The historical city of Tiruchirappalli, popularly known as Trichi, is situated on the banks of the Kaveri River (also Cauvery) in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Lying at a distance of 320 km from Chennai (Madras) and 150 km from Madurai, this Chola Dynasty citadel, known for its profound wisdom of the Sangam Age, still carries the age-old aura about it. The present-day city, with a blend of glorious past and acclaimed divinity through the famous Dravidian temples, stands as a commercial and tourist hub of Tamil Nadu.
Trichi has a long history, going back to several centuries before the birth of Christ. It was once the citadel of the mighty Cholas, the acclaimed dynasty of South India that has left its cultural identity in various fields such as culture, art, heritage, etc. The city later fell to the Pallavas. However, the Pallavas could not retain control of this strategic city and lost it to the Pandyas several times. The struggle for power between the Pallavas and Pandyas continued until the 10th century, when it again came under the rule of the Cholas. In the 12th century, the Vijayanagar kings of Hampi subverted the Cholas. In 1565, Trichi came under the rule of the Nayaks of Madurai, to be followed by the Marathas, the Nawabs of Carnatic, the French, and finally the British. However, it was under the Nayaks of Madurai that Trichi prospered in its own right and grew to be the city that it is today. The Nayaks constructed the Rock Fort, and firmly established Trichi as a trading city.
Vaikunta Ekadasi (Paradise Festival), held in mid-December, is a famous festival of the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple. The major attraction of this festival is the recital of the Vaishnavite text called Thiruvaimozhi before the image of Lord Vishnu. The Car Festival, held in January, also attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world.
Trichi enjoys a moderate climate. The maximum temperature during summer is approximately 37°C, while during winter it dips to a low of 20°C. Therefore, the best time to visit Trichi is from October to March.
The spectacular Rock Fort Temple, the landmark of the city, is on the shores of the Kaveri. It is perched on a massive rocky outcrop at an altitude of 83 m above sea level. The Thayumanaswamy Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva (the destroyer in the Hindu trinity), is situated halfway to the top. It has a 100-pillar hall and a Vimana covered with gold. On the southern face of the rock are several beautifully carved rock-cut cave temples of the Pallava period.
The Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple (Srirangam), situated 6 km north of the city, is among the most revered shrines dedicated to Lord Vishnu in South India, and one of the largest temple complexes in India. Shrouded in a haze of coconut palms away to the north, the temple is built on an island in the middle of the Kaveri and covers an area of 2.5 sq km. Enclosed by seven rectangular walled courtyards, this 13th-century temple has 21 gopurams, the largest of which was built in 1987 and measures 73 m in height. The temple is connected to the mainland by a bridge. The temple is replete with excellent carvings and numerous shrines dedicated to various gods.
The Jambukeshwara Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is situated just 2 km east of Srirangam and houses five concentric walls and seven gopurams. Legend has it that an elephant once worshipped the Lord under the holy Jambu tree, and hence the name Jambukeshwara. The principal deity is the Shiva lingam, almost submerged in water, which flows from the subterranean spring in the sanctum sanctorum.
The capital of the imperial Chola dynasty a thousand year ago, Thanjavur is situated 54 km from Trichi. The magnificent Brahadeeswarar temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, bears witness to the glory of Chola architecture, sculpture, and painting. A museum in the temple courtyard has interesting Chola artifacts. The Thanjavur Art Gallery has priceless collection of bronze icons and granite sculptures dating from the 9th century AD. Thanjavur is a good place to shop for Thanjavur Art Plates, handicrafts, hand-woven silk, bronze icons, intricately inlaid brass work and bejeweled paintings.
Pudukkottai town (58 km) was once a princely state. The area, which comprises the district of the same name, is of absorbing interest to historians, anthropologists, archaeologists, and lovers of art. The numerous dolmens, stone circles, and other forms of megalithic burials in the district indicate the antiquity of this region dating back to pre-historical times. The rulers of Pudukkottai have built several beautiful palaces and constructed tanks and canals.
Gangaikondancholapuram is located at a distance of 100 km from Trichi. The Brahadeeswarar temple here was conceived and constructed by the Chola king Rajendra I after his victory over the kingdoms in the region of the river Ganges. Apart from the huge Nandi, there are some beautiful sculptures including a dancing Ganesha, a lion-headed well, and a stunning piece depicting Rajendra being crowned by Shiva and Parvati.
The Grand Anicut at Kallanai (24 km) is an ancient dam built by Karikala Chola across the river Cauvery in the second century AD.
Mukkombu (18 km) is a wonderful picnic spot where the river Kollidam branches off from the Cauvery.
At Viralimalai (30 km) is a temple dedicated to Lord Subramanya, perched atop a hill. It is also the site of a peacock sanctuary.
Sittanavasal (58 km) is the site of an ancient Jain monastery with exquisite fresco paintings in a cave. It is also noted for its pre-historic burial grounds.
Narthamalai (37 km), Puliancholai (72 km), Kodumbalur (42 km), and Avudayar Kovil are some other nearby sites worth visiting.