Category Archives: Areas of interest in India

Description de la catégorie : Areas of interest in india

Chennai & St Thomas

Jesus called his twelve disciples (in the Matthieu chapter 10-Verses 1 to 9)

V1. Having called his twelve disciples to him, he gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
V2. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John;
V3.Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;
V4. Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
V5. These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans.
V6.  Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.
V7.  As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.
V8.
 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,[a] drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
V9. “Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts.

 

Tradition says that St Thomas came to India in 74 AD to convey the Jesus’ message.

San Thome Cathedral was built in 1504. After a fire, it was rebuilt in neogothic style from 1893 to 1896, then completely renovated in its present form in 2006, its stone spire reaches 50 meters high. The building contains many relics (some bones) of Saint Thomas in the crypt. The tomb is located in the middle of the transept (accessed by the entrance of the museum at the back of the cathedral). The cathedral in itself is not extraordinary, but seeing it at illuminated night is a spectacle, it looks like a very nice white sugar cake …

At the top of Mont Saint Thomas, the viewpoint offers a wide panorama of the city of Chennai. The small church “Our Lady of Hope” (16th century, but with no architectural interest) rises from the place where the apostle supposely died.

On Little Mount, 3 km from Mont Saint Thomas, there is a small grotto where Saint Thomas meditated, at the back of the cavity is a source which is, of course, miraculous …

The “Pongal”, Arul or with “Tourism Office”…

In Mahābalipuram, you will have the choice between two possibilities to participate in this wonderful celebration, Pongal, one of the most colourful in South India.

Indeed, during your session of Ashtanga Yoga in the month of January you may participate in this rich in colours and music event.

  • The Tourism Office organizes each year for these festivities of Pongal, a visit to a traditional village some km from Mahābalipuram (singing, dancing, puja, etc.).
Pongal in Arul familly

Pongal in Arul familly

  • If you prefer, you can live this event in a traditional Indian family in a small village 4 km from Mahābalipuram, one of our Indian friends “Arul” invites the participants to the session of Ashtanga Yoga to share the Puja ceremony and share the typical Pongal meal.

Tiruvannamalai, famous pilgrimage destination.

Tiruvannamalai, Annamalaiyar Temple

Tiruvannamalai, Annamalaiyar Temple

Renowned pilgrimage destination, the city is famous for its great temple of Annamalaiyar dating back to the IXth century AD and devoted to Shiva. The city is also well known for the legendary sacred hill of Arunachala, which is a holy place, as well as for the presence of the ashram of Sri Ramana Maharshi, considered as one of the most illustrious wise men and Indian mystics of the XXth century.

 

  • The temple is one of the largest in India with a surface area of 10 hectares. It is surrounded by a wall, ornamented by four colossal towers (known as Gopuram) used as the entrance of the sanctuary, and decorated by thousands of sculptures painted rich in colours. The Gopuram have a distinctive architecture dating back to the Chola period in the IXth century. The Eastern Gopura is one of the largest in India; it is 66 meters tall. The room of a thousand pillars is magnificent. The temple is full of life, six rituals are held daily from 5h30 to 10h, there are twelve yearly festivals of which the most famous is the Karthikai Deepam held on the day of full moon between the months of November and December. More than three million pilgrims are present during the celebration. At the top of the hill of Arunachala, there is a giant fire, visible over several kilometres, held in the honour of Shiva.
  • The sacred hill of Arunachala, also called Arunagiri, Annamalai Hill, is one of the five holy shivaït places of South India. Some believe Shiva manifested himself there as a pillar of light. Many Saints and wise men have established themselves on the hill or in the caves, such as Sri Ramana Maharshi who lived there from 1899 to 1916.

“Arunachala is really a holy place. Of all holy places, Arunachala is the holiest. It is the Heart of the world. It is Shiva itself. It is the secret and holy heart of Shiva. In this place, it resides forever under the form of the glorious Arunachala Mount.” Extract from: Sri Arunachala Mahatmyam – Skanda Purana.

At the foot of the sacred hill of Arunachala lies the Ashram of Sri Ramana Maharshi. Ramana Maharshi is one of the greatest wise men and spiritual masters of modern India. He was born on December 1879 and died on April the 14th 1950. He came to transmit the ancient Wisdom of the Advaita-Vedanta under a new, simpler and clearer form. It is based on his personal experience, and he has made accessible to today’s men, the finding of the path of knowledge (Jnana-Marga). According to his teaching, only the Self, the pure conscience, has to be found thanks to the continual question: “Who am I?” “You are That at this precise moment.”

“In the centre of the heart’s cave, in the shape of Me, in the shape of Self, unique and solitary, straight from self to self, the Brahman shines! Enter yourself inside, your thought piercing up to the source, your spirit buried in itself, blow and feel within the collected depths, all of yourself fixed in you and there simply just be!”
Sri Ramana Maharshi 

Tiruvannamalai is located 163 km from Mahabalipuram, 3 hours by car, approximately 5 hours by bus (first go to Chengalpath then change bus to Tiruvannamalai).

Thanjavur

Thanjavur (Tanjore) is a city in Tamil Nadu state located 400 km South of Chennai, on the South bank of the Cauvery. Thanjavur is famous for the relief style of painting that bears its name. The Thanjavur art works mainly depict the deities of Hindu mythology. Krishna is portrayed having white skin whereas it is traditionally dark blue. The lay out resembles that of Greek icons. The temple of Brihadesvara – a UNESCO World Heritage site – is also known as the temple of Rājarājeshvaram, It is built in the drāvidien style.

 

A large Nandi – Shiva’s famous bull – can be found after the entrance of the interior courtyard. It is 6m in long and 3m high, made entirely of black granite.

The granite and bronze sculptures of its museum are worth a visit. The same goes for the library and the Palace.

The region of Tanjore is rich in history: it is a land of temples of which a large number are rather ancient.

275km South of Mahābalipuram and 171km South of Pondicherry.

There are many interesting temples to visit around Tanjore such as in the towns of Gangaikondacholapuram, Kumbakonam, Darasuram and Swamimalai where one can also see the Bronze Museum and School of Arts as well as the famous bronze foundries in the so called style of “lost wax”.

Visit the Theosophical Society in Chennai

The most important world headquarters of Theosophical Society worldwide was designed to facilitate and encourage Comparative Religious Studies, as well as Philosophy and Science and rational thinking.

The Society is located on the magnificent wild banks of the river Adyar. Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott founded the Society in the United States; in 1882 it moved to Adyar.

Apart from the remains of the different faiths and beliefs and the peaceful Commemoration Garden, there is a 95-year old Library with an excellent collection of rare oriental manuscripts written on palm leaves and parchment paper.

Timetable Closed on Telephone
10hOO – 12h0014h00 – 17h00 Sunday 2491 2904 / 2491 8431.
Theosophical Society, entrance

Theosophical Society, entrance

Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary (ornithological sanctuary)

Vedanthankal Bird Sanctuary, the ornithological reserve, is located in the small village of Vedanthangal.

You can admire more than 40,000 birds (including 26 rare species), coming from various parts of the world.

 

They stay in the reserve during the migratory season. The best time to visit this wonderful quiet place is from November to March. During this time, the birds are seen building and maintaining their nests. The best time for bird watching is early morning or at the end afternoon, before sunset.

Vedanthangal is 60 km south of Mahābalipuram in the direction of Pondicherry (1 hour drive). Close from May to November.

Vedanthankal Bird Sanctuary, website :

 

Pondicherry, a little bit of France in India…

The coast of Coromandel, close to Pondicherry, is ideally suited for a charming stay: beaches of white sand, Hindu temple complexes, small fishing villages, the ancient French counter where the past is still present, a stay in a charming hotel – all this will make your Yoga workshop an unforgettable experience.

 

The town, Pondicherry or Puducherry, is often referred to as Pondy. Pondicherry has a unique architecture, inherited from a mixture of cultures and its French and Tamil colonial past.

Pondicherry has a special ambience and charm, completely different from the rest of India. Formerly a French colony, today it is an Indian territory, 160 km from Chennai (Madras), 100 km from Mahābalipuram, along the Coast of Coromandel, in the Gulf of Bengal. Take a stroll, walking or on a cycle rickshaw, through the charming streets with evocative names, where you can admire the finest examples of colonial architecture.

 

 

Immerse yourself in the old marketplace, at the junction of Nehru Street & Mahatma Gandhi Road, with its surprising fragrances from the fish, fruit, vegetable and flower markets, buy coffee or tea in “The Lakshmi Coffee”, go out for lunch at “Energy Home”, a surprising and absolutely delicious cuisine, 35a, Chety Street. Visit Sri Aurobindo’s ashram in Auroville. Enjoy a French breakfast at “Baker Street”, 123, Bussy Street, or an Indian one in a house with traditional Tamil architecture, the “Maison Perumal”, 44 Perumal Koil Street: dosai, idly, kalapam and uthappam, from 7.30 until 10.00.

 

Pondicherry is 100 km away from Mahābalipuram, 2 hours by bus or 11/2 hours by car.

Visit of Auroville, a utopian, mystic and environmental project located 20 minutes from Pondicherry.

Auroville, the “the city of Aurora”, was conceived by “The Mother” as a place for a universal community life, where men and women would learn to live in peace, in perfect harmony, beyond all beliefs, political affiliations and nationalities”.

 

To-day around 1.600 inhabitants, from some thirty countries, live in this utopian and mystic place. In its centre stands the Matrimandir, the soul of Auroville. Inside there is a room coated with white marble, in which a huge solid crystal (70 cm diameter), the biggest in the world, is exhibited. It is devoted to meditation.

On January 20th 2009, His Holiness the 14thDalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, inaugurated the Tibetan Pavilion. The architect drew inspiration from the Kalachakra Mandala plans.

 

 

Staying a few days in Auroville, walking around and meditating in the Matrimandir, are wonderful experiences.

 

For this experience, you must obtain a pass from the reception of the Visitor Center to visit the Matrimandir and the gardens surrounding it. It is also necessary to have another ‘’pass’’ for a session of meditation to the Matrimandir. A shady trail, 2 km from the Centre of the Matrimandir visitors.

 

Timetables for the “pass” to the visitors Centre
  Morning Afternoon
Week 9h30 to 13h 13h30 to 16h00
Sunday 9h30 to 13h Close
 
Opening hours of the Matrimandir visitors
  Matin Afternoon
Week 9h30 to 13h30 14h00 to 16h30
Sunday 9h30 to 13h00 Close

Auroville, accueille pass

Tout Pondi-logo

Auroville is located 6 km north of Pondicherry which lies 100 km from Mahābalipuram.
It takes 01.45 hours by car and 2 hours by bus to go to Pondicherry, around 100 km from Mahābalipuram.

Visit the Ashram in Pondicherry

When in Pondicherry I warmly recommend you to pay a visit to the ashram of Sri Aurobindo on “Marine Street” in the old French Quarters. It is a beautiful colonial style mansion where the faithful meditate. In 1920 a French woman joined Sri Aurobindo and became his spiritual companion, since then known as “The Mother”. Sri Aurobindo’s teachings are a synthesis of traditional and modern Yoga. The aim of his Yoga practice is to develop inner spiritual life. With this practice the unique Self is revealed, thus developing a supramental spiritual awareness that transforms human life.

 

Sri Aurobindo´s ashram was founded on November 24, 1926. In December of the same year, Sri Aurobindo decided to abandon public life to dedicate himself solely to the action of the Supramental Force, leaving the management of the ashram in the hands of “The Mother” (Mira Alfassa), who continued his work after his death in 1960.

In 1968 “The Mother” refers to the project of a new village in the following terms :

“There shall be on Earth an unalienable place, a place that does not belong to any nation, a place where all beings of good faith, sincere in their aspirations, can live free as citizens of the world…”

 

Auroville, situated ten kilometres north of Pondicherry, the project of an experimental modern and spiritual village, came to life in 1969,

In the ashram you can meditate at the feet of Sri Aurobindo’s and “The Mother” “Samadhi” that is covered with fresh flowers, a peaceful place, accessible every day from 8.00 – 12.00 and 14.00 – 16.00

 

Pondicherry is 100 km away from Mahābalipuram, 2 hours by bus or 11/2 hours by car.