A lovely half-day trip from Madurai is to visit the Hindu temple at Tirupparakunram. It is located 8kms southwest of Madurai against a huge, sheer sided hill. The temple is revered as one of Shiva’s six abodes. The temple is very old and atmospheric and is built around an 8th century shrine cut into the rock 35 metres up the rock face. We engaged a very old but cute guide to explain all the areas of the temple to us. Be firm about your agreed price as our guide wanted to haggle after our delightful tour.
After visiting the temple you can drive just down the road and take the steep staircase to the temple on the top of the hill. It is a sweaty climb but the view is spectacular and well worth it. At the top you can get a blessing from the temple priest and watch the monkeys frolic and play.
If you are travelling to South India make sure that magical Madurai is on your itinerary. Madurai is one of the oldest cities in India and is full of wonderful sights. My “must sees” in Madurai are:
Sri Meenakshi-Sundareshwara Temple…This temple is well worth the visit with its massive gopuras and statues. It is one of the largest temple complexes in all India. Be prepared for a queue to get in as it is a very popular destination for Indian tourists. Every day anywhere between 15,000-20,000 people pass through its front gates. It is open daily from 5am-12.30pm and between 4-8.30pm.
Thirumalai Nayak Palace…Only one-quarter of this palace still survives. It has two eighteen metre high rows of columns on either side of the palace which are amazing to walk through. An old museum and many stone statues are housed in an adjoining hall and garden. I really recommend the wonderful light show (in English at 6.45pm nightly). This show depicts the Tamil saga of the “Heavenly Pavillion” and was very entertaining.
Gandhi Memorial Museum…This is a well organised museum which depicts India’s history and the life of Mahatma Gandhi. When travelling to the museum you cross over a large bridge. On your return ask the driver to take you on the lower road under the bridge ~ this will give you a great view of Madurai’s washing being done on the banks of the Vaigai river. Vast lines sway with coloured clothing as far as the eye can see.
Puthu Mandapam…This pillared hall can be found at the eastern side of the Sri Meenakshmi Temple. Here you can buy fabrics and waiting tailors will whip you up an outfit within the hour. I got a lovely white shirt made for 200 rupees.
We stayed at the Park Plaza Hotel located at 114-115 West Perumal Maistry Street, Madurai. It is a mid range Indian hotel that is very clean and well located just a short auto-rickshaw ride from the temple area. The great thing about this hotel is that the rate includes breakfast and dinner. We loved eating here as the food was tasty and the menu extensive.