15th October 2009;
On Day 5 of our Tour, left Kumbakonam early again, for our drive to Madurai, but on the way we stopped off at the Big Temple, Brihadeshwarar in Tanjore.
If youve ever seen those lizards running across hot sands at the speed of a cheetah, well that was us, running, running as fast as we could to cross from one side of the temple to the next, trying not to get 3rd degree burns on the soles of our feet! Be prepared for the soaring hotness at temples that have the midday sun, blazing down on the stone surface! Not a good time to go.
Before we entered the Temple there was a lovely Elephant waiting to greet us, for a few Rupees (and this Elephant is very savvy, as it knows if you have any money on you!), he will raise his trunk and bless you on your head. Had to be done, abit of a novelty!
The Temple was stunning, but unfortunately you felt like the priests were just out to get as much money out of you as possible, and not very subtle in making you pay up for any photos you take either, which slightly spoilt the whole reason for going to a temple! I thought it was meant to be spiritual and up to you if you wanted to donate!
After the Temple we popped into a Hotel Restaurant, where I (trushanti) finally got to try some Chilly Cheese on Toast! Hurrrahhh, was worth the wait. Grated Paneer with a few green chillies on toast. Doesnt sound so exciting but after eating Dosa, Idli, Sambar and Uttapam for 5 days, the simplest of foods taste the best!
Back on the road to Madurai, Krishna our trusted driver stopped off on the side of the road. What for we all wondered? Ah Cashewnuts! Fresh and toasted right there. So out we all got and after a few 1000 Rupees had been spent on bags and bags of Cashewnuts, we piled back in to van, munching on as many Cashews as we could.
Arrived in Madurai where we were staying at a very nice hotel on the Racecourse. The city was full of hustle and bustle as everyone was getting ready for Diwali. So myself and Dally G decided we'd go for a walk and head towards the main temple in Madurai..............after 15mins of walking around, we realised we were lost. We had protested against taking a taxi, saying to ourselves that 'ah we can walk it there!'. Admitting defeat, we flagged down a taxi and realised the city centre was a good 15 mins by taxi and we would never have been able to walk it!
Had a wander around in the mass of people buying everything they could! And then we found a restaurant that all the locals were in and thought we'd stop for tea and a bit of food. After staring at what everyone else was eating, we pointed at a few plates and said 'Ill have what they are having please!' Turned out to be Dosa! That was the best and cheapest meal me and Dally G had had so far! 2 Dosa and 4 cups of sweet milky Indian tea and it cost us 68 Rupees (less than a pound).
After that spot of money saving, we went and blew a few hundred Rupees and bought ourselves 3 sarees! Even they were an amazing bargain. What a productive day we had!!
16th October 2009:
Our second day in Madurai, we were going to the Sri Meenakshi Temple, probably one of the most famous temples in the South of India, just for the amazing art work and colours, but also for the size of it.
The columns of the Temple can be seen from around the city, a technicolour of figures, gods, animals, women and mythical creatures. The colours just illuminate in the sun, so vibrant. Our guide took us into the Temple (but only after we had all bought a few pairs of bangles!!), theres lots of different gods that people worship in the Temple for different reasons. One women was sitting beside a figure of a women and a child, probably to help her get pregnant, she had candles and had put some kanku (red powder) on the figure. There was also another Elephant in here, so yet some more blessings going on.
We all got abit mesmerised by a group of women sitting around with a tiny little baby, they had come to get him blessed. But his little brother and sister were also there and looked even more cute!
Again we headed out of the Temple and into an Antiques store, up some 3 flights of stairs and onto the roof, from here we were able to see the Temple from up high. Feet nearly melting onto the roof, we headed back down. I think we were meant to stay in the shop and buy something, but non of us were in any mood to shop. The temp was hitting 37 degrees, we were sweating buckets and all we wanted was Krishna and the A/C van!