Tirunelveli Diaries

Tirunelveli (Read about Irrutu Kadai Halwa below)

This was the 2nd leg of our journey after Chennai – Kanchipuram trip. Every year since the last 6 years, we visit Tirunelveli for our Kula Deivam darshan (you may have read my story on Swamy Sadaiudayar and Goddess  Porchadaichi).

This year, however, since we planned to also visit few other temples & spend a little more time in Tirunelveli, planned a 3 day trip. A visit to Tiruchendur was also planned (you may have also read the story on Tiruchendur – One of the 6 abodes of Lord Muruga).

Now, first things first, since we are complete foodies, we crave good food & there is nothing that qualifies more than the food served at Hotel Janaki Raman (near Tirunelveli Bus Stand). A TamBrahm’s first choice for eating in Tirunelveli – Reason – No Garlic in food. Of course since me & Narayan are born & brought up in Mumbai, we love our garlic but yes, our parents & the entire older TamBrahm generation detest the smell of garlic.

(picture of meals / lunch at Janaki Raman – Meal includes unlimited meals with sweet, icecream & fruits followed by pan or vettalai which enables digestion)

Their meals are one of the best, value for money & extremely filling too. The place is super crowded. They have accommodation facilities too but we have so far not experienced the same.

So, after a hearty meal (read overeating), we headed out to visit Shankaran Kovil (Kovil translates as Temple in Tamil)

Read below about the temple (from the temple website)

In the 11th Century king Ukkirapandia ruled over Ukkirankottai. He used to go over to Madurai for darshan of Lord Arulmigu Somasundarar. One day when he was proceeding to Madurai for worship of God Arulmigu Somasundarar, The Elephant tusked the earth on the way and plunged into a pit. At that time Manikireevan, the watchman of Punnai forest came there and told the king “Oh king! Here is an ant-hill in the middle of Punnai forest. When the ant-hill was demolished there appeared a tail less cobra. On hearing this the king rushed to the Punnai forest and saw the Sivalingam by the side of the ant- hill to his over whelming happiness. Then he had a bath in the Nagasunai (holy tank) and worshipped the God. Later on according to history, the king destroyed the forest in the vicinity of the ant – hill, constructed this Temple with Mandapams, Gopuram (Tower) and Compound walls. In the 12th Century king Seevalaramapandian constructed the Rajagopuram (big tower) and front Mandapam. This temple has three important sannadhis with in its premises.

The temple has 3 main deities, Sankara Naaryana Swamy (An avataram of Shankar or Shiva & Narayan or Vishnu) Sankara Linga Swamy & Goddess Gomathi Amman.(Story – Goddess Umadevi requested Lord Siva to remove the difference among the devotees, who is the powerful god, whether Lord Siva or Hari. Then the lord Siva appeared as Sankaranarayanar)

Now after the darshan it was time to quickly reach back to Tirunelveli town for savouring the most famous “Irrutu Kadai” Halwa or Tirunelvel Halwa. Reason for rush – the shop is open only from 5pm to 7pm every day except Sundays & some major festive holidays. The rush is enormous & people wait in queues to get their favourite halwa (hot). Every year, we look forward to this experience. Narayan, especially being a major sweet tooth savours this halwa immensely.

Irrutu Kadai Halwa – The shop is bang opposite to Nellaiappar Temple In Tirunelveli. The place opens at 5pm in the evening & remains open until 7 to 7.30 pm. Mostly the stocks get over by the time its 7 pm. Some days, if you are lucky, it would last until closing time. As an eternal lover of food, I can only guarantee one thing for sure, you CANNOT replicate the taste of the halwa. Reason – the halwa is made using the waters of river Tamarabharani. The unique taste & texture along with quality ingredients, not to mention the generous amount of ghee makes this dish extremely tasty. The best part is that they sell small packets of 50gms of halwa (hot – Always to be consumed hot) in a plantain leaf. The halwa basically has sugar, wheat & ghee. There are no dry fruits nor any cardamom for flavor. The recipe is a well kept secret that’s been passed on from generations. I have been told by our driver that all the halwa making is done manually. No machines are used. Maybe that is the reason this halwa is unique.

(picture on the left side is the packed 1/2 kg Halwa. You can notice the amount of ghee that is coated on all sides of the halwa)

(picture on the right side is the halwa that is partially heated to show the real colour of the halwa i.e. dark brown. Please notice the ghee around the edges.)

For packing large quantities, they neatly wrap the same in butter paper which can be easily carried for long journey too. We brought back few packets to distribute among friends like every year.

The shop is not jazzy like the normal sweet marts of Adyar Anand Bhavan or the likes. This is an old shop with a dim light (a bulb), no sign board outside the shop. The best way to find this shop is its location (opp the temple) & of course, every person in Tirunelveli knows.

Don’t plan your visit on Sundays as the shop remains closed. Also try to reach there by 4.30 to 4.45 pm as major rush gathers during weekdays & on Saturday.

Many local shops claim to have perfected the taste. FALSE. No one can ever come close to this taste. There are 4-5 halwa shops in the vicinity but none seem to fit the bill. My personal experience.

Having savoured the 50gms of halwa & with our hand tissues full of ghee, we reached back to our hotel agreeing that our dinner that night has to be only fruits (to make up for the ghee laden halwa).

Staying in Tirunelveli – 

We have been staying in Hotel Apple TTree (it’s not a spelling error) for the last 4 years. The place is located 10 mins from the railway station. The service is excellent. Rooms are clean & the staff extremely courteous.

Shopping in Tirunelveli –

Textiles are reasonable in Tirunelveli. You have all major brands like RMKV, Chennai Silks, Pothy’s etc having their large showrooms (read 2 storey). Umpteen number of jewellery shops are also available in the vicinity.

We normally shop at Pothy’s (All the clothings for our ancestral deity – you can see in the pic). The variety they offer is excellent. The price range is decent. They display their price range at counters which makes it easier to shop according to budget & also saves time. Pure silk Kanjeevaram ranges from Rs. 5K to anywhere between Rs. 3.5 lakhs too.

There are a wide variety of other household items available, if interested.

Note – If you are interested in temple architecture as much as me & my husband, then please visit Nellaiappar Temple which is one of the largest Shiva Temples of Tamil Nadu. The temple is located in the heart of the city. The railway station is just few kms from the temple. It is also bang opposite to the famous Irrutu Kadai Halwa & Pothy’s Showroom is 5 mins walking distance. Hotel Saravana Bhavan (not the Chennai branch) is also opposite to the temple.

Featured image is the entrance of Nellaippar Temple 

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