It begins, as things do in India, with a visit to the temple.
A monsoon shower breaks out as we run into the Madurai Meenakshi temple. On either side sit rows of women selling strings of flowers from wicker baskets. The scent of petrichor, sambac, tuberose, champaka, and rose infuse the rain as we run in– like a perfume bottle emptying over our heads.
Like a fragrant blessing.
Meenakshi, the fish-eyed goddess rules over Madurai from her sprawling 14th century temple complex, commanding some 1800 pounds of flowers everyday for her worship. She is Raja Palaniswamy’s stiffest competitor, although he is too devout to view it that way.
Raja, as he is known, is a perfume extractor, supplying the likes of Guerlain, Dior, Chanel and others. He is in Madurai at the behest of Jahnvi Nandan, a French-trained perfumer who shuttles between Paris and Goa for her brand, Perfume Library.