Exploring The Temple City- Madurai

The famous ancient temples around the state, chronicle its demeanour of being the oldest civilization.

The use of travelling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.

– Samuel Johnson

The quaint inheritance of Madurai beckoned me to one of the ancient cities of India. The presence of classical buildings and national heritage sites has kept the city in the global limelight. The next destination of my journey to Tamil Nadu enamoured as if the pages of the history textbook are unfolding.

The glorious past of temples and other monuments depicts the rich cultural heritage of the region. Madurai city ensures the best travelling experience for its travellers and tourists to cherish for a lifetime. Food lovers can also enjoy the popular South Indian cuisines on the traditional banana leaves with the naive and delicious taste of recipes. 

Picture Courtesy: Google

An abrupt lurch woke me up! The certain bustling with people packing their luggage apprised me the last stoppage of the train is here. A trip to Blend of The French Colony ended with a grand celebration of a Christmas party. I left Pondicherry for Villupuram railway station by government bus which took two hours.

Picture Courtesy: Google

My train was scheduled to arrive by 12 am-midnight and reach Madurai by 5 am. The sky was dark and the pleasant weather of the city embarked outside Madurai railway station. I reserved an auto from the online app for the hostel which was pre-booked. A glance at one of the ancient cities of India took me back to the moment of that era with its meticulously designed architectures. 

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Short History of Madurai

Madurai has a long and interesting history depicted as the ancient city in old texts and the writings of Kautilya as well as by Megasthenes – the Greek ambassador in the Mauryan court. The city was a flourishing empire during the rules of the Nayakkar dynasty in the 17th century. The magnificent constructions of the era portray the heritage and culture- the national landmarks of global fame. In 1801, Madurai came under the direct administration of the British East India Company and evolved as a political and industrial network through the 20th century. 

Things To Do in Madurai

The city is relatively small which can be covered easily by local transport. However, there are some destinations on the outskirts, so it is advisable to hire a cab or auto. The oldest cities of India have always inspired me to perceive the cultural and historical aspects of our nation. I got my first chance in 2017 to visit Varanasi and now at Madurai in 2020. The age-old traditions and modernity co-exist peacefully in these cities. The ancient temples of Madurai reflect the Dravidian style of architecture is a hub for religious and cultural tourism. The shopping in Madurai is more exciting as there are some of the best local places for all the shopaholics out there!

Jain Cave- Samanar Malai

A quick power nap rejuvenated me for my long-day plan to explore Temple City- Madurai. I moved to a restaurant around 50 years old near my hostel and was fascinated by the way they served on a banana leave. A delicious breakfast in a traditional style is a part of my experience.

Next, I hired an auto for Samanar Malai at Keelakuyilkudi village which is about 12 km away. A breathtaking view of Samanar Hill is tucked away from the bustling city. It offers an exceptional sight of the blend of nature and history. A sensation of adventure dynamized me as there is a climb of around 300 steps involved to reach the top.

Samanar hill is closely associated with Jainism which flourished here during ancient times dating back to the 1st century AD. Several caves in these hills are found in 2000-year-old Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions as well as Vatteluttu writings and carvings. There are a lot of flat rocks and stone beds that could have been used by the Jain monks to take rest. 

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Gandhi Memorial Museum

Following the repository of information about Jainism and trekking to the top of the hill, I moved to my next spot. I asked my auto driver to drop me off at the Gandhi Memorial Museum as my last ride. I was looking to spend more time at the museum which offers a glimpse into the aspects of Mahatma Gandhi in Tamil Nadu.

The holy city of Madurai inspired him to propagate Indian clothes among other significant purposes. There are various sections in the museum each presenting a peek into the life of Mahatma Gandhi. The serene location of the museum also includes Gandhis’ Kutir which is constructed as a replica of the original hut in Sevagram. 

The historical building of Gandhi Memorial Museum used to be the palace of Rani Mangammal of the Nayakkarya dynasty. Among the other exhibits of the Museum is the blood-stained garment worn by Gandhiji when he was assassinated by Nathuram Godse. 

Timing: The museum opens in the morning from 10 am to 1 pm and in the evening from 2 pm to 5:45 pm. It remains closed on Friday. 

Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal

A giant leap from the life of Gandhiji it was time to move forth for my next stop. I booked a bike from the online app for the palace of a well-known king, Thirumalai of the Nayakkar dynasty. The famous Stucco artwork on its domes and impressive arches is a marvel of Indo-Saracenic architectural style. Among other attractive features are the massive white pillars that run along with the courtyard.

There is a small museum in the palace having a collection of ruins featuring Hindu gods and goddesses. The artwork on the stones dating back to the 1st century AD is spectacular to witness the heritage of India. The most amazing part of the palace is the light show which narrates the story of the great King, Thirumalai and the fortunes of the palace.

The palace was built in the 17th century, fabricated by King Tirumalai Nayaka as the grandest palace in South India. Unfortunately with lots of raids and finally stripped by his grandson to one-fourth of the propositions led to the present state. It was further restored in 1866 by Governor of Madras- Lord Napier, creating a masterpiece to survive as one of the best architectures. 

Timing: The palace opens its gate for tourists from 9 AM to 5 PM on all days of the week. The light show starts at 6:45 pm in English and 8:00 pm in Tamil. 

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Meenakshi Amman Temple

A new day in the city of Madurai began with divine energy to visit the oldest temple of India. I intended to spend an entire day to feel its intricacy of sanctity, history, and exquisite craftsmanship. The first thing that caught me was its colourful towers covered in ornate carvings. The colour, the details and the dominating demeanour make it a marvellous temple.

Picture Courtesy: Wikipedia

It was amusing to walk around the tiny lanes lined with shops to reach the Meenakshi Temple. There are four main gates to enter the complex, each facing the geometric directions. (You are not allowed to take any electronic gadgets inside the complex). The temple is blended by many shrines, 14 magnificent Gopurams, the Thousand Pillar Hall decorated with intricate carvings and sculptures. 

Picture Courtesy: Wikipedia

The Dravidian style temple, dating back more than 3500 years old is dedicated to Goddess Meenakshi, which affirms mention in the texts. The present structure is said to be built in the 14th century AD by Thirumalai Nayak. Deities and mythical creatures depicting different tales are carved in each Gopuram. 

Timing: The temple opens for visitors from 5 am – 12 pm and in the evening from 4 pm – 10 pm.  

Banana Market

With the feeling of the blessing of a delightful and divine Goddess, Meenakshi was time to move out and explore the market around. I headed towards Prithu Mandapam Market at the eastern gate of the temple to fill my bag with gifts for family members and friends. Soon I reached the city’s famed market that sells Banana of more than 16 varieties at wholesale! When I reached the market,

I spotted the workers unloading several plantains of banana bunched together inside shops. They displayed them in the same clustered form. I was pleased to taste a few bananas that were different from each other in taste, size and quality. It was a fascinating experience to observe the various activities of the marketplace right from loading to unloading of bananas.

St. Mary’s Cathedral Church

The city is relatively small which can be efficiently reached on foot. I stopped for lunch at the local restaurant to explore the cuisine of Madurai. I travelled towards another charm of the city, St. Mary’s Cathedral Church, which was built in the Roman-Gothic style. The facade of white and blue lining with two boasting 42 feet bell towers make it a fascinating architecture.

The intriguing interior of the church is counted amongst the most awe-striking attraction. The quaint ambience and pristine aura address the tranquillity of the church. The colourful shadows formed by the light of the sun penetrating the beautiful stained glass serves as an impressive artwork.

St. Mary’s Cathedral Church is one of the oldest shrines in Madurai which was built in the year 1840. It was built by Fr. Joseph Bertrand who was one of the four pioneers of the New Madurai Mission in 1841. Later, in 1912, a new church was planned in Gothic Style to make it more spacious. 

Timing: The church which requires almost an hour to explore the place opens for the visitor from 7 am to 7 pm. The best time to visit is during the festive season when it is majestically decorated. 

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Travel Guide to The Blend of French Colony

Pondicherry also known as Puducherry

The charming seaside town, Pondichery, is one of the Union Territories of India. Three main reasons made me unanimously select Pondicherry (Pudducherry) as my first stop. First, the serenity and harmony of the town with the blend of French Colonies-impressions, I was looking for a long time. It is a small town that you can reach the entire city within two days. But I extended it for my second purpose that was to celebrate Christmas at this town. One of my utmost desire for Pondicherry trip was to explore the old forts and hidden beaches. 

Auroville sea beach of Puducherry

The new journey hoisted me after a long train journey from Kolkata to Chennai. I left the hostel early morning for the CMBT Bus Terminus of Tamil Nadu. A remarkable bus terminus as grand as the airport with all facilities such as marked signboards, clean platforms and a long waiting lounge held me spellbound. It was easy to find a bus to Pondicherry, and I was on the way by 7 am. First time in my life, I discerned a bus with a bio-washroom facility. The roads are well maintained, it took only 3 hours to reach the destination. The journey was enduring with fresh sea-breeze, the lush green scenic view and stone monuments, will not disappoint you.  

A Short Tale of Pondicherry

travel Pondicherry by road

A Greco-Roman periplus depicts navigation and trading opportunities with other coasts and mentions of one marketplace named Poduke or Poduca. The ruin of Roman architecture which is a few kilometres from the city attests that it was an important trade point for spices since the 1st century A.D. The different southern dynasties had ruled the land, the sturdy rule of the great Empire Vijayanagara was the last Southern dynasty till 1638. In 1674 the second French Colony was established at Pondicherry after Surat. Eventually, this outpost became the chief French settlement in India. A treaty of cession united the bureaucracy of two countries to organize Pondicherry as a Union Territory of India in 1963.

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My Checklist of Things to Do in Pondicherry

Pomegranate beach Puducherry

I was missing mountains on this trip, feeling a moment of uncomfortable to stroll around the towns on plains. But the serene and calm places have always attracted me. These led me to the first halt of Exploring Cape Comorin- The Tamil Nadu was Pondicherry. I planned to explore the tourist spots around the outskirts of the town. The route to peaceful beaches and crumbling forts makes the planning an awesome-sauce trip. One of the other reasons to be in Pondicherry was to look for the places in my favourite movie Life of Pi. This movie has long back pulled me of its charms. Indeed it is a place to spend your vacation as the town appears further elegant at the nights of Christmas.

Alamparai Fort

Alamparai fort Puducherry

I checked in a hostel at a walkable distance from The White Town and the cheapest way to stay here for a long period. For the first day, I planned to rent a bike and cover a longer distance. A newly made friend, my roommate, was also interested to accompany me. It is always good to have a new companion, a fresh beginning of a journey.

hovering sea gulls

It took us around one hour with small halts along the way to reach the fort. A fisherman took us in his small raft to the other part of the beach. An ancient dockyard weaved with a historical fort and clean white beaches with seagulls hovering around made a gratifying experience for me about the place. 

Mughal era fort Pondicherry

It was constructed on the Coromandel coast in the 18th century during the Mughal era. It had served as dockyard since ancient times till the Mughal Era. The docks of Coromandel coast used to export spices, Zari clothes, salt and ghee. Later it was given to French, sooner in 1768 British captured it and turned into the ruins. It has witnessed war, earthquakes, tsunami and eternal sea-waves.

raft beside fort

Now, it is decaying, and slowly its bricks are dissolving in the mighty sea. On the beachfront fishermen park their boats and assist tourists in a boating experience around it. This abandoned Fort stands as a testimony to the emigrating nature of quarrelsome empires. 

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How to reach?

The Fort is almost 50kms from Pondicherry and well accessed by roads. You may hire a bike or a taxi to reach the destination. We followed GPS to reach the place which is well-marked on the map. 

Sunrise from Rock Beach

sunrise from rock beach Pondicherry

I rented a sports bicycle for the next two days as transport for the local tour. It is the cheapest way to travel in and around the town. The plan was to start early in the morning to explore the charming town and its hidden beaches. Next day, I woke up early before my scheduled alarm, as the certain charm of sunrise has always shoved me.

Pigeons at Pondicherry

I left an hour earlier from the hostel and was well ahead of schedule to stroll on other beaches. The darkness around the seaside street was gleaming with the street lamps. The people had already gathered around for morning walk and jogging with the flock of pigeons looking for their fodder.

Gandhi memorial at Puducherry

Slowly, I moved to Rock Beach with paying tributes to Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru memorials. The beach is around the famous White Town filled with bright mustard and white house, pebbled street and cafes. I placed myself perfectly for the sunrise, soon the wait was over of watching the sun rising from the horizon was a sensational moment. 

Blend of French Architectures- The White Town

French Colony in India

The famous attraction of Pondicherry is White Town has the gorgeous colonial villas having vibrant yellow walls with oil lamps and leafy streets. I enjoyed just walking around the cobbled lanes alongside the dynamic blue street signs beginning with Rue. Trying to remember the names of French streets was difficult. I ditched my GPS and started having fun to move along the lanes.

Tamil quarter of INTACH

A few French Quarters have been turned into heritage hotels, cafes and art galleries. A long walk made me hungry, so I stopped for my breakfast at the quirky cafe to savour a fresh Capuchino and Garlic Bread. It is a pretty special place that intertwined the thread of India with the past of French legacy. 

Pondy streets

The architectural character of the town with traditionally styled houses form the unique and distinctive streetscape. I stopped at one of the heritage building, a beautiful Tamil House restored as INTACH office in Pondicherry. The house has well documented with information about the restoration of the old world charm of the beautiful Tamil quarters and French colonies. 

Serenity Beach

Serenity beach Pondicherry

The chaste-shoreline of the beach plays hide and seek with the shimmering waves of the Bay of Bengal. I sprang on my cycle and set GPS for Serenity Beach with an endeavour to see for less crowded places. Along the way, I caught a glimpse of the town- antique shops decorated with vintage lines, beautiful rangolis around the grand temples and incredible Gothic styled churches beside beautiful lawns.

sea wave at Serenity beach

Soon I left behind the busy streets of the main town and entered the village dotted with coconut trees. The golden sand lapped with peaceful surrounding is the best compliment for the name ‘Serenity’.  The panoramic view of the beach- fishing boats lined up, fishermen sewing and preparing their nets for the catch of the day left me to spell bounded.

Surfing in India

The waves on the shore are also appreciated for its water sports activity like surfing. If you are looking for the surfing course, you may contact the trainer for special classes they arrange for tourists. The sturdier rock lanes constructed to some distance within the sea is the most relaxing place to spend an afternoon. 

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Auroville and The Matrimandir

Matrimandir at Auroville

A universal town where people from all countries can live a life in peace and harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. It was founded by a spiritual guru Mirra Alfassa in 1968 and designed by architect Roger Anger. The purpose of the ashram is to realize the unity of the human.

Universal town in India

I hired a bike for a day tour at experimental town Auroville Ashram and the mighty golden globe of Matrimandir. The town is located in Viluppuram district, mainly in the state of Tamil Nadu with some parts in Puducherry. It is around 15kms from the White Town that took me 30mins to reach the place. The road to Auroville is much quieter and perfect to ride on. 

Auroville ashram

The first stop of a day trip was The Tourist Information Centre with a small museum and an exhibition. It gives lots of information on Auroville and, in particular, the Matrimandir which is in the middle of the community. It is around a mile from the visitor centre with nice and shaded walk marked by lots of signs and plaques relating to the township.

Arikamedu- The Roman Trade Centre

Roman Trade centre in India

The ancient Roman archaeological site gives an unforgettable experience by taking you back to 2nd Century BC. According to archaeologists, the excavated site inhabited by Tamil fishing villagers was formerly the major port dedicated for trading with Romans by Chola dynasty.

Ruins of Arikamedu

I decided to take a ride of 8kms by cycle for the site that goes through a lane of typical South Indian village filled with charm. Along the way, I was grasped by the sight of the bright colour houses with beautifully depicted rangolis on the doorsteps, children playing hopscotch on the streets and granny combing the hair of younger members.

Arikamedu Pondicherry

Almost at the end of the village, a dirt road leads to the unique excavation site. It is most difficult to cycling on the sand though it was a short distance it took more time for me. I parked it outside the gate, and first, to the ruins, I heeded two entrance pillars which are almost disintegrating against the ravages of nature.

2nd century BC Roman ruin in India

Then I moved towards the five arched doorway house, something most interesting in the wall was the huge sizes of bricks used to build. The site is under the protection of ASI, I hope a few more developments will attract the possibilities of tourists.

Veerampattinam Beach

Veerampattinam Beach

I was back in the lanes of the village having over 1000 years of recorded history. It has the pretty lengthy sea beach surrounded by extensive Palm Groves adding sublimity to the scenic beauty. It took almost 20 minutes to ride from Arikamedu for the beautiful and clean beach. The fresh breeze of Bay of Bengal lofted me to relax on the sand and enjoy the view.

Fishermen at Veerampattinam Beach

It was busy with the activities of the fishermen fixing their boats, elderly and young people working together preparing fishing nets. I moved along the shore and noticed a few fishing boats were returning from their rough journey with treasures along.

Veerampattinam Beach Pondicherry

The waves hitting the shore was so calm and time flew so quickly that I found the sun was at horizon. I moved back for my bi-cycle to make the journey back to the hostel. The peaceful day on the beach along with enjoying the lifestyle of fishermen is the speculum to our incredible India.

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How to travel nearby Pondicherry?

Bi-cycle tour Pondicherry

Pondicherry town is well accessed by local transports and its connectivity to other destinations. I planned to rent a bike and bi-cycle for my standard budget tour. If you are looking to travel in leisure then you may rent a car or hire an easily available taxi. Tuk-tuks and a few small vans are also available in the town.

Exploring Cape Comorin- The Tamil Nadu


My undaunted journey as a solo traveller had guided me to a few distant places in India. The experience of theses places is adventurous as well as charming. The journey of 2020 would have been fragmentary without a visit to the parts of Southern India. The oldest civilization of India attracted me to explore its culture and be a part of its heritage. I made a few adjustments and an ad hoc plan for Tamil Nadu. I had pre-booked my accommodations to make sure there is no issue of stay and budget. Though there were some challenges of which I was concerned, but the local people made it easy. 

Why visit Tamil Nadu?

The beautiful Indian state fascinated me with its gorgeous beaches girdled with natural splendours. The hidden beaches are pristine as they are clean, embarrass infinite sea, have pretty sunsets, and solitude. The famous ancient temples around the state, chronicle its demeanour of being the oldest civilization. The rock-carved pillars of Mandapam establish the skill of the artists and their artworks which make these temples unbelievable. The state is rich in historical sites that imply it has no shortage of natural resources and wildlife. It is home to dense forestland and a protected mountain range lauded for its biodiversity. The landscape of palm and banana plantations with rice fields, forest-clad of wildlife-prowled from the Western Ghats is all packed into a state that distinct from the rest of India. 

My Journey to Explore Cape Comorin

The charm of the state is often overlooked compared to other South Indian states. I had no prior travel arrangements for the trip and so planned to use local transport to explore. The long journey of twenty-six hours from Kolkata gave a glimpse of the natural resources of the state. I booked a hostel in Chennai for a night stay, the best price to stay in cheap. After, a long wait, my taste buds ultimately found the authentic South Indian dish in dinner. Chennai indeed is a splendour city, but I had planned to leave for Pondicherry, the next day. I was back to the hostel, preparing myself for my upcoming journey with too many ifs and buts, then slept with too many circumspect. 


The next morning, suddenly I was feeling pumped-up and left early morning. My first destination was a small Union Territory almost 160kms from Chennai. Pondicherry got its independence from the French Government in 1959, the last colonial rule in India. You can still find it retains of French vivacity at the architectures around the city. The beautiful beaches, snuggling colourful constructions and a fusion of delicious French and Indian dishes make it a charming seaside town. The pleasant sunrise from its beaches with French cafes serving fresh coffee and snacks are the most remarkable moments of my life. Earlier in my semi-planned trip, I had determined to celebrate Christmas in this elegant town. The streets brightened up with colourful LED lights and the prayers at Churches to begin the celebration is illustrious. 


My next destination was one of the oldest city of India dating back to 3500 years. The city has been exalted in ancient manuscripts of Kautilya, Greek ambassador- Megasthenes and others. Madurai have faced invasions from ancient times, but the city has rebuilt itself again and again. The pleasant weather was a perfect day to start exploring the city famous for its temples. The temples meticulously designed with intricate decoration will surely draw gasps of awe. The buzzing marketplace of the city is also famous for its silk and bronze handicrafts. It is overwhelmed with a museum dedicated to our Father of Nation Mahatma Gandhi. The experience at Madurai had left an incredible mark on the quaint town different from other hustling and bustling cities. 


The next destination of the trip was the Southernmost tip of India. The small town, surrounded by three water bodies- Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean and Arabic sea has a spectacular view. The waves hitting the rocky beaches and eye-catching sunset on the horizon with moonrise on the other end mesmerizes. Kanyakumari is a picturesque landscape and small vendors peddling across the streets with a variety of sea-shell products will surely grab your attention. There are plenty of options to explore the local dishes that give choices for veggies and non-veggies both. One of the main attractions of Kanyakumari is the 133 feet high statue of Great Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar. My delightful memories have escapades that might help you to select a better destination for the trip. 

How to travel?

Image Source: Google

The destinations of Tamil Nadu are well-accessed by roads, railways and airports. The local transports make it easier and cheaper for budget travellers. Many cities and towns have the services of Ola, Uber and Rapido as alternatives. The railways operating in Southern India makes the journey even smoother. The cleanest coaches I ever witnessed with helpful staff at every railway stations and hardly running late gave me redemption.