One done; three to go. It wasn’t the distance we ran that mattered; it was more about the frequency of start-stop-start that made the run more difficult. After a good night sleep and an early morning coffee (Our crew made sure that we are served coffee every morning), we were all set to start the second day of running. Our itinerary included visiting three temples, five stages of running totaling about 44K and as always, plenty of surprises.
Our first destination for the day was the Raghustalam in Thirunageswaram which was about 11K from Thippirajapuram. We started a little after the sunrise and it started getting hot a bit early. It was a Monday morning and running towards a town like Kumbakonam cannot be a pleasant experience. After reaching Sakkottai, we took a small dirt road with less traffic and reached our destination. Thirunageswaram is also renowned for the Uppliappan temple and I am not sure which of these temples is more popular than the other. Visiting that temple was subject to time constraints. Given our struggles with the existing plan, any detour looked a distant dream.
I have some memories of visiting Thirunageswaram about 2 decades back with my parents. The temple is renowned for a unique phenomena – when the abhishekam is performed for the idol with milk, it is said that the milk turns blue in colour. As a small boy, I made some comment that it must be because of some blue powder with the priest and remember given a stern look from my parents. I still haven’t witnessed it yet and not able to agree or disagree. This temple was one of the biggest that we visited during the trip and I was disappointed that the distance we walked around the temple was not included in the total distance! Our breakfast was arranged in the temple premises. The speedsters – Neville and Srikumar enjoyed the luxury of visiting the Uppiliappan Temple.
We began the second stage of running at about 10:00 AM under blazing sun. The run was towards Suryanar Koil located at a distance of about 12K and follow it with another 4k run towards Kanjanur. After visiting these two temples, we were to proceed towards Vanathirajapuram (another 11 Kms) for our lunch and afternoon rest. The itinerary looked daunting for both I and Ram. We wondered if we can take a break at Kanjanur and do the rest 18K after lunch and rest. Before we even reach that stage, we had a mountain to climb in the run to Suryanar Koil and Kanjanur.
The next town in the route was Thiruvidaimaruthur. It was a small town sharing some of the features that one would witness in most towns in that region – A dilapidated building, this time it looked like a mansion, beautiful temple, congested market place and curious onlookers. After Thiruvidaimaruthur, we again cross the rivers Veerachozhan and Kaveri and join the Kallanai-Poompuhar road.
Another sight of Kaveri and Selva cannot resist the temptation of ‘floating in water.’ This time, he was joined by his mom along with Shreya and Krishna. Ram and I were invited to join the party but we politely declined as the day’s schedule was frightening us in a big way. We enjoyed the scene from the top of the bridge along with a few onlookers. I tried to pick up some conversation by suggesting that the river is polluted by these folks from Chennai and if you continue to allow them to bathe, Kaveri will become another Cooum. They didn’t seem to bother about those remarks and mentioned that they feel that the river belongs to everyone.
Few metres away, we met one of the characters of our trip – Sub-Inspector ‘Captain’ Mariappan. We spotted a police officer who looked extremely busy stopping oncoming vehicles and questioning them. We felt that it would be responsible on our part to go ahead and report ourselves to him. Ram took the lead in approaching him and wished him. The first response from him was in a half-baked Hindi that would put this movie scene to shame. Ram tried his best to get him talk in Tamil but he refused to do so. On seeing his name badge, we asked if he is ‘Inspector’ Mariappan. He responded that he is Inspector ‘Captain’ Mariappan by which it was definitely sure that the man was ‘floating in water,’ albeit of a different kind. We left the scene quickly wishing that he encounters either Bala in Hindi or Peter in English.
Suriyanar Koil, as the name suggests, is dedicated to Lord Suryan or Sun. Kanjanur was approximately 4 Km from Suriyanar Koil. I suggested to Ram that it will be better if we walk it to that temple in our ‘temple gear’ than change into running gear and back to temple gear to visit the temple. Ram agreed to walk with me and the consequence was the biggest fashion faux pas of 21st Century. Attired in the ‘kavi veshti’ and ‘yellow thudu,’ I added dark glasses (like you know whom!) and a crocs slipper for my feet! Ram added black glasses and a camera to his attire of Veshti and Thundu.
The walk from Suriyanar Koil to Kanjanur was truly the ‘spiritual walk.’ Except those expensive gadgets, we both gave the impressions of a true ascetic. After much of running-walking, the walk relaxed our legs for the subsequent stages of the trip. After running in my minimalist footwear, crocs slippers gave me the much wanted comfort for my feet. So, who cares about the fashion disasters!
Kanjanur hosts Lord Shukran (Venus) and we managed to sneak into the temple just before it was closed for the after noon. By now, our crew judged that most of us will be tired to run another 12K for lunch and arranged to bring the lunch to Kanjanur. They also managed to convince the temple authorities to allow us to take rest in the temple premises itself. More about their magnificent work in Ram’s blog.
Before our lunch arrived, we managed to grab the free lunch in the temple premises itself. Any lunch is delicious when you work for it and even better, if free. I also managed to get some education on the right way to lay the banana leaf. Contrary to my perception that the broad side of the leaf has to be on the right, it seems that the end of the leaf (not the one near the stem) must always be on the left side irrespective of the width (but didn’t learn how to identify that)!.
Our afternoon rest was in the temple premises and the veshti-thundu came handy for spreading it on the floor. With a gentle breeze to cool us down, afternoon nap made me feel better and ready for the 18K run towards Mayiladuthurai. Selva seems to know the course of the river Cauvery inch-by-inch. Not very far from Kanjanur is the spot popularly known as ‘Vada’ Cauvery. It is here alone where the river flows towards the Northern direction. Feeling fresh from the afternoon nap, I agreed to join the rest of the crew for my only act of polluting the river.
Our next destination was Vanathirajapuram which was originally our destination for Lunch. Krishna did have some complaints over the length of my legs. We were received at Vanathirajapuram by the staff of Suja Shoei with an attractive banner.
We took a break to enjoy the felicitations and refreshments. Further down the road was both Ram as well as his wife’s native places. Getting into a town late in the evening is a challenge by itself and after some hiccups, we found our final destination at Mayiladuthurai.
The arrival at Mayiladuthurai brought me in touch with some familiar people. The owner of the house in which we stayed was uncle to my friend Balaji. It was his dad who was the custodian to the house and his mom had prepared a delicious payasam for the entire team.
The route for the final stage for the run can be viewed here.