Tanjavur to Karaikudi
Elangadu Shrine, Ellangudipatti
South India Road Trip Day 6: Chennai to Kochi via Pondy, Kumbakonam, Tanjavur, Karaikudi, Madurai, Periyar, Gavi, Vagaman and Vembanad, and back via Wayanad, Coorg, Mysore and Yelagiri.
We had a good breakfast and were on the road to Karaikudi at 9:30. We made good progress on an excellent highway except for a town where probably the bypass was under construction so the detour led into town. I got a coffee but we were held up for 15 minutes due to a ‘Jallikattu’ procession. Nevertheless we made it to Chettinadu Court Hotel, Kanadukathan by about noon. It is a wonderful old haveli restored and repainted and additional buildings added in the same style. The town in which it is located is similarly interesting with many old and some re-painted havelis. We were tempted to stay but decided to press on and made our way to Elangadu Shrine (Ayyanar shrine in Ellangudipatti). During the festival and in the lead up to it, the village people and devotees make and place terra cotta statues of animals and birds for a kilometer all along and lining the road from the gate of the village to the shrine. Like many Ayyanar temples the temple is located at the border of the village, as a means of securing and assuring wealth and health for all. Unfortunately the festival season, in and around Pongal mid-January, was over so there were no statues remaining when we visited.
After a short puja at the temple, we headed into Karaikudi. In our search for a hotel we made a full round of the town and didn’t find anything. Then we were ready for lunch and made our way to ‘Friend’s Restaurant’. He served authentic Chettinad food. We had Thalis (@100 x 2) and 2 Mutton Sukka (@100 x 2) and one Natticoli fry (desi chicken @160) plus Rs.40 air-conditioning charge. They serve two vegetables with rice and fish, mutton and chicken curries (in 3 separate bowls) on unlimited basis as part of the Thali, these were all very good. I would recommend the Mutton Sukka, very lightly spiced, tender and dry (no curry). Later for dinner the mutton fry was sold out but we got Mutton Sukka again. The chicken was good too and I expect the fish would be good as well. The fish gravy was excellent, the best of the three gravies. The restaurant directed us to a hotel ‘Ambigai Residence’ one block away, where we stayed in a clean large room (without air-conditioning) for Rs.1000/-. We recommend it as it is near the 80 feet road (next to the new bus station) and set back, so you have views of the palms, a quiet town colony and yet can get in and out quickly.
We slept until 5:30 PM and then headed to the antique market, flea market famous for getting furniture and collectibles from old Chettiar mansions. The owners have abandoned their mansions to caretakers and moved to Chennai for business. It is a flea market, or second hand junk market, with some good furniture and some Tanjore Paintings. The goods are sold as antiques and thus heavily priced and would need a great deal of negotiation and local assistance to get a bargain. A visit to a downtown temple nearby and then we headed back for dinner at Friends, our hotel and lights out.