India: Madurai, Tamil Nadu

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:


The palace is the perfect spot to visit if you’ve recently developed an obsession with ceiling mandalas and Mughal arches:





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:



And the banana street:

And on every corner, eggs or veggies for sale:


We parked and walked our way over to the most beautiful (and impressive!) temple I saw in South India: the Meenakshi Temple. En route I managed to see chalk mandalas on the ground:

And had to be prodded to look up at the awe-inspiring gopurram of the temple:

Inside the temple complex was a beautiful tree shrine, where women would leave offerings as a prayer to become pregnant:

In some of the complex buildings, people were worshiping or learning to worship:

Above them were stunning ceiling mandalas — painted with natural veggie dyes:


In the main buildings it was quite dark, and filled with people there to worship:


And my favourite floor mandala of the trip:

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:

These are all silks — you want them:

And after playing with fabric, we headed back to the hotel for fortification.

We had a delicious buffet lunch — and I managed to grab some guava salad (on the left):

Meenakshi told us it was traditional, and made with guavas, chilis, garlic, onions, and lime juice. YUM.

I also had a great paneer, in a sweet-savoury and creamy sauce (probably Paneer Makhani):

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.

We parked in the rice distribution warehouse area:


And then wandered over to the flower market, where we found many men sitting with their bags of freshly picked flowers:



Many flowers were sold as is, but there were also vendors stringing garlands you could buy:

We also saw what happened to the flowers at the end of the day — they made the most gorgeous garbage pile you’ve ever seen:

My sweetie thought I needed to act out a bit of “when in Rome” and treated me to some Jasmine for my hair. I simply couldn’t stop sniffing it!

And I also found the lone yarn shop in town (hey my Rominette friends, this one’s for you):

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!

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Categories: Travel


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2 Comments on “India: Madurai, Tamil Nadu”

  1. Bonnie Duchscherer
    April 30, 2012 at 9:18 pm #

    I hope this travel goes on for some time, the pictures and descriptions are so great for us armchair travelers, what an incrediable experience you are having, thanks for sharing.
    Cheers and be safe, Bonnie

    • April 30, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

      Hey Bonnie!! You’ll get another half dozen (or so) India blog posts 🙂 lots more adventures to share!!

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