When I visited the hinterland of Tamil Nadu, I first stopped at Tiruchirapalli or Trichy. My curiosity took me to a fertile plain surrounded by a few hillocks. However, my ultimate destination was Srirangam which is in fact an island surrounded by both Cauvery and a smaller tributary. The Sangam literature describes Cauvery at Srirangam vividly and states, “On a magnificent cot..with a thousand heads spread out, worshipped and praised by many, in an islet surrounded by Cauvery with bellowing waves, languidly lies the one in whose heart Lakshmi resides.”
Staying at one of the best hotels in the heart of the town, I hired a rickshaw for a day to visit the island and saw other tourist spots around the old township. The town is pretty congested and one can still see some houses built in the style of temple architecture.
After a sumptuous breakfast of steaming hot idlis and sambar, I set out towards Cauvery. The auto driver cum guide, relating the history of this old town and the nearby rock temple warned me to be careful on the island as the river bed was almost dry and inhospitable.
However, since I had decided to take a bath, I walked for nearly a kilometer on the scalding hot sands under the scorching sun to take a dip but alas! There was hardly any water. Disappointed, I turned back and tiredly searched for the first shaded area to rest in.
Here, I found two young people who urged me to perform a pooja and I relented and paid them some money. However, to my amusement, I saw them performing my Shraddha (rituals for the departed soul) even as I sat looking at them befuddled. Instead of making an offering to Cauvery, they were performing my last rites! It was only later when I inquired from my guide Muthu that he said many people come to Srirangam to perform these rituals for the departed souls of their loved ones and ancestors.
After witnessing the pooja and taking a well needed rest, I decided to walk across to the world famous temple of Sriranganathswamy. I saw a lot of people wearing the traditional dhoti and smeared with ash, making offerings to the departed souls along with their families.
Srirangam perched on the edge of the Cauvery delta and ensconced in the seat of Srivaishnava dharma, attracts many more such believers, pilgrims and tourists to its fold. It was truly an unforgettable experience for me and I relive the memories as if they happened only yesterday.