Tirunelveli (Tamil Nadu)
Tiruneveli is historically, mythologically and religiously an ancient town of Tamil Nadu. Tirunelveli, situated on the banks of river Tambraparni, was once the capital of the Pandyans and has a history that dates back to more than 2000 years. Legends and inscriptions call Tirunelveli as Venuvana (forest of bamboos). The Shiva temple dedicated to Nelliappar is famous for its magnificent sculptural art. There is another shrine for goddess Kantimathi Amman in the same enclosure. The temple has six magnificently ornamented towers. The shrine for Lord Nelliappar has two chambers; one has the Lingam and the other has Vishnu reclining on the serpent bed, called here as Nellar Govindar. The hall in front of the Amman shrine is called as Oonjal Mandapam which has gigantic pillars decorated with huge Yalis. The sacred pond is called Golden Lotus Teertham. The second enclosure houses the famous Tambra Sabha noted for its delicate wood workings.
The Mani Mandapam in front of the shrine is supported by several musical pillars carved out of a huge block of stone and sculptures of dancing damsels, musicians and wrestlers. The annual festival celebrated in the month of Ani (June-July) attracts a great congregation of pilgrims and visitors. The first incursions of Christianity came to this part of South India and the most pictorial Cathedrals can be seen around Tirunelveli.
Mudasiturai Sanctuary: This Mudasiturai, an excellent place for nature lovers, is located 30 kms from Tirunelveli and developed as a wild life sanctuary as a natural habitat of tigers, leopards, reptiles and other wild animals. In the interior of the forest area, a spacious wild life sanctuary has been developed to give protection to them to live in natural surroundings.
Nanguneri: This is a popular Vaishnava pilgrim centre having the main Vanamamalai Mutt. The temple at Nanguneri, 31 kms from Tirunelveli, has been built in the centre of four tanks.
Tiruchendur: Situated on the seashore and 48 kms away from Tirunelveli, Tiruchendur is famous for its temple of Lord Subramanya. The temple of Lord Subramanya at Tiruchendur is visited by thousands of devotees all the year round. Tradition says that the Lord vanquished the demon Shoora Padman at this place. The warrior form and valour of Lord Subramanya is worshipped here. Fragrant sandal paste and rose water are the most acceptable offerings to this deity. Ugra Pandya, the fourth of the Pandyan line is reputed to have built this temple. Standing majestically, jutting into the sea, make its architecture and positioning such a feel that a casual observer sees the temple rising from the sea bed itself. There is a beautiful beach by the side of the temple. A number of guest houses and cottages have been built by the temple to provide accommodation to the pilgrims and visitors.
Krishnapuram: 13 kms away from Tirulveli, this temple is almost by the side of the main road to Tiruchendur, which has an ancient temple dedicated the Vishnu called here as Venkatachalanathar. The front hall and the corridor of the temple have the life-size sculptured figures which are executed with very delicate workmanship. Every piece here is perfect and meant to depict a folk story. This temple is said to be one of the best preserved monuments in this area.
Manimuthar Waterfalls: Two major irrigation projects of the state are located here. One is called the Papanasham project and the other Manimuthar. River Thambraparni is harnessed here to generate electricity. The dams are constructed along the line of seven hillocks. Situated a little away from the dam amidst natural surroundings is the water falls, where bathing and swimming facilities are available. The circuit house at the dam site provides accommodation for overnight stay.
Srivaikuntam: A picturesque Vaishnava pilgrim centre, 30 kms away from Tirunelveli, is situated on the banks of Tambraparni river. The lofty tower of the temple greets the visitors from a long distance. The presiding deity of the shrine is called Vaikuntanathar and his consort as Vaikuntha Thayar. The main hall of the temple and the Kalyana Mandapam are treasure houses of fine sculptures. Each pillar has a life-size figure of a deity delicately carved. Said to have been built by a Nayaka chief of Madurai, the temple is in a very good state of preservation.
Ovari Shore Temple: Ovari, about 32 kms from Tirunelveli and an ancient coastal village, was once a reputed port in the early Pandyan kingdom. It has also a temple dedicated to Shiva on the sea shore which adds to its beauty. The temple is constructed in the traditional indigenous style of architecture entirely of granite and brick.
Tuticorin: 48 kms from Tirunelveli, this is an ancient port and terminus of Southern Railway, engaged in a flourishing trade with Sri Lanka and other foreign places. It has huge areas covered by many chemical industries, salt producing fields, pearl diving and fishing industries. The Church of Our Lady of Snows is famous for its golden chariot festival. The 20 metre high chariot is covered with sheets of gold. The festival is celebrated in August and devotees of all caste and creed in thousands assemble here.
Panchalakurichi: 30 kms from Tuticorin, this place was developed by the famous patriot Chidambaram Pillai. It was from here that the great warrior Veera Pandya Kattabomman raised his voice against the British rule in the 17th century. There is an ancient fortress in which the temple of Devi Jakkammal, who was the tutelary deity of Kattabomman is located. This fort and temple are preserved as memorials.
Alwar Tirunagari: 8 kms from Srivaikuntam, this little town is situated on the banks of river Thambraparni. Alwar Tirunagari has the celebrated temple of Sri Adinatha Alwar and many other shrines dedicated to other Vaishnavite devotees. In this area are nine Vaishnavite shrine known as Nava Tirupathis. The pillars of the temples have exquisite figures of dancing damsels. There is a unique Nadaswaram made of stone which is called as Mukhavina said to have been gifted by Krishnappa Nayakar. This instrument is played during the festivals. This village is the birth place of Nammalwar, who is said to have been born under a tamarind tree. He is enshrined under the same tamarind tree in this place.
Tenkasi: 55 kms from Tirunelveli, the Shiva temple dedicated to Kasi Vishwanathar and Ulagammal is considered as the Varanasi of the South. This temple also has a lofty twelve tiered Rajagopuram which is full of sculptured figures. A number of shrines are built inside the enclosure for other minor deities.
Courtallam Water Falls: 5 kms from Tenkasi, this village was originally called as Pothigai Malai, said to have been in existence from the ancient times. The lovely Courtallam waterfall is situated right in the heart of the village. A small river called Sittaru, locally called as Chitrangada, falls from a height of 33 metres in the first leap which is called as Then Aruvi (Honey Stream). The second leap is called Shambuga Aruvi (Champaka stream). Here the water descends rapidly from a height of 10 metres. Finally, the water cascades down from a height of 90 metres, which is actually called as the Courtallam Falls. As the water flows through forest abounding in several medicinal herbs, the water of the falls is considered to possess excellent therapeutic qualities. The town is noted for its salubrious climate and natural scenery that has given it the name as the Spa of the South.
The nearest rail-head to Courtallam is Tenkasi. A number of buses including tourist buses operate from all the places in South India. Courtallam has many guest houses and cottages to suit the budget of the visitor.
Kutralanathar Temple: This is a famous Shiva temple by the side of the water falls at Courtallam. The Chitra Sabha (Dancing Hall) of the temple is noted for the excellent decorative work. It is one of the Pancha Sabhas where Lord Shiva exhibited his immortal Tandava Nritya.
Tirumalai: 15 kms from Courtallam, this is another place situated amidst green paddy fields and natural surroundings where a temple has been dedicated to Lord Subramanya known as Ilanji Muruga. Most of the pilgrims coming to Courtallam invariably visit this sacred shrine also.
How to reach Tirunelveli:
Tirunelveli is located about 160 kms away from Madurai. Tirunelveli is connected by rail and road with many places in South India. State buses operate to all the places including interior places also. Excellent lodging facilities are available at this place. Taxis and auto-rickshaws can be hired for local transport.