Soon after leaving the Thirumalai Nayakkar Palace we headed towards the Meenakshi Amman Temple located just a few metres away and said to be the geographic and ritual centre of the ancient city of Madurai which was built around it. It may be important to refer that he city is divided in a number of concentric quadrangular streets around the temple. According to an ancient Tamil reference - the temple was the centre of the city with the surrounding streets resembling a lotus flower and its petals, with the city's axes aligned with the four quarters of the compass and the four gateways of the temple"
We were not allowed to take pictures unless they were taken with a mobile phone and I must say I was quite disappointed because this restrictive order would definately hinder me from taking any images (shame on me for having had a recent opportunity to buy one of the latest mobile phone models with the required apparatus to get some good images which might have come in handy ... and didn't take it).
The images I'll share with the blog viewers will be the ones I managed to take from the outside as we wandered around the side streets of the temple in the early part of the afternoon, which in no way will convey the experience of having been within the huge perimeter of the 1623-1655 temple, comprising 14 gateway towers (gopurams) ranging from 45 to around 50 metres in height with an estimated 33,000 sculptures and shrines.
Relying on one's visual image to account for what I saw is clearly not the same as having an image to convey what was seen ... and the fact that the temple is a landmark and the most visited attraction in the city with an average of 15,000 visitors a day (sometimes even more over the weekend) wandering around the courtyards, worshipping the deities, burning candles, sitting on the floor or against the inner court columns eating or praying, naturally implies that a lot goes around that cannot be accounted for, such is the ongoing movement.
The first thing I was taken by were the gopurams covered with thousands of stone figures of animals, gods, and demons painted in such bright colours that it was sometimes hard to look at them. Some of the legends that were "fed" into our minds from time to time, as Sagar attempted to have us develop a thorough perspective in regards to those and even the Hindu deities and rituals, were quite interesting.
(To be continued)