Madurai: A temple in a city, a city in a temple

Maduria marked a turning point in our trip. We had to make serious geographic decisions that would determine the trajectory of the rest of our stay in India. We ultimately decided to head back north towards Delhi, Punjab, and the Ganges. However, before we came to that decision we allowed ourselves some days to get lost in the Tamilian city. Vivi bought silk and had new skirts put together by a market tailor (many of our clothes were starting to fray and unravel at that point). Grego was in constant search of freshly pressed grape juice, which had become a minor addiction on the Keralan coast. But by far the most intense experience was the Meenakshi temple complex in the heart of the city. Contained by high walls with four gates, each one a soaring heap of frozen gods and demons rising high above the surrounding buildings, the temple complex feels more like a city within a city, a place for prayer and ritual where elephants and pilgrims meet at interior intersections and shuffling groups circumambulate around various shrines, sometimes to Ganesh or to Vishnu but most often to things and deities unknown to us, while lone worshipers light small candles in wax covered niches. In the main courtyard, sitting on the garden steps or reclined against pillars, families and friends talk and laugh with each other – yet another example of that purely Indian formal informality. When we returned to the city on the other side of the walls after the sun had already set, the local police was busy bulldozing small merchant stands that were multiplying uncontrollably, growing on top of each other. We ended the day with dosas and mosquito bites. Madurai was perfect.

the mother ship

on the temple steps

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at the tailors market

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it often felt like 12 year olds were setting the road rules…as in, there are none

east gate

west gate

inside the temple

inside the temple

inside the temple

inside the temple

inside the temple

inside the temple

inside the temple

the meditation room

within the outer walls of the temple

buying last minute Vishnu poster scrolls at the night market

the night market

learning how to make a local spinach soup…although the cooks can’t seem to agree on the best way

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