History blends with mythology at Madurai. This South Indian temple town conjures up images of the stuccowork-rich gopurams (nulltowers) of the Meenakshi Temple. Witness a burst of Dravidian-style temple architecture, and a dense display of sculptural work depicting mythological Hindu gods, goddesses and demons. With the Meenakshi Temple at its heart, the entire town unfolds like a fully-bloomed lotus, concentrically outward from the centre. This ancient town strikes you by the grandness of its temples, their architectural and sculptural detailing, and the sense of space and scale. Popular legend has it that Madurai is the actual site of Lord Shiva and Meenakshiâs wedding, and the labyrinthine temple celebrates the love of goddess Meenakshi and her groom Sundereshwar.>
The temple town of Madurai has been a popular textile centre since ancient times. Shops bursting with colorful silks, cottons and batiks spill onto the eastern entrance of so much as the Meenakshi Temple. Shopping in Madurai involves a fair bit of walking amid the colorful chaos of its marketplace. At Puthu Mandapam Market, you can choose from an array of cottons and batiks, the place also has a row of tailoring shops that can reproduce your dress with cottons and printed fabrics in a few hours. A must-buy when in Madurai is the silk named after the city. The collection of Madurai silk and handloom sarees at Hajeemoosa Textiles is very impressive. This fine silk comes in myriad colors, but has a distinct pattern.
Cottage Arts Emporium, Poompuhar Handicraft Shop and Madurai Gallery are some places to find one-off hand-woven silks and cottons, besides bell-metal lamps, bronze figurines, and wood and stone carvings. Browse the market for the ethnically crafted silver and gold jewelry â some of these government emporiums offer a rather impressive collection. Or you can even head to South Avani Moola Street which is predominantly a jewelry market. Grocery is available on East Maasi Street, and electronics at Town Hall Road.
Madurai is not quite the place for brands, shopping here is about fine pieces of textiles, brass-works, Tanjore paintings, Sungidi handloom sarees, wooden handicraft and an array of antiques. To get a feel of the local market culture of Madurai, stroll to Pundumandapam â an old mall, as much as 500-years-old, speckled with tailor shops, quaint stores selling books, handicraft and bronze sculptures. You can even try the cooperative stores (nulloften a union of weavers and/or looms) such as Co-optex for dainty handloom cotton sarees.
ATMs of most nationalized and private banks can be found in the city. You can use your credit card at the emporiums and other big stores, but at the street-side market you would need cash at your disposal. Major banks accept foreign exchange â you can walk into any branch to enquire. Though you will find money exchangers in mid and high range hotels. Commercial money changers are available in the area around the Madurai railway station.
Restaurant - Madurai is not really the place for European or Oriental cuisine, sticking to regional delicacies here is a safer bet. The food here is flavored with a host of spices and condiments, though coconut and tamarind are added to almost all vegetarian recipes. Not to mention, most dishes are rustled up using coconut oil or coconut milk. Coconut chutney, sambar (nullseasoned lentil broth), rasam (nulla hot broth made of tamarind juice and pepper) and mixed spices are served with every meal to enhance the taste. A typical Tamilian meal comprises steamed rice, lentils, grains and vegetables. And if you are non-vegetarian, there is a great variety of Chettinad delicacies to choose from. Chettinad pepper chicken is an all-time favorite of the locals. You can even try out the Tamil style
of Mughlai cuisine, especially the biryanis and paya (nulla type of spiced broth generally eaten with paranthas or appam).
Typical South Indian breakfast is readily served and to perfection at most local restaurants. Popular breakfast options include idli (nullsteamed rice cakes), dosa (nulla pancake made from a batter of rice) and lentils crisp fried on a pan, vada (nulldeep fried doughnuts made from a batter of lentils), pongal (nulla mash of rice and lentils boiled together and seasoned with ghee, cashew nuts, pepper and cumin seed), yogurt and uppma (nullcooked semolina seasoned in oil with mustard, pepper, cumin seed and dry lentils). Any Tamil meal is incomplete without crisp papadam or appam!
You could try out some of these restaurants: Modern Restaurant, Murugan Idli Shop, Arya Bhavan, Ruby Restaurant, Temple View Rooftop Restaurant, Meenakshi Bhavan, Saradha Mess, Muniyandi Vilas, and of course the in-site restaurants at such 5-star properties as Taj Garden Retreat. Besides, there are a host of coffee shops doing a smattering of snacks.
Typical of peninsular India, the climate of Madhurai is tropical: hot and humid for much of the year. Though, frequent showers provide welcome relief. Surrounded by several mountains, the border of Madhurai city is marked by three distinct mountains: Yanaimalai, Nagamalai, and Pasumalai, named after their resemblance to the elephant, snake, and cow respectively. Located at 9°56'N 78°07'E / 9.93°N 78.12°E / 9.93; 78.12, the average elevation of Madhurai is 101 meters (null feet) above mean sea level.
Summer in Madhurai is short but fierce. May and June are the peak summer months, when the temperature ranges from 26.3°C to over 40°C. At this time the sun can seem scorching. Winter too is short but mild. Starting from December till end of February or early March, the weather is pleasant and the temperature ranges from 18°C to 30°C. July to October are the monsoon months, though light showers are common through the year in Madhurai, July to October are the monsoon months.
Synonymous with the rich cultural and architectural heritage of South India, Sree Meenakshi Temple beckons a traveler to delve deeper into the colorful Hindu mythology. This colossal temple complex forms the lifeline of Madurai city, and gives vent to every human emotion by way of sculptures that make it larger than life. Popular legend has it that Madurai is the actual site of Lord Shiva and Meenakshiâs wedding, and the labyrinthine temple celebrates the love of goddess Meenakshi and her groom Sundereshwar (nullmeaning good looking god or Lord Shiva). With the temple in the center, the ancient city of Madurai fans out like a fully-bloomed lotus.
Surface - Madurai is situated on National Highways NH-7, NH-45B, NH-49, and a drive from Chennai and Bangalore will take approximately 8 to 10 hours. The city has a decent network of state government operated and private buses to all major cities in Tamil Nadu. The buses also ply from important cities in the neighboring states of Kerala (nullErnakulam, Trivandram) and Karnataka (nullBangalore, Mysore). Most interstate and overnight buses in Madurai terminate at Mattuthavani Bus stand. Private buses can be found closer to the city center near Periyar bus stand. Ticketing and reservation facilities are available at these bus stands.
Rail- Madurai railway station is centrally located and well-connected by trains to Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi. A train ride from Chennai
takes about 8 to 10 hours, and is a preferred railhead. You can book your train tickets from Indian Railwaysâ reservation centres or online from IRCTC.
Air - Madurai has a domestic airport served by several domestic airlines including Jet Airways,
Indian Airlines, Kingfisher Red and Paramount Airways. The flights connect mainly to Chennai.
The airport is about 15 kilometers (null.3 miles) from the city off National Highway 47. It is ideal to hire a pre-paid taxi from the counter in the arrival lounge of the airport, unless you have someone to meet you at the airport.
Sea - Madurai is situated inland, and is dissected by River Vaigai. However, the nearest ports of entry are Chennai (null kilometers/281 miles) and Tuticorin (null kilometers/100 miles). .
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