After the incredible lagoti-equipped Ayurvedic massage in Periyar National Park, we headed by local bus to Madurai in the state of Tamil Nadu.
The scenery was gorgeous but it was readily apparent that we entered another state. Rubbish was everywhere and once again the bus driver deked around cows roaming freely on the highway. Locals were completely taken by our white, foreign appearance. The bus quickly filled to standing room only and Mark once again engaged in conversation with the local men pressed in next to him. They asked about Canada, how much a bus ride would cost, are we married, our age and yearly salary. We had a bunch of fun smiling, Googling images and sharing information.
We passed through villages celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi, a ten day festival. As we passed the locals, they waved frantically at us hooting and hollering. Their teeth glittered, cheeks puffed and dimples creased. They appeared so happy, their energy was intoxicating! The bouncy bus ride had Christine wishing she wore her sports bra and ended registering 16,000 steps on Mark’s FitBit.
Madurai is one of India’s oldest cities established in 3rd century BC (2500 years old). It is home to arguably one of India’s greatest temples, the Hindu Meenakshi Amman Temple.
It is mind-bogglingly beautiful! A 17th century temple occupying fifteen acres of land.
North, South, East and West gates adorned with monumental towers (gopuram) amaze visitors with a dizzying number of gods, demons and heroes. The temple has twelve gopurams in total reaching up to fifty metres in the air.
We read it made the top thirty nominee list for the new seven wonders of the world. We loved it so much, we went back on the second day before a night train.
Once again, it was the local people that made the experience special. Their faith so strong, the rituals captivating, we just went along for the ride. Locals embraced our presence with big smiles, interesting conversation and a bunch of requests for selfies with us.
Our photos in this post (using only Mark’s inexpensive Motorola smartphone) cannot begin to capture the beauty or the atmosphere of the Meenakshi Ammen Temple.
In contrast, a Catholic cemetery across the street from our hotel appeared completely unloved. The perimeter walls had photos of famous people. Shockingly, a photo of Hitler was displayed next to Saint Teresa of Calcutta. A bit taken back and, quite frankly offended, we asked why? The meaning, as explained by a local Indian man, “no matter if you do bad or good, in the end you end up in the same place.”
We said goodbye to Madurai via another overnight sleeper train relishing another fascinating and immersive experience.
…Mark and Christine