Coimbatore taught me how work trips can be combined into a gutsy travel adventure. All we needed was some extra cash, a mobile translator and good radio taxi service network. Armed with the zeal of discovering a new city; and also the city where my parents used to live twenty years ago, my adventures began as soon as I reached the Coimbatore airport. Taking an afternoon flight, we reached quite late in the evening. Our cab driver turned guide suggested that we eat outside since there was no provision of food at the guest house. We followed suit at Shree Anandhass Vegetarian Restaurant which served a variety of local South Indian dishes. Being very tired due to a hectic journey, we hit the bed with a vow to complete as much sightseeing as possible in the next two days during our off hours. I would not elucidate much on the nature of our work but rather describe the places we visited during our trip.
ISHA FOUNDATION/ ISHA YOGA CENTRE
Situated at the foothills of Velliangiri this was my first visit to a meditation center. Described as a space for self-transformation, I could see devotees visiting the place in hundreds. This vast center-cum-ashram had various places to visit inside, all pertaining to rituals of meditation and yoga. From the bathing room of the Shivalinga, to the meditation room where all one could hear was the gong of the drums amidst absolute silence, does not fail to transport each devotee, tourist and residents to a completely different world. Unfortunately, photography was strictly forbidden and we had to surrender all our equipment’s before entering, hence I do not have any photographs of the place. But one can log onto their website – www.isha.sadhguru.org – to get all the necessary information.
THE BUST OF ADIYOGI
A short walk from ISHA would lead to the 112 -feet Adiyogi (Shiva) bust. Deemed to be the ‘largest bust sculpture’ in the world by The Guinness World Records, it was indeed a mesmerizing sight. Regular prayers are offered to the sculpture by the pundits and devotees in a prayer hall situated at the base of the bust. Cast in pure steel, the Adiyogi was designed and established by the founder of ISHA- Sadhguru– who pays homage to Lord Shiva- the first yogi and the originator of yoga. The adjoining areas have some spectacular viewpoints that cannot be missed.
GASS FOREST MUSEUM
The Gass Forest Museum is inside the forest training Institute. I still remember when the cab driver took us right in front of the training Institute thinking we were new recruits! Established by Horace Archibald Gass, the museum was inaugurated by the then Governor Lord Ampthill in 1902. The present museum building was opened in 1915 by Lord Pentland. The Gass Forest Museum happens to be the largest and oldest forest museum in India. Over 4000 exhibits are kept within the premise ranging from specimens of wildlife, botany, timber, woodcrafts and covering the scope of geology, ethnology, mycology, entomology and forest engineering. The highlights of the museum are:
- A magnificent stuffed Bison presented by the Raj Pramukh of Mysore.
- A 456 years old cross-section of Teak in a girth.
- Sandal tree weighing 1.75 tonnes and 10.2 meters in height.
- A vast collection of butterflies and moths.
- Different kinds of Mica.
It honestly seemed that the museum did not attract a lot of visitors and thus the eyes of the care-taker lit upon seeing us and he personally gave us a running commentary regarding the museum, its establishment and the artifacts in it.
ARULMIGU MARUDHAMALAI MURUGAN TEMPLE
This popular hill temple is situated around 15-kms outside the city. Dedicated to Muruga, the God of Mountain and mountainous region in Tamil Literature this temple is one of the most colorful and intricately worked architectural wonders, I had laid my eyes on. This temple on the Marudhamalai Hills is known to be one of the holy abodes of Lord Muruga. Visiting on one of the rainy days we had to be careful walking barefoot on the slippery, rain-washed, marble staircase; but the grand view offered by the temple-top made it worth taking the risk!
VINEYARDS AND FRESH FRUIT JUICES
Another point worth mentioning would be a short visit to the vineyard next to our guesthouse one morning. The fresh grape juice sourced from there for our breakfast made us curious to visit this place of wonder. Long wooden pillars supporting thick foliage of grape creepers and the dangling bunch of fresh grapes were a sight of beauty worth experiencing. Also, when in South you have to indulge yourself in fruit juices- musk melon, melon, watermelon, mango, pineapple, orange- you name it they have it. Thick, frothy, fresh and filling!
The trip to Coimbatore was an enriching experience, although there is much that is left to be seen. To sum up my feelings for the ‘Manchester of the South’; I can only quote Luis Barragan, ‘I think that the ideal space must contain elements of magic, serenity, sorcery, and mystery.’