Madurai Chithirai festival and English Collector's jewelry gifts to Goddess Meenakshi!!

With some exceptions many of us from other parts of Tamil nadu are not aware that the presiding deity of Madurai Meenakshi Amman will be wearing special jewelry donated by an English Collector of Madurai district on the fifth day of Chithirai festival while taken in a procession on a kuthirai Vahana. They are ruby studded stirrups and a pair of golden shoes presented by British Collector. Rous Peter made this donation to the Hindu goddess  not only out of trust and devotion but also as a token of his gratitude to the deity for having saved his life from near death.  

While on a hunting expedition in the wooded area, Collector Rous Peter  unexpectedly confronted with a wild elephant face to face. It was in rage and ready to chase him.  No place to hide it was a dangerous situation  and coming  out alive was a challenging one.  Having no choice, he prayed to goddess Meenakshi and shot the pachyderm dead. Had he misfired or his refile had malfunctioned, he would have died with pain.  For him it was a miraculous escape and the goddess gave him a new lease of life. 

The other version has it that  one night when there was heavy thunderstorm and lightning,  Rous Peter was woken up from sleep by a three-year-old charming girl. She  made him come out of the house when it was raining hard. No sooner had he come out of the house and turned back  than a bolt of lightning  struck his bungalow. and damaged it heavily.  The girl ran away in the direction of the temple and slowly disappeared. He saw the girl barefooted! Peter's life was spared. Peter though it was goddess Meenakshi who appeared as a girl and saved his life. The moot question is: Was it divine  dispensation of Goddess Meenakshi to keep him alive? Yes, according to the Collector.  

Rous Peter, who took over as the third Collector in 1812 (till 1818) when East India company was running the administration as a proxy government for the British Crown. He was also  the administrator of Meenakshi temple,  but later gave it up because he did not want to overstep on the sentiments of the Hindus who were supposed to run the temple. He became a devotee of the Goddess Meenakshi and it is mentioned that  he used to go around the temple every morning riding a horse barefoot,  a sign of respect to the temple. Historians mention that he was much respected by the people for his integrity, transparency and fair justice. It is said after retirement  he refused to get back to England spent his last days in Madurai. 

According to the Madura Gazetteer, compiled by W. Francis (page 259): Rous Peter is “the best remembered of all the collectors of Madura”.  No doubt, there are Tamil ballads still available singing his praise. The Gazette further  recorded  “The people nicknamed him ‘Peter Pandya.’After his death in Madurai on the 6 th August 1828 he was buried in the heart of the town outside the then protestant church.

Golden shoes donated by collector Peter, Meenakshi temple

ruby studded stirrups donated by collector peter,Meenakshi temple

Above image: A pair of  ruby studded stirrups donated by Collector Rous Peter (1812-18) of EIC. Meenakshi temple, Madurai; worn by the deity during  ‘Kuthirai Vahana’ procession as part of the Chithirai festival. ............

Madurai Meenakshi on Kuthirai vahana,

Is it not strange  to gift a pair of golden stirrups and shoes to the Hindu God? It is the question of his spirit and dedication that counts.  
A pair of horse stirrups to mount and to getdown

Stirrups are essential for horse riding  and they are usually paired and used to aid in mounting and as a support while  a riding animal (usually a horse or other equine). They give stability to the rider to control his mount. So  are the shoes. In the early colonial days the English men had to depend on  horses to move from one place to another as part of their work. The Collector  would have thought that those things were ideal gifts to the deity who protected his life. Just like shoes and stirrups that kept him safe while riding the horse cross country..................................