Ah, Madurai – my favourite city in Tamil Nadu! Madurai was also the halfway point in our tour of South India, and our last stop in Tamil Nadu before we moved into the state of Kerala.
We started our day at the glorious Palace of Thirumalai Nayak, with our elegant guide, Meenakshi:
They keep bees in some of the arches:
One of the largest rooms has now been established as a sculpture gallery, showing beautiful stone carvings and bronzes from across India’s history. I think I looked at the arches more than the sculptures:
Back out and into the bustling city! On our drive through town, we were taken through the market streets, where several of the streets are set up as vegetable shops. For example, the street that’s nothing but onion vendors:
Above them were stunning ceiling mandalas — painted with natural veggie dyes:
After the fantastic temple visit, our guide Meenakshi took us to a local tailor – where we had outfits made out of the local wash-and-wear cotton-silk blend that they weave in the workroom behind the shop:
And after playing with fabric, we headed back to the hotel for fortification.
My only complaint about Madurai would be the booze at our hotel. We were served a glass of domestic red wine that was actually transparent (note to travelers, try the Golconda at your own risk – shudder).
We thought we’d make up for the wine with a Kingfisher — because really, how can you go wrong with bottled domestic beer that you know and love? When the waiter served the beer, he added such a proud flourish that the bottle (not the glasses) ended up becoming filled with head. I didn’t even know this was possible!
How can you complain about booze though, when you’re in a city that smells so good? Meenakshi told us that Madurai was known as the “honey city” because it smelled of jasmine. I had never smelled fresh jasmine before, and Madurai is known for it. Women wear fresh jasmine in their hair for beauty and perfume. I even saw gorgeous jasmine braids on the backs of lovely sari-clad ladies on motorcycles during the rush hour commute! Our driver saw how captivated I was by the smell, and took us to the flower market.
Ah Madurai. I wish we could have spent longer there exploring. I would have loved to spend even more time at the Meenakshi temple, and to spend more time prowling through the city. If I manage to make it back to South India, I will definitely make sure there’s ample time for Madurai!