After Pondicherry we travelled inland for a few days. We got the bus to Tiruvannamalai which is about 180 km south west of Chennai.
The Arunachaleswarar temple dedicated to Lord Shiva dominates the town and was built between the 16th and the 17th centuries by the kings of the Vijayanagara empire. The temple is famous for its massive gopurams. The temple is a site of great religious importance and many people come here for pilgrimages and for the many festivals that take place in the town. We got up early one morning to walk up Arunachala hill to see the sunrise, unfortunately we saw more cloud and mist than sun but we had a nice walk!
We spent a day exploring the nearby ruins at Gingee. The fort was built on three hills and the walls are up to 60 feet thick in places. The buildings were carved out of the rocks and included shrines, temples, accommodation and huge stores for grain and oil for when the site was beseiged, which it often was. The oldest part dates back to the 9th century while most was built in the 13th century. The scale of the fortifications is quite incredible and in spite of this the fort was the site of frequent battles and changed hands many times over the years. It was declared a national monument in 1921 and is well looked after by the Archeological Department. It really is a fantastic and impressive site but seems to get very few visitors.
After a very long, hot, walk up and down the hills to see the fort we were pretty exhausted and hungry. So we wandered along the main road towards Gingee town and stopped for a welcome chai and some food. The parota are always very tasty all over southern India and making them is a very specialised job. The parota maker was very happy for us to take some photos of him at work.
It makes me feel hungry just thinking about all that tasty food!