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Melodies of Madurai

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It had just dawned. The slow train ran through the vast sunflower stretches of Koyilpatti in Tamil Nadu, India. Keeping aside my yawn, I wake up to the light sun-rays on my chin over at my side lower birth in the train. A vendor arrives with his crass cacophonous advertising, selling breakfast on a hand tray with portions steaming idlis, aromatic ghee pongals and meduvadai ( pulse battered with spices and fried into little rounds) on it, alongside a tumbler of chutney. He also carries a dispenser that keeps hot chai. I make a purchase for my tummy god in a jiffy, no thoughts there! Savoring the venpongal and steaming tea, I await as the train makes its way into Madurai station in no hurry.

The town of Madurai in the south of India is a 2500 year old heritage city that boasts of numerous temples, dotted with high rise churches, heritage mosques and a famous palace called the Naykkar Mahal. This town was an important center of education and pilgrimage from ancient times of the Pandya kings to this date that it has always been charming to visitors and patrons refuse to leave. The river of Vaigai flows through the lands and in the summertime, it dries up into a thin stream where women wash clothes and little children loosen the grip of heat on them.

From the small patch gardens and playgrounds to famous temples and eateries that dot Madurai town, on a balmy day, one could walk through the bylanes and streets that sell flowers, veshtis (dhotis) and pooja goodies.  As Carnatic music soars in its myriad ragas at heart-warming pitches, the beats of mridanga, move the dancers’ feet in rhythm. Topped with the smell of fresh filter kaapi (coffee) lingering in the air, amidst the divine aura of temples, churches and mosques, any day is made memorable.

On the day I arrived at Madurai, my first stop was Tiruparankundram’s famous 15th century Muruka temple atop a hill. It is situated 14 kilometers off Madurai. I hire the local jeep that plies from Madurai town to Tiruparankundram. The temple was constructed over a hilltop centuries ago and one has to climb all the way up 1000 steps in an act of cleansing his sins and pray to Muruka’s deity for peace within. It is a temple carved completely out of stone with exquisite art, paintings and sculptures etched onto. Tiruparankundram is also famous for its dargah of Hazrat Sultan, a couple of metres away. This part of Madurai can be called a perfect example of religious harmony and secularism- one amongst many attractions of this town.

Tiruparankundram's artistry

Tiruparankundram’s artistry

 

The work on a pillar from Tiruparankundram

The work on a pillar from Tiruparankundram

There are regular buses to Tiruparankundram and back from Madurai Bus stand as well. Hardly takes an amount of INR 30 (less than a dollar) for a to and fro travel. Groundnut sellers wait for devotees to snack on them coned, in the scorching sun, as Macaque monkeys wait in patience to grab a fistful of those crunchy nuts.

Madurai town’s evening see a lot of light and color. The gardens of in the heart of the temple town harbour an undisputed sense of calm and peace, as doves and parrots adorn the dark blue sky laden with streaks of orange from the setting sun.

For me, a journey is complete only if the city caters my senses both in the afternoon and evening as well; and Madurai does that, oh so well!

The afternoon after the Tiruparankundram temple visit, it was Madurai town’s time to charm me. This humble town is in the beginning of being gripped by buildings and offices, nevertheless, it loses no tradition of its own. The lanes of Madurai have great eateries, amazing snack shops and heavenly sweet shops. I needed to bite into a part of Madurai; that which it holds closest to its soul. And so, my aim was to hunt down the best Paniyarams (little steamed/ fried dumplings of rice and jaggery) and Jigarthanda ( a famous traditional mocktail made of milk, cream and boiled grains) I could ever find, as those were what Madurai’s taste scenario was famous for!

 

The shop wasn’t anything fancy, but on standing in front of the little eatery, the warm aroma of Paniyarams with liquid jaggery fills your entire lungs; literally leaving you breathless. The Paniyarams are of two kinds; the spicy one and the sweet one. I am greedy, I agree. Surrendering my taste buds to both kinds of those savoury dumplings was what my tummy wanted at that point. I did just that. Soft, warm and fluffy rice balls as big as a golf ball, might not captivate your sight in the first go. Dipping those little charms into a bowl of warm liquid jaggery and ghee (the sweet paniyaram) or a plate of spicy tomato chutney (for the spicy paniyaram) and biting into them would make you wish you had the capacity of an elephant in an instant! And there’s no stop for that feeling then on!

 

that's the way paniyarams are made

that’s the way paniyarams are made

 

and that's served

and that’s served

Burp was yet a glass away!  Off the Paniyaram eatery, I walk a short distance to reach a juice shop, tucked in a corner of the road, with oranges hung on the ceiling of it in patterns, all for my share of ‘Jigarthanda’. This drink is a fancy mocktail of milk, cream, boiled Sago and flavours of sweet colors. The combination might sound utter rubbish, but the taste is of a million dollars. This is the only drink in this world that could induce a burp despite being cold!

The ice-cold Jigathanda

The ice-cold Jigathanda

As time flew by, evening came, making its way through the balmy weather bringing in cool winds and a relaxed atmosphere. The Nayakkar palace, in the heart of the town of Madurai is a famous 16th century palace made of white sandstone in full, laden with glass-work and stucco art on its walls. That was my next destination that Madurai placed on my plate.

There is a light and sound show at the palace in the evenings, attracting the tourists to the events that those giant palace pillars have witnessed in time; from history to today. The show begins at 6:00 pm but I was loitering around half an hour before, clicking the chirpy birds playing in the garden in front of the palace, to bargaining for the prices of corn boiling, smeared in chilli paste and lemon, on pushcarts that also sold roasted groundnuts and sliced, spiced mangoes. Tossing them all into my mouth, I look around to see kids playing on the grass, a few uniformed security guards standing at doors chatting and large sculptures made of white sand, broken here and there, guarding the palace from time immemorial.

cut mangoes and corn!

cut mangoes and corn!

As the doors open of the palace and into its large corridors, the beauty of it, begins to unfold.  This site is also nowadays used for Indian movie productions and I for once recognize that in no time. The sculpture and carving work is unbelievably brilliant here and the sandstone shines its way into the hearts of the onlookers.

Pure white at Naykkar mahal

Pure white at Naykkar mahal

The light and sound show begins shortly, with myriad colored lights making imprints on the walls of the palace and its pillars, as the voiceover enacting portions of history are rendered along. Kings, wars, happiness, celebrations, anger and power; all emotions touch the cord of the onlookers. As the show winds up at around 8:00 at night, we are welcomed into a calmer and cooler Madurai town outside, mellowing down in the anticipation of the next day! At night, I move at a friend’s invitation for dinner and sleep, whose hospitality is a finest example of Madurai’s manners to her guests. Impressed much!

palace nights

The following day was the most anticipated of all. The glory I was about to bask in, being at Madurai Meenakshi temple, the most famous of all temples in India, and one of the oldest heritage sites in the world was just undeniably the best! The glorious architecture, the intricate craftsmanship and all devotion that stands the test of time, is an experience in itself.

One gopuram of the Meenakshi

One gopuram of the Meenakshi

The pillars of Meenakshi

The Madurai Meenakshi has four entrances/ temple gates facing all four directions. The temple boasts of paintings that trick one’s eyes, numerous sculpted pillars and centuries of unhinged charm. The streets outside are swarmed with flower sellers and pooja shops. The warm aroma of incense fills the air near the bylanes of the entrance. It begins and ends divine.

sculptor hands

sculptor hands

As I enter, I am stunned and a beautiful aura of spirituality that engulfs me. The stone structures built on huge pillars whisper a million stories through their deep eyes. With little lamps of brass and silver hung from the ceilings being lit, it was splendid to look at the majestic interiors. Chants of Mantras rose, and for a moment I seemed to be covered by millions of those. Everything around gleamed, chrome yellow. Lamps struggled to flame and flicker in their oil-less wicks. Old women crouched under huge pillars, closed their eyes and prayed teary eyed bringing their palms together. Gold on the Meenakshi amman statue shone. The warriors guarding the temple carved out in stone, gave away the cast of anger for a moment. Old folks gathered and sang praises. The temple bells imitated pendulums. They brought out the divine and I get goose bumps as I witness. People thicken up for prasads from the priest; as he stands on a podium to distribute a small mix of flowers, saffron and sandal paste. Devotees accept the prasad in utter humility and extended respect, closing their eyes and placing the flowers on their hair. Large lamps adorn the sides of every statue and pillar. Priceless.

 

sculptors that adorn the walls of Meenakshi

sculptors that adorn the walls of Meenakshi

 

As the sun coursed its rays down, the smooth sandstone paths of the temple, seemed to extend its help. Cold buttermilk were available near small corners as refreshments. A lovely elephant (the temple elephant) with its mahout, stood guarding a hallway, with its trunk swaying playfully, tail wagging and ears flapping. Laxmi, the elephant has been trained to accept donations and bless her fans with her trunk which she does, willfully. Sometimes when she’s a little miffed, she splashes drops of water (or possible spit) on onlookers. I was one such lucky to be bestowed by her grumpiness.

A miffed Laxmi

A miffed Laxmi

Leading off the pathway is the famous 1000 pillar hall. This hall is one of the prime attractions of this temple as the hall is famous for its 1000 pillars each of which on being struck, produces a different musical tone from inside. It’s a marvel that still makes curious eyes crowd. As light pours into from the windows into this hall, it looks majestic, close enough to be astound by the craftsmanship; not that one wouldn’t be! It indeed, makes us all wonder how we can never push the past that built its glory sans any technology.

 

The thousand pillar hallway

The thousand pillar hallway

Time had come to bid goodbye to this charming town of Madurai with a handful of yummy sweets including ghee laden halwa and savoury murukku, alongside camera filled with beautiful snaps swelling with snippets of memories. Only to be back soon, but this time, to soak into the soul of this humble town; and to never let go.

Madurai, take me back. Make me yours.

 

The panorama of Meenakshi

The panorama of Meenakshi

 

 

highly expressive, roaring appetite for books, food and design; have occasional bouts of flippancy to all things needed. Always hungry for Biryani. Nomad. Binger. Lover.

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Not Prioritizing Yourself Enough? Here’s How You Can Change It!

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In today’s society, there’s this push to promote self-care. While society five or maybe ten years ago would see the term “self-care” as something selfish, fortunately now, mental health has become a larger concern. While toxic positivity is being pushed out, and the whole “put yourself first” mantra is slowly beginning to reign supreme, there’s one question to ask. How exactly can one put themselves first? Also, how can these self-care changes even boost your well-being? These are some helpful ways to achieve that!

Understand Your Life Goals, Values, and Purpose

When it comes to putting yourself first, it’s important to begin by thinking of your life goals, your values, and what type of purpose you want in your life. While society once deemed people as “selfish” for even considering this, it’s your life, and you’re entitled to live your life the way you want it. Is one of your life goals to travel? Then that’s great! Keep aiming for it!

Identify Your Wants and Needs

Everyone has their own wants and needs, everyone does. What are yours? While it’s important to put other people’s wants and needs in front of your own (such as if you’re a parent), just keep in mind that you don’t have to do this all the time. So think about it, what are some small ways you can put your own wants and needs ahead without it jeopardizing anyone else. Maybe it can be something small such as getting more sleep, or maybe even something huge such as changing careers. It’s entirely up to you to decide.

Take Time to Get Your Headspace Right

A great way to get yourself into the right headspace is through the beauty of travel. This is actually one of the biggest ways that people are treating themselves and putting themselves first. Changing up your environment and your routine through the power of travel can be one of the very best ways to get yourself feeling recharged and just completely breaking away from what may be stressing you out. Whether you opt into a long vacation, weekend trip, or a day trip, just allow yourself the chance to breathe, take a break, and recharge.

Treat Yourself

There’s nothing wrong at all with treating yourself to things. Whether you’re wanting to gift yourself a nice car you shopped with through edmunds, a fun vacation, or anything else. There isn’t anything wrong with gifting things to yourself as long as you have the disposable income to do it and if it’s in moderation.

Opt-Out of Social Media That’s Not Good for You

Social media is a double-edged sword. It can be a great tool for connecting with people and staying in touch with friends and an extension of our personal brand. However, many people are finding that social media is not the best tool for their mental health and well-being. If possible, try to opt-out of social media if you feel it’s not good for you. And instead, try to spend more time in nature or offline activities like hanging out with family and friends.

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Building A Social Support System: An Essential Key To A Life Of Wellness

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Everybody needs somebody, even if you believe you thrive better as a lone wolf or prefer being antisocial. While having a support system around you will help you get through life, it also offers far-reaching health benefits. These include helping you deal with loneliness and even improving your chances to beat unhealthy addictions. A strong social system can also be very helpful when going through stressful times, battling chronic illnesses, etc. But how can you build a healthy social support system around you, and what does it entail? 

It’s important to first understand what a social support system is. It comprises friends, family, loved ones, and peers that you can call or rely on, especially in times of need to provide support, respect, and care. Having a support system around you can provide wisdom and guidance through tough times. It can also provide strength and hope with a generous supply of understanding and compassion.

Although research has shown that building a social support system can help you through the tough times, the last thing you want to do is try developing one only when you feel stressed and need assistance. Creating a social support system is something you should do when you’re not under stress or in need. This way, you don’t end up relying on the wrong people.

Start by making a list of those already in your life, including friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors. When you are done with this, go through your list and highlight or underline those who have been supportive in your life and how. Next, make it a point to contact these people to check on them and find out how they’re doing. However, it’s important to note that you can also include professionals in your support system. For instance, counselors, psychologists, teachers, coaches, and healthcare professionals who have assisted you in difficult times, whether in the classroom, the gym, or in treatment programs you’re undergoing or already went through. 

Creating a healthy social support system also requires you to identify the barriers that have prevented you from creating healthy and meaningful connections with people. For instance, are you antisocial? Are you dealing with depression, drug abuse, or alcohol addiction issues that make it impossible to keep loving people around you? Once you identify your roadblocks to healthy social connections, find ways of removing them. For example, if you’re addicted to drugs and alcohol, you can find help through inpatient treatment programs. 

Another great way to build a social support system is to explore and embrace shared interests. It is easier to be surrounded by like-minded individuals who understand your emotions and can empathize in ways that others may not. For example, parents of a child with special needs will find immense support from other parents who share the same or similar difficulties. A great way to build such connections is by joining groups, associations, or clubs that share your interests and ensuring that you maintain regular interaction with the members. 

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Top 10 Simple Health Changes To Boost Your Well-Being

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It does not matter how old you are, where you live, or what your occupation is, your health should always be a top priority. However, most of us are a little bit guilty of letting our well-being slide from time to time. With that being said, read on to discover some of the simple ways you can give your health a boost today.

  1. Get rid of at least one item in your life that contains toxic chemicals – You may be shocked by just how many items in your life contain toxic chemicals. This includes everything from air fresheners to bed sheets. Get rid of one of these items and replace it with something natural instead. This is something you should make a habit to do every few months or so. You will be surprised by just how much of a difference this can make. 
  2. Deep breathe for at least five minutes – Throughout the day, you should make sure you take the opportunity to deep breathe for at least five minutes. Why? Well, there have been numerous studies that have shown that deep breathing can help to lower stress hormone levels. This means that you will feel better, get an improved night’s sleep, and you will have less anxiety too.
  3. Drink more water – You probably expected this to be on the list, but the importance of drinking more water should never be ignored. Your body needs water for almost every function. If you are dehydrated, this could be the cause of headaches, pains, aches, and a number of other symptoms.
  4. Have one veggie night per week – A lot of people eat far too much meat, red meat especially. So, why not have a veggie night once a week? Not only is this good for your health, but it will be good for your bank balance too. There are so many great recipes online that can give you ideas regarding tasty and creative dishes that do not incorporate any sort of meat or fish. Once you start off with one night per week, you may then decide that you want to up it to two nights, and so on. However, it always helps to start off small so that it is easier and more manageable, and you can then get used to it.
  5. Sign up for an online pharmacy – Nowadays, you can easily order your prescriptions and medications over the Internet via an online pharmacy. This can help you to boost your health because it ensures you never experience delays with your medication. If you are someone who often doesn’t take their recommended course of tablets because you cannot get to the doctors in time for a repeat prescription, then this is definitely a good suggestion for you. Your medication will be delivered to your door with a click of a button.
  6. Make a dedicated effort to lower your stress levels – There is no denying that we live in a very stress-filled world at the moment! The world we live in is one that has heaps of pressure, and it can be difficult to stay on top of everything and keep those stress levels low. However, it is vital that you find a way to do so. After all, if you don’t adrenal fatigue and health can start to take a tumble, which is the last thing you want. For those who are unaware, adrenal fatigue relates to a group of different symptoms that impact people who are under a lot of physical, emotional, or mental stress. From being a single parent to having a stressful job, there are a lot of different reasons why you may be struggling. Therefore, we recommend that you look for different ways to reduce those stress levels so that you can enjoy a more calming and peaceful life. Whether it is doing some breathing techniques or taking more regular breaks so you can have moments for yourself, there are a lot of different ways that you can make sure you are keeping your stress levels to a minimum. The importance of this should not be overlooked, as stress can impact our mental and physical health in so many different ways. 
  7. Do something nice for someone every day – You will be surprised by how good this makes you feel, and by how much this has a positive impact on your health. It’s all about mental well being. When you do something nice for another person, you are benefitting their health, as well as your own. First and foremost, there is no denying that it feels good to hear some nice words for someone or to get a helping hand when you need it. You feel recognised and appreciated, and this is something we all need. At the same time, doing something nice for someone else and seeing their reaction can make you feel amazing too. After all, doing something good for someone is a gift for yourself at the same time. You will find that the deed continues throughout the day, making you feel great and happy within yourself. 
  8. Incorporate some movement into your commute – If you do not have an active job, this is particularly important. Sitting at a computer all day can be bad for your health. One way to combat this is by incorporating some movement into your commute. If you can walk or bike to work, you should give this a go. If not, start parking your car further away from your place of work so that you have to walk there and back. You should also start using the stairs instead of the elevator whenever you can.
  9. Start meal planning – You will find it much easier to eat healthily if you plan your meals. At the start of every week, make a menu of what you are going to cook for dinner every evening, as well as what you are going to make for your lunches every day. Not only will this help you to eat better, but you will save money too. Make sure you incorporate some healthy snacks into your food prep for work. This will stop you from going to the vending machine whenever you are bored or your energy is zapped. The great thing about the times we live in at the moment is that you can easily get recipes and meal prep inspiration online. So, if you are struggling, simply do a little bit of digging online and we are sure that you will find a lot of different options when it comes to meal ideas and clever food prep suggestions for the week ahead. Not only is this going to help you to be more organized, but you will find that it actually saves you quite a bit of money in the process. After all, when we do not have a food plan for the week ahead, we tend to spend a lot of money on items we do not need. Food can end up going in the bin because we do not use it. This ends up in an awful lot of waste, and we should all be looking to reduce this, so meal prep is great in many ways.
  10. Keep a journal – Last but not least, keeping a journal is good for a person’s mental health. You should write down your thoughts. It doesn’t need to be a long entry; you can simply jot down a few bullet points every evening. This will help you to articulate your thoughts so that they do not wear you down. After all, it can be very difficult to sleep if you have lots on your mind. A lot of experts advise this approach for people who suffer from insomnia. One of the main reasons why a lot of people struggle to get the hours of sleep they need is because they cannot shut off when they go to sleep; their minds are still going at a million miles per hour. They are thinking about what they need to do the following day and any worries or concerns that they may have. Because of this, it very much makes sense to keep a journal so you can offload some of these thoughts and worries and you can have a much more restful night of sleep. Once you get into the habit of doing this, you will see that it actually does make a significant difference when it comes to drifting off and enjoying a good night of rest. 

So there you have it: some of the best ways to give your health a boost. The suggestions that have been provided are really simple and easy, so there is no excuse not to give yourself a bit of TLC. we are sure that you will start to notice a difference as time goes on. However, as is the case with anything, it requires patience and persistence. You cannot expect to turn your health around in one night.

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