Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Peddie in Mumbai and South India: The Meenakshi temple


A group of 15 Peddie students and their faculty chaperones are spending a portion of spring break in Mumbai and South India. These two traveling buddies describe their visit to the Meenashki temple.

Let us preface this by saying that we became best friends because of the Asian Studies trip to Thailand/Cambodia the summer of 2016, so we are a huge fan of school trips abroad. 

After our 'restaurant hopping' last night for dinner, we woke up well rested and ready to conquer the day. As usual, we had a large selection of fried rice, various breads, and exotic fruits. Sadly, we were unable to order mango lassis, our favorite drink. 


We first went to the Meenakshi temple, which as our tripmate Maggie said, looked like a big, edible candy. Its five entrance gates stood tall with various red, green, blue, and yellow Hindu idols. In the temple, we saw a golden pillar, which in many cultures represents the center of the world. We connected these to a golden pillar we also saw in Thailand. One really interesting thing was the statue of Shiva, the supreme God, and his wife, Parvati. Shiva wanted his followers to worship Parvati as much as him, so he had statues carved where the left half was of himself and the right half was of his wife. This is an instance of equality in early India, and it was interesting to compare it to the culture today.


Afterwards, we enjoyed looking at the architecture of a nearby palace, which included arches, painted ceilings, domes, and mosaics. While we did not spend a lot of time there, it was certainly an enjoyable experience.We definitely got a little wet, but it was an experience that brought us together as a group. 

Arguably, the most exciting part of our day was visiting a second temple, where we got rained in. We spent around half an hour waiting in the temple, looking at the rain. The thunder and lightning was nothing like we had ever seen in New Jersey. At one point we heard a crack of lightning so loud (but don't worry parents, it was far away and we were in no danger!) that we all screamed and dropped to the ground for cover, providing some entertainment for the locals. We are grateful for our guide Bala, who found a way to get our bus to drive directly up to the temple (even though we had to chase after it a little bit!)


On the way back to the hotel, we celebrated escaping the rain by carpool karaoke-ing to Beyoncé and Rihanna. 

For dinner, we were allowed to drink sweet lassi (thank you Mr. Nicholson!). Soon after, we took tuk-tuks (auto rickshaws) in groups of 3 and made our way back to the Meenakshi temple to observe evening ceremonies. We first watched a procession in the street which is only done once a year. Then, we entered the temple, where we all got to know even more about each other in the hour we waited for the second ceremony to begin. There, we watched a sacred object (box? bookshelf? carriage?) where Shiva and Parvati rested be blessed, essentially telling them 'goodnight!' Finally, we found our way back to the tuk-tuks and came back to the hotel, ready to rest (and embark on our early journey at 7:30 tomorrow.)

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