By Nishiraj A. Baruah
Ocider picks up little-little nuggets of wisdom on Tamilnadu that those in other parts of the country may not be aware of.
Follow the planet
There is a village called Thirunallar in Karaikal town where about ten lakh visitors are expected to land up in December this year. Why? Well, that’s where you can witness the passage of Saturn high up above. No, the visitors are not astronomers or astrologers or those with an interest in planetary movements. Rather, they are devotees of Hindu Lord Shani. Whenever the planet Saturn (Shani in Indian parlance) transits from one zodiac sign to another, thousands of worshippers gather at Saneeswaran temple – India’s most famous temple dedicated to the Lord. It is the most auspicious time to visit the place. After all, even king Nala is said to have been cured of his illness, caused by the influence of Saturn, after worship in this temple.
This Golden Temple is in Vellore
Yes, there is another golden temple in India which isn’t in Amritsar! It’s down South in Tamilnadu’s Vellore city. Located among the small green mountains in an area called Malaikodi, the temple dedicated to Sri Lakshmi is coated with pure gold – the exterior part of the temple is covered with gold plates and sheets. It is a recently constructed temple that opened on August 2007. Built over 100 acres of land, it also has a spiritual park. Donated by Vellore’s Sri Narayani-Peedam, a devotee of religious guru Sakthi Amma, it has complicated statues, created by hundreds of expert gold decorators. The total gold used in this temple is around 1,500 kg and cost about Rs 300 crore. No wonder, even at night, the temple glitters.
Mahabalipuram or Mamalapuram?
“The function is in Mahabalipuram,” I told my colleague referring to the inaugural function of Tamilnadu Travel Mart on November 12.
“No, it is in a place called Mamalapuram,” he said.
“What are you saying? The invite says Mahabalipuram,” I countered.
“But this brochure says Mamalapuram!” my colleague replied.
Thoroughly confused by now, we went to check with our hotel’s frontdesk executive. And that’s when our confusion was cleared.
Mahabalipuram and Mamalapuram is the same place, both the names in circulation. But why these two names for this quiet beach town?
Rajendran, the GM of Grande Bay resorts in Mahabalipuram, clarified: “Both names are equally right. Mahabalipuram is the ancient name. But during the Pallava era there was a king called Mamala who was so called because he was also a wrestler and in Tamil mamala means wrestler. Since he ruled the place, the town came to be known as Mamalapuram. Foreign tourists prefer to use Mamalapuram because it is easier to pronounce.”
So what’s the name in official records? “State govt. use Mamalapuram, while the central govt. institutions like banks use Mahabalipuram,” he added.
What type of a guest are you?
There are several types of guests who come to stay in hotels, especially the one called Poppys in Madurai. At least, K. Sundaram Murthy, the hotel’s GM, mentioned four types. They could be the political class, the corporate types, the pilgrims and the social guests. Each class demands different treatment.
“The political visitors go for traditional cultural touches. He is a local and a state official and they like local food. No fancy Mediterranean cuisine for them,” Murthy says.
The second type is the corporate professional. Mostly they come from outside Tamilnadu and could be from all over the world. They are global citizens with exposure to different types of experiences in a hotel. “They like to try out different food,” he says. Adding that those from Delhi and Mumbai, however, love butter nun, and want their food to be perfect. They also like their room cool, contemporary and chic.
Then you have the social guests: They are basically guests who have come for weddings or such other family functions. They are a homely lot and look for homely treatment. “They also expect to be received by an entourage of hotel staff,” Murthy says.
But it’s the pilgrims who are the most demanding. “They expect their hotels to be similar to the temples in terms of atmosphere and ambience,” Murthy says. Food is pure veg, alcohol, a strict no-no, and the room should have a spiritual vive with a setting that has to have those touches that have a hint of the religiously sacred.
In vogue: Less is more for destination weddings
Destination weddings are getting smaller with just about 200-300 close guests. But then there are the other extreme where guests could number around 5,000 plus. “There are two extremes and nothing in between,” said R. Ravi, Chariot Beach Resort in Mahabalipuram.