When Tamil Nadu is uttered, Chennai often comes along with the package. That is how famous the city of Chennai is. The beaches and temples adorn the city in a plethora of hues and leave the travelers satisfied indeed. However, there is yet more to explore in this southern state of India. A hidden gem, full of history and culture, is the beautiful city of Vellore in the same state. Previously known by the name, ‘Rayavelur’ or ‘Vellaimaanagar’, Vellore lies 135 km west of Chennai.
Vellore got its name for its rich history of kingdoms and dynasties. It is believed that the origin of the name is from the word ‘Vel’, which is considered the chief weapon of the deity Murugan. Yet another legend goes which says that the land on which Vellore today is thriving was once a land surrounded by ‘Velan’, or in other words, ‘Babul Trees’, thus the city named as Vellore. History tells us that Vellore was ruled by various prosperous dynasties of South India, such as the Pallavas, the Cholas, Rashtrakutas, the Carnatic kingdom, and the Vijaynagar kingdom. These dynasties and kingdoms left parts and bits on which Vellore’s cultural heritage has since grown.
Vellore has forts, temples, pretty green spots, etc. Below are some of them:
1. Vellore Fort – Taste of Vellore’s History
Situated in the heart of the Vellore city, the Vellore Fort is a 16th-century construction, built during the Vijayanagaram rule. The fort was built by Channa Bommi Nayaka and Thimma Reddy Nayaka. It is a military architecture, hailed as one of the best of its type in South India. The fort has suffered several attacks and has been controlled by numerous men since. Adil Shahis captured the fort in the 17th century, after which the Marathas seized it.
Daud Khan of Delhi claimed it during the early 18th century. After that, the British entered. Tipu Sultan’s family and Sri Lanka’s last king, Vikrama Rajasinha, were held prisoners in the Vellore Fort by the Britishers. The Britishers kept it as their own territory until independence. Rightfully so, the Vellore Fort’s bricks have witnessed generations of wars, prisoners, battles, losses, and wins. It is one of the most visited attractions of Vellore.
The granite walls of the fort, the mighty bastions, the now giant empty moat which was filled with 10,000 crocodiles during the early eras make the fort an enthusing and interesting place to visit. It also has a beautifully sculpted temple inside, a mosque, a church, and even a government museum, which adds to the thrill of exploration of diverse cultures.
2. Jalakandeswarar Temple
The sculpted temple mentioned above is none other than the Jalakandeswarar Temple, located within the Vellore Fort itself. The story goes that Chinna Bommi Nayaka had a dream where Lord Shiva asked him to construct a temple at the site. Bommi followed this path with extreme pleasure and piety. It’s a temple for Lord Shiva, who is also known as Lord Jalakandeswarar.
The Shiva Lingam (symbol of Lord Shiva) inside the temple is surrounded by water. It is yet another display of Vijayanagaram’s beautiful and detailed architecture. The detailed sculptures on the temple are that of other Hindu deities like Lord Vishnu, Goddess Mahalakshmi, Goddess Parvati, Lord Brahma, and Goddess Saraswathi.
For Devotees and worshippers, it becomes a serene place to connect with the divine.
3. Tipu and Hyder Mahal
The Tipu Palace and the Hyder Palace are also located inside the Vellore Fort. Tipu Sultan took shelter with the last King of Sri Lanka after losing the Anglo-Mysore war. After the death of Tipu Sultan, the families of Tipu and Hyder Ali were confined in the two mahals by the British Raj. To this event, the mahals owe their name to.
The Tipu Mahal has 180 rooms, whereas the Hyder Mahal has about 200 rooms. Both the palaces reflect the royal family and their lifestyles. The tomb of Hyder Ali’s wife, Bakshi Begum, and Tipu’s wife Padshah Begum is also located in the fort.
In 2006, the palaces were opened for the general public on the occasion of the bicentennial of the Fort. However, since 2015, they have been closed down due to governmental reasons, but visitors can still visit it for its exterior architectural artistry.
4. Virinjipuram Temple
This temple is located 14 km away from the main city of Vellore, however, the distance traveled is worth it. The temple is a living embodiment of the architecture of the Chola Dynasty. The stonework on the temple is also called Dravidian Architecture. The temple houses the primary deity: Shiva Lingam, and other deities, Maragadambhikai, Ganapathy, and Lord Brahma, also known as Virinjan.
In the inner corridors of the temple, according to South Indian culture, a Palm Tree Grows. This is known as the sthala vruksha. This Palm Tree also bears sweet black fruit every consecutive year. During the ten-day celebrations of the Navarathri, the temple and its aura are festive and pomp.
5. Palamathi Hills
Taking a scenic route, the city offers a blissful region away from the hubbub of urban life and pollution. This area belongs to the Eastern Ghats and is home to multiple indigenous animal and bird species. The Palamathi Reserve Forest, which is a protected area, provides travelers to come face to face with raw greenery and lush forest. The area also organizes several recreational activities and treks for visitors to enjoy the flora and fauna.
At the foot of the hill, one also comes across the beautiful Otteri Lake. For bird watchers, this is an ideal place to witness bird species that are often attracted to this reservoir.
6. Sripuram Golden Temple
The temple is not a part of ancient history per se, as it was inaugurated only in 2007. Narayani Amma got a vision of this temple and its construction started around 2001. The entire temple is covered with gold foil which was made from real gold bars, becoming the largest and the only temple with this title.
Approximately 1500kgs of gold was used in this entire process. The chief deity of the temple, Maha Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, sits amidst the intricately designed pillars, human-made sculptors, and beautiful roofs. All the designs have been inspired by the Vedas. Moreover, the temple is constructed manually. Even the conversion of golden foils from golden bars was also done manually.
A huge park surrounds the temple. It has 20,000 species of plants and also has an Eco-pond called ‘Sarvatheertham’. The Eco-pond includes water from all the main different rivers of India.
7. Punganoor Lake
Punganoor Lake is an artificial Lake in Vellore. Surrounded by Yelagiri hills, the destination offers calm and serenity to the visitors. A lot of tourists and local people often visit this place for leisure in this calm ambiance. Luckily, there are many food stalls as well, which can be an exciting place to lay down and nimble off one’s favorite snacks.
Vellore’s Rich cultural heritage through its temple and the very grand Vellore Fort can be a great place for travelers interested in Historical excursions. The city, which is seeing rapid growth in development will be one of the smart cities in the coming years. Therefore, Vellore City should definitely be on your ‘To Visit’ list!