I haven't written in a few days partly due to travel logistics and partly due to having a sinus infection which has me tired and foggy headed. At home I breathe mostly clean air, and here I have been breathing a lot of very smoky, polluted air. At home I mostly avoid dairy, wheat and sugar (which set me up for things like sinus infections). Here I've been eating lots of all three since it is often “what's for dinner” so to speak. Anyway, I'm getting better – and I'm finally getting a handle on how to avoid eating so much dairy, sugar and wheat.
We spent time in Madurai. I didn't like it too much, probably because I felt lousy but also because it is such a huge city.......Eli liked it a lot, for the same reason – it's a huge city. (I think he's about to post a blog about some of his Madurai experiences).
In Madurai we made another of our 4 am temple visits. We went to the Meenakshi Amman temple, which is dedicated to Shiva in the form of Sundareswarar - “Beautiful Lord” - and his consort Parvati (in the form of Meenakshi). Parvati had come to earth as a three year old girl with three breasts and fish-shaped eyes. (Leo – no laughing – I mean it!) She grew up to rule the kingdom skilfully. On an expedition to the Himalayas, she sees Shiva, her extra breast disappears (I don't know what this is all about) and the two are united in marriage. At the marriage Shiva performs Chidambaram – the cosmic dance - for his wife Meenakshi. In the temple complex there are several outrageously beautiful statues of both Meenakshi and Shiva.
The temple complex was HUGE (45 acres) and surrounded by 12 towers, the tallest of which is the southern tower which is 170 ft. high. The whole place is currently entirely shrouded in bamboo scaffolding and palm leaves as it is being renewed. The project is slated to be finished in April.
We spent a few good & intense early morning hours there. We couldn't see that main shrine room to Meenakshi as it was only open to Hindus (but you at home could Google and tell me what it looks like!) In spite of missing the main attraction there was SO MUCH ELSE to see. I had two favorites. There was a wonderful Shiva Nataraj (Shiva as Lord of the Dance) in a quiet and empty meditation room The whole temple was thronged so I don't know why that one place was empty but the attendant waved me in. My other favorite was another Nataraj – an unusual one. The dancing Shiva normally has his left foot raised but this one had his right foot raised. The story goes that a Pandya king felt that always keeping a single foot raised will place too much stress on one side. So Shiva was able to avoid repetitive strain injury thanks to this good, alignment-conscious king!
For me, the temple was a little like the city – too big to take it in – pretty overwhelming. But again, I was feeling lousy so maybe that's all that was amiss.
Now we are in Mamalapuram – and that's a whole other story.