The Madurai Temple is supposedly one of the most beautiful temples in India. We’ve seen quite a few Hindu temples from our buses and trains, and most are painted with beautiful bright colors. The Madurai temple is the same, only it has four towers of colorful figures, each tower about 6 stories tall.

Unfortunately, every twelve years, the temple is freshly painted – and this is the twelfth year. Although we can see the tower structures from the rooftop of our hotel, all we can really see is the bamboo and straw mat scaffolding that covers all four towers.

Later in the evening, when we go for a tour of the temple, we do see glimpses of the colorful figures hidden beneath the scaffolding.

A bit of scaffolding is not enough to detour the devout, and the temple is packed with Hindus who have made the pilgrimage to visit. We enter the temple by passing through a metal detector with all of our bags and cameras (on us). This actually happens quite often, and we are honestly not sure of the purpose of metal detectors when every single person sets them off. There is, however, a secondary screening (women get screened behind a curtain) with a handheld detector.

Once inside the temple, the first thing you see is a long hallway with vendor stalls. In India, glitz is all the rage for souvenirs. Neion prints of the various Hindu gods and godesses are in gold frames containing multicolored LED lights that blink. Rope lights and blinking lights line the stalls to attract customers.

Before we even got a close look at the temple, we heard the jingle jangle of bells on an elephant – coming out of a dark cavern (normally used for wedding ceremonies). The elephant would “bless you” for a nominal fee of 10 rupees.

We can see some of the brilliant color that the temple normally shows off in the ceilings and some select areas inside the temple. On reflection, I think that it is possibly a good thing we couldn’t see the full temple, because I might still be there taking pictures.

As we walked through the temple, listening to our local guide, we got lots of stares and we, in return, did a lot of staring. There were so many different groups of devotees doing all sorts of different things. Some would lay face down on the floor, arms out, praying. Some climbed onto the statues to hang flowers. Some lit oils, sacrificed flowers in the fire, and prayed. We were not allowed into the innermost part of the temple where the main deity statue is kept (only Hindus are allowed into this part).

It is interesting to note the incredible contrast between the painted portions of the temple and the plain parts.

Towards the end of the tour, we visited the hall of carved pillars.

Here’s Val in the hall of pillars communing with a well-worn elephant.

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