Pas de train partant de Pondicherry, j'ai donc du aller en autocar à la gare de Villupuram pour prendre le Tenkasi Express cette nuit là pour Madurai. Le temple de Sri Meenakshi construit au XVIème siècle est une pure merveille, immense et majestueux. Quatre portes y donnent accès, surmontées de tours de 40 et 50 mètres, la plus haute recouverte de plus de 1500 statues peintes de couleurs radieuses tout à fait excessive si l’on compare celà au coté morne et lugubre d’une cathédrale de chez nous.
Dédié à Shiva, le sanctuaire principale est dédié à sa femme (et mère de Ganesh), la belle Parvati. Si le temple, qui couvre une dizaine d’hectare, est ouvert à tous, il faut être hindou pour accéder aux sanctuaires.
The Tenkasi Express took me overnight from Villupuram to Madurai deep in the south of Tamil Nadu.
Another sixteenth century wonder, the Sri Meenakshi temple actually goes back 2000 years, some of the idols being that old. It was another stupendous Dravidian temple that blew my mind. A square area of six hectares (figure out for yourselves how many acres that comes up to), it has four entrances topped by gopurams of 40 and 50 meters. The highest one is covered with more than 1500 statues painted in a rainbow of colors. While the greater part of the temple is open to all, the several sanctums are barred to non-Hindus, including the main shrine dedicated to Shiva’s consort and mother of Ganesh, the beautiful Parvati.
And this is where you almost lost me.
Remembering how I had been let in the Vishwanath temple in Benares dedicated to Shiva Lord of the Universe, and supposedly barred to non-Hindus, I approach a Brahmin and ask him if there were any exceptions here in Madurai to not letting non-Hindus into the inner sanctums. “No exceptions” he tells me with finality. So, without skipping a beat I tell him I’m a personal friend of Shiva who told me to mention his name to any Brahmin in any temple and that they should let me in. At first, no reaction. My man is stunned by the enormity of what I just told him. And as I see him getting redder and his chest increase in size, I wisely decide to beat a hasty retreat under his curses and assorted maledictions, uttered in vibrant Tamil mixed with few choice words in English. When I told the story to my friends in Bombay, they told me I was crazy to say something like that inside a temple in south India. At best I could have been arrested, at worst I could have been lynched by the crowd had he decided to tell them the blasphemy I had just uttered!!