I was on a work trip to Tirupur and due to delay in work I had to stay back over the weekend. Since there is nothing to do in Tirupur and I was not in the mood to sit back in the room. So, I booked a cab for Madurai for 2 days to explore the city and especially to see the famous Meenakshi temple. Madurai is 190 Km from Tirupur and road conditions were good during my travel.
It was a 3.30 Hours journey from Tirupur to Madurai and we crossed many villages on the way. It was mostly scenic journey, there were paddy fields with coconut trees on both sides of the road. There were windmills on the way and I came to know that windmills are an important source of energy in many southern states. There are small food shops & tea stalls on the way and banana was available at almost all shops.
I have booked my hotel online before starting from Tirupur because it is better to book a hotel in advance. I didn’t want to waste my time once I reach Madurai.
I reached Madurai by late afternoon, my hotel was at the good location. The temple and market were 10 minutes driving distance. I traveled solo and during my solo travel, I am more cautious in choosing my room in the hotel.
Read Travel tips for India from my personal experience.
Places to visit in Madurai in one day’s time
Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam & Goddess Temple across the Tank
The Vandiyur temple is dedicated to Lord Ganesh and it is outside the city. The area around the temple was very peaceful. It is believed that statue of Ganesha installed in this temple was obtained from the water tank. The tank is very big in size but while I visited there was almost no water in it. I came to know that the tank remains waterless throughout the year and water is filled in it during the annual festival of the temple.
I went inside the temple of Goddess. Here some women were cooking a sweet Pongal dish in a clay pot on a makeshift hearth of bricks in the temple premise. Cooking food inside the temple and serving it to God/Goddess is a special way of offering and this unique tradition is followed in many south Indian temples.
Tips for Vandiyur Mariamman temple –
* It’s a good place to spend some quiet time.
* Photography is allowed only outside areas of the temple.
* If you don’t understand the process of visiting the temple. Follow the local people.
* There is no entry ticket.
Meenakshi Temple / Meenakshi Amman Temple
This temple is also known as Meenakshi Amman temple. There are four entrance gates for the temple but east side gate is considered the main entry gate. Non-Hindus can also enter through the east gate. The colorful statues of different god & goddess, mythical animals, and depiction of different mythological events on the towers of the temple are main attraction and characteristic of this temple. The detailed workmanship of this and color makes the temple famous as well as one of its kind in India.
The city of Madurai was built around the Meenakshi temple. Madurai is also called as “The Athens of the East” because of its similarities with it. In Athens, the Greek Pantheon is located on an elevated plane and is visible from any part of the city. Similarly, the Meenakshi temple is at the center of Madurai city and can be seen from any part of the city. There was a heritage rule that no other building in the city should exceed the height of 9 meters. Though over the years there were some violations of this rule and that’s why now temple is not visible from many parts of the city.
The Meenakshi temple name is named after Goddess Meenakshi, who is also known as Goddess Parvathi. There are two temples inside the main sanctum, one is dedicated to Lord Shiva and has the Shiva lingam as a deity, another one has a statue of Goddess Meenakshi.
The temple complex is spread over 15 acres. It has 4 main towers, 8 small towers, and around 4,000 pillars.
Meenakshi temple’s primary attraction is its main hall with 985 pillars, though earlier there were 1,000 Pillars. Most of these pillars have the carving of mythological animal called “Yaali” which looks like a hybrid of lion & elephant, there is also some statue of different gods/goddess. These pillars increase the beauty of the temple and make it an architectural marvel.
I entered in the main temple area and proceeded towards the main sanctum. Near the gate I came across an elephant, this elephant was giving the blessing to the devotees with his trunk and they were giving money to his “Mahauat”. The elephant looked healthy but I personally don’t know want to comment on this practice.
I went into inner the sanctums to see the idol of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Shiva who is known as Sundareshwarar in this temple.
I saw 2 brides & bridegrooms in the corridor of the temple. I have come to know that Meenakashi temple is considered an auspicious place to get married. It is one of those temples which is considered a must visit place for married couples for a happy married life.
Another temple which is considered very auspicious for getting married is Guruvayur temple in Kerala. There is a saying that 80% of Kerala Hindus get married in this temple.
Check more About Guruvayur temple here.
The evening ceremony is one of the highlight and must-see at Meenakshi Temple. It is the procession of Lord Shiva’s Image (who is called Sundereshwar). In this ceremony, Lord Sundereshwar’s feet are brought out of his sanctum by the priests. They put them on a decorated chariot, perform a puja and then a procession goes to the sanctum of Goddess Meenakshi (Who is also known as Parvathi). During the procession priest chant mantras, a holy smoke is formed around chariot amidst the beating of drums and horns.
The procession symbolizes that lord Sundereshwar is going to his wife Meenakshi’s shrine where he’ll spend the night.
Other then the main temple and towers around it, there is a set of musical pillars and Art Museum in the temple complex. The ticket for these costs 50 INR for foreigners and 5 INR for Indians. I loved this place as it was an interesting place to see and experience.
Tips for visiting Meenakshi Temple –
* Temple is open daily from dawn until 10.00 PM. It remains closed between 12.30 PM to 4.00 PM when God and goddess rest in their abode.
* Dress conservatively, it means one must not reveal legs and shoulders.
* Non-Hindu’s can not visit the main sanctum.
* If you don’t want to wait for up to 2-3 hours in queue for the darshan then you can pay extra for “special darshan” tickets. This tickets can be purchased inside the temple and provide direct access to the idols. Ticket cost 50 rupees for Goddess Meenakshi’s sanctum, and 100 rupees for Goddess and Lord’s temple.
* Go to the temple early morning to avoid the crowd and have a good darshan.
* The night ceremony starts at 9.00 PM every day except Friday. On Fridays, it starts at 9.30 PM. Foreign tourists, who are not allowed inside the main sanctum can also see the ceremony and image of Lord Sundareshwar during this ceremony.
* Cameras are not allowed inside the temple. Earlier mobile phones were allowed inside the temple but now from February 2018 mobile phones with cameras are also not allowed inside the temple. This is so unfortunate because it means now one can’t take pictures inside this beautiful temple complex.
* There are lockers at the east entrance to the temple to keep the camera and mobile phones. The security is very tight now.
Tirumalai Nayak Palace
This palace is Madurai’s second most popular attraction. The palace is situated close to the busy market area and always full of tourists. The King Thirumalai Nayak built this palace in 1636 as his resident. It is believed to be designed by an Italian architect but no details about him are available. The palace is a fusion of Islamic and Dravidian architecture.
It was a grand palace but now only one-fourth of palace structure id intact, rest was destroyed. The pillars of the palace are it’s most fascinating feature. The entrance hall, courtyard, dancehall, and audience hall is now whatever is left of original palace. During the British rule, the palace was used a district court and continued until 1970. Then the government took over the palace and ASI of India restored it completely. It is now open for public as a national monument.
Tips for visiting Tirumalai Nayak Palace
* Go in the morning as soon as it open to avoid the crowds.
* The entry fee is 10 INR for Indian and 50 rupees for foreigners. Camera ticket costs another 30 INR.
*It remains open from 9.00 AM to 5.00 PM daily.
* There’s a sound and light show in English from 6.45 PM to 7.35 PM. The ticket is INR 50 for Adult Indian and Foreigners, INR 25 for children.
Food in Madurai –
* Murugan Idli Shop on West Masi Street is the best place to eat south Indian food.
* Amma Mess at Thallakulam for non-vegetarian food. They serve biryani, mutton kofta, and even chicken dosa.
* Jigarthanda’ shop on East Marrat Street for a glass of Jil Jil Jigarthanda. A cold milk-based drink with ice-cream, almond, and some local flavoring agents.
* Tirunelveli Halwa at Prem Vilas is ghee-filled, gooey sweet dish. It’s heaven for senses but high on calories
Shopping in Madurai –
The market around the temple is also very popular for souvenir shopping but there are many good small & big shops in the market also. The prices in Madurai are better than big cities. Most shops sell at fix prices but if you are not sure then go to a big store like Pothy’s for variety and fix prices.
Things to buy in Madurai –
Thazampoo Kumkumam is a special variety of Kumkum and its got a unique fragrance.
Jasmine incense sticks.
Saree and handmade fabrics for garments.
Things to remember while visiting Madurai –
* Madurai is well connected by rail and road with Chennai, Coimbatore and Tirupur.
* There is an airport in Madurai.
* There are few more temples in Madurai and within its radius of 20 Km.
* It is advisable to visit Rameshwaram with Madurai as it’s only 170 Km from it.