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Now, It's Time For a Walk on the Banks of Vaigai!

Discussion in 'Saturdays with Varalotti' started by varalotti, Dec 3, 2006.

  1. varalotti

    varalotti IL Hall of Fame

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    Most Gracious ILItes,
    We have had some heavy discussion on Comparison and Warning Bell. So let's relax for a while and take a


    A Walk By the Banks Of Vaigai!

    All Maduraiites know very well that Vaigai is a river only in name, most of the days. At times it is quite saddening to see children playing right inside the river.

    But once in a bluemoon when water flows in the river it is a sight to watch.

    As you all know Vaigai divides <st1:city><st1:place>Madurai</st1:place></st1:city> into two, <st1:place>North Madurai</st1:place> and <st1:place>South Madurai</st1:place>. The <st1:place><st1:placename>Meenakshi</st1:placename> <st1:placetype>Temple</st1:placetype></st1:place>, Railway Station, Central Bus Stand (Periyar) are all in <st1:place>South Madurai</st1:place>. North is mostly residential though it is being increasingly commercialised.


    There are two main bridges that link the two sides of the town. One for going up and the other for going down.

    And now thanks to the very good rains this time water flows in Vaigai. A few weeks back there was even a flood-threat and people living by the riverside were evacuated to safer places. But thank God there were no floods.

    And one should see the water reflecting the city lights in the night. People going in two-wheelers surreptiously park their vehicles by the side of the parapet wall and stare at the flowing water.


    And ten days back the water level was so high that some of the causeways (low bridge-like structures built on the river) were fully submerged. To see water flowing with ferocity to its home the sea, is always a refreshing sight.

    Vaigai has a place in the Sthala Puranam of <st1:city><st1:place>Madurai</st1:place></st1:city>. It is said when Lord Sundareswarar married Goddess Meenakshi, the queen of <st1:city><st1:place>Madurai</st1:place></st1:city>, the latter had prepared food for quite a large crowd. Seeing the scanty crowd from the bridegrooms side Meenakshi was disappointed.


    She complained to her husband that huge quantities of food were going to be wasted. And the Lord identified a hint of pride in her voice. (Ladies are never tired of speaking high of their parents’ homes) So the Lord called the demon Gundodhara and asked his new bride to feed him.


    Gundodharas appetite was so enormous that everything that was prepared had vanished into his stomach. The Goddess admitted her mistake and asked Easwara to forgive her pride. Whereupon the Lord saw to it that the demon’s appetite was quenched.

    Now the Demon asked for water to quench his thirst. Quite natural. You need something to wash down the enormous quantities of food he had consumed. The Lord asked him to place his hand (In Tamil kai vai) wherever he wanted the water to come. That place kai vai became transposed to vaigai.

    Vaigai would be dry most of the time. In summer people will even doubt whether that phenomenon could be called a proper river as there would not be a drop of water for miles on end. Contrast that with today’s scenery. I was walking on the AV Bridge (<st1:place><st1:placename>Albert</st1:placename> <st1:placename>Victor</st1:placename> <st1:placename>Bridge</st1:placename></st1:place> which is about 125 years old and has outlived its 100 years warranty given by its contractors)today and for miles on end I saw water; beautiful, flowing water, glistening by the reflection of city lights.


    It is such a soothing sight and today it was hard to believe that the river bed was perfectly dry hardly a few months ago.

    Vaigai had also been in spate and I have seen it thrice with my own eyes. When I was in my school, I think it was 1971 or 72, there were unprecendented floods. At that time we had a bridge at a lower level called the Keezh Paalam. It was fully under water. Then again in 1977 and again in 1993. Vaigai breached its banks and flooded the residential areas nearby killing hundreds and rendering thousands homeless.

    I think it happened in 1977. I still remember the scene. A lady was caught in the floods. She was clinging to a stone pillar in the river struggling for life. She was spotted by a rescue helicopter from the Indian Navy. She was a village woman in her thirties.

    A rope was extended to her and she was climbing up to the helicopter. She was wearing a saree which because of the force of wind coming from the propeller blades got loose from her body.

    Now an amazing thing happened. The lady was to be stripped of her dress by the wind in the next few seconds. Thousands of peple were watching the scene. The chopper could not remain there for a long time. The lady true to her spirit valued honour more than her life. She let the rope go and fell down into the water.


    The rescuer in the helicopter thought it was an accidental slip and in an anxiety to save the lady asked the chopper to go even closer to the water. But that proved fatal to the helicopter which was caught in the whirlpool and soon exploded into pieces killing two people who were on board. The lady also died.
    Every time I see water going in the river I am reminded of this incident. To think that this town could boast of a woman who valued honour more than her life makes me proud. To know that she and her rescuers died makes me heavy.

    Neither the flow of water, nor of time wait for anyone. They go on in their own way indifferent to what we think or feel.

    Varalotti
     
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  2. Vandhana

    Vandhana Silver IL'ite

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    Brought back memories....

    Of the wonderful story times my dad used to share with me when i was a girl. I remember hearing the Gundodhara story . And reading your piece transported me back in time.
    Our Land is so rich and beautiful, that we often take it for granted and forget to appreciate what we see. Thanks for taking us down the Banks of the river Vaigai. Like Strauss's Blue Danube, i also wish we had composers who can immortalize the beauty of our rivers and nature in Our Land. ( so that we do not forget)
    That the AV bridge has withstood the trials of time is no surprise. I think we had more honest building contractors then??:)
    The story of the village woman was heart rendering to read.

    V
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2006
  3. Vidya24

    Vidya24 Gold IL'ite

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    fond/food-time memories

    Your wonderful post brought many innocent days back.When I was a child, during meal-times, my Manamadurai Periamma used to narrate this story of Vaigai, Gundodharan, and finish by telling us girls to be like Meenakshi.

    It was interesting and informative to read about Vaigai, the layout of Madurai on both sides of the river and the strong bridge that withstood many floods. Like Vandhana said, our land is so beautiful. We remember the Seine, Rhine and Danube, but rivers like Vaigai and Killiyaar (in Tvm) are all so special and nuturing to us. Maybe you should write an ode to Vaigai, Varalotti.

    The incident of the lady is very sad. We had a similar horrifying incident in our Padmateertham lake where a mad man drowned a temple guard in front of hundreds and TV cameras.

    Thanks for making me think again! Like our Chilbuli writes, 'kuch khatti,kuch meethi!'
     
  4. Kamla

    Kamla IL Hall of Fame

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    Vaigai'yin azhagu...

    Dear Varalotti,

    The Vaigai banks must be richer for rearing loving and sincere sons like you and daughters like Chitra.
    The love for the soil you were born in shines through your various writings in their appreciation. You are almost making me envious of you. I love my Bangalore, but the roots were not deep as we were the first generation to be born there and also left it just as fast, even before my adulthood could capture its true colours and character. Like others have said here, I seem to know more about the beaches of the North Sea than any Indian river!
    I enjoyed reading your account about Vaigai and how it came to being. Never heard this story before. It was nice to get to know Gundodharan:) At the same time, I was also sad to note that the Vaigai is dry through most part of the year, like many of our rivers in India. Sad state of affairs and hope the human race will soon wake up to the eco factor.
    The strange story of the woman and the rescue failure and the loss of so many lives made me very sad and thoughtful. I am not totally convinced if it was her modesty or the weakness to hold on to the helicopter ropes that brought death to her. Don't get me wrong, I am not undermining the Indian woman's honorable thoughts...but how can anyone know what the cause was. I am skeptical:)

    L, Kamla
     
  5. Chitvish

    Chitvish Moderator IL Hall of Fame

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    Namma oorunnaal naanum varaen !

    My dear Sridhar !

    You love to make me nostalgic often ! How can I not join you in walking by the banks of “namma Pandiya naattu nadi” ?

    When I was a student of American college, Vaigai was heavily flooded once in November. We all rushed to the Mel Palam to see that lovely sight ! The boys in my class, decided that the lady students should not go “ alone” and chivalrously accompanied us as guards !! Needless to say, what an enjoyable time, we all had under the guise of watching the flooding Vaigai ! I jut want to go back to those carefree days of my youth !

    There is a less popular Gurupeyarchi Stalam, near Sholavandan called Kuruvithurai on Vaigai bed. Once we went by the Kochadai – Melakkal road.
    Just after Kochadai, we are suddenly into lush green countryside! It is a wonder to see that such a lush green area exists just 2-5 mts away from the din & dust of Madurai. The traffic is sparse. The river Vaigai runs next to the road. The smooth road ends just near Melakkal where a bridge across the river Vaigai connects to the otherside of the road to Cholavandan. We crossed the bridge and the cool winter climate, the greenery and rustic settings made us soft!

    The temple is further 2Kms from the village. It is situated in a calm, serene spot, the entrance is right in front of the river. The temple is ancient and well built. Learned from the priest that Kuruvithurai is actually ‘Guru Veetriruntha Thurai’. Steps lead to the banks from the river. There had been some rains before we went there.Thanks to the recent rains, the water was flowing a feet above the knee depth on the near half of the river. The far half was dry. The flow was good but not too strong, so kids had a whale of time. A calm, fresh, unpolluted alternative to water theme parks!!

    Now, let me not write longer than you, as usual.
    Our Madurai and Vaigai form a class on their own, cannot help saying that !
    Love & regards,
    Chithra.
     
  6. varalotti

    varalotti IL Hall of Fame

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    Thanks For Joining Me, Vandhana!

    While walking along with me you also took a trip down the memory lane to those days when your father told you the story of Gundodhara!
    When it comes to land, river, and generally a place the adage that "beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder" applies with greater force.

    Unlike Danube which have composers and poets singing its praise within a period of 100 years, Vaigai has had that privilege some 2000 years ago and has a place in the Sangam Literature of Madurai. I will post the poem on Vaigai written by the great poet and writer A.K.Ramanujan who was a Maduraiitte but moved over to Chicago, US to do research on Indian Folklore, particularly Tamil Folklore.

    regards,
    sridhar
     
  7. varalotti

    varalotti IL Hall of Fame

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    Thanks, Vidya

    These stories have been embedded in our genes by thousands of years of culture to support it. I am afraid, Vidya, the benefit our generation had, in listening to stories, puranas etc. is denied to the current generation. Do you think an NRI software Engineer who spends a few months of the year in Bangalore and spends rest of the life globe-trotting and his software-engineer-wife would have time and inclination to tell stories like this to their children? They might buy an expensive comic book printed in art paper for their children. We are tearing the cultural roots slowly.

    There have been great writers who have written an ode to vaigai. I will post one of them in this thread. Me, writing an ode to Vaigai, I am arrogant, no doubt, but not that presumptuous.

    Yes, Vidya, I do remember seeing the incident in the TV when a mentally deranged man drowning the temple guard. I was appalled that when there were so many people to film this incident, there was no one to save the poor guard.

    Thanks for joining me in the walk, Vidya!
    regards,
    sridhar
     
  8. safa

    safa Bronze IL'ite

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    A tribute to Vaigai..

    Once you led all of us through the busy streets of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Madurai</st1:place></st1:City>. Now a walk near the banks of the river Vaigai is certainly another enjoyable moment!
    <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Madurai</st1:place></st1:City> is lucky to have some children like you and Chithra as her own, and you are blessed to be a native of such a wonderful place..
    Goddess Meenakshi’s wedding story is new for me. Is this the same <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Madurai</st1:place></st1:City> related with Sree Krishnan?
    So sad to hear the story of the woman and the helicopter crew, the lady was an invitation to death for the other two? Your description reminded me of the death of a predegree classmate , by drowning in the near by stream.
     
  9. Preethi

    Preethi Gold IL'ite

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    Very Refreshing Post !

    Dear Varalotti,

    It was a nice post about "Vaigai". The purnam story behind vaigai was enjoyable, though I have heard abt the story of vaigai long ago, I seem to have forgotten about it, your narration helped me to recollect it !

    Any river for that matter, athula thanni alavuku koraichala irunthaalum, jaasthi a irunthaalum suthi irukara makkaluku thaan prachanai !

    Anywayz, It's always such a wonderful sight and pleasure to watch a river (With water) !

    It was sad to read about the death of that women and her rescuers. Pathethic death it was for the two guys who wanted to genuinely help out a lady in distress !

    This week's post was really refreshing Varalotti !

    Love,
    Preethi
     
  10. Pallavi

    Pallavi New IL'ite

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    Bundle of contradictions

    Hi sridhar,

    As i started to read, i began to feel the cool breeze from the river rhythmically blow my hair on to my cheeks !! It was a pleasant thought. But the sad note that came afterward made me realize that every thing in the nature has two facets - serenity and fury. the river is one such. The serene waters may give you the strength to overcome hard times in life and teach you some valid lessons on perseverance. The furious floods may take your life itself!!! I guess that is the reason why most of the elements in nature are regarded feminine. She can be the most pleasant and the most furious!


    Your description of madurai was lucid. i have never visited the city, but now have an urge to do so!
     

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