Two days Madurai and great temples
Trip Start Jan 28, 2012
30Trip End Mar 12, 2012
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The Sri Meenakshi Temple in the centre with 12 different towers is the most spectacular one and the first one on our programme that I have selected, as Chris had a throat problem that kept him down in spirit. The last day we did the most impressive temple: Pillaiyarpatti, a small rock-cave temple at some 57 kilometres north of Madurai, It is dedicated to Bhairava, the
fearful aspect of Shiva
body stood out.
We arrived driving on a pleasant four-lane highway that is partly a toll-road at 10:30. It is very
quiet and some clouds in the sky give us occasional shelter from the burning sun. We see a priest only dressed in a dhoti ritually blessing a new car in. The car has flowers on its front, The priest sprinkles holy water. The family throws small stones with force on the road in front of the car, and collect the parts. Four apple like fruits are put on the road in front of all four tires. When the priest gives a signal the driver rides over them and they burst open at the same time. The car can drive on, signals the priest. The worshippers pay him a little money.
Inside the temple only few families worship at various places. We are also invited by the priests to get close to the central shrine with one of the largest images of Ganesh in India. Oil lamps throw a little light on the Ganesh statue that is clad in white and yellow inside the shrine. We experience the daily temple life in a Hindu temple for the first time with serenity. Many of the carved pillars are also Ganesh images. Apart from Ganesh we see many Cobra gods. Again we are not allowed to take pictures inside.
We decide to take an easy walk around the tank that is next to the temple. One lady selling green leaves or vegetables to the worshippers is having a fight with another one who seems to scream that she has taken her place. The yelling at each other goes on and on
The Sri Meenakshi temple with its enormous walls is overwhelming. We park the car close to the North entrance and enter through the West entrance, where we leave our shoes. We both have read quite a bit about Hinduism, but it is too complicated for us to understand. Meenakshi (Shiva' s wife), is the deity and protector of Madurai. According to the South India Lonely
Planet edition of November 1998 there are 15 shrines, gopurams (towers) and mandapams (halls). There seem to be more tourists than worshippers. We observe, watch the uncountable carvings everywhere. But we are losing contact what is happening here, also because we
are not allowed in the inner part of the Meenakshi shrine. Picturetaking is allowed here, so I as a sort of defence make many.
We leave Meenakshi after 90 minutes and have a go at the Gandhi Museum that is housed in the Rani Mangammal palace. We read most of the history, colonial Britain stealing India's wealth, but little about Partition and not a word about its millions of deaths in 1947 when Hindus and Muslims killed each other
After lunch back in the hotel we start at 15:00 again, a 21 kilometre drive north east to the Alagarkoil Temple dedicated to the aspect of Vishnu known as Alagar, the brother of Meenakshi who we visited this morning. Set within forested hills and a ruined fort, the temple dates from the 12th century. Ceiling paintings from the late 18th century depict stories form the Ramayana, one of the Hindu holy scriptures. Monkeys are everywhere, outside and inside and are regularly chased away by beating sticks on the ground that make them run away uttering cries. During the months of April-May, a festival celebrates the marriage of Meenakshi and Shiva, and a gold icon of Alagar is carried from thetemple to Madurai.
About 4 kilometres up the hill, Pazhamudhirsolai (Grove of Fruits) is a small shrine – one of the
six abodes of Subrahmanya, who was the second son of Parvati and Shiva. Here he is wonderment who cannot see clearly. One hundred and twenty-six steps take you up to a natural spring, Nubura Ganga, which flows near the shrine, and is said to contain high levels of copper
and iron. Large numbers of people come to bathe, in the belief that the water has healing qualities.