Numerous ancient temples, variety of deliciously tasty food, detailed political gyaan at every corner of the road, meter-less auto-rickshaws, the more familiar heat of Tamil Nadu, and a lot more is what I have experienced in my first visit to this ancient city of India - Madurai, also known the Temple Town, with an exquisite legacy and heritage of its own.
Madurai, is also dubbed to be the Capital of southern Tamil Nadu, in colloquial terms. And with its experience of being the capital of the immensely successful monarchies like the Pandyas, Madurai can less be ignored.
My two days in Madurai has been the ideal hangout for a gypsy that I tend to be. Needless to mention that I enjoyed it tremendously for, it was my first trip to Madurai.
The memories I carry from here for this time, are of mixed nature; Some vivacious, while some are subtle, perfectly depicting the nature of the city that Madurai is.
Mind blowing temples, which form an important aspect of discovering ancient India are housed in Madurai. The official logo of Tamil Nadu - The Gopuram, has elaborate presence all across the city.
The world famous Meenakshi Amman Temple, for all its grandeur and legacy was one place I was certain of not missing. And I did spend an elaborate five hours scanning through the layered alleys of this marvel. The awe inspiring architecture of the temple, the symmetry and the scale are the traits which have given it the status it enjoys today. More importantly the devotion and emotion associated with the temple and its deities, which bring in the thronging crowds aren't to be missed either :) The only complaint I have is the newly done stark paintings performed throughout the temple. Although in some places it increases the aesthetics of the architecture, I certainly would have loved to see it as it was done by the masters then. I call them the masters, for accomplishing a masterpiece of this sorts then, with the little resources they had is mind boggling, and I believe it would be undo-able today, even with all the resources and technology.
We have simply lost the passion our ancestors possessed!
Apart from the Meenakshi Amman temple, there are a host of other temples and places to visit, but I couldn't go on, given the time and energy constraints.
Second and most importantly, the food everywhere in the city has been sublime. Ethnic south Indian cuisine, with all the creativity and the entire spectrum of non-vegetarianism in it has been a treat for a foodie that I am. I have tried numerous new eatables this time around in Madurai.
Here's a list of new on my food list:
"Parutthipaal" made out of cotton seeds extract.
"Jigarthanda", a Madurai special natural cool drink
"Pathaneer" with the sap of tender palm fruit as the main ingredient. This again is a natural coolant, much needed to beat the heat!
On the non-vegetarian side of the food, I had "Muyal Biriyaani", that is authentic Tamil biryaani with rabbit meat in it :)
Also, mutton omelette (finely chopped goat meat, with beaten eggs), likewise sea-food omelette, boneless crab omelette and chicken omelette! Then the addendum to the "muttai dosa" list was "chicken/mutton/all-meat/seafood/prawns dosas", which are instigating my salivary glands as I am writing this down! All of this in one classic place - Amma Mess.
Then the roadside idlis with chicken kolumbu, and the ever enticing "muttai kotthu parota": An adventurous preparation yielding yet another mouth watering delicacy.
In all, Madurai food was Sublimely delicious, and vibrantly various!
The warmth of people in Madurai is very visible and that comes natural
with their living ambiance, which is still based on the human values.
Drawing in the cynicism I have developed towards the the
IT/Corporate/LPG-sick city that Bangalore is coming to be, I was so glad
to see a place where people on the lower middle and lower sections of
the economic spectrum have chances of survival unlike in other metros!
It isn't about the prices being nominal alone, even the lifestyle of
people matches their living circumstances, and the people are contended
and more importantly proud of what they are, again unlike the hypocrisy
full, West emulating trends in other cities.
Overall, Madurai stands out as one of the best places in India, more for its culture retention and pride of its local (not in the derogatory sense) authenticity.
There will be complaints about everything we observe, but in this log I have subdued one or two negative aspects which I observed for, the rest of it is all so awesome!