After our very short flight from Bangalore, we arrived in Madurai. We decided on visiting Madurai. Firstly as it seemed a natural route on travelling north to Pondicherry, also after watching a travel program on British tv hosted by Joanne Lumley, who was tracing her Indian roots, and visited the Meenakshi Amman Temple. So it wetted our appetite to see for ourselves.
Madurai is the third largest city in Tamil Nadu and is just like any other busy Indian city, but the one thing that makes the town worthy of a visit is the the magnificent Meenakshi Amman Temple. Meenaksi Temple receives around 6000 devotees a day, and during the annual 10-day Meenakshi Tirukalyanam festival, the temple can attract over a million pilgrims and visitors from all over India. The temple has four very large Gopuram’s or towers. North, South, East and West, and are around 50 metres tall, 170 feet, and covers an area of some 45 acres. It dominates the Madurai skyline. We could see it quite clearly, and our hotel was some three to four kilometres away. We had four nights in Madurai, we just took things at a leisurely pace. You don’t have to stay this long if time is tight, but I would recommend two full days.
Visiting the Temple
The Temple is open from 05:00 to 12:30, then reopens again at 15:30 to 22:00. Entry is free, (except for the museum which is 50 INR ) but worth the entrance fee. You are free to explore everywhere, except inner prayer section, where non Hindu’s are not allowed. I would recommend visiting in the morning thus avoiding the afternoon heat.
Must see sights.
Putu Mandapam Market. Fruit & vegetable and the banana markets
The Putu Mandapam Market is housed in the confines of the temple,”underneath it in fact”. It’s mainly a wholesale market. Consisting of four long aisles, each aisle having it’s own specialty. One for cook ware, one for fabrics, one for beads costume jewellery ribbons and braid, and finally one for ornate pots, water containers and various elaborate Hindu effigies. Wandering through the market I couldn’t help admiring how the Indian people are so industrious. Each little stall was a small and very productive cottage industry. The fruit and vegetable market and the banana market are just a maze of colour, so many different types that I have no clue as to what they are. It’s a photographers dream.
The building that houses the Gandhi Memorial Museum, is the historic Tamukkam Palace belonging to Rani Mangammal of Nayak Dynasty built about 1670 A.D. It was in 1955 the palace with about 13 acres of land was gifted by the Tamil Nadu State Government to the All India Gandhi Smarak Nidhi for the purpose of housing Gandhi Memorial Museum. Entrance to the museum is free, and from an Englishman’s point of view it’s a must visit. As you walk around there are panels detailing Gandhi’s life from the early days with lots of photos and quotes from various politicians. Taking you through Gandhi’s epic struggle to gain Indian its independence. Now being an Englishman I am not one who subscribes to the whole British Empire, Britannia Rules the waves, etc etc, and after reading his struggle and what the British did to India and how they left it, I did come away feeling rather ashamed. I know some will say that the British did a lot of good, and I’m sure we did in some respects. There are also probably many Indians, I’m sure, who were glad of the British occupation, but I’m also sure there were plenty that weren’t. Whatever you point of view is it’s always “in my view” good to look at it from another countries perspective, and the Gandhi Museum certainly does that.