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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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The Best Art Galleries You Mustn’t Miss This Year

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Art gallery woman

“El Sol” Chema Gil Ramírez, Calavera Gallery.

Hey art lovers! We have created for you a list with the best art galleries you mustn’t miss this year. From the greatest masters from long time ago, to contemporary installations around the world, where you can find photography, painting, sculpture and all kind of art.

The Best Art Galleries Of The Year

The Hole, in New York City

Kathy Grayson founded The Hole Gallery in 2010. A space of young and ambitious art located on Bowery Street in New York City, where artists in the eighties used to live and party. It usually hosts two exhibitions at once.

Calavera Gallery, in Italy

Leaders of international art events all around the world, Calavera Gallery owns a prestigious collection of sculptures, paintings, photographs, illustrations and multimedia art works. This art gallery has offices in Tokyo, Paris, Switzerland, Mexico and Austria. Here you’ll find modern and contemporary art.

Levy Gorvy, in New York City and London

Founded by Dominique Lévy, this art gallery located in London and NY city is known for showing contemporary minimal, conceptual, abstract You may enjoy art of artists such as Yves Klein, Frank Stella, Pierre Soulages, Günther Uecker and Dan Colen.

Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, in Paris, Pantin, Salzburg, and London

The Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac was founded in Austria in 1983. It is now an international art gallery who represents around 60 artists such as Robert Longo, Imran Qureshi, Alex Katz, Gilbert & George, and Cory Arcangel. It’s known for its Drawings Department in Paris and its ironworks factory located in Pantin.

Lehmann Maupin, in New York and Hong Kong

Founded by Rachel Lehmann and David Maupin, Lehmann Maupin art gallery was founded in SoHo in 1996. Artists such as Os Gemeos, Mr., Mickalene Thomas, Gilbert & George, or Alex Prager are represented in this contemporary space. This gallery is known for giving new artists the opportunity of showing their works of art for the first time.

Sean Kelly Gallery in New York

Sean Kelly founded this gallery focused on performance and installation art in New York City in 1991, after his career at the British Museum. His gallery is located in SoHo, and has exhibited Robert Mapplethorpe and Marina Abramović first works of art.

The Saatchi Gallery, in London

This worldwide gallery may be the number one for young artists in UK. Since its opening, it is known for representing debutants. Let yourself get amazed by recent contemporary art.

Sprueth Magers in Berlin, London, and Los Angeles

At the beginning, Monika Sprüth founded this gallery in Cologne due to the lack of female artists in the city. She opened her art gallery to support art made by women. Artists such as Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman, Ryan Trecartin and John Baldessari have been represented by Sprueth Magers.

Hans Mayer in Düsseldorf, Germany

This art gallery is specially known for its outdoor sculptures, which are surprisingly amazing. The exciting thing about this site is that it’s home of many types of art, such as dance, theater, music and even fashion shows. Check out its schedule!

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How the world of Harry Potter changed us forever

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Harry potter movie castle

When the first Harry Potter book hit the shelves of bookstores in 1997, JK Rowling could only dream of what would happen next. Over 20 years later and we have seen 6 more books, one play, 8 major motion pictures, merchandise, video games, visitor attraction, a dedicated website in Pottermore, and now a series of prequels revolving around the earlier life of the much loved Albus Dumbledore.

Harry Potter changed everything for both children and adults. It really bought reading, especially among teens, back to life for everyone and now translated into 80 languages it really is leaving a worldwide legacy.

Everyday new young people of discovering the world of Harry Potter

As children are getting older, parents are passing down their owner love of all things Harry Potter to their children, and the lessons given in those books are still more relevant than ever in this increasingly technological world. Friendship, courage, making mistakes and carrying on are so vital to be able to see. The more subtle adult themes around prejudice, politics and media are especially important.

The ability of JK Rowling to weave this wonderfully complex storyline around loveable yet flawed characters is fantastic, and to do all this in a way that resonates with children and young adults is quite a skill. Most Potter fans were not surprised at their great sense of loss when the books finally ended.

Immerse yourself in the world of Harry Potter

One of the great ways to really get into the world is through the Harry Potter videogame, where you can actually become the characters and fight your way through to take down Voldemort yourself.

Rumour has is that Warner Bros are planning a brand new RPG game very soon, although there is nothing official yet. However, there was the incident of a Youtube video leaked online of a new game, very quickly taken down by Warner Bros, which seems to suggest there is some truth in the rumour. It seems at this moment that you will be able to create characters and play in an open world and make potions and cast spells. What else you will be able to do is as yet unknown but it is certainly exciting.

There is a whole world of fantasy fiction out there

If videogames are not your thing and you are looking for the next great epic to read then there are plenty of books like Harry Potter.

Take for example the three book saga, The Magicians trilogy. This tells the story of a high school student Quentin, who discovers he is a magician and heads to a magical college in New York. It has also been made into a TV series if you prefer to watch instead of read.

It is certainly a bit more adult than the Harry Potter books but is definitely worth a read for older teens and grown ups.

Another series that will fill the hole left by Potter is the Bartimaeus trilogy, that mixes real historic events with magic and revolves around the character of Nathaniel, an 11 year old apprentice of magic. The fun thing about alternative history is that it had endless possibilities and outcomes.

Of course, one of the other all time great trilogies is the His Dark Materials books. This one is a fantastic story, filled with complicated relationships, great characters and a huge number of emotional ups and downs. It touches on concepts of philosophy and religion and some complex concepts that are somehow made completely understandable. This book will have you in tears at some point, and laughing at others.

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Easy, Safe and Without Ads: the Best Websites to Watch Movies Online in 2019

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online movie popcorn

Movies can reach our hearts and make us feel unforgettable moments, catching us from the beginning to an end, and that is why we all like to watch a good one once in a while. However, we do not always feel like going to the movie theater. A few decades ago, films were in black and white and had to be seen in the cinema or on a television, but now it is possible to enjoy the best audiovisual content anytime and anywhere You just have to connect to a computer and watch one of the newly released films at no cost. At one time or another, all of us have looked for websites to watch movies online in order to enjoy an afternoon of home cinema. The problem with most of these free online movie viewing sites is that they are full of invasive advertising, spam, viruses and in many cases are a scam.

In this article we have browsed the Internet looking for the best websites to watch movies for free so you can enjoy watching movies and TV series without worrying about anything else –like annoying ad sor malware. Sometimes it can be a problem to find good websites to enjoy a good film, because some websites are full of invasive advertising, but luckily there are some sites that can be useful and allow us to have a great time watching movies from home.

After all the research we have been able to verify that websites without invasive advertising or Spam are few. Although if you check the different sites that we recommend in this summary of the best pages to watch free movies, you will find some good options. The following websites offer free audiovisual material. However, since we don’t agree with any type of infringement of intellectual property laws that protect the copyrights of cinematographic works, it is under your responsibility that these contents do not contravene any law or regulation in the country you are streaming from.

123movies

123Movies is a video streaming site that allows users to watch movies online for free. 123Movies provide visitors with a large catalog of titles, including new releases. Due to the variety of content, 123Movies has become one of the most popular streaming sites. You can find most movies and television shows on 123Movies. Besides new blockbuster films that have just recently appeared in theaters, you can find titles from other popular streaming sites, such as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu.

You do not need to login or create an account. You simply click on the title that you want to watch and begin streaming on your computer or internet-connected device. You can watch movies from the browser on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. In most of the Western world, displaying content that was not obtained through the proper licenses is illegal. However, 123Movies operates in other parts of the world. They are often based out of countries that do not have strict anti-piracy or copyright laws. Plus, instead of hosting the content on their website, they link to external servers and the content is streamed from a secure cyber locker or another online source.

YouTube

Youtube is the only one source through which people can enjoy and look at any kind of movies or videos. Being accessible to people throughout the globe it also facilitates an individual with various options and desires according to their needs. If you have an Internet connection or even can use mobile data to open a site called Youtube and watch every movie you want without any problems. Google’s YouTube.com provides hundreds of good free movies, and it is also available in various languages. If you are interested, you can also rent or buy movies there.

YesMovies

When talking about free movie streaming one of the most visited site by many is Yes!Movies. This site has a good reputation when it comes to providing free access to movies from different countries. The site has an extensive list of TVSeries and movies at a fast loading speed. Also the video quality of the video can be adjusted to match the device that you are currently using.

IMDb

IMDb is not just a popular movie database but also an excellent resource for watching documentaries and films. They have a separate section for listing various films and documentaries. Often avoided but yet this site is featured in almost every list of streaming sites.

WatchMovieStream

WatchMovieStream offers thousands of free movies available for online streaming. The website works perfectly on all devices, so those of you who enjoy watching movies online on their mobile phone will be pleased. Watch Movie Stream is very easy to use, and movies are listed in 22 different genres.


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