Our first stop was Koodal Azhagar Temple. One of the most interesting features about Koodal Azhagar Temple, is that it started out life as a solid piece of rock. The temple was quite literally carved out of the rock, so each architectural component of the temple is one piece! Its quite mind blowing when you think about it!
Of course, it’s customary when one visits these temples to remove ones shoes. The few westerners in the group, including myself, weren’t fully prepared for this, but we’ve all had our shots, and I spent many summers running around New York City in Flip-flops, so how different can it be?
Those who were there for worship carried coconuts, lotus flowers and ghee lamps. The lotus flowers were to be left at the feet of a god, and the coconut water is used to splash the deity with.
As we moved through the temple, you saw many people conducting a prayer ritual. When we got to the middle of the temple, there were holy men blessing people, so we stood in line and got blessed.
The architecture and carving of the temple was really quite breathtaking, especially when you imagine that it was built over 200 years ago. The outside façade was festooned with Hindu gods, all of which are hand painted every several years. The temple was complete with a few monkeys enjoying a Sunday snack of bananas.
We proceeded further into town to Meenakshi Amman Temple We relinquished our shoes, once again and headed in. This temple was built in 1623, and sits on 16 acres of land. It was originally built to honor Shiva and Parvati. There are four towers, North, East, West and South and each tower has between 980 and 1,500 carved gods. In fact, there are over 33,000 hand-carved gods on the entre property.
The group was separated into westerners and Hindu’s. The Hindu’s were able to get into the main temple for prayers, whilst the westerners toured the rest of the property. Westerners are not allowed into Dharsan’s main temple.
Like Koodal Azhagar Temple, Meenakshi was also cared from a large mountain. It’s truly amazing to imagine that this large temple is one solid piece of rock!
From Meenakshi, we headed back into the town center for some shopping – still without our shoes. It was now about 1:30 in the afternoon, and the sun had warmed the stones of the street to boiling point, so our poor feet were filthy and now getting fried.
Some of us were able to find a few gifts for our family and friends, while others were looking for the full Indian shopping experience of haggling. I’m sure we’ll do more of that, as we get further into our trip.
The last stop on our tour of the day was Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal, aso known as the Palace. Built in the 1600’s the Palace combines Indian classic architecture with Italian classic architecture. The columns and ceiling look like they were born in Rome or Florence but grew up in Madurai.
After a refreshing coconut, we headed back to the spa, where we rested by having a meditation class on the roof then it was time for our Ayurvedic treatments.
Each of us had a consultation with the main physician, Dr. Ramesh, and we were all assigned a junior medical officer and a team of technicians who are looking after us.
Our treatments are individualized and are based on our unique constitution. Since I’m still taking the ghee for Virechana and preparing for Vamana (which happens tomorrow) I’ve also been prescribed a series of Abhyanga and Swedna.
Abhyanga is a 50-minute sesame oil massage where the technician uses medicated sesame oil and deep, fast strokes on the body to enliven and remove toxins. Swedna is a 10-minute steam treatment which helps purge the body of toxins through sweat.
After the treatment, I went to the nurse’s station for me evening dose of ghee (50ML), then said goodnight to the group and went to bed. When you take ghee as part of this treatment, your appetite drops off a cliff. If you so get hungry, you are allowed only Kanji – which is a white rice soup, nothing more. Not even chai!
I wasn’t hungry at all, even though we spent the past 5 hours walking through three temples. I went to bed at 8:45, and slept soundly until 5:30 this morning. Bliss!
Today, we will be working with Dr. Gupta and Dr. Ramesh and going deeper into Ayurvedic history and philosophy. We are also going to be visiting their music program, so I may try to get dome footage of that.
Until next time!