Madurai – India
After 12 hours in the bus – holding our lives in our hearts because of the crazy driver – we were in the other part of the ‘continent’ India; Madurai. The place is like an oven, polluted, over populated, dirty and with cows all around. In India cows are considered holy and are treated better than people. Actually, a majority of Indians are vegetarians because by eating meat they consider that they are eating cow meat, which is a great sin.
What drew us to this place – making us take the weary and rickety journey – is the fascinating Meenakshi Sundareswara temple, built in the 17th century by Nayaks who ruled Madurai from the 16th to the 18th century. It is one of the biggest, largest and splendid temples in India boasting with 12 gateway towers ranging from 40-45metres surrounding the two main temples; Meenakshi and Sundareshwara. The highest tower (southern tower) is 52 metres high. Each temple has more than one thousand beautifully coloured, ravish and dazzling figures.
After ten minutes ‘rambling’ in the scorching sun with rays that heat our head making us wonder if we are bald, we were in the pagoda. The temples are gorgeous the colours and carvings combine to produce something that is phenomenal. As usual no shoes or shorts were allowed inside the temple and we had to withstand the burning ground and at the end of it tip off the guy who takes care of the shoes.
It was worth assimilating a bit of Hindu religion so we took a tour guide – but Hindu religion is very complex and diverse to grasp anything in an one hour. Apart from the disparate gods like: Shiva (This deity is represented by a handsome young man and is considered the transformer or the destroyer), Krishna (represented by a young boy playing a flute is regarded as a divine hero and supreme), Vishnu (water like and seated in a lotus is seen as the preserver of the universe) and Ganesha (represented by an elephant – it is found everywhere in India – and is deemed as the remover of obstacles). Despite the fact that we were shown and taught the names of others and what each represented, I could not recall a lot. In the heart of the pagodas there is a pond where the people wash their feet, hands and face before going inside the sanctums as a form of purification.
In India they generally look at people in a weird way, but here it was it was outrageous. They were all looking at me like I was an alien and asking for photos like I was a famous Bollywood movie stars, I guess they had not seen a lot of African people if any. It was funny but at some point it became annoying. Hindi people are devoted to their gods and they respect their religion which is something they expect from all people.
Two days were more than enough and we were off far north along the East coast to Visakhapatnam, a seaside city in Andra Pradesh, from where we would take another train to Jagdalpur, in the heart of Chattisgarh, the most indigenous of the Indian states.
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