Posted by Lois on -
This is part 8 of Lois' Misadventures in India series. If you haven't met her other sister in Varkala, click here.
Everywhere we went in India, we observed how devout the Indian people were in practicing their religion. They prayed and made offerings to the gods every morning. They observed food rituals and abstained from eating beef. They practiced yoga and meditation regularly. (Something I should learn to prevent travel meltdowns)
Our visit to Madurai, an ancient city in Tamil Nadu, just strengthened that observation. The city itself is a dusty maze of overpriced hotels and markets. But in the center of that maze was a gem: the Meenakshi Sundareswar Temple.
You might encounter some jokesters at the entrance, asking you to leave your shoes at their shop to avoid the locker fee at the temple. Pay no attention to them. There is no such fee and all they want is to entice you to see their wares.
Painted in vibrant colors, the temple was built in honor of Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva. All the 14 towers are decorated with paintings and statues of gods and godesses.
Madurai is built around the Meenakshi Sundareswar Temple. The maze-like, rectangular streets that surround the temple symbolize the structure of the cosmos.
Parents often bring their children and infants to the temple to be offered to the gods. They also dip their fingers in bowls of powder to signify purity.
Inside the temple, we saw the most beautiful beast in my life: an elephant that blesses people. When you hand out money or fruits, the elephant takes it and taps you lightly with its trunk. A very clever animal. But the handler was even more clever, refusing the coins that some people held out and asking for bills instead.
Tanya and I were not too keen about being barefoot on some streets that were lined with cow dung and bird poop. But when in Rome... Note that there are markets on every corner selling religious items, souvenirs and even toys!
Sadhus are mystics or wandering monks. They have left behind all material attachments and are often unshaven and wear little clothing. This particular sadhu was doing a ritual by rolling on the temple floors.
Pardon the photo overload. I think I might be needing some document management software pretty soon. And in case you were wondering, all photos are still the beautiful art of Tanya Hotchkiss.
Have you been to places that just took your breath away like this temple in Madurai? Share your stories by leaving a comment below:
I hate to say it, but my India adventure is almost ending. My last stop is in the mountains of Kodaikanal. That's coming up next.
Off to see another elephant in Cambodia,
Sole Sister Lois