Memories of Meenakshi

My favourite spot inside the Meenakshi temple is not the long corridors where people sit for hours, staring at the lotus pond or the imposing towers. Nor under the stunning paintings of the god and goddess, a million stories including the divine wedding, on the walls of the corridors.

Alone

The divine wedding

From outside

It is not in the narrow lanes leading out of the temple, tiny shops on either side selling authentic kunkumam and turmeric and photographs of the temple idols. It is not even near the altars of Sundareshwarar, or Meenakshi or further in, the garba griha.

She stands alone...

god is in the details

I love all of these, just as I love the temple itself for the teeming life in and around it at all times.

Each time I visit the temple, I pass through all these, and head to the Hanuman statue on the wall in one obscure corner of the temple. Like all South Indian temples, the Meenakshiamman koil sends you on sensory over-drive. And in this space, as sacred for many as the other main sanctum, it is smell that is the overwhelming sense.

Say a little prayer

A devotee stands in front of the statue, eyes closed deep in prayer, as another shows a karpura arati – the smell of burning camphor, strong by itself, mingles with the other smells in the air. The immediate bouquet is of the camphor vermilion kunkum and the coats of fresh butter that worshipers have smeared on the statue. Between this, there is the whiff of jasmine, the malligaipoo that Madurai is famous for, hanging from the braided well-oiled hair of women as well as resting on the several puja plates being carried around. From the distance, the smell of a hundred lamps just about to go out wafts through; at the shrine of the navagraha, the nine planets, believers have lit tiny lamps, cotton wicks bathing in pungent sesame oil.

Their space

Lighting up the room

I sit there and take all this in. And the light from the skies flows in, washing over the entire scene and filling up the space; it finally settles on the faces of the people who have found their peace there…

White-washing...

6 Comments Add yours

  1. revathi says:

    wow ! great pictures . I love this temple too. I regret a little, the garishly painted gopuram – but the rest is pure bliss.

  2. Very well said. And so true.
    And as usual. Lovely pictures.

  3. Lovely pics all, esp liked the last one. Is photography permitted inside the temple?

  4. charukesi says:

    revathi, me too – but that is such a typical characteristic of most temples in TN – but for Thanjavur…

    Romeo, thank you 🙂

    Rohini, thanks! photography is allowed everywhere except the inner sanctum…

  5. Anu says:

    Hi,
    I loved your post! Reminded me of my first visit to the Meenakshi temple, when I was with our whole extended family, and we got separated. I wandered arund the temple searching for them for about 3 hours, all the time taking in the beauty of the temple. Since then, I have had only fleeting visits to the temple, but it never fails to give me a wonderful feeling! Thanks

    Anu

  6. I visited Meenakshi Temple almost a year back. I was awed by the sheer majesty of the temple premises. Luckily, that was the day when Shiva’s marriage with Parvati was being celebrated – so almost a lakh new people flanked the temple town Madurai. What a sight that was!

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