Utmost Belief

“Smitha, get up. We are going out. All of us are almost ready.” The excitement in my dad’s tone is unmistakable.
The best part about annual tours is you get to see a lot of amazing places, the worst part – getting up early to see those places.
“Dad, Can we go out tomorrow?”
Arushi chips in,” Oh come on Smitha. Don’t be a spoil sport. We will have fun.”     
I unwillingly pull myself up from the bed. Half an hour passes before I manage to look presentable. My family is eager to visit the famed Meenakshi Temple. As our hired taxi makes way to the temple, I notice the streets crowded with peddlers and pedestrians. The famous Madurai Tamil slang is a little threatening for the first time. The whole area is colourful and aromatic. Whichever direction I turn I can see atleast two ladies whose long braided hair was adorned with jasmine flowers – Madurai malli. I realise with a jolt that this is one of the few places today where long hair and a glass bangles are still in fashion and many young girls still prefer colourful half-sarees to the normal churidhars. Somehow the city sends out a positive and secure vibe. I feel a little at ease. The views of the gopurams are magnificent in the evening sun. They proudly announce the temple premises. The temple area itself is so huge. There are various entry and exits to accommodate the bustling crowd. People speaking different languages and a lot of foreigners throng the temple.
The architecture and grandeur of the temple hold me mesmerized. My mind is whirling now. I’m transported back in time. I can visualize the Pandya King (who ruled Madurai) come in to worship Goddess Meenakshi amidst the palace guards. I can feel the crowd thronging to get a glimpse of their ruler. I can see the King acknowledging the crowd and making special offerings to the goddess. The corridors are so huge that they could have easily accommodated a king’s chariot. I’m in my day dream till someone from the crowd stamps on my toes. Ouch! I’m back to reality. I gaze at the infrastructure. The sculptures are very intricate and expertly done. There are deities of various Hindu Gods in various forms and emotions very well captured by a simple chisel and stone. And in the centre garbagraha sits Goddess Meenakshi with the pride and majesty of a ruler. There is a large theppakulam on one side with a lotus pond where the devotees are spread everywhere in various stages of prayers. Some are sitting chanting mantras, while some are dipping into the holy rivers, while still some are facing the river and praying. There are a lot of fishes in the pond. Devotees are feeding them with puffed rice. There are various offerings of coconut, salt, holy ashes, kumkum, turmeric stacked in the premises. Annadhanam is happening on one side. All kinds of people are present. Newly married couples who have come to give their thanks, aged people who seek relaxation, people praying for the sick, people doing special poojas for children, the entire temple is crowded. There are historic writings about Madurai, the kings, the temple and goddess Meenakshi. The entry and exits are confusing since the temple is so huge. My entire family is in awe as we finally manage to exit the temple and locate our slippers.
“Oh my God. What a beautiful temple!” My mother is totally taken with the temple.
“Did you know it is considered one of the ancient wonders of the world?” There is pride in my father’s voice.
My thoughts drift..
Wherever we go, the place, the people, the food, the culture are vastly different. But what remains the same, is the basic principles like the utmost devotion to the almighty and the regular compassion extended to a fellow human being and what better place to experience both than a temple which has stood over a thousand years witnessing the changing times and the unchanging love and faith.

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