A Travellerspoint blog

Madurai..the exuberance of the Southern India

A Temple city, a Festival city, a city that never sleeps

history.jpgMadurai is an over night journey from Chennai and is well connected by air, rail and road.

Madurai is a fascinating city with a soul. Fodor's guide described the city as "Rich Pandemonium"!

The tiara of Madurai is the famous
Sri Meenakshi - Sundareswarar Temple

Timings : The temple is usually open between 0500hrs and 1230hrs and again between 1600 hrs and 21.30 hrs.

Synonymous with Madurai is the Meenakshi Sundareswarar twin Temple, the pivot around which the city has evolved. The Meenakshi Temple complex is literally a city - one of the largest of its kind in India and one of the oldest too. The temple grew with the contribution of each dynasty and victorious monarchs, into an enormous complex extending over an area of 65000 Sq m. The temple first came in to being 2000 years ago and was substantially expanded during the regime of Thirumalai Nayak(1623-55 AD).

Legend says that the city was founded by Indra, the King of the Gods,who found a lingam in the forests and ordered to built a temple for it.When Indra set foot in the temple, he found that its tank was filled with golden lilies,by a miracle.This tank is still in existence.Tradition also says that a Tamil author's work was judged here by simply placing the manuscript on the water.If it stank,it sank.

Lord Siva in his incarnation as Sundareswarar and his fish-eyed spouse, Meenakshi, are enshrined in this twin temple. There are four massive gateways enclosing these two shrines. Even a casual visitor is fascinated by the many paintings and sculptures.Their tall and highly decorated concave profile increase in size from the inner to the outer enclosures. The gopuram to the south, for example, rises up to 60 m and is covered with over thousands of brightly painted idols of Gods. The Temple is home to lakhs of idols, all of them meticulously sculpted.The sculptures are picures in stone and even the sublime shyness of Sri Meenakshi as she marries Lord Sundareshwar is stunningly portrayed.

A striking feature of the temple is the astonishing structure know as “Ayiramkaal Mandapam” or the Hall of Thousand Pillars (exactly 997)and each pillar features high, ornate, bold sculptures that look life like.This is indeed application of structural engineering as art form. View from any angle these pillars appear to be in a straight line, an architectural masterpiece indeed In the outermost corridors are situated the matchless musical pillars carved out of stones. When it is tapped, each pillar produces different musical note.Baroque in Europe ia about the only western style approaching the wonderful exuberance of the art forms displayed in this finest temple on all earth.

Thirumalai Nayak Palace

Timings : The Palace is open for visitors between 0900hrs and 1300 hrs and again between 1400 hrs and 1700 hrs.

About 1.5 Kms from the Sri Meenakshi temple, this palace was built in 1636 by the ruler whose name it bears. The imposing edifice is famous for the “Stuccowork” on its domes and impressive arches. The Sorgavilasam (Celestial Pavilion), measuring 75m x 52m, constructed entirely of brick and mortar without the support of a single rafter or girder, is a marvel of indo-Saracenic architectural style. Its curved dome, which soars without any visible support, is quite an accomplishment.Among other striking features of the palace are the massive white pillars, several of which line the corridor that runs along the courtyard. Connected by high decorated arches, these pillars measure 20m in height and have a circumference of 4m. Elsewhere, there are polished black stone pillars of varying heights. It was King Thirumalai Nayak’s grandson who demolished much of the fine structure and removed most of the jewels and woodcarvings in order to build his own palace in Tiruchirapalli. (His dream never came true).

Thanks to Lord Napier, the then Governor of Madras, who partially restored the palace in 1866-72, and the subsequent restoration works carried out several years ago, today, we get to see the Entrance Gate, The Main Hall and the Dance Hall. There’s daily sound and light show in English at 1845 hrs and in Tamil at 2015 hrs. This half an hour show extols the virtues of King Thirumalai, particularly his passion for arts, his victories in battle and his love for his subjects.

Gandhi Museum

Timings: 1000hrs to 1300 hrs and 1400 hrs to 1730 hrs. (Open all days)

Housed in the old Palace of Queen Mangammal who ruled Madurai, the Gandhi Museum is dedicated to the Memory of the Father of the nation, highlights the freedom struggle and contains a picture gallery of the Gandhian movement. There are some original relics of Gandhiji including the blood stained shawl that was worn when he was shot dead.Also can be seen are a Khadi and village industries section and South Indian Handicrafts section.

Mariamman Teppakulam

Mariamman Teppakulam is a beautiful square tank spread over a huge area of almost 16 acres, located about 5Kms East of Meenakshi Temple.The tank was said to have been dug when sand was required to build the Thirumalai Naik Palace. The tank is the scene of the colourful float festival held in January/February to celebrate the birth anniversary of King Thirumalai Nayak. The deities of Meenakshi and Sundareswarar are placed in a float, called “Teppam”, decorated with flowers and illuminated with hundred of lights. This float is taken around the tank to the sound of traditional music. On the Northern side of the tank a temple is dedicated to Mariamman , a famous village deity of Tamil Nadu.

Posted by Shrinagesh 20:47 Archived in India Comments (0)

Which part of India will interest Tourists more?

A short factual report

India is called a Sub Continent. Because, there is so much diversity that adds to the Country.This diversity adds color and richness to the culture. Even the Gods appear different!Lord Krishna in Mathura appears very different from Lord VenkatesaPerumal(another name for Lord Krishna)in Thirupathi!
Hence, the debate on Southern India versus Northern India os out of context. Every part has her own glory and comparisons can turn to focus on the negatives.

But, in case you need authentic practical advise on visiting India,pl raise your queries and be sure that you will receive a reply within a week. I need a week coz we need to test the authenticity of our answers before we publish them

I promise that there won't be personal or commercial motives in our replies. The only purpose is to give right guidance so that you have a comfortable, cost effective tour of this 5000 year old Indian Nation.

Namasthe! Namashkar!Vanakkam!Welcome to India!

Posted by Shrinagesh 03:24 Archived in India Comments (2)

Chennai..the new gateway to India

Cultural capital, Manufacturing hub, English knowing

Mahab1.jpgTourists used to arrive in Delhi for a trip to Rajasthan and Agra.Some will dare to to take a trip to Kashmir.And will return immediately after.

But, I find that even those who visited Chennai are somewhat apologetic about Chennai and talk of the Marina and the Mahabalipuram alone as the sole point of Tourists' interest.There are incredibly interesting sites in Chennai and around, as I have described here.

But not any more.The Tourist focus is getting shifted to the Southern India because India Down Under is growing faster than the North.This has lead to an increased exposure to the Heritage of the South.Leading to statistics that show that more tourist visit Southern India than the North.

It is quite recently that visits to the Southern India has gained popularity and momentum and that the Budgetonline has come to call this as one of the Top 40 Vacations on earth.Though a look at the itenararies show that the such vacations are reasonably priced, the best way to see Southern India is on your own.Pl buy your air tickets on the internet on your own and arrive at Chennai.

Chennai in December and January has far more Cultural Performances than any other place on the Planet.Not even Broadway and Vienna can claim to hold Thousands of quality performances as they are held in these months at Chennai. Music Performances are predominant.Carnatic Music, Instrumental Music and Hindusthani Music find a prominent place . Dance programmes, Dramas, and Bhajans are also held.Programmes are held from morning till night and season tickets are available.To perform and to be acclaimed by the knowledgeble and judicious audience is the goal of all artistes.Somehow this unique character of Chennai has not been taken to the world.But a visit to Chennai during Music Festivals, as the season is called will be sustaining to the Spirit and Mind.But, try and stay in accomodation in Mylapore so that you can feel of the Culture and the Music Festivals.During your regular morning walks , it would be a pleasant sight to see groups of small boys with tufts going around houses , singing poetry in praise of the Gods.

A visit to the Temples in TamilNadu is a must see.Tall towers call Gopurams reach out to the skies. Infact, this is believed to be an effort of the Gods to reach out to the masses.If you cant visit Temples regularly, paying respects to the Gopurams or praying to the Gopurams are believed to confer blessings on the devotees.Those who visit Chennai take a whirl wind tour of Mahabalipuram (or Mamallapuram)as is confirmed in this link.

On the way to Mahabalipuram, try and visit Dakshinachitra. Click www.dakshinachitra.net and find the timings to plan your visit.
Dakshinachitra is about 45 minutes travel on the east Coast Road.From there it would take another half hour to reach Mamallapuram.There are many info available on the internet on Mahabalipuram, so i will restrain from talking about such places.

From Mahabalipuram , a trip to Pondicherry would be in order.
Pondicherry now called Puduchery is about 90 minutes drive from Mahabalipuram. An erstwhile French colony with streets still displaying French names, this is the French influence on India.People do speak a smatter of French. The Ashram of one of India's brilliant minds, Saint Aurobindo is interned here.Nice city tp pedal around if you can hire a cycle in many shops that would lend one if you pay some advance money.

On your return to Chennai , try to do a little roundabout and reach Vedanthangal Bird sanctuary.Another two hour journey.Lakhs of birds from as far as Siberia visit this sanctuary in Nov-Feb and you wont have seen anything like that.Believed to be one of world's largest Bird sanctuaries.

From Vedanthangal, a visit to Kanchipuram is a Must.Kanchipuram is an hour's drive away and Chennai would be another 75 minutes drive from Kanchipuram.Kanchipuram is considered a Holy City by the Hindus and still, there are residents who won't wear foot wear because that would mean insult to the Bhoomimatha, ie the Goddess of the land. Amazing place with hundreds of Temples , most of them hundreds of years old.There is also a Mutt of the Shankarachariya where most Presidents and Prime Ministers have visited to invoke the blessings of the incumbent Shankarachariya.You need a guide to advise you properly. Queen Elizabeth II visited Kanchipuram during her last visit.

If you can plan a litle more, visit Thiruvannamalai about three hours away from Kanchipuram.Especially in Full Moon, if you can plan much in advance as accomodation is not available then.There is anothe huge temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Then there are ashrams of famed saints like Saint Ramana Maharishi.Many people from abroad can be found here and the shanthi you gain by visiting these ashrams is immeasurable.

I must confess that there are many other hot spots in and around Chennai. The St Thomas Cathedral at Santhome that was built demolishing the famous Kapaleeswara temple, the present Kapaleeshwara Temple in Mylapore,Kalakshetra(http://www.kalakshetra.net/),the Pulicat Lake that plays host birds in a smaller scale than at Vedanthangal,etc.But, extensive details about them are available on the internet.

Vanakkam to Chennai!

Posted by Shrinagesh 23:25 Archived in India Comments (0)

Unorthodox way of seeing India..

India travel made pleasant and purposeful

Many people arrive by air, take a coach ,see the historical monuments and leave. This is India you see in the Guide books.

India is a safe country and southern India is absolutely safer.
But, it is still better to arrive with a companion. Almost everyone can speak in English or they will understand English the least.And dont do the general mistake of arriving in Dec/Jan as most tourists do coz they are scared of the weather. India is a land of myriad weather...just be prepared to enjoy it.

Aircon rooms are available frm $10 onwards.Pl plan your trip according to the local melas. These festivals are great occasions when thousands and lakhs meet to receive the Divine blessings.They are colorful, noisy, exuberant and fun.

Forget the modern methods of transport. A journey to India is incomplete without an Elephant ride, a camel ride or on a ride by horse drawn carriage( you can do this in upmarket Nariman point in Mumbai too).If you are visiting Southern India ,Pl try the Bullock drawn vehicles especially those used for racing called the Rekla races in TamilNadu. They are as much fun as the F1 formula racing.

Try Indian food. The Southern India's IDLY and DOSAS are safer.Avoid Non Vegetarian food in Government run restaurants for reasons obvious.The Naan and the Curry that go with it can be hot, so just be a little cautious.Safe drinking water is available in Bottles everywhere.

Most State Governments run their own hotels. Most of them are fine except for their restaurants.These hotels are centrally located and they are relatively cheap. That is a big advantage.
You may get accomodation in Youth Hostels or YMCAs or YWCAs.Browse on the Internet to book in advance. Generally rooms are available except in the month of Dec/Jan, the Peak tourist season.

There are many Low cost carriers operating in India. The Best are Indigo and Goair.There is also AirDeccan and Spice Jet. Easyair is set to launch quality airservices soon. You can book tickets for these airlines on the internet. Pl be careful before you decide because some airlines will hide their airport taxes before quoting(cleverly) and the final airticket will cost about a thousand more.

Welcome to India! You wont have seen anything like this!

Posted by Shrinagesh 03:02 Archived in India Comments (0)

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