- Encounters with locals
- Place or Religious Monument
- Place or Historical Monument
- Off the beaten track
Ah... The Sri Menakshi Temple of Madurai ! A veritable city within a city! This is surely the place that made me fall in love with this country during my first trip to India. I remember staying entire days there wandering around and observing what was going on.
One afternoon, I sat in a corner of the temple, forgot all about time, and spent a few amazing hours, such a little mouse, observing the unique and fascinating spectacle of life in this building.
I remember endless processions, prayers, incredible family scenes, unusual ongoing acts, elephants, candles, offerings, etc. I almost felt like I was at the movies!
So why visit Madurai during a trip to India ? After all, the town isn't as well-known as some. Madurai is the most sacred town in the Tamil Nadu region. Apart from several miracles occurring here, it's also said that Shiva created the town, blessing it with drops of honey that fell from his hair.
Once in Madurai, you'll have to battle your way through the crowds to visit the Sri Meenakshi Temple When inside, I suggest you sit on the steps that line the central pond and watch the temple's toing and froings. A lot goes on! It's an unrelenting pace. At the same time it's soothing, as the atmosphere is full of excitement and joy. You can see just how devoted its pilgrims are. I could feel the religious fervor that pervaded its walls. Priests were blessing followers, leading ceremonies, burning incense...I loved every minute. The temple is huge. A town in itself. 10,000 visitors could easily fit in. Not forgetting the 30,000 sculptures, each one as chintzy as the next. One ceremony I wasn't allowed to see, as it's reserved for Hindhus only, was the daily 'marriage' between Shiva and Parvati. Each day, statues of these two gods are brought together for the night. You'll have a good time if you visit this site during your time in Madurai.
Madurai is one of my favorite places in southern India. It's an inviting, magical town and an ideal place to learn more about Tamil culture.
The best way to explore the town is to go with the flow. After seeing the impressive temple gopurams and breathing in the surrounding, bright colours, I suggest you immerse yourself in the town's ambiance by stopping for a cardamon tchai and trying out the local dishes sold by its street vendors; the idlis, dosas and other southern recipes are bound to tempt you.
My favorite memories from my time there are of the random encounters I had with locals. I also enjoyed walking along the dry river beds of the Vaigai River, where vibrantly colored saris had been hung out to dry in the wind. I spent a lot of time talking to local residents, who were interested to hear what I thought of their town!
During your stay in this part of India, don't miss out on a tour of the countryside, which is beautiful. And for those of you who are bold enough, take time to visit Monkey Temple, which is around 20 kilometers to the south!