Meenakshi Amman Temple

If you’re thinking what I was thinking, yes! Meen as in meen kappa (fish curry with boiled tapioca/coconut/tumeric), but in this case, Meenakshi as in fish eyed, an old-fashioned compliment for women with almond-shaped eyes. You weren’t thinking that? Anyway, once we woke and had a lovely breakfast of idly, vada, sambar, chutneys, and a couple new Tamilian dishes we enjoyed, life looked far more cheerful than it had the night before. (Short story: attempted mugging) Setting off in the old streets around the Meenakshi Amman temple meant winding our way toward the center. This part of town was designed so that the streets are shaped like lotus leaves and the temple is in the middle. Specifically, I think, this: But that is most certainly jumping ahead. We avoided entering right off the bat by going into the market. The bundles of trim and lace and ribbon fascinated me. Any of my witches need a new cauldron? Safety in numbers… This temple complex covers 17 acres and the original temple is over 3000 years old, it was crushed by the Mugals (of course) and then rebuilt by the Hindus (of course) and it obvious what made it through the Mugal sacking (below). And indoor prayer areas: Non-hindus aren’t allowed in the actual shrine, but the galleries surrounding it are beautiful in their own right. Seriously. No, seriously. Even the workshop area has gravitas and incredible lighting. I am amazed by the loving care given these statues…actually, I don’t think it’s insulting to call them idols. I saw a bus called the “Passionate Idolators”. This stone figure has been rubbed with so much ghee that the stone looks hot. She’s standing on a peacock, but it didn’t make it into the picture. Every building is shot with beams of sunlight, and[…]

Read more

Attukal Pongal

I was riding my bike not long after 8 in the morning on the 11th, heading into town for Attukal Pongal. When an event is the record holder for the most women gathered in one place – and the number is up to 4 million at this point – one would expect traffic to be a mess. Like most sporting events, though, people trickle in and pour out, so the ride in was a cake-walk. If by cake, you mean millions of women sticking to the shade but ready for some sacred fire, and by walk, you mean rolling through among a half-dozen other kinds of traffic. Gopikrishna is Maya’s son and took most of the photos in this post. Here’s the photographer at work. That’s Maya in the foreground, Sangeetha in the middle ground, and Gopikrishna in the background. He asked to see the camera, I showed him a couple basics, and he was off! When I say off, I mean I looked around and I couldn’t find him. As you see, though, he was doing great work in the meantime. Pongala is a ceremony wherein I set up a pot of water on three bricks (or would have, but Maya beat me to it), put some coconut palm fronds underneath, and wait for the temple fire to make its way to me. The temple has an eternal flame, and every one of the 4 million fires was lit from that flame. The fronds are folded in half and allowed to stick out, then pushed in a little at a time as they burn down. Maya, middle, and Naishnavi mess around while I get ready to burn! I ended up with sore thighs from doing hundreds of deep knee bends. The fire also creates a decent amount of smoke…times[…]

Read more

Puja!!!

So we live on the 6th story, which is actually the 10th floor, of this very bizarre semi-finished building in the middle of nowhere called PTC-Aquavista. (Okay, so it’s not nowhere but it’s definitely not woop’n-it-up in the big city either.) It’s been pretty quiet around here which has been great for us writer-types. Although we both have had wishing fits of being just a little closer to things but for the most part, it’s been cool. Anyway, a few days ago, we noticed them putting up a couple of big P.A. speakers right down the street from us. Later, suddenly, in what seemed the middle of the night, the music started! Keep in mind, we love Indian music about as much as we love the food. As a matter of fact, the music is a lot like the food… It’s spicy, intense, colorful and (to me) absolutely incomprehensible. …And once it started, it didn’t seem to want to go away. Shit, we thought that having cheesy (mostly Bollywood) Indian standards blasting at us at all hours of the day and night was our new status quo and it was almost like they had pointed the speakers directly at our balcony. In fact, the second night of the blaring it seemed as though they had forgotten that they were actually playing a movie and just let it play through. There’s nothing like hearing a Bollywood high-speed chase scene blasting through a couple of fractionally blown P.A. speakers in the middle of the night, in the middle of fucking nowhere! Then the lighting arrived, and we knew there was something going on, it was most likely Hindu and it was going to be around for a while. Well, as it turns out it’s the lunar-semi-annual Temple Puja, in other words, it’s[…]

Read more