Sunday, November 15, 2009

Walking Barefoot and Surviving 10,000 Devotees in Wet Muddy Madurai

Sri Meenakshi Temple has 12 gopurams (temples of celestial and animal forms) spread over 6 kilometers of baroque Dravidian art and architecture.

Madurai, India - It's 3 hours away south of Trichy. I hopped into a bus after changing hotels (Hotel Mathura to Hotel Gajapria - as noted at my prior post, the place was just too noisy). I would fall into moments of sleepiness. I earlier visited Trichy's Tiruvanaikoil (Sri Jambukeshwara Temple) at 6:30AM despite drizzling. Little did I know that it would be a prelude to the kind of day I'd experience in Madurai.

Once in Madurai, after an exhilirating visit to the grandiose Tirumalai Nayak Palace, I refused to take my 2nd autorickshaw (those 3-wheeled motor vehicles). I walked the streets of wet Madurai. 1.8 kilometers later, the rains finally came. And to my horrific disappointment, I had to once again remove my shoes and walk barefoot - amidst muddy puddles of water - and queueing with the 10,000 Hindu devotees that were to visit the temple for the day! Oh yes, I was waddling over rough floors bafefoot, tripping over puddles. That's so unappealing.

As I started my queue towards the long line of people, I made the huge mistake of getting into the wrong queue of devotees - not the tourists - tourists aren't expected to go inside the inner sanctum (in most temples, non-Hindus are NOT allowed inside)! I was body-to-body against half-naked men and sari-covered ladies. I wanted to turn around and back, but the idiot guard would not let me through!

So I suffered in silence, silently cursing myself for being so stupid - joining a queue of devotees rabidly waiting for their turn to get inside the sanctum and see the goddess (it's a small black statue). At the end of the line, I got a huge red dot at my forehead - from a Hindu priest. Though he must have been surprised to see a non-Indian on the line, he just shrugged and instructed me to "Go see the goddess!" After that, it was FREEDOM! And out I went, wet sole, wet shirt, wet backpack - and a better person for surviving the odds.

Some experience are worse at this - and I'm actually glad to have been inside Meenakshi Temple's inner sanctum!

Later that night, upon arriving at Trichy's Central Bus Station, the skies dropped oceans of rainwater. I took the empty plastic bags from my backpack and covered my bag with them - then once again waddled through floody sidewalks. Back to my hotel. Not 20 seconds later, I unceremoniously slept like a log!
This is the Eye in the Sky gleefully suffering the heavy rains of Tamil Nadu!

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