When we arrived in Madurai, the day before Diwali, the festivities had already begun. There was a noticeable elevation of spirits, joy in the air. People were out en masse buying new clothing. And the fireworks were already part of the landscape here.
Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights. I’ve gathered it’s like Thanksgiving and New Year in the USA, but religious. Diwali signifies the defeat of Rama over Ravana, good over evil, light over darkness. On Diwali you start anew, wear new clothes, and blow things up.
Fireworks are an essential part of the Diwali experience. For three solid days, people shot off fireworks at all hours. Street vendors sold them, from the small loud ones to the giant fireworks like the ones we’d see in the US on the 4th. We had a great view from our hotel.
The main attraction in Madurai is the Meenakshi Temple. It’s a very famous Hindu temple that has been the center of Madurai for 2500 years (although the current structure is from around 1600). The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and Parvati (also known as Meenakshi). We only grabbed photos from the outside as we tried to be respectful of the sacred environment inside.
Meenakshi Temple, Madurai
At the Gandhi museum we learned a lot about the struggle for independence, starting as early as colonization began. Like US history, the stories of these early freedom fighters doesn’t seem to be well known, especially beyond India’s borders.
Interesting display outside the Gandhi Museum (dinosaur and statues of Hindu gods)
One evening we went to the “sound and light” show at the Madurai Palace. We heard a very glowing history of Madurai and its defeat over Mysore (also on our itinerary). Since it was the day after Diwali, fireworks were still going off around the palace, adding to our “sound and light” experience.
Madurai Palace at night
We saw our first movie in India – Robot! Highly entertaining! A few interesting things: we had assigned seats, there was an intermission (good thing, since the movie was 3 hours long), and they shut off the movie before showing the credits. Weird. The plot was easy to follow though and lots of fun.
Finally – and this will not be my last post about food – below is a photo of one of our amazing meals. Sometimes, when we’re really hungry, we go all out and get a thali, a full meal. This one, half-eaten by me, had a couple of curries, rassam, sambar, curd, mango pickle, and a desert. Yum.
A half eaten south Indian thali