It was 3AM in the morning on January 9, when I arrived at Tiruchirapalli or Trichy, as it is popularly called. I expected a sleepy town, but what I saw through my cab took me by surprise. Trichy is one active town - at 3AM in the morning, most shops were open and people appeared to be brisk and fresh.
When the driver Satish dropped me off at Srirangam, he said, "Welcome to Trichy, sir. You will find that there are many places to wander about here." For someone consumed by wanderlust, this meant that my next six months would be grand.
In the morning at 10:30 on the same day, I paid a visit to Milaap's field partner ‘The Guardian's' office. I was told: "It's the Pongal week, sir. All farmers take a 10-day break. You will have no work until the 19th of this month". I had the next 10 days to myself.
I wasted no time in asking, "What is the best way to go sightseeing in Trichy?"
"Board the ‘1A' bus from the railway junction: it will take you all around Trichy".
That was exactly what I did that evening.
View of Trichy from Rockfort
Wanderlust's Window-seat – January 10 – I boarded the 1A. I even snagged a premium window seat – my favourite seat in a bus. This ride turned out to have all the flavours Trichy had to offer. By boarding a bus from Trichy junction to the SASTRA University on the Trichy-Tanjore highway, I shared the bus with artisans, lawyers, goldsmiths, famers, flower vendors, cooks, priests, doctors, and students. I made small talk with as many as I could. We spoke about trivial things and serious topics like demonetization, Jallikatu etc. They told me about their daily activities, their love stories, their complaints and their love for Trichy. They all helped me make a nice, big list for my sightseeing adventures. One place that stands out prominently in all the mentions is the Trichy's 'Grand Anicut'.
Kallanai-The Great Anicut
The Great Grand Anicut – January 11 – What did I expect to see in a dam? A barrage with outlets for water to gush out from. But what was before me took me completely by surprise. The Grand Anicut or the Kallannai has a unique structure with large stones sunk in river Cauvery to divert water to the fertile delta. "Constructed by Karikala Chola, sir", said an old man who walked up the dam with me.
The stone inscription on the dam read ‘This dam was constructed in the second century CE by Karikala Chola, a king from the Chola dynasty. This dam is the fourth-oldest water division structure in the world and is still in use.'
The dam was really majestic, but I had mixed feelings as the river itself looks completely dried up. But the image of water gushing out of the dam appeared in my mind and I saw what it might look like in the rains and indeed, it gave me a sense of pride that India has such great wonders.
The ‘Templed town' – January 12 – At 6 PM in the evening, I was back at the central bus stand and there was a fort which appeared in the background of this bus stand. I climbed 1018 stairs to see an aerial view of the city from the fort. I saw the Cauvery's path and five high temple towers from the top. I decided to sit down on one of the rocks of the 'Rockfort'. A little girl nearby asked me to take a picture of her on her phone. After the picture, I asked her about the temples of Trichy.
The gopurams of Srirangam Temple
In her words, Tiruchirapalli is a "templed-town". Cauvery, which flows through Trichy connects all the main holy shrines here. "Rockfort is Trichy's iconic building, so we can start from here. This fort houses the Uchi Pillayar, (Lord Ganesha) at the top. Then, there is the Srirangam temple, which the locals here call the ‘heaven on the earth'. This temple houses a golden shrine of Lord Vishnu, who is believed to have descended down to the earth here from the heavens. The Thiruvanikovil and the Samayapuram temples in Trichy are known to glitter with pomp during their annual festivals."
"You should visit all of them anna," the girl said.' My itinerary for the next day was to visit all temples.
The "Templed" Town
A Zion for shoppers and foodies – January 13 – I visited all the temples recommended by the girl the next evening. Why am I writing about food then? Every temple has an amazing eatery and a high street for shoppers.
Trichy is a paradise for shoppers and foodies. The main guard gate complex has a bounty of shops. This high street within the premise of the Rock Fort, houses about a hundred small to medium size- apparel stores, electronic shops, bookstores, vegetable market and quite a few restaurants. The ‘main guard shopping' as it is fondly called, is a favourite hobby of the locals. During weekends, this place is Jam packed with people from nearby towns who come here to shop. They grew tulsi here and fully understood the health benefits of tulsi here.
The ubiquitous Badam Milk Stall
Trichy is a paradise for shoppers and foodies. The main guard gate complex has a bounty of shops. This high street is within the Rock Fort and houses hundreds of small shops – apparel stores, electronic shops, bookstores, vegetable market and quite a few restaurants. 'Main guard shopping', as it is called here, is popular recreation with the locals. During weekends, this place is jam-packed with people from surrounding towns and villages who come here to shop.
For foodies, there is a signature dish near every prime spot of Trichy. Apart from the famous Shiva temple, Thiruvanikovil is known for the ghee dosa and filter coffee from the Parthasarthy Mess. This mess is a traditional south-Indian eatery and boasts an archaic look from the colonial times. The Chinnakadai Street has roadside eateries which offer a quirky dish called the ‘Traffic Jam Parrota' with three types of gravy.
A delightful sundae at Sea Kings
Sea Kings Ice Cream
For the dessert enthusiasts, Sea-kings is a must visit ice-cream parlour. With the brand built around ‘only ice-creams', Sea-kings offers over 70 varieties of this dessert.
Credence and Cleanliness – January 14 – It was Pongal at last. Like every other place in Tamil Nadu, there were Pongal celebrations everywhere. Mud pots were placed in the middle of the roads and the farmers invoked the Sun God, thanking him for the previous year's harvest and praying to him for the next one.
But what really stands out is the residents cleaning up the streets after themselves once the festivities ended. This can be observed on every street of Trichy. This is one city where the Swachch Bharath Campaign has been a mammoth success.
The clean roads on Pongal evening
The credit for Trichy being the third cleanest city in India goes to initiatives started by its residents almost two decades ago. Sanitary workers were appointed by the local municipal body, back in the 90s- to collect and segregate wet and dry waste. This has remained standard practice for all. Even today, residents of Tiruchirapalli take pride in keeping the city clean and don't merely bask in the glory of the past.
This has been my experience in Trichy so far and in these four days have given me a taste of all that is to come in the next six months.