Monday, March 25, 2013

In Pictures: Madurai

We are diving into the semester and time is flying by! A while ago, we had our first weekend trip and headed to the city of Madurai. As much as we love our home base of Coimbatore, we were excited to get out and explore another city.

ISP on the bus!
Leaving bright and early, we arrived into the bustling Madurai full of a delicious South Indian breakfast we had eaten on the way. We rolled right into the Tamil Nadu Theological Seminary (TTS), a quiet green campus hidden in the middle of a dusty city. Our first program of the afternoon was touring the college and learning about its mission before moving into a session on Dalit Theology, understanding the gospel through the lens of the oppressed. Jason Brownlee shared his thoughts on that afternoon: 

Learning about Dalit theology at TTS.
 "...we toured the seminary and got to talk with a few of the professors about the program. The seminary has an amazing complex. Separate from the busyness of the city, it is like an oasis in the desert. It has trees everywhere (including Teak, shout out to my Dad and the sailboat), chickens roaming around, cows for milking, and most of its own food is grown on the campus. Another part of the seminary is that its students spend one of their three years living in a slum. They do a lot of work for the Dalit (or Untouchable) caste, dialoguing mainly with the Christian Dalit community and how they can be representatives of Christ to the Indian community. It was a really cool seminary and I am glad our program is showing us the ways the Christian community is showing Christ in the Indian context. It was cool to see how Indians were meeting the needs of other Indians through the story of Christ."

A Hindu convert's interpretation of the birth of Christ at TTS.
 The evening was filled with activities out in the city! Students made it down a busy street to try jigarthanda, a special drink from Madurai. None of us could pronounce the name, let alone identify the interesting ingredients, but we all agreed that it was delicious and well worth the trip. From there we headed to the Thirumalai Nayak Palace where we settled in to watch a sound and light show that relayed the history of King Thirumalai and the city.  

Thirumalai Nayak palace lit up at night.
Credit: Kari Christensen

On the way back from the show students stumbled across a circus and managed to convince Kirk and the faculty to accompany them on their adventure. After catching part of the show, the students got up close and personal with the circus elephant! 

Kari face to face with the circus elephant.
We woke up on Saturday excited to be going to the Meenakshi Temple, one of the largest Hindu temple complexes in South India. As we wandered through, our guide explained the scenes around us - from depictions of Parvati and Meenakshi painted on the walls to intricate carvings on the many pillars scattered around the temple. Although we had been to one temple before in Coimbatore, it was the first time many students had been to one of this magnitude. With pujas and daily temple life swirling around us, there was a wealth of experiences to take in.  

View of the tank in the Meenakshi Temple.
Credit: Kari Christensen

Before heading home we had a few more stops to make. First was the Gandhi Museum. While a major part of it is devoted to understanding Gandhi's life and work the first section of it also details India's independence movement. Walking through, it was fascinating to trace the path that India has traveled to arrive where it is today. From there we said goodbye to Madurai but made one final stop at Arulagam, an HIV/AIDS hospice run by TTS. The hospice is set in a peaceful area away from the city where people who are affected by HIV/AIDS come for treatment and care. A group of children who are also affected live at the hospice. It was wonderful to spend time listening to how this seminary is making an impact by serving the community that is around them. 

QGP (quick group pic) at the Meenakshi Temple.

Jason shared a final reflection on the temple and the weekend: "I am trying to look past the cultural shock of seeing, smelling, and hearing the goings on of the temple and learn about the ways of the Hindu people. The term Hindu is such a complex word that my small view of it can’t begin to understand, so I will reserve my judgement and take the stance of a learner".

Thanks for reading! Watch for upcoming posts on our other weekend trips.

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