Saturday, January 04, 2014

Magnificent Madurai

December is the best time to visit southern Tamil Nadu. With the onset of winter and the recession of the north eastern monsoon, weather in this region assumes a pleasant tone and welcomes you. The month of Margazhi celebrated with music and holy hymn adds to the fervor. So we set out from Bangalore to visit Madurai, Rameswaram, Thanjavur, Trichy in that order. I was at the wheel of my Swift Dzire.

We left home at 0645 am, mainly to avoid the busy Hosur road traffic. Still the Hosur stretch of the highway is a bit bad and so Hosur was hailed at 0745, Krishnagairi was kissed away at 0815, Dharmapuri dawned at 0900. After a short stretch break, Salem was seen off at 10am. After passing Salem, we had breakfast. The road got even better after Salem and Madurai beckoned by 1pm. After a lunch break, we drove straight to the majestic Meenakshi temple. Sighting the south gopuram  from a distance, I was dumbstruck by its sheer height! We hurried to the gopuram and couldn’t take our eyes off the detailed sculpting as we saw it with open mouthed wonder.

A closer view of the gopuram provides the amazing sculptures full of life and color. This gopuram houses more than 1000 episodes from mythology. The quantity and quality of effort that has gone in to it is worth many many awards and highest recognition by humanity.

Each gopuram has depiction of an important event apart from the numerous episodes. The south one has that of the celebrated Sri Dakshinamurthy, the south facing Lord Shiva Who is silent and imparting the knowledge of the Self to others.

Then there is this sculpture that caught the eye although we didn't know the story behind it. He has 24 heads in a pyramidal fashion and 48 hands to go with it.

Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswara on the bull is a constant feature on all the gopurams in accordance with the presiding deities of the temple.

I'm sure you'll not be bored with one more picture of the gopuram from this view.

And as we circumambulated in the clockwise fashion as is the right thing to do around a temple, we next encountered an equally majestic western gopuram.

This gopuram depicts the picture of Shiva giving a mango to Ganesha. This is the episode in which Ganesha wins the competition to circle the earth three times and wins the celestial mango as the prize.

As we proceed further, the north gopuram presents itself. As the temple website points out, this gopuram took longest to complete, almost five centuries! Hence this was known as motta gopuram (bald one!). This is also seen in the lack of a number of different sculpts on this gopuram. 

90 degrees to the right the eastern gopuram is revealed. This is the ideal entrance for the temple. 

There is a smaller gopuram next to the main one and that depicts the lovely spectacle of the divine marriage of Lord Sundareswara with Goddess Meenakshi which is attended by other gods.

It takes a minimum of one hour to go around the perimeter of the temple, admiring the art work of what appeared to be a golden period in south India. You can take any amount of time to admire the gopurams and will never cease to wonder. We then stood in the line to enter the darshan queue at 03:30pm. Camera needs to be left outside in a cloak room. You can sneak a few pics in the colorful corridors using your mobile camera. But don't try any of this near the sanctum! :-) 

The temple opens again the evening at 0400 pm. We went through the security check and spent the next couple of hours in the darshan of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswara. The temple is spread on a huge area. All the ceilings are tastefully colored.

Some of the ceilings also depict episodes from mythology. The combination of colors is truly awesome, eye pleasing and eye catching. Then there is the customary pond in the temple. This temple can amaze you and entertain for a whole day. We were in Madurai for only 4 hours. By 6 pm, we came out of the temple and navigated through the busy lanes of this old city Madurai and in an hour we were zooming onward to Rameswaram to catch a glimpse of Lord Ramanathaswamy the next day. 


Ravi Bhagavatula said...

Ah.. a post on the Madurai temple! Thoroughly enjoyed reading your experience. Truly is an architectural marvel. I had been there around 5 years back and have vivid memories of the temple and how awestruck we were and how we just spent hours gaping at the intricately built gopurams. Was a wonderful experience. I cant even begin to think how they would have conjured this work of absolute genius. Want to go there again!

Unknown said...

Absolutely beautiful. I guess this is a tight schedule to cover Madurai, Rameshwaram, Tanjavur, Namakkal in 3 days time. But you made it Bava.

A said...

So many stories..of the gods on the gopurams to those of the gopuram makers..
Did you notice all the gods on there have all their hands full..holding something..:)

manmeram said...

@A: The few min I spent seeing the gopurams were seen through the lens! I didn't notice that all of Them had their hands full! Good observation. Come to think of it, only those whose hands are full can give something, so, it makes sense :-)

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