Friday, March 18, 2005

Madurai & Trichy

Had a special thali for dinner, which means a big bundle of rice, something like a chappati (roti) and about eight small dishes of who know's what. You just throw it on your rice and taste. A couple were normal-ish veg stuff, most of the others sauce. When you finish one you get a refill. As much as you can eat for 50p, can't say fairer than that. Also included was a strange pink drink/sauce I wasn't sure, I took a sip but decided to stick to my grape juice, which was brown, mustn't be the right season for grapes.
All this comes complete with a waiter standing a metre away watching you intensely, ready to whip away any empty dishes. Or just stare at the white guy dribbling food down his tshirt?

I walked down to the temples of Madurai, hard to miss as you walk down the street, and made my first major (well knowingly!) faux pas. I have got used to ignoring all the street vendors who wan't to sell you stuff, or clean your shoes etc. However, I guess I shouldn't ignore everybody!

Reading my Lonely Planet it had informed me that the touts were tenacious so when I heard a guy saying "Shoes" I just ignored him, thinking he was wanting to polish my shoes (Why I would polish trainers with white stripes on them is an unexplained mystery). I wandered on and somebody tugged at my bag, I shrugged him off thinking, yep the guide books are right. Again he pulled harder at my bag which contained my camera. I swung around sharply to confront the man, nearly knocking him off balance. He again pointed at my shoes, a second later I realised my mistake, I had walked into the Hindu temple with my shoes on. I muttered my apologies and exited sharply. Woops!

I walked quickly outside and away feeling embrassed. I pondered whether to try and explain. But with no Tamil and probably little English from the guard, I decided against. I had visions of me saying "Yes. I thought you wanted to clean my shoes!" which probably wouldn't of helped matter greatly. I walked round the perimter of the temple and decided to enter at the other side, this time without shoes!

Around the four side of the temple lie, ludicriously ornatetly decorated towers stacked upto 50metres tall.
Depicted on the entrances are a good deal of the 330million or so Hindu gods(Every three people in India have a god each)!

Within the temple features a room the 1000 pillared hall. Indeed I did count around 30 across and the room was squarish so probaby not an exaggeration. In the corner stood the musical pillars, which the attendant happily knocked out a tune with his bit of wood. "Same stone!", he marvelled as the different tones resonated through the pillars. I decided not to mention the fact that they had different girths.

After a couple of days I moved onto Trichy. Trichy also has some large Hindu temples. At first glance, it looks similar to Madurai, but once inside, the scale of the complex is apparent from the rooftops. It's huge! 60 hectares, if that means anything to anybody. I didn't have much time to go round as I said to the autorickshaw driver I would be back soon, and as I had left my shoes with him, I decided I better make it back on time. It seemed complicated to get around as most of the passages were Hindu only. Strangely they don't seem to mind that shops have been setup in the temple, selling the usual junk, which to me seems totally out of place.

I got the driver to drop me off at the shore temple on the way back. After the usual argument about the fare, where I no doubt got ripped off, I ascended the five hundred odd steps to the top of the shore temple. Another hindu temle, so no shoes to climb the stairs, not so bad on the way up, but not used to going down stairs with no shoes. At the top you get a good view across Trichy and in the distance you can spot the Sri Ranganathaswamy temple (is it any wonder the drivers look confused when I ask for the Sri Ranganathingy temple?) Nice sunset from up here.

I tried to wander back to the hotel and got hopelessly lost as usual. Ended up squashed in a throng of people walking up and down a bazaar. They had a few carnival type rides, like a 10m circle of track on which a car goes round! On closer inspection it doesn't even go on the track, but just a rotate round the track via a large metal beam fixed horizontally to spin the car round. Seemed to be mostly guys who you would of thought to be to old on them.

Gave up trying to get back and jumped in an auto who then tried to go back down through the crowds. Lots and lots of horn beeping and shouting as a traffic jam ensued. A few people jumped out their stationary vehicles and pushed parked richshaws out the way to get past. Eventually made it back to the hotel.

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