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Expertise the grandeur of South India’s Chola Dynasty on the Ponniyin Selvan path

A visit to South India could be dizzying. From historic heritage and jaw-dropping vistas to unparalleled cuisines and buzzing city cultures, there’s rather a lot to soak up. One straightforward – and entertaining – entry level is movie.

The prolific Tamil movie business, or Kollywood, is the proper lens by way of which to understand South India. There’s no higher latest proof of that than 2022’s worldwide sensation, Ponniyin Selvan. Since its theatrical launch, a lot of India has been below the spell of this grand-scale historic fiction, directed by nationwide treasure Mani Ratnam and that includes an A-list solid. A hotly anticipated sequel is ready to be launched in April 2023.

The movie, an adaptation of Tamil author Kalki Krishnamurthy’s beloved Fifties magnum opus, follows the ascent of Ponniyin Selvan. The titular character went on to develop into Rajaraja I of the illustrious Chola Dynasty, which at its peak dominated a lot of southern India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

With such a grand time interval at its centre, it’s little surprise that home and worldwide cinema-buffs are flocking to the villages, lakes and temples that function within the movie.

In your subsequent go to to Chennai or Tiruchirapalli, lease a automotive and driver and head off on the Ponniyin Selvan path, and immerse your self within the grandeur of the Cholas and their artwork, structure and maritime excellence.

1. Veeranam Lake

Situated in northeast Tamil Nadu, the 16km-long Veeranam Lake is a serious supply of water for town of Chennai. However this serene water physique can also be wealthy with historical past and tradition.
Prince Rajaditya Chola constructed the lake and named it Veernanarayana Mangalam, after his father Parantaka Chola I who held the title of Veeranarayanan. A testomony to the foresight of the Chola rulers is the lake’s 72 sluice valves that also retailer the floodwaters of the Kollidam River and irrigate huge stretches of lush paddy fields.

Just like the movie’s luxurious opening musical sequence, the unique Ponniyin Selvan novel opens with military normal Vandhiyathevan standing on the banks of Veeranam Lake, captivated by the colorful festive scenes of Aadi Perukku Thiruvizha, a competition akin to Thanksgiving noticed within the Tamil month of Aadi (August). The competition is, to today, held on the banks of the Ponni River that feeds the lake.

Easy methods to get there: Veeranam lake is a 130 km drive from Tiruchirapalli airport, and 235 km from the airport at Chennai. The closest railway station is 24 km away at Vridhachalam.

2. Gangaikondacholapuram

Simply 20km from Veeranam lake, within the hinterlands of Ariyalur district, is Gangaikondacholapuram Village. Though it isn’t technically featured within the movie, a go to to this erstwhile Chola capital is a good way to understand the patronage of its rulers in direction of artwork, structure and spirituality.

Right here you’ll discover a glittering pyramid-like construction that rises from the bottom, surrounded by lovely shrines and copses of coconut timber.

Transfer a bit nearer and also you’ll realise that the pyramid is certainly the principle tower of a temple – reverentially often known as Brihadisvarar Kovil. The temple was constructed within the Eleventh-century by Rajendra Chola, son of the much-loved Ponniyin Selvan himself.

The temple is devoted to Lord Shiva and thought of to be a duplicate of the Massive Temple at Thanjavur. Smaller and extra female in its structure, it’s usually thought of probably the most elegant of the three Nice Dwelling Chola Temples, a collective UNESCO time period for the Chola temples at Darasuram, Thanjavur and Gangaikondacholapuram.

Easy methods to get there: Gangaikondacholapuram is 2 hours away by automotive from Tiruchirapalli Airport (110km). Chennai Airport is 250km away.

The gorgeous temple at Gangaikondacholapuram is a 3rd of the three Nice Dwelling Chola Temples. Picture credit score: Meenakshi J

3. Thanjavur

Thanjavur served because the prime capital of the Cholas together with the reign of Ponniyin Selvan. It’s additionally residence to the Massive Temple, domestically often known as Brihadeeswarar Kovil, whose important vimana (tower) reaches a peak of 200 toes.

There may be a substantial amount of thriller and surprise across the Massive Temple, and rightly so: Ponniyin Selvan initiated the development of the temple within the early Eleventh century and devoted it to Lord Shiva. Constructed with mammoth blocks of granite, and adorned with beautiful sculptures and frescoes, the temple’s brilliance surpasses many others in architectural splendour, even after 1000’s of years.

Whereas in Thanjavur, it’s additionally value visiting the workshops of the veena (a classical Indian stringed musical instrument) craftsmen, in addition to the famed Chola bronze foundries positioned 25km away at Swamimalai Village.

Easy methods to get there: Thanjavur is an hour away by automotive from Tiruchirapalli Airport (65km) and is nicely linked by direct trains from Chennai (345km).

Thanjavur Ponniyin Selvan
The Massive Temple at Thanjavur is adorned with beautiful sculptures and frescoes. Picture credit score: Meenakshi J

4. Kodikkarai

Kodikkarai headland is positioned on the shores of the Bay of Bengal, on the japanese fringe of Tamil Nadu, within the present-day Nagapattinam district, and shares its title with the city’s presiding deity, Kuzhagar, revered at his namesake Seventh-century temple.

Also called Level Calimere, it’s from right here that the Chola rulers launched into their maritime conquests to Sri Lanka. Rightfully, Kodikkarai finds a outstanding place within the novel because the hometown of the boatwoman who helps Ponniyin Selvan make the crossing to Sri Lanka and again once more.

Having etched a spot for itself within the annals of historical past, Kodikkarai right this moment harbours remnants of a Chola-era brick lighthouse, salt pans and Level Calimere Wildlife and Hen Sanctuary, a reserve frequented by migratory birds like flamingos.

Easy methods to get there: The closest railway station is 60km away at Nagapattinam, which is linked by practice to Tiruchirapalli (175km) and Chennai (355km).

Koddikkarai Ponniyin Selvan
The salt pans at Kodikkarai. Picture credit score: Meenakshi J

5. Rameswaram

Situated 250km from Kodikkarai is the island of Rameswaram (often known as Pamban) that welcomes travellers with its emerald-green waters, bobbing catamarans and picturesque sunsets.

Pamban is linked to mainland India by means of a 2.2km-long cantilever bridge constructed between the expansive waters of the Bay of Bengal and the wild Indian Ocean. Owing to its proximity to Sri Lanka, Rameswaram as soon as served as a gateway for the Chola rulers and troopers of their conquest of the neighbouring Anuradhapura Kingdom.

Whereas in Rameswaram, take a detour and cease off at Dhanushkodi. Whereas also known as a ghost city, it gives glorious vistas of the revered Ram Setu – a series of pure limestone shoals connecting Pamban with Mannar island in Sri Lanka.

Easy methods to get there: Rameswaram is nicely linked with each Tiruchirapalli (225km), and Chennai (550km) with direct trains and street transport.

Ponniyin Selvan Rameswaram
Sundown over Rameswaram. Picture credit score: Meenakshi J

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