The Great Escape

Rediscovering life in Palawan Philippines

Photos from the Shoebox: Madurai India 1991

If you had a 35mm camera you probably have a shoebox full of pictures that you never got around to sorting and putting in an album. In this series “Photos from the Shoebox” I take them out of the closest and shine light on them once more.

Madurai, Tanil Nadu, South India

It’s been three months of hard travelling and I’m on my own now. My travelling girlfriend is heading back to Canada while I’ve got a little more time here in India before I push on to South East Asia. We parted ways in Trivandrum and I’m on my way to Madurai. The bus passes through spectacular mountain terrain as it goes through the Western Ghats leaving Kerala behind.

Outer Tower

Madurai is built around the Shree Meenakshi Temple. The temple is surrounded by 12 Gopurams completely covered with sculptures of gods, demons, mortals and animals. As one travel book describes it, “They’re as crowded and busy as any Indian city street.” It’s a fantastic sight.

View from Shop

This ancient temple city has been called the ‘Athens’ of South India. It’s history dates back to the 3rd century BC. I get to the city around 1 in the afternoon and after finding a room at the New College House I roam the streets towards the temple. The streets are absolutely teeming with life.

Street Scene

Here there is sidewalk hawkers, locals, pilgrims by the busload, beggars, kids asking for pens, buses, rickshaws and motorcycles. At one point I’m swarmed by guys wanting to show me their shops. I’m surprised by the many Tibetans and Kashmiri vendors on the street and find out they come down from the north during the winter months to sell Tibetan arts and crafts. One vendor I visit has set up shop in a hotel room.

Devotee Bus

I’m here during the Theppam Festival so there is bus loads of devotees. I guess I’m lucky to have found a room.

Entrance Gate

I circle around the complex and find the right entrance gate (through the East Gopuram). Here’s a few interesting rules for entering the temple: devotees should not enter the temple without taking bath; devotees are not allowed to enter the temple with footwear; female devotees should not enter the temple for the first 5 days of their menstruation period; and devotees with uncomfortable injuries are not allowed inside the temple.

Devotees Around the ‘Golden Lotus Tank’

Devotees line a pillared corridor  surrounding the ‘Golden Lotus Tank’ that’s within the complex. This sacred temple tank is where devotees take a bath in holy water for prosperity.

Hall of a Thousand Pillars

The ‘Aayiram Kaal Mandapam’ or ‘Thousand Pillar Hall’ has 985 carved pillars and was built around 1560 A.D. Here it feels as if time stood still.


The figures of deities on the tower are repaired, repainted and ritually reconsecrated every 12 years. Usually the temple is painted in bright hues but back in 1991 was almost totally void of colour.

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12 thoughts on “Photos from the Shoebox: Madurai India 1991

  1. Pingback: 100-yr-old photos of British India found in shoebox | ShahidulNews

  2. Pingback: 100-yr-old photos of British India found in shoebox « Revolutionizing Awareness

  3. those towers are really cool!

  4. Well, lots n lots of shops…Temple got renovated, temple surroundings completely blocked for vehicles, because of this people can enjoy the temple tour outside also.

  5. What a great idea to go back and share great memories. I was good at putting all the pictures from film in albums, but not as good with the new digital ones that can be saved on USB or CDs… I guess they take up less space that way. I also got into scrapbooking and it takes SO long and with little time I never get to them. Thanks for sharing your beautiful pictures.

  6. Thanks for sharing.!!! This is my Native place, Its a great feeling. Love my city, my home is few kilometers from the temple. Now, the improvements on this city is huge. Tons n tons of changes.

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