Thursday, May 22, 2008

Visited 2 places similar yet vastly different

Over the weekend I drove down to Chennai for a short 2 day visit some very interesting experiences worth mentioning in a blog. The purpose of the visit was to get my B1 visa for the USA and I set off on the journey with a lot of preparation both in documentation for the administrative process required by the consulate and mental preparation from our company admin team on how difficult the process is and the care needed to be taken in terms of the questions asked the answers to be given etc..

I drove down as flights are getting increasingly a nuisance of an option, getting to and out of the airport, airport waiting time delay in take off and landing and no freedom of movement once in Chennai. I also ruled out train or bus with the need to visit a temple on route to Chennai, this is a place that is rapidly gaining popularity for its 100% clad golden temple. This temple is located in sripuram, 7 km off vellore and is part of the narayani peetam founded by a swami who goes by the name “shakthi – Amma”

I started on a Sunday morning @ 7:00 hours and my drive was eventless until I passed vellore by around 10:00 hrs and I decided Id put a visit to the temple, on reaching the temple I saw a crowd as bad as tirupathi and decided that its better to come back on Monday on my return when crowds would be lesser than the weekend fare. Having lost 1 hour of time in the detour I proceeded again on to Chennai, The road as usual is great until one reaches the end of the toll road @ madura vayol about 10 km from proper Chennai, it’s a mess there on and normally its caravan like progress. Having reached my check in destination, Deccan plaza on royapettah high road [ off RK Salai] I quickly went of for an afternoon siesta. Deccan plaza is an interesting place for the vegetarian traveler, 100% vegetarian, decent rooms , decent price, not so good food! Though!. Evening having woken up I watched parts of both the IPL matches which were not captivating enough, I have missed out on most of this IPL season without cable connection in my new rented apartment. I have intentionally left out cable for some peaceful evenings without having to be glued to TV. The downside has been no IPL.

The next day was Visa day, the interview being 10:45, I was able to catch up with a friend over dosa @saravana [ the singular dosa option of Chennai!] and catch up on some samachar from his end. The interview began with sweltering heat of Chennai sun on the side walk , thankfully due to the scheduling mechanism, the crowd was minimal. After 15 min of pure sweating and a document check outside I was inside. The consulate has some rules, no electronic gadgets, [ cellphones cameras etc.. are all no no] , no sealed envelopes etc… The consulate would have loved having the Mahatma over for visa processing no paraphernalia! I also observed that the even the security guard was arrogantly offensive, knowing that he represents the US government and not INDIA! That shows how certain countries have gone about building their brands! Once inside the process was a breeze very unlike the heavy preparations we were asked to go through back @ the company. In about 5 mins and a cheerful exchange with the Visa officer I was off [ will remember this simple process in contrast to the complicated perception of it outside!] back to the sweltering hot reality of Chennai outside.

With the primary work of the visit done, I was back on my way to home town with a pending visit to sripuram temple, with some time saved, I also squeezed in a pit stop @ kanchipuram , its shankar mutt [ some Indian words are difficult and funny to transliterate! This specific word transforms into a school subject or something canine! when transliterated.] and temples. When I reached Kanchipuram @ 14:00 hours, a pit stop is all it it turned out to be as the temples were closed for the afternoon and would open only 16:00 hours. Filled petrol and with a 1 hour wasted detour was on my way to sripuram. Also bought a raw mango [ kilimooka manga] for lunch

In about an hour and a ½ I was entering the sripuram temple. As I was entering the temple I was told to drop off all cameras and cellphone and any other gadgets that I may have on myself. With this kind of security, no cellphones, etc… along with the typical no footwear, I realized the outwardly similarity to the Us consulate, there are vast differences though. The consulate is an entry for material pursuits in the USA the sripuram temple is to get rid of material pursuits / intentions atleast for a while.

What an amazing temple, the swami got a vision when he was about 12 years old and the legend goes that the goddess herself has taken possession of him at that early age and he has thereafter been able to realize a higher state of being and goes about doing some magical stuff for people around him and the locality. He has in any case built up a large organization called “ narayani peetam”. Narayani is the goddess formed from the combination of the trinity of goddesses Lakshmi Sarawati & Parvati. His latest projects is the Sripuram [ the temple complex is in the form of a 6 sided star with the main temple in the center ] temple built fully on gold and inaugurated last august [2007]. This temple was constructed to attract even the faithless [ on the pretext of the amazing] so that they can experience spirituality and be converted internally. The temple is a “gold” standard on how to build and run temples. Beautifully maintained lawns, a 1.5 km walk-through along the sri-chakra [ the six sided star] , with a collection of wise words from “shakthi –amma”.

The temple itself is a beautifully carved and clad in gold with a water moat around it. It is not bigger than any typical temple. The records have it that 1500 kg of gold have gone into the building of the temple. And is surely worth 1 visit. You could visit the online pages of the organization at

With the temple visit done I was back on the fast track to Bangalore, this was a memorable week , with 2 similar places that I visited in terms of security with such differing purposes / outcomes.


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