Like Indiana Jones movies where the archaeologist hero is racing against time to uncover and save a piece of invaluable heritage, the participants faced a similar challenge here. But they were comfortably ensconced in their cars and the heritage had already been discovered and documented for them to find with the help of numerous clues.
That was the heritage car rally, organised by Friends of Heritage Sites (FoHS)—a social space for heritage enthusiasts, engaged in ecology conservation relating to heritage monuments and natural heritage sites in Tamil Nadu—in Chennai early this month.
FoHS founder-director Sharmila Ganesan says, “I don’t think something like this has ever been done, at least not in Tamil Nadu. Last year, during Chennai Day celebrations, we had organised a treasure hunt at the Madras University. From that, the idea to organise a heritage car rally took root.”
The rally covering a distance of 90-odd km had its first halt at the 2,500-year-old megalithic-period burial site in Amoor followed by the Thirupulishwar Vaikunda Perumal Temple in Vayalur, and it ended at the Sangam period excavation site in Saluvankuppam.
After being flagged off from AKDR Golf Village along the Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR) by Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation Commissioner V Palanikumar, the 30 cars carrying its human cargo sped off to the first spot on the heritage trail—Amoor.
Art historian K T Gandhirajan, 46, says, “FoHS and I had done a recce of a few places and narrowed down on Amoor, as it was in good condition and close to roadside, unlike the numerous other heritage sites, which have been swallowed up in the name of development. There are thousands of such megalithic sites in Tamil Nadu.”
Historian Dr Chitra Madhavan provided in-depth knowledge about the Thirupulishwar (Shiva) Temple and Vaikuntha Perumal (Vishnu) temple at Vayalur, both of Chola vintage. The temple has inscriptions belonging to four dynasties—Pallava, Chola, Pandya and Rashtrakuta. “Visits like these really widen our historical perspective,” Sharmila says.
During the last leg of the journey, Gopu spoke about the Shiva cave temple, the Saptamatrika Temple and the newly excavated Sangam period Murugan Temple site in Saluvankuppam, the last being discovered after the 2004 Tsunami, which had battered the Coromandel Coast.
Fifty-year-old Latha, winner of the car rally, says, “I thought it would have us strategising to reach the places on time. Instead, the idea was to get us acquainted with the heritage, which worked out very well indeed.” Given the success of the rally, FoHS plans to turn it into an annual event. Heritage, here we come!
The 90-km rally started from AKDR Golf Village, Chennai
The 30 drivers went to a megalithic burial site in Amoor
Second halt was at Thirupulishwar Vaikunda Perumal temple in Vayalur, and it ended at Sangam period excavation site in Saluvankuppam.