Tirupparankundram Hike and Sarasvathi Puja

Sunday, October 12th, 2008 @ 9:50 am | Uncategorized

Enjoying the viewIt has been another inspiring week at Aravind. Dr. VRM was in the Hindu Times recently. He also asked me to present my work and project proposal in our weekly lab meeting. I always feel a little anxious talking about my work to a large group, but it went off quite well, and I our discussion afterwards was helpful in making concrete decisions about my next steps to move the project forward. Now I need to start some delicate RNA isolation work.


One of the interesting events of the week was the celebration of the goddess Sarasvathi. She is the goddess of education. In the hospital there were several pujas, where items such as pipettes and books (in our lab) were given blessings. In the outside corridor of the operation theater, the microscopes and phacoemulsificationequipment was blessed. These ceremonies involve some prayers with burning of incense and finally a treat passed around. They also pass around some chalk dust in different colors (which I don’t know the meaning of yet) that is to be placed in a dot above the forehead. My understanding of the purpose of this is that it is to cover your third eye or chakra emanating from the forehead to minimize distraction.


For the Seriasvathi celebration there was also a special event in the hostel. It is the one time each year where girls are allowed to enter the boys hostel for dancing. There was another American at this event, a fourth year ophthalmology resident from Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary who is at Aravind for an elective rotation from the Harvard program. Some of my lab mates were also there, and we joined in the fun. It reminded me of a middle school dance, where the guys are wallflowers while the girls dance, but eventually everyone got into it and we had a nice time.


Four of us from the lab spent our Saturday afternoon hiking up Tirupparankundram (just try pronouncing that!). It is a giant rock outside the city that reminds me of the pictures I have seen of Ayers rock in Australia. There are some proper steps up the hill, but many of the steps are divots carved into the rock face itself. Along the way we spotted dozens of monkeys. They don’t seem to be intimidated by humans at all, as they will come close enough to touch, and my friends advised me to keep a tight grip on my belongings as they are known to snatch things, especially food, from people.


The best part of the trip was the truly spectacular view from the top. We could see all of the city of Madurai and the surrounding mountains, rock formations, rice paddies, and coconut trees. The closest comparison to areas I have been in the united states is the rock formations of the southwest, or maybe the red rocks in Denver. I’ll post some pictures, but as I noticed while I was taking them, it is really impossible to capture the beauty of a place like this in photographs.


As we reached the top the weather took a turn for the worse and it started pouring down rain. Fortunately, we found an Islamic holy place at the top for shelter. The men and women were dressed in burkas and white caps, which is otherwise rarely seen in Madurai. One of the temple priests told us that a pious Muslim is said to have stopped a massive rock from falling in this place and it has remained there since that time. They didn’t let the others from my group go into the sacred area of the temple, but for some reason they let me in to see the rock and the men praying inside the grotto. After about an hour the rain let up and we went on our journey home.



  • Advice for Future India Fulbrighters
  • Farwell India
  • Meenakshi Temple – Kumbabishekam
  • Spending time in Madurai – In Situ Hybridization
  • Fulbright Conference – Kolkata, Varanasi, and Kathmandu
  • Indian Wedding in Madurai and trip to Bangalore
  • Indian Pilgrimage – Thekkady, Munnar, Mahabalipuram
  • Asia ARVO – Hyderabad
  • Fulbrighters come to Madurai, friends and I visit Dayspring Home
  • Birthday and New Year in Tamil Nadu

    One Response to “Tirupparankundram Hike and Sarasvathi Puja”

    1. Trudy Hogg Says:

      Paul, I really enjoy your comments and the photos. I’ve learned to look for the tallest person and I find you!
      Last week your grandpa told me that you had called him—he really appreciated that. We talked this morning. I sense that he wishes his strength would return more quickly than it is. He was planning on walking for 30 minutes this afternoon—-first time since surgery. Take care, Trudy

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