Dadu Aur Madak

Madurai

We spent the entire week leading up to Christmas in Pondicherry, the longest we had spent in one place for some time. We had mixed feelings about leaving Pondy's good food and relaxed atmosphere, but we were anxious to get down to India's tip. We kind of knew that once we reached the west coast our motivation would dwindle. We decide to make a stopover in Madurai with an overnighter in Tiruchirippalli (known as Trichy).

As we head south from Pondicherry, we rode through verdant deltas, and towns where it is obvious that spice is king.

We had seen these guys hauling live chickens a number of times, but could never manage a photo. We caught up with this guy at the absolute only moment in this entire day that traffic was light enough that I could slip my camera out and get this on the roll. Farther along we caught up with chicken man number 2 making his delivery (below left), and he stopped long enough to pose. Speaking of poses, check out the mug on the right below.


The fever that had grounded me in Gujurat had been preceded by a bug going into my eye one evening on the bike. That time my eye had swollen like it is in the photo above. After we knocked the fever down it went back to normal. This shot though is more than a month later. It started the day we left Pondicherry, and went from normal to this in less than 20 minutes. In Trichy, fortunately, there was a large eye hospital so we spent the little free time we had there getting it checked out. They did a pretty thorough exam and found no infection. It wasn't so much my eye as the lid was filled with fluid. Their diagnosis is that it was an allergy, and their anti allergy pills, along with two different kinds of drops cleared it up in a few days. The price for the hospital visit and their services was zero. It has become almost embarrassing the way we are ushered to the front of the line in situations like this because we are foreigners.

Madurai is famous as home to a group of temples that is perhaps the finest display of Dravidian architecture in all of India. Known as Sri Menakshi Temple, it is actually a complex of a dozen temples covered in a colorful pantheon of gods, animals, and mythical creatures. From the top of this one the creature below stares down.



The temples, which cover several acres in the heart of Madurai, are linked by covered galleries with beautifully painted ceilings. At the entrance to one of the main galleries the temple elephant (right) performs blessings for a few rupees.

This photo shows a tiny part of the incredible detail of the Dravidian style.

There is one spot within the complex where foreigners can get a glimpse of one of this site's most holy temples. This gold roofed shrine, like many of the sacred places within the complex, is off limits to non Hindus.