    Enna Krupa nan solradhu? Nan solradhu correctnnu solla inga neraya
    per irukkanga, illaya? Like our pesaamadandhai (oh adhu KM term-
    a? :) ).
  • Great !
    Thought you guys will stop with official "yathirais".

    Never dreamt that you will decide to venture out to such obscure
    places (kaathu karupu edhavadhu adichida pogudhu!!)

    ... hmm...the enthu only seems to be on the increase day after day !

    I am sure this odd behaviour has already been noticed by the elder
    members of the family and warning notices should have been served by
    now. Particularly for girls - if I am not wrong :-)))(to poonguzhali -
    for sure !!!:-))))))

    I hope and pray that you guys will continue this quest irrespective
    of the "changes" (vera enna? marriage than!) that will happen in your
    lifestyle - down the line.

    ARPUDHA AALAYANGAL by one Mr.V.Narayanasamy. (kanda kanda
    pusthagathaiyum padichu uyirai edukkaran!)

    It lists many unknown temples in thondai mandalam - around chennai /
    chengalpattu area. Some of them don't even have any means of
    transportation - unless it is prearranged!(ipadipatta pei ulavum
    idamellam romba mukkiyam!)

    One vaanavan maadeveeswaram (pallipadai temple) impressed me. It is
    closely associated with cholas and was built by rajendra - if I
    remember correctly.(eppa paru idhu vera - gniyayabagam irukka
    illiyannu kuda niyabagam illa!)

    I should write about it sometime ! (ippadi ethanai thadavai
    solliyachu? Hmm...)

  • Dear Pavi
    That was a very good travellogue but not in the calibre of your Thamizh payanakatturai.....they are superb(just kidding)

    I agree with Thilak...Mamandur at 1-3 am a hot cup of tea a glimpse at a range of buses and the latest kanapaddangal...soodana parotta......MMMM

    What would I give to be there


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