Highlights of Madurai

Madurai, about 3 hours by train south of Trichy, has 2 main sights: the big Sri Meenakshi Temple, and the Gandhi Memorial Museum. And lots of tailor shops.

The Sri Meenakshi Temple (Rs50/$1.25, + Rs50/$1.25 for camera) was built in 1506 in Dravidian architecture. The outer wall surrounds a 6ha/15acre compound. There are 12 gopurams ranging in height from 45-50m. The large pillared temple contains many gold-topped sanctums (off-limits to non-Hindus). There is also an art museum in the 1000 Pillared Hall (which probably really does have a thousand pillars!) which I rushed through.
I was getting a little templed out so overall I wasn’t wowed by this one, despite the rave reviews in my guidebook.

the closeup isn’t from the same gopuram pictured on the left…

The Gandhi Memorial Museum (free, + Rs50/$1.25 for camera) had 2 distinct sections: the first one describes the 2-century fight for independence against the British, which I had just read in my guidebook the day before, so it was a little repetitive (albeit with photos and maps) but still interesting. The second one describes the life of Gandhi, in way too much detail (well, too much detail for me). The exhibit includes the blood-stained loincloth that Gandhi wore when he was assassinated by a Hindu zealot on 1948/01/30 (I recall they had a remembrance on that anniversary when I was in Pondy, which has a huge Gandhi statue by the shore). Anyways, the reason the loincloth is in Madurai is that Gandhi had decided in Madurai years earlier to only wear a loincloth (of the style common in Madurai).

Another noteworthy item is the large number of tailor shops in Madurai. I had 2 cotton short-sleeved shirts made for me (one orange, one blue) for Rs600/$15 for the pair of them (probably “overpaid” but they work, though they won’t last forever :-)

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