Driving to Palani - Crossing state borders to First impressions of the famous temple

Crossing state borders: The last leg of Kerala continues to be green - bright green paddy fields and dark green-grey mountains in the backdrop. Gradually, you can notice the landscape changing. From dense shades of lush greenery to duller and sparse open spaces, where occasionally, you can spot a few windmills. The sign boards change from Malayalam and Tamil near the border to only Tamil as you drive on. From a few windmills to hundreds of them, their blades moving lazily to a wind - which you wonder where it comes from.

Of going to a famous temple: When I heard we were going to Palani, I was initially upset, ‘not another religious site I thought’. The prospect of a crowded and often claustrophobic set up discourages me from going to a few places. As we drove to Palani, I actually enjoyed the drive. There were sugar cane farms on either side of the road in between small villages and towns, each with its own flavor. We reached Pollachi, one of the biggest cities in the area before heading to Palani. Well before you reach Palani, you can see the hill which houses the famous Murugappa temple.
We went on a Tuesday, and it was just another day. The day was bright and sunny – and I was hoping against hope that a light drizzle would fall. Palani is a famous pilgrimage site for Hindus from all over. 

Reaching the temple: Just outside the entrance to the temple, you’ll find several small settlements, older folk resting outside or praying, the younger folk cooking and going about their chores or selling small artefacts, and the youngest folks running around joyously, not a worry in the world.

There are 3 ways to reach the top, by a rope way, by climbing the winding road or taking a rail bus. Again, there are two roads. One which is more steeper, and one less steep one, which is typically used for elephants. Entrance fees varies from Rs 10 to Rs 25 for the winch or rail bus on a normal day. (For the rope way, the price varies from Rs 15 to Rs 50). If you go on a festival day, of course, pricing strategy comes into play. You can read the details here. You will see hoardings such as 'No Pass, No Preference'. I thought it was weird that they should focus so much on tickets and passes. But on retrospect, I think if they don't regulate the crowd, things could get out of hand. The sheer volume of devotees from all over the state or states can be shocking, especially on festival days.

We went by rail, and on the way up, I spotted a dark brown snake slither away quickly from the track. I instinctively let out a small gasp. As you reach higher, the views of the town below became more and more beautiful. The town of Palani has hardly a few double – or – more storey buildings. Most are small houses or shops. The large lake which you can see from above, which literally makes up the heart of the city, is truly gorgeous.

It was scorching hot, and we were all barefoot. Most pilgrims and visitors come barefoot, as a sign of respect or simply because it’s a convenient way to not lose your shoes! After alighting from the rail bus, there was another flight of stairs before we could see the temple. 

Legend has it: So what is so famous about this temple that hundreds and thousands arrive at this hill every day. The Palani Dhandayuthapani temple is one of the six abodes of Lord Murugan. And how? Sage Narada once visited the celestial court of Lord Shiva at Mount Kailash to present to Him a fruit, the gyana-pazham (literally, the fruit of knowledge), that held in it the elixir of wisdom. Upon Lord Shiva expressing his intention of dividing the fruit between his two sons, Ganesha and Murugan, the sage counseled against cutting it. He decided to award it to whichever of his two sons first circled the world thrice. Accepting the challenge, Lord Karthikeya started his journey around the globe on his mount peacock. However, Ganesha, who surmised that the world was no more than his parents Shiva and Shakti combined, circumambulated them. Pleased with their son's discernment, Lord Shiva awarded the fruit to Lord Ganesha. When Kartikeya returned, he was furious to learn that his efforts had been in vain. He left Kailash and took up his abode in Palani hills in South India. (Source)

PS - At the hill top, there is a nice vegetarian restaurant serving hot vadas, dosas, idlis etc, so you won't go hungry !

Edit : I did a photo story on Palani too - 16 spectacular photos from the temple of Palani. See it here.

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  1. Great recount of your experience.
    Thanks for sharing the legend, never knew of it.