The religious & cultural overtones of the city began to appear right from the airport itself.
Getting a comfortable room in a decent hotel was the icing on the cake. When one is out in the field on such projects the accommodation arrangements can be quite varied ranging from luxury hotels to roadside budget properties & this one, thankfully, fit in the former category.
So the bare necessities having been taken care of we were all set for the mission that awaited us from next morning onwards.
The Tirumala Hills, dazzling & washed clean in the morning rain presented a beautiful green landscape as we took off from the airport enroute our survey area.
The best was yet to come.
The town of Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh is famous for its temples, the most revered of which is the Tirupati Balaji or the Sri Venkateswara Temple which sits atop one of the seven peaks of Tirumala Hills. This temple is supposedly the richest Hindu temple where Lord Vishnu resides in the period of Lord Kali & is visited by lakhs every year.
We found ourselves indeed fortunate to note that our flying route from the airport to the operational area took us past the famous Tirupati Balaji temple. And so while we did not get the opportunity to pay our obesience there in person we did manage to get aerial blessings of the deity.
The aerial views that the countryside presented in this region were a sight to behold & remember for a long time afterwards.
Here are a few pictures for you to relish.
Over a span of two days we had flown across a varied terrain from plain fields to rolling hills & plateaus & an occasional water body. The weather for most part had been pleasant with few clouds that almost tempted one to reach out & pluck them out of the sky!
Thanks to all requisite clearances in place we were able to wrap up our task here in 2 days & then it was time to bid adieu to Tirupati & set course for our next destination, Vellore.
The flight from Tirupati to Vellore was uneventful, in the sense that there was nothing much to photograph 🙂
We were famished by the time we landed at Vellore & needed a quick bite before starting the survey flight. Not wanting to miss out on savouring the famous south Indian ‘Thali’ we egged the helpful cab driver on to take us to a suitable restaurant for the same. The feast that awaited us there satiated all my gastronomic senses!
All this & at a price of just Rs 250!! You probably get one ‘Naan’ for this much in an eatery up north! If I ever decide to settle down in South India this is definitely going to be one of the strongest reasons 🙂 But the restaurant hadn’t yet finished surprising us. There was more to come!
Vellore is called the ‘Fort City’, ‘Second Madras’ & the ‘Medical Hub of India’ being home to the very reputed Christian Medical College & Hospital.
But Vellore is also equally famous for the Srilakshmi or Sripuram Golden Temple & we were indeed happy to note that we were to operate from the helipad on the temple premises itself & hoped to not miss out on receiving ‘darshan’ here at least.
The Sripuram Golden Temple is located in the Golden Temple Vellore complex located within the Thirupuram Spiritual Park. The temple was inaugurated on August 24, 2007 & since then has attracted hundreds of thousands of devotees.
The temple is designed in the shape of a star-shaped path or sri chakra with a length of over 1.8 km. Main diety of this temple is Sri Lakshmi Narayani or Maha Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. The temple is constructed with gold covering and features intricate work done by artisans who specialize in temple art.
The temple is located on 100 acres of land and has been constructed by the Vellore-based charitable trust Sri Narayani Peedam, headed by its spiritual leader Sri Sakthi Narayani Amma who himself is considered an avatar of goddess Narayani.
A spell of rain the next morning brought the flying to a temporary halt but created some mesmerising reflections of our helicopter in the puddle of water surrounding it. The photographer in me, never to let an opportunity slip by, captured it in some stunning pictures.
In terms of terrain it wasn’t much different here from Tirupati. The same undulating ground, rocky hills & ponds. What was missing though was the play of clouds, the sheer falls & the flourescent greens & hence didn’t inspire the cameraman much in me.
On our way to & from the helipad we had been driving past the Vellore Fort & I personally had been looking at it rather longingly for a chance to explore the premises. One of the days when the flying finished earlier than usual presented that perfect opportunity.
Vellore Fort is a large 16th-century fort situated in heart of the Vellore city, in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. It was built by Vijayanagara kings & was at one time the headquarters of the Aravidu Dynasty of the Vijayanagara Empire. The fort is known for its grand ramparts, wide moat and robust masonry.
The fort’s ownership passed from Vijayanagara kings, to the Bijapur sultans, to the Marathas, to the Carnatic Nawabs and finally to the British, who held the fort until India gained independence. During British rule, the Tipu Sultan’s family and the last king of Sri Lanka, Sri Vikrama Rajasinha were held as prisoners in the fort. It is also a witness to the massacre of the Vijayanagara royal family of Sriranga Raya.
We bought tickets & entered the complex. A board put up by the ASI gave some much needed information to the visitors.
Once inside the main fort we entered a small gate & walked up a ramp onto the rampart to reveal a mini township. The rampart was wide enough to comfortably accommodate movement of cannons, elephants, horses & troops.
We stepped off the ramparts & walked further inside. There wasn’t much to speak of in terms of maintenance. The grounds were covered with overgrown grass & bushes, unkempt & dilapidated buildings from an era gone by & puddles of dirty water, thanks to a vintage & failing drainage system.
A particular lane looked inviting & I ventured along to witness a clutch of old trees which boasted of centuries of history.
The fort also houses a temple, a mosque, a church and many other buildings that are now used as public offices including Tamil Nadu’s oldest police training centre. The Jalagandeeswar Temple is noted for its sculptures, and speaks volumes of the exquisite craftsmanship of the highly skilled artisans of that period.
The temple was long used as an arsenal, and remained without a deity, although several years ago it was sanctified with an idol of Lord Shiva.
With that we culminated our voyage of discovery for the day & returned to a well deserved rest at the hotel.