Blogs from Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India, Asia


Asia » India » Tamil Nadu » Madurai April 24th 2020

Madurai was originally a forest called Kadambavanam, i.e. a Vanam (forest) of Kadamba trees. One day, Lord Indra spotted a farmer praying to a Shiva linga in the forest and told King Kulasekara Pandya about the linga. The king built a temple around the linga and then built a city around it. Lord Shiva appeared on the day of naming the city and drops of nectar fell from his hair on the ground. The city was hence called Madurai (madhuram meaning sweetness in Tamil). ​After King Kulasekara, his son Malayadhwaja Pandya became the king. For years, Malayadhwaja and his wife Kanchanamalai did not have a child. After several yagnas, a 3-year old girl child with 3 breasts was born to them. Goddess Parvati took birth as Kanchanamalai’s daughter pleased with her prayers. Also, a voice appeared ... read more

Asia » India » Tamil Nadu » Madurai March 17th 2020

I started the dog rescue story with hope. A happy ending uncertain. But there was hope. So the following is the final chapter I will write while still in India. Hope is still alive. I rescued Buddy from death by tick fever, but found he has a chronic condition called mega esophagus. I could not return him to the streets as I had planned. I cared for him and sang to him and walked him and loved him, ever since he got back from the pet clinic and a temporary caretaker on January 24. Buddy was my companion and best friend. During that time I just knew there would be lots of Indian homes wanting this loving boy. But my knowing turned to despair the closer I got to my exit date with no permanent home ... read more
Terry and Buddy admire his new Chair
Buddy and chair builder
Thankgaraj plans the Cuts

Asia » India » Tamil Nadu » Madurai February 22nd 2020

I picked up Buddy from the streets of Madurai on January 9. I didn’t have a fully thought-out plan. But the vague plan was this: help him get well, return him to the street where he seemed to be happy. Best case scenario: find him an adoptive home. Plans never go as planned. Everyone knows that. Over a month later Buddy is with me. He conquered a deadly case of tick fever, only to be diagnosed with mega esophagus. This diagnosis is a death sentence for a street dog. The condition is probably why he had lost so much weight since I saw him a year ago. The wide places in his esophagus trap the food, preventing it from reaching his stomach. It is a condition that rarely reverses itself. Medication can assist with the regurgitation ... read more
sunset at the lake
morning Kolum art
Tailor Selvamani and her 11 year old daughter Shamily

Asia » India » Tamil Nadu » Madurai January 27th 2020

Caring for a rescue dog in India has been a lonely task indeed. Buddy the street dog returned to me from the temporary caretaker, with the report that he had not vomited for two days, and he’d been eating mounds of curd rice. I was skeptical. My doubts were correct. Buddy’s stomach is still sensitive. I need to give him very small amounts of rice and chicken and broth, and an anti nausea drug which he hates me for administering by spray in his mouth. And what about the lonely feelings hanging over this project? If I had a kitchen and lots of supportive friends around things might be easier. But people here just aren’t that invested in helping animals—especially street dogs, since they’re all over the place and seem to take care of themselves. Plus, ... read more
Surveying the new neighborhood
I’m getting attached to a street dog
Out in the village with the temporary caretaker

Asia » India » Tamil Nadu » Madurai January 19th 2020

On Thursday January 9 I took on a project. That’s an awful way to put it. But I took on a project—a heart-wrenching one. And so far I don’t have a happy ending. I have a hopeful ending. But not a happy one. In the Lady Doak College neighborhood, Zelda’s little buddy was sick. Zelda is a street dog I’ve known for four years, ever since I rescued her pup from a bad injury. The sick dog was with her last year in January—he caught my attention because he was so friendly and so beautiful. His coat was clean, as if he’d just walked away from a good life in someone’s home. But then this past October he had declined. He had lost weight and was lethargic, not like the bouncy dog I knew earlier. And ... read more
My Buddy
Buddy left, best friend Zelda on the right
I’m Alive!  I’m Alive!

Asia » India » Tamil Nadu » Madurai December 21st 2019

I needed an adventure. A slow kind of adventure. Lasting a half day at most. So I talked Anand and Henk into joining me. Anand drives the auto rickshaw, and Henk is an excellent photographer from Belgium who’s spent many years exploring the roads and villages outside of Madurai. He speaks a lot more Tamil than I do, and together he and Anand make quite a pair. The goal was to see a particular waterfall about 30 kilometers away. Anand set off on the backroads, after we had some tea and coffee of course. Soon we stopped at a colorful Ayyanar shrine. Henk was not shy about asking people to do things so he could get a good photograph. The young boy gladly climbed on to the statue of Ayyanar’s steed. And the man walking down ... read more
The Lady Selling Vegetables
Women at the temple

Asia » India » Tamil Nadu » Madurai November 29th 2019

My Indian son Kari bubbled with excitement over his upcoming engagement party, to be held on a day and at a time astrologically auspicious for both bride and groom. He told me it was important that I be there. I was one of his “moms” after all, and we’ve enjoyed each other’s company off and on over the last several years. There was only one catch. I had to wear a sari, supplied by him and his family. Kari handed the bag with the sari inside to me, after first insisting I bring out my camera to capture the moment. I was taken aback by it’s weight, and even moreso by the two-toned purple/orange color combination. The silk blouse glowed orange, and was embellished with embroidery on the back and on the sleeves. The sari and ... read more
Tossing rice at the engaged couple
Kari’s supporters bringing gifts
Terry all pinned up in a sari

Asia » India » Tamil Nadu » Madurai November 15th 2019

The priest from Kochadai spoke perfect English. He and his five barefooted companions had just descended the temple hill outside Madurai. They were on a pilgrimage, because the next day their village temple was to have its annual festival. He invited me to attend. I had visited their temple several times. It is a favorite, as all the important deities associated with Ayyanar are housed there. I’ve sensed its power on previous visits. The deities have an important job in guarding the people from misfortune, negative energies, and calamities. The next day I made my way to the temple, now transformed for the special occasion. Loud speakers blared music and an elephant inside the entryway used its trunk to thump a blessing on the head of anyone who gave it a coin. The priests were readying ... read more
Swishing the scarves
Vilakku—oil lamp

Asia » India » Tamil Nadu » Madurai October 25th 2019

I needed a local adventure, so off I went in the auto rickshaw with my friend Anand driving. The destination was Alagar Koil, an important temple dedicated to Vishnu situated at the base of the Alagar hills. I planned to walk to the top where I would see a temple dedicated to Murugan. And as plans go, everything got changed around. We had to have tea, of course, so we stopped at an upscale stall where I drank tea with the guys reading newspapers. It was a rural road, pleasing with paddy fields and coconut palms here and there, and houses spaced far enough apart to assure me that we weren’t in the busy city. It was still busy enough. Friday is market day. Goats, hundreds of them, clustered in a mass huddle with their owners ... read more
Pilgrims—Priests from a Temple in Madurai
Who’s got More Testosterone?
The Fort Wall at Alagar Koil

Asia » India » Tamil Nadu » Madurai October 16th 2019

My good friend Rengasamy arranged for me to attend an evening of his native village’s annual festival. Pudupatty is about 11/2 hours drive from Madurai, so I hired a taxi and arrived about 4:30 pm to music blasting through the village. People milled about, getting ready for the evening’s events. Mr. Sathis, the village president, welcomed me to the village with a flower garland. He showed me the deities that would soon be carried through the streets of the village. A group of shiny metal deities were decked out in flowers and looked quite cozy on their platform swing inside a small temple. Nearby a palanquin was under construction. Men would carry this large box covered in flowers using the two horizontal poles beneath. A man from Madurai who specializes in the cart construction was placing ... read more
Carrying the Mulaipari Pots
Drummers making a big Noise
Kolum Artist

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