Saturday 2 July 2016

Inside the cosmos of the Tetees Koti

Madurai; the Athens of the east! It is a 2,500 year old city which is a 200 km drive from Thisayenvillai. On reaching the destination, first had a quick darshan at Meenaxi Amman temple.

'Tetees koti Deva', I uttered. It means Hinduism believes in 330 million gods. I was in a sheer awe of this magnificent architecture. A million gods braced the gopuras all the way up to its peak and I just stood there glaring at the vastness of our culture. A million colours, a million eyes a million hands...the cosmos had come alive.

The namaskaram bronze sculptures: It felt like a bunch gods were worshipping the goddess Meenaxi.

The Cholan age was one of the greatest period in Indian Art.

This picturesque walls of the temple narrate the epic in different forms.

Shiva the Shepherd

As Michael Wood in his documentary 'The Story of India' puts it, this is the one of the greatest master piece of metal castings in the world.

Shiva or Siva became identified with countless local cults by the sheer suffixing of Isa or Isvara to the name of the local deity. In this instance it is Sundareswara. The hunter gatherer form of Shiva is the patron deity of the farming and herding castes in India.

This metal caste idol shows Shiva as the herdsman leaning on Nandi (Shiva's bull) which hasn't been found. The fantastic details of human anatomy are evident on these sculptures. The Shiva wears a turban of snakes and a tribal girdle.
The consort of the goddess Parvathy, Shiva's wife is standing besides. A classic image of the Cholan or the south indian beauty. They also flaunt stretched earlobes which is still practiced and considered as a symbol of beauty in many African tribes today.

Some of the features of the 'Silpa Sastra' or the Science of Sculpting is evident is Madurai even today. According to the Silpa Sastra the bronze idol makers do not use any of rulers for measurements. Their measuring device is a paper or leaf that can be folded in 9 sections viz; head, chest, waist and so on. The local metal casters still prefer using bees wax for creating a model and metal is then casted.

Every civilization has the idea of how their god should look like. This version of Shiva is a dancer.

It is wonderfully laden with symbols. The drum in his right hand; he beats while the creates the world. The fire in his left that will destroy the demon of ignorance.

The hall of a thousand pillars is another architectural marvel of this temple. It has around a thousand pillars with carvings on each pillar. There is a Temple Art Museum in the hall where icons, photographs and drawing ageing about 1200 years are kept for display. 

Just outside the hall are the Musical Pillars. Each pillar, when struck, produces a different musical note.
It not only is a temple of the goddess but also of art and architecture. A louvre of sculpture indeed!

As I came out of the temple, I suddenly felt like I'm back in my own timeline. Back to present world, heading to my hostel. Well, what do you know...the auto-rickshaw (tuk tuk) guy charged (please read looted) me Rs. 100 for 3 km. Ghor Kaliyug!

Finally, I reached 'Vedanta Wake-up'; my hostel in Madurai. Vedanta Wake up is the hostel chain in South India. They have more than 10 hostels in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka but surprisingly their corporate office is in Gamdevi, Mumbai. Here's a pic of my room. The place is neat :)

Checked in my room and found my roomie Balaji. Balaji is a consultant for water preservation, UV process for industries. He is guiding Britannia as they are expanding their plant. I went out for a food expedition with him. Found a local sweet shop and ordered Mysore Pak, Kaju katli and Badam milk shake for 50 bucks, only. It was damn good! I hope Mumbaikars learn something from the southies.

Later in the night, I met Tamilseran and Mani from my hostel. They are entrepreneurs and own a company in Chennai which works in industrial automation. We chatted on our professions, tamil movies. The long day ended as we raised our toast to backpacking with bottles of Royal Challenge (premium whiskey for TN ) and Idli from Sri Krishna bhavan. As always, hostelling rules!

- Chaitanya Kulkarni

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