The summer sun kept blazing as she squinted her eye and tried to look at it. It was a stifling hot day. She loved the temple, the cool haven that it was. She almost ran through the Chithirai Veedhi towards the temple gopuram (gateway tower). Her waist length hair flying behind her, the flowers on her hair, her ears, her head, her arms and legs suddenly coming alive. Not everyday is the Chithirai Thiruvizha.
As she neared the gopuram, the crowd was swelling. How she had underestimated the crowd today? Meenakshi Pattabhishekam was no ordinary event with thousands of thousands of people thronging the Meenakshiamman Temple. She found it increasingly difficult to even walk now, the crowd pulling and pushing in all directions, rushing towards the Sanctum. She chose a quiet corner by the Meenakshi Nayakkar mandapam, sitting beside an intricately carved pillar and closed her eyes. She always wanted to see the Goddess Meenakshi. Today was the Goddess' special day, she would be bedecked in jewellery and flowers. Rubies, emeralds, pearls and diamonds would glitter all over Her body.
|Aerial view of Madurai Meenakshiamman Temple|
The thought of the deity and its beauty, with the precious stones and gold invoked a strong urge in her to see the Goddess. Some day, I should own a string of pearls like the Goddess, she thought lustfully. Though born in a royal Nayak family of Madurai, she lived a simple life. Her father being a plain courtier in the King's Court never helped her wishes. She loved jewellery. She loved grandeur. She wanted the life of a Princess. She even imagined she had an crown over her head as she roamed the streets of Madurai.
With a sudden movement, someone closed her eyes from behind. She jumped immediately, ready to run, but was held tight by the slender arms around her. Her panic ebbed slowly as she felt bangles around the hand on her eyes and she blew out her relief. "Mangai...I know it is you!", she exclaimed. Mangai withdrew her hands in disappointment. "Meenakshi, you always find me out", she smiled. The two friends had planned to just while their time in a quiet corner of the temple, away from the humdrum of the day. The deity would pass by this mandapam after the noon prayers and they could have a fleeting glance of the same without being crushed by the crowd at the main hall.
"You look ravishing", Mangai eyed her friend with a tinge of jealousy. The simple flowers all around Meenakshi's slender body had a distinct fragrance. The friends started a game of kalachikkal with the pebbles Mangai had brought.
|( kalachikkal- a traditional game played with five pebbles, native to the Madurai and Tirunelveli areas of Nayak Kingdom)|
They had forgot everything around them when sudden drumming and blaring of musical instruments brought them to their consciousness. Both sprang up and waited atop, with folded hands for the deity. A procession of musicians, dancers and then priests ensued and finally the Goddess appeared in all her glory, dancing in the palanquin held by four priests. The duo forgot to wink their eyes, spell bound and gaped open mouthed at the ravishing Goddess crossing them.
|Pic Courtesy- Artist Maruthi|
That was how he saw her. Her hands folded, long wild hair kissing her hips, luscious lips open apart in awe and eyes glistening. He noted she wore nothing- plain flowers all around her body, yet she looked so rich and bountiful. He like what he saw. He noted the eyes of his friend too roving all over her. He sent a pointed look to his friend and swiftly walked behind the deity. He had prayers to offer and he loved the lengthy chants and hymns recited by the Brahmin priests. Tomorrow...he promised to himself. I must know who she is.Unaware of the attention she had received, Meenakshi sat down with Mangai for another game of Kalachikkal. The pebbles scattered on the stone floor, the silent mandapam reverberating with the girls' laughter.
p.s.: This is pure work of fiction intertwined with few historic facts about Queen Regent Meenakshi- the last Nayak ruler of Madurai. This is not a research work. This is the last part of the Queens' trilogy that I have dreamed about, the earlier ones being The Queen Of Hearts and The Queen Of Spades.
p.p.s.: All pictures courtesy- google search