Sunday, August 29, 2010

Blissful weekend in Sankarnagar

This post is mainly not about running - it is about my visit to Sankarnagar where I got a couple of good runs in and visited a few temples in the vicinity. I took a day (6th August) off from work to accompany my uncle, Mr. Krishnamurthy, to Sankarnagar in Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu. The main purpose was to visit Gita Krishnamurthy Vidyalaya (GKV) - a free school for under-privileged children set up by him and meet with the main trustees of Sri Jai Sankara Educational Trust who are helping setup and run GKV besides running the Sri Jayendra Golden higher Secondary School(SJGHSS). Overall it was a fantastic trip with wonderful hospitality from the hosts Mr and Mrs. Raman. We  were received from and dropped off at Kovilpatti station, put up in a well-furnished guesthouse next to the school and ate excellent food - breakfast was from the hostel next door while lunch and dinner was at our hosts house. Mrs. Usha Raman and Mrs Nirmal have built a great school over the last 25 years with a lot of passion and enthusiasm. In fact I was very impressed with their energy and continuing passion. The school , which is one of the best known instituions in the area,  has nearly 1900 students from LKG to 12th with excellent lab facilities including a computer lab with Internet connection housing nearly 50 desktop systems. The school campus is quite pretty with a Vinayakar temple, a small nursary garden and a nice quadrangle with a stage on one side.  The school has a hostel that houses 68 out of state children and also a separate house that accommodates about 16 children of priests who learn the vedas in addition to studying in the school. About 15% of the students in the school are provided free education.

Gita Krishnamurthy Vidyalaya started functioning in a temporary building where SJGHSS started years ago in June 2009 with 150 students over 3 classes. There is much more demand for seats in the school than the capacity of the school - shows the lacuna in facilities for basic education in interior areas of the country. The goal is to add a new class every year for the next 4 years and also create a permanent building and infrastructure for the school. I hope to help both these institutions with my time and effort and whatever little way I can.

On 6th August evening we visited the Nellaiappar Temple in Tirunelveli - one of the famous (Shiva) temples in Tamil Nadu known for its musical pillars as well as other brilliant sculptures. The temple dates back to 700 AD probably built by a Pandya king with inscriptions dating all the way back to 950 AD . There is also a shrine to Vishnu near the sanctum - one of the few temples where one finds shrines of Shiva and Vishnu together. Next to this temple in the same compound is the Kanthimathi Ambal temple housing a shrine of Parvati. It was a great experience to visit such an old and magnificent temple - my first to this temple.

On Saturday 7th August afternoon we drove an hour to the Tiruchandur Murugan temple - one of the 6 major abodes of Lord Muruga  situated on the shores of Bay of Bengal. The temple is situated so close to the sea that waves from the Gulf of Mannar lap at the eastern perimeter wall of the temple. It is an amazing testimony to the architectural ingenuity of our forefathers of centuries ago- the temple has been in existence since 7th century AD. It was another great experience - this temple was much more crowded and given its size with a number of dieties  it took us a good 2 hours plus to see.

I had excellent runs of 16Km and 11Km respectively on 7th and 8th August mornings. The backroads leading from the guesthouse (across the school building) where we stayed was completely pollution and traffic free. I did not see a single 3 or 4 wheeler till I reached the state highway - about 5.5 Kms to the highway going towards Rajapalyam and about 3.5 Kms to the Kovalpatti-Madurai highway. The latter had much denser traffic and not much fun to run on. The area overall was pretty green and in my first run I even saw a couple of peacocks crossing the road. Stretches of the route had uneven roads and a small stretch was a mud road.Of course, could not avoid being barked at (and chased) by a couple of stray dogs.  Nevertheless, I was glad that I had carried my running shoes along with me.

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