Dhoti and the Meenakshi

Flowery girl of south India

The south gate of the Meenakshi temple.

July 6: We arrived in Madhurai @ 11 am in that part adventurous, part torturous train journey and headed directly to the Meenakshi temple where I had visited during my last trip. This time more photographs, more angles.

And more Dhoti too. This time I bought the authentic Dhoti that replaced my trouser right in the shop in front of the southern gate of the temple. Last time, it became known after I reached Kathmandu, that the Dhoti that I had bought was not really a dhoti but only a part of it. Phew, there’s a small story behind that and I’ll tell that here some day. But today it’s the real, 4 meters long Dhoti with colorful strip. I am wearing this as I am seated in a Tamil Nadu govt bus that is climbing up to the Kodaikanal hills. As the Lonely Planet guide book says it feels good to wear Dhoti and have cool air blown from between your legs in this heat (which is, however, nothing compared to what it is in Delhi).

We three inside the temple complex but not exactly the Meenakshi temple.

I haven’t mastered the art of wearing the Dhoti yet. On the day of Bratabandha (sacred thread or janai, wearing ceremony) some twenty years ago I had worn a Dhoti and had torn that within hours while playing in the corn field mear my home in Duragaun, Ramexhhap.\nI plan to wear this Dhoti in the next few days during my trip and also in Delhi too where I haven’t seen people wearing the outfit popularized by the man whom the Indians call their Father of the Nation: Mahatma Gandhi.

But in south India, particularly in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, every second man on the street could be seen wearing a version of Dhoti. Such is the popularity of dhoti among men in this part of India that, I think, it can only be rivaled by another outfit that men sport in their upper lips. Mustaches are on every upper male lips here. Another popular thing, among woman, is that white flower that every second woman on the street puts on her hair that goes up to her neck. I asked some people about the usage of flower but didn’t find any convincing answer. Some said, good fragrance come from the flower, so the women put that in their hair. And the fragrance is suppose to attract males? I asked. There was no answer that sounded authentic! The women put the same flower, no different varieties. I forget the Tamil name of the flower now.

The Meenakshi temple is considered the awe-inspiring monument of architectural excellence that displays the Dravidian style and aroma. That might be true but to be brutally honest I didn’t like it as the temple of worship. For me, the temples of Patan, Bhaktapur and Kathmandu are much more beautiful and I can identify with them with so much ease and affection. There must be a gajur at the top of a temple even if there’s no God. The rush in the Indian temples and the height of commercialization in there make me sick.

Gokul offers the graha shanti pooja

God Sani and others

Dinesh quickly follows Gokul.

And Ishwari follows the both.

These boys wanted their photo to be taken with the idol for obvious reasons

Dinesh tries dhoti in a shop near the south gate of the temple.

Gokul, after a joint prodding by Dinesh and Ishwari, does the same in another shop

Gokul has ran up to the second floor to get himself saved from camera that Ishwari was holding. After wearing dhoti, both Dinesh (front) and Gokul came down.

What we couldn’t do in Kanyakumari: Just outside the temple a restaurant offered food on banana leaves. Dinesh had told countless times his experience of the same in KK last October.

Madhurai railway station

Still wondering how this thing works Gokul?

Another popular thing, among woman, is that white flower that every second woman on the street puts on her hair that goes up to her neck. To serve the women, there are plenty of such street vendors all over in south India

This little girl, traveling with her father, is an example of how flowers are adorably put by women here in their hair. We met them in a bus in Alleppey, Kerala.

Ishwari chatted with her and took these pics of her.

2 thoughts on “Dhoti and the Meenakshi

  1. astha

    Dhoti ray? I can’t imagine walking you around in dhoti. But I must tell you dinesh, you have the knack for wearing extreme clothes. Thamel chhap shorts and tees could only be usurped by South Indian dhotis beside as they say-in Rome, do as Romans do or something like that


  2. elza cohen

    In 2010 India will be making a documentary photography, make a lot of pictures on the streets. I really like the site because it speaks of the behavior of various cultures in India. I would like to stay in touch.
    Elza Cohen



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