Day 2 : Pondy –Cuddalore- Pichavaram-Chidambaram-Vaitheeswaran Kovil – Tharangambadi (136 Km/ NH45A)
Exciting part of Coastal ride, as the days ride plan had interesting places to stop and explore on the way. Delayed start meant we rode with sun showering its blessings in full glory!!! Pondy to Cuddalore is less than 20 km , but you don’t feel like riding on NH. Traffic galore especially the state transport buses and Cold Storage Carriers who seem to on race against time. Cold storage carriers can be spotted all along NH45A transporting the fresh catch from coast to cities in TN and Kerala. A major share is exported too. Cuddalore bore major brunt of Nature’s furry in Dec 2015 floods. Entering the town, one realizes the efforts of all in getting back to normalcy. Town did not show any signs of nature’s fury, roads too seemed to be in order. We continued on NH45A towards Chidambaram, this stretch is agricultural belt with acres and acres of land under paddy cultivation. Cucumber vendors lined up NH45A between Cuddalore and Chidambaram – a welcome relief to travelers.
15 Km before Chidambaram, Pichavaram Mangrove Forest is a treasure for Nature enthusiasts. It’s the second largest mangrove jungle after the sundarbans. Spread over 3000 acres , this wetland is separated from sea by sand bank. Apparently, the forest has 4,400 big and small canals. Astonishing! The small canals are sun-flecked tunnels of roots and branches, some hanging so low that there’s hardly any room to pass through. Except for the swish of paddles, sound of birds, all is silent and still. The trees grow in water that’s 3-10 feet deep in different places. The conditions are quite hostile, as the sea’s tides bring salt water in and out twice a day, changing the salinity. Hence, the trees have unique root systems, with membranes that only allow fresh water to enter.
They also have breathing roots that grow up from the water, with pores that can take in oxygen.2004 Tsunami damaged the mangrove forest, at the same time but for these forests the destruction inland would have been severe as per our boatman Ramdas. TTDC operates Tourist guest house AC Cottages and Boat House ( between 9 AM to 6 PM).Row boats are recommended as it can navigate through small canals within forest. Hat and Sunglasses is a must to protect you from scorching sunlight. If you tip the boatman he will take you deeper into forest.
Mangroves of Pichavaram spreads itself in a interesting way.Pic 1 :The stems u see in pic grows on tree and it drops into salt water Pic 2:Top portion comes off like Bottle cap… Leaves start growing Pic 3: Leaves grows from stem Pic 4: roots branch out from stem (note the brown dots on stem) Roots are brown in color and soft until they seep into water.It hardens and post which its diff to uproot.Pic 5: Fully Grown Mangroves
November to Feb is best time especially for bird watching. Forest department is developing a track within the mangrove vegetation for tourists. After our memorable and energy sapping exploration of Forest on boat, we had lunch at TTDC tourist center. Trip has been eye opener in way TTDC properties have been well maintained. Local Buses ply between Chidambaram and Pichavaram at regular intervals.
Our next pit stop was temple town – Chidambaram. Ride from here on was cooler as rode into dusk .Town boasts of famous Thillai Natarajar Temple , One of Pancha Bootha Sthalams. Pancha Bhoota Sthalam refers to the five Shiva temples, each representing the manifestation of the five prime elements of nature – land, water, air, sky, fire. In the Chidambaram temple, Shiva is said to have manifested himself in the form of sky. As per daily rituals, Puja is done 6 times in a day. Before each puja, the spadika linga (crystal linga) or the semi form state of Lord Shiva is anointed with ghee, milk, curds, rice, sandal paste and holy ash. This is followed by offering of freshly prepared food and sweets to the deity and the diparaadhana, a ritual of showing varied and decoratively set lamps.The puja ends with the priest parting the curtains of the sanctum sanctorum to reveal the Chidambara Rahasyam (sanctum).Before the 2nd puja, apart from the regular anointing of the crystal linga, a ruby Nataraja deity (the Rathinasabhapathy) is also anointed. Anointing of ruby Nataraja is sight to behold , especially when diparaadhana is performed. The priest shows the diparaadhana from behind the Nataraja and light passes through ruby – it’s a visual spectacle. The last puja, called the arthajaama puja is performed with special fervor. It is believed that the entire divine force of the universe retires into the deity, when he retires for the night.
After having divine darshan of Lord Nataraja , we proceeded to Vaitheeswaran Kovil which is yet another Shiva temple where the Lord is worshipped as “God of Healing”. This temple town is also famous for Naadi Josiyam- a form of hindu astrology practiced around the temple.
It is based on the belief that the past, present and the future lives of all humans were foreseen by Hindu sages in ancient time. The texts are mainly written in Vatteluttu, which is an ancient Tamil script. There are different schools of thought as to the author of these leaves.
We were 40km away from our last pit stop for the day –Tharangambadi. It was around 8.30PM when we started from Vaitheeswaran Kovil, RE beasts roared past sleeping villages and dogs showed their frustration of being disturbed by chasing us!!! After 20 km in winding village roads we joined NH45A just before Thirukadaiyur. As our luck would have it , we found accommodation in guest house located right on highway @ Tharangambadi without much hassle.
Route Map: https://goo.gl/maps/vt4a11VB1S22