As crowds continued to clog the streets shopping for Diwali, our bus inched along bringing us ever close to Sri Meenakshi Temple. We almost knocked down some fireworks vendors along the way. From a distance we could see the traditional pyramid shaped temple tower festooned with all manner of gods and riff raft, but this temple is so big, it has thirteen towers of similar size. Because it is a significant temple in southern India and relations with Pakistan are always worrisome, security was extra tight. We were not allowed to bring cameras, but could use a camera phone - go figure and were patted down and our bags were searched. Charles prepared us well and had a nearby spot where he stowed our cameras safely.
According to legend the temple is built to honor the beautiful Meenakshi who was born with three breasts and the prophesy that the extra breast would melt away when she found true love. This happened when she met the god Vishnu and son-of-a-gun that boob was gone. I could never make up a story that good. I wish I had more intelligent comments to make about this temple. It was huge and beautiful and I'm glad I saw it, but that's about it.
In one of the courtyards, people who had lost a loved one recently waited to consult with some swami types who used bowls of food and sticks in some sort of memorial ceremony. Nearby one of the temple elephants was hard at work taking tourist's money with its trunk and then tapping them on the head in some sort of blessing. You have no idea how heavy an elephant's trunk is until it is resting on your head.
The Thirumalai Naicker Palace was also huge, especially once we realized that only one third of it still remains. Once the rajah who had it built moved on, the British had much of it destroyed since it had fallen into disrepair. The remaining third has been nicely restored, but is not being well maintained. Despite the warning signs, graffiti was all over the plaster columns and pigeons were having a field day bombing us with their droppings. India is not a spiffy country,
For some A/C cooled air and liquid refreshment we sat through another rug weaving demonstration. The shop was government owned and collects the homemade rugs from all over southern India to sell. I especially like the silk ones which can have 2,000 knots per inch. We were shown a nice living room sized silk rug that took fourteen months to make. Depending on the angle of the light above, the colors shifted and glowed. It was gorgeous; we didn't ask the price. Instead we purchased a narrow runner made of cotton and wool that will go in the hallway of our motor home. It will trigger a great memory every time I look at it.
If we hadn't gotten enough of an adrenalin rush during the auto rickshaw ride we took last night, today we had a pedicab ride through the jammed downtown streets. The riders were mostly wizened looking older men who weighed about half of what most of us do and pedaled their bikes bare footed. Most of us were in our own pedicab and the drivers did an amazing job keeping the fifteen of us together as they wove through the traffic. People grinned at us and waved. I wasn't quite sure whether they were grinning because fifteen old white people on pedicabs was an amusing sight or because they were friendly. I grinned and waved. By the end of the ride my cheeks hurt from smiling so much and I felt like a celebrity. What a country!