KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
Last night we were up late at the Reliance World Internet uploading photos for the Trichy site and writing the journal entry. Then it was up early this morning in order to make the three-hour drive to Madurai to see the famous pilgrimage temple - Sri Meenakshi Temple. It was a great trip because we really liked our driver - Nagaraja. He kept his speed to 80 kph and didn't try any crazy tricks overtaking trucks and buses on the highway. The scenery along the way was very different from what we have seen so far in southern India. After leaving Trichy, instead of heading straight south, the road veers towards the west and there were rocky outcroppings which made for interesting viewing. Halfway to Madurai, we turned south-east and for the last twenty kilometers we drove parallel to a huge natural rock structure that we have learned is called "Elephant Rock". It is magnificent - I am surprised that a temple was not built on top of this rock, it is so very much larger that the rock in Trichy where the Rock Fort Temple was constructed.
Our plan was to reach Madurai by early afternoon, have lunch and a rest and then visit the temple after 4:00 pm when it reopens to the public. All went according to plan so we will be able to push on tomorrow to Kanyakumari - at the very tip of India. It is at this point that three bodies of water meet - the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. We asked Nagaraja if he could take us onwards and he said yes so that makes things so much easier tomorrow.
Anil was very reluctant to visit the Sri Meenakshi Temple because of all the negative things he has heard and read about it. In fact, I had to really insist that we go because I knew that every Indian, we meet for the rest of our lives would ask if we had seen it on our tour of the South and I wanted to be able to say "yes". It is almost a duty for Hindus to visit this temple in their lifetime, if they are able. No one would ever understand if we passed it by.
The Lonely Planet says that a typical day at the temple sees at least 10,000 worshippers. We were very surprised to find the temple quite peaceful - later in the evening the place will be swarming with people and this often creates a bit of a frenzy as people enter the long lines inside the inner sanctum. We had heard that the temple is really dirty, even by Indian standards, but we were surprised to find it quite clean. All in all, it was a pleasant experience and seeing the Golden Lotus Tank in the setting sun was really lovely. I especially enjoyed the Hall of 1000 Pillars - the sun was low in the sky and long rays of light made the Hall very inviting. What really sets this temple apart from the others that we have seen is that expect for the tank in the middle, the entire temple is covered by a high ceiling. This creates an air of mystery not found elsewhere. It's rather dark so most of the temple is lit with florescent lighting - it makes it hard to get great photos of the interior. All in all, I think we are both very happy that we made the decision to visit this important place.
Anil wanted me to mention that he is writing a parallel journal - a "scratch and sniff" version. If you want him to send you an invitation, please feel free to let him know. My advice, give it a miss!