India 10 – Madurai
We started our exploration of Madurai with a walking tour that started at 6AM. This gave us a chance to see the old town wake up, since dawn was at 6:30. Every home had the woman of the house creating an elaborate design using a rice powder, using two fingers and thumb to pick up a large pinch, then disbursing it in a steady, controlled stream. These patterns (upper-right and entire lower row) were meant to welcome the gods into their home, with the various designs being passed on through the generations.
We noticed that all the cows seemed to be walking with a purpose. A little after sunrise we came across a man (upper-center) milking them as they arrived. They knew where and when to go, with no need for any human guidance.
Since we were here on International Women's day, one woman came out, and placed forehead decorations and a string of jasmine flowers on both Evelyn and Pauline (center).
The wholesale market is open 24/7, so there are always people negotiating for product day and night.
As the town woke up, other shopkeepers and street food vendors laid out their wares and got ready for the day's business.
The Hindu temples in this part of the country are different from any we have seen before. They are heavily adorned with colorful statues of various gods, displayed in a multitude of mythical situations. Center image shows one of the small temples that we passed in Southern India, while the right column shows some of the details of a few of its statues.
Unfortunately, the most impressive temple of them all, called Meenakshi, has no images. It has five massive towers, each of which has more than 1100 colorful statues. There was a bomb threat to the site, so security no longer allows anyone to carry a camera or cell phone, leaving it impossible for us to show the immensity and complexity of the temple. Inside, Evelyn and Pauline were blessed by the temple elephant, which took their 20 rupees, and used its trunk to make the blessing on top of their heads.
On the village tour from the Cardamon Homestay, Evelyn and Pauline found a potter making a vase on a potter's wheel run entirely by hand. (see video at the end to get a feel of how it works). The 84-year old potter seen here is the last one in this village, since his children chose not to carry on the craft.
They also visited a goat herder's village, and saw a site where goats were sacrificed to bring fertility, plus original homes that were more than 300 years old.
Kids are always fun to watch, and Southern India was no different. A pleasant surprise is that the kids in this area asked for ball point pens instead of money. It seemed that a group would form around us everywhere we went, as foreigners were not a common site in these locations. Pauline (Evelyn's sister) is seen in center image, posing with one such gang.
People here worked hard at whatever they were doing, but were always welcoming to both us and our cameras. Several people were washing clothes, accomplished by beating the clothes on rocks or concrete (bottom left). The top image showed a saree maker on her loom, where Pauline bought several. We also came across a funeral that was continuing for two days (bottom center), with drums and songs honoring the dead.
In two minutes, see how this potter in a small village of India makes clay pots entirely by hand, including spinning his wheel by hand.