“Architecture, of all the arts, is the one which acts the most slowly, but the most surely, on the soul”. This quote sits smug on the culturally rich city, Madurai. Fashioned in the shape of a lotus flower, this city was the next attraction on my list of places in India I wish to visit. Once the capital of the empire of the Pandayas, Madurai is the oldest and second largest city of Tamil Nadu. It is internationally famed for its incredible Meenakshi Temple, which is one of the highly revered pilgrimages of the Hindus.
As I set out for a visit to the Meenakshi Temple my guide Rakesh acquainted me with a wonderful legend about it. According to the legend Lord Shiva poured nectar or ‘Madhu’ on the land of Madhurai. Hence the city was blessed and named Madhu. Later the name was distorted to Madurai after the 14th century.
We reached there early morning as I wanted to attend the aarti. I was completely overwhelmed at the sight of the temple. The exquisite carvings of the temple are a treat to the eyes. What enchanted me the most were the incredible gopurams decorated with stucco figures of deities, mythical animals and monsters painted in vibrant colours . I wonder how talented the artists were! I also saw the thousand pillared hall festooned with amazing sculptures.
While exploring the Kalyana Mandap, Rakesh told me that this hall serves as a venue for the celebration of the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. This celebration is observed during the Meenakshi Thirukalayanam in the month of Chaitra (April).
Post lunch, I went to the Chitirai bazaar in Madurai to buy some souvenirs. The bazaar was stocked with glass bangles, handloom saris, woodcarvings, brass ware, palm basket and jaggery. I bought some souvenirs and with golden memories of the temple came back to the hotel.