Famous for the awe-inspiring Sri Meenakshi Temple complex, Madurai is an animated city packed with pilgrims, beggars, business-people, bullock carts and underemployed rickshaw drivers. It’s one of South India’s oldest cities and has been a centre of learning and pilgrimage for centuries. A textile centre from way back, the city was also the setting for Mahatma Gandhi’s decision, in 1921, to wear nothing but khadi (homespun cloth), and tailors’ shops are everywhere in town.
Madurai’s landmark temple in the heart of the old town is a riotously baroque example of Dravidian architecture with gopurams covered from top to bottom in a breathtaking profusion of multicoloured images of gods, goddesses, animals and mythical figures. The temple seethes with activity from dawn to dusk, its many shrines attracting pilgrims and tourists from all over the world; 10, 000 visitors may come here on any one day.
Madurai is on virtually every traveller’s Tamil Nadu itinerary – it has excellent transport links and some good midrange accommodation – but be prepared for oppressive touts.
Madurai destination guides
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