Madurai Day 2

What a crazy place! Our first real taste of an Indian city and what an experience. The streets are dusty, the traffic thick and walking down the road you have to be aware of everything around you. Cars going the wrong way down the street, no footpath or if there is, it has holes in it which drop into the sewer system. Cows wandering the street, cow poo on the footpaths, hawkers trying to get you into their shops. On paper it doesn’t sound too appealing but living it is quite extraordinary. The city is alive in a magnitude I have never experienced before and according to all reports we ain’t seen nothing yet as Mandari is a tiny city in comparison to others.

We headed out relatively early for a quick chai stop and then walked to the temple. We had read that Tim needed to wear clothes that covered his legs so in our bag we had his trusty lungi or sarong as we would call it. Apparently a lungi was not acceptable and he needed a Dhoti. So off we went to purchase one. Apparently the only difference is colour as they were both pieces of material that are worn in exactly the same manner. Still miffed as to why one is accepted and not the other we lined back up to go in. We also were not allowed to take in cameras, but you could take photos on your phone….

After a thorough pat down search we entered the southern side of the temple and were mesmerized. Tim mentioned yesterday that he thought it was something out of Terry Pratchet’s Discworld but for me it more looked like an alien race had come down and plonked the 4 giant gopuram (tall pillars covered in sculptures) amongst the city. 

The Meenakshi Amman Temple actually has 12 gopuram but the 4 giant ones situated at the 4 compass points are the most impressive. We walked in through the south entrance and it alone had over 1000 coloured statues of Gods, goddesses and demons. Through the gate you enter a covered walkway with beautifully brightly coloured painted ceilings. There were people everywhere going which way and that and it felt more alive than a simple place to pray. Unfortunately like all the Hindu temples the major internal places for praying and offerings are for Hindu eyes only, which I can totally respect but if the outside of the temple is this beautiful I would love to see inside one of their inner temples and experience their religious ceremonies. 

We soon came upon a pond with tiered steps around it where people would be sitting enjoying the breeze and shade. Like I said before, this temple seems more than a place to just pray but rather a place to pass the time. There were even food sellers within the temple selling simple treats to eat.

We then just wandered around the complex in a vaguely anti clockwise direction and passed near the East gate. From the east gate leading in there were stalls lining the walkway selling flowers, bangles, pictures of the gods, blessing powder and kids toys. It just seemed so surreal being in a temple with what seemed like a fully functioning market place. Usually all these things are sold outside of the gates. But I must admit it gave the temple a very life like vibe.

We then wandered into the hall of a thousand pillars which housed 985 wonderfully carved stone pillars. We were shown one where you tapped the hand and music came out. It must have had some metal inserted in the hand to make the sound but it was very impressive and entertained us for quite awhile. 

From here we just lost ourselves in the throngs of people and at one stage sat out under the shade near the north entrance admiring the intricacy of the sculptures on its tower and suddenly the 4 ladies sitting in a circle next to us started hand clapping and chanting mantras and it was really otherworldly. Once we had had our fill we exited the temple and went back and relaxed while the heat of the day descended.

We headed back out just before dusk and wandered the streets surrounding our hotel and the temple. We have walked those streets solidly for two days yet I don’t think you would ever tire of them as the sights are constantly changing. Different street vendors are out or you will notice a different stall selling something you didn’t see the day before. We thoroughly enjoyed the walks even if you did come back with dust everywhere.

We then went back to the palace as we heard they put on a light show every evening. We arrived and were the only westerners, which wasn’t too surprising considering we have seen probably 10 westerners the whole time in Madari so no surprises there. We were ushered in and took our seats in anticipation for what turned out to be a bit of a fizzer. It was more an interpretive talk about the last king of Maderai with a few lights thrown in. This would have been fine but the story wasn’t really that riveting. The best part of the whole show was watching the hundred or so school kids file in about ten minutes late in a cacophony of noise disrupting everything and then leaving ten minutes early with the same gusto. Others also took this opportunity to escape so we also made the dash. Outside we were accosted by one of the school teachers to get our photo taken with his class and then I was waving goodbye and started hi-fiving the kids so had to proceed to do it to them all. They were pretty cute.

We headed back near the hotel for some food but on the way there was a massive department store selling saris and salwar kameez. I headed in and soon found myself trying on some kameez which are effectively long sleeved tops that go down to your knee with a split on each side up to your hip. The colours are fantastic and the material light. So after trying a few on and finding my size I decided to get some. A lovely sales man was helping me and we soon where ushered to a checkout where we paid. Then the clothes and us where sent to another counter where the purchases were then bagged up and sent to another counter where they were stamped and then given to our sales man who then give them to us. A very long winded checkout procedure but I suppose complete separation of duties for theft control was the reason? Maybe? Anyway it was entertaining to see and I walked away well chuffed with my Indian purchases. Look for them in the coming photos. S

Our chai man. They take heated milk, a healthy teaspoon of sugar and then poor it through a siv that has tea in it. They then proceed to pour from jug to cup and visa versa to cool it down for you.

The man in the check shirt was made to get up to let me sit down for my tea. I tried to object but it fell on deaf ears.

Pretty impressive walk to the temple. It is literally right in the middle of the city.

The people, the pillars and the paintings. Amazing.

The Hall of 1000 pillars.

Some of the wood paintings in the Hall of 1000 pillars.

Tim in and around the market stalls.

Some of the religious trinkets on sale.

The North Tower

The intricacy in the design is unfathomable. 

I could honestly photograph these streets all day. Just so interesting and alive.

Tim getting a cut and shave from the barber. Not the best of efforts on the barbers behalf but the price was right.

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