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Thiruparankundram, Hill Top Temple
The small town of Thiruparankundram, 6 km southwest of Madurai, lies behind the sacred granite hill where visitors must climb 500+ stone cut steps to reach the hilltop temple. Hindu mythology considers this place as one of the six sacred abodes of Murugun, the son of Shiva. This granite hill was the site of his marriage to Devayani, the daughter of Indra.
Accessed right off the main road, visitors are greeted with the spectacular sight of red and white striped steps leading to the top. The red color symbolizes energy while white is the color of peace, purity, and truth. A temple is a symbolic combination of both colors. Mandapa-like structures are placed at ascending heights marking progress as well as white and black oval numbers painted every 10 steps. Atop these carved pillar structures are mini-gopurams adorned with richly detailed deity painted carvings.
Don’t confuse this temple with the rock-cut temple (Thiruparankundram Temple) located on the backside of the granite hill. While the rock-cut temple is packed with locals, sadhus, beggars, and the usual street gawkers, my travel partner and I were virtually alone during our climb to the top.
We knew the temple hours had passed before embarking on the mini-trek, yet we were compelled to see the views and what devoted followers endured to perform their puja. We needed to stop many times to catch our breath. The steps are rather tall requiring a person to be in fairly good physical condition.
Fortunately, Kamal, the caretaker extraordinaire from our stay at Alps Residency, had come along as our guide. As we reached the top, he grabbed a sizable stick which he explained was protection from the numerous monkeys that laid claim to the hilltop. Views from the top steps take the eyes across the landscape for several kilometers before the typical Indian haze cuts in. Farm fields, a few roads, and the river can be seen from the temple. And as we already knew, the gates to the temple were closed. A family of 4 was mingling around the entrance, maybe just leaving or caught by the seemingly early 6 PM closing time. The small temple, seemingly hanging onto the cliff edge, was neither glitzy nor glamorous. No throngs of followers were to be found here
Tourists should plan several hours for this stop, mainly allocated for the time it takes to maneuver up and down the rock steps. Temple is open from 9-6. No admission fee, shoes are allowed up to the top.