India, with its traditional and diversified culture, stands unique in the south of Asia and attracts many visitors from abroad. Nearly 19 languages are spoken in India. Though Hinduism is the main religion, others like Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Christianity, Islam and Judaism are also practiced. India has the second largest population in the world, which recently crossed the 1 billion mark. There are numerous places of interest in India. India saturates the senses, from the tropical backwaters to the towering Himalayan peaks.
Tamil Nadu, situated in Southern India is the home of Dravidian art and culture, characterized by the amazingly ornate temples with their soaring towers known as gopurams. Chennai, (Madras) The Gateway to the South, is the state capital.
Madurai, probably over 2, 500 years old, is the oldest city in Tamil Nadu. Its origin and name emerge from the myths of a lovely legend.
In a forest near a lotus pond, Indra, King of Gods, worshipped Lord Siva as a Swayambu Lingam. At this hallowed spot the Pandiyan monarch, Kulasekhra, built a great temple and by clearing the forest, created a lotus-shaped city around the temple. The city was henceforth known as Madhurapuri. Madhurapuri grew and prospered to become the capital of the Pandiyan Kingdom. It is referred to in the Ramayana and in Kautila Arthasashtra.
Madurai lies on the banks of the river Vaigai. The temple and the old city are on the southern bank, while modern Madurai with its textile mills; engineering and large university sprawl around.
- BY AIR: Chennai, is the closest international airport to Madurai, and even if your port of entry is not Chennai, we advise you to get to Madurai through Chennai. There are three airlines flying between Madurai (IXM), and Chennai (MAA). These are Air India, Jet Airways, and Spicejet Airways
- BY RAIL: Madurai is an important railway junction of the Southern Railway and is directly connected to Chennai, Coimbatore and Tirunelveli. It is advisable to make a reservation on these trains, at least a week in advance. Be aware that Chennai has two railroad junctions trains to Madurai depart from the Egmore Station.
- If you need a place to rest while waiting for your train, or even overnight, the Hotel Regent close to reasonably Egmore Station has rooms for only 350 INR rupees, and is safe and clean. Bring your own towel, soap and bathroom tissue.
- There are signs at the railway junction telling you which platform to wait on for your train, and where to stand so you will be close to the car your ticket is booked for. If in doubt, ask one of the attendants.
- Railway seats can be booked in advance or cancelled over the internet.
- For Air & Train travel in India visit http://www.cleartrip.com
Please see this web page to see the current train timings:www.srailway.com. Aadditional assistance can be provided by your contact person at Aravind.
- BY ROAD: You may also decide to take the road from Chennai to Madurai. You could take an overnight bus or rent a taxi and ride down.
- You can get to Aravind from the airport, train station, or bus terminal either by Taxi or Auto rickshaw just ask for Aravind Eye Hospital.
- Typical autorickshaw fare from the train station will be around 80-90 rupees.
- Typical taxi fare from the airport will be between 450 and 500 rupees. Prepaid taxi service is available at Madurai Airport.
- Transportation will not be provided by Aravind unless specified earlier.
Commuting in Madurai
To travel within Madurai Public busses, rickshaw and taxis are available. Taxi’s and Rickshaw can be ordered through OLA mobile application also.
Indian food is generally spicy. However, Continental and Chinese food are also available. Make it a point to specify if you would like your meal to be made less spicy. A wide variety of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods are available at most hotels.
Restaurants near the Aravind complex, Madurai
- Star Residency hotel, with rooftop restaurant near LAICO.
- Amaravathi Hotel, within walking distance of the hospital, is a multi-cuisine restaurant.
- Meenakshi Bhavan near the Anna bus stand (a few blocks from LAICO) offers a wide range of traditional South Indian vegetarian food
- Hotel Annapoorna near LAICO serves good non-vegetarian and vegetarian dishes.
- Fortune Pandyan Orchid restaurant offers a delicious spread at its lunch and dinner buffets. It also has a pastry shop during the day.
- Hotel Sangam: Besides its multi-cuisine restaurant, it has opened up Athangudi which serves authentic South Indian dishes.
- Hot Breads near the KK Nagar Arch, offers baked foods, soups and a variety of more western style foods.
- Caf Coffee Day: Located opposite the Golcha Complex on 80 ft. road, in Anna Nagar Coffee day serves fresh cappuccino and snacks and is open until 11 pm.
- Cafe Floats and Blaack Forest near Big Cinema (KK Nagar) offer fresh and delicious pastries, drinks and sandwiches.
- Metropole, near the court, is a roof-top restaurant that offers multi-cuisine fine dining.
- Hotel Anjappar, near court and Mattathavani bus stand, serves good non vegetarian delicacies
- Thalapakattu, near court serves signature Thalapakattu biryani and good non vegetarian delicacies. It also serves good vegetarian food.
- The Dominos PIZZA is located opposite to the wackboard College Main Gate on ground floor, in KK Nagar. Where you get delicious pastas, varieties of Pizzas and soft drinks.
- Marry Brown :It is a part of the MGM Group of companies, is a restaurant chain equally popular for its food and entertainment. With ever-enticing new dishes on the menu, a hygienic kitchen and exemplary service, the restaurant is located in Majestic Cinema Hall, Lake View Road, K K Nagar, Madurai. It offers short eats, wholesome meals, both vegetarian and non - vegetarian and delicious desserts.
- Hotel SPK, is a roof top restaurant with a lake view and serves good vegetarian and non vegetarian food. The breeze at the roof top and view of Vandiyur lake makes the experience all the more special.
- Phill’s Bistro near Vadiyurpark, KK nagar serves Italian cousins.
- Nawaab, on Lake view road near Vandiyur known for its Biryani serves good non-vegeterian and vegetarian multi cousin food.
- Andhra Curry : This restaurant is famous for Andhra delicacies. The food is tasty. Only 15 minutes walk from the Inspiration Hostel.
Restaurants in Downtown Madurai
- The Supreme Hotel, near the railway station, has a roof-top vegetarian restaurant that provides a good view of the temple.
- The Park Plaza Hotel, near the railway station, also has a roof-top restaurant, and offers a non-vegetarian menu as well.
- Hotel Anna Meekashi, near College House, is a vegetarian multi-cuisine restaurant.
- Bell Hotel, an out-door multi-cuisine non-vegetarian eatery is located on Tamil Sangam road near Simmakal and offers excellent food at low price.
- The Taj Garden Retreat, atop a hillock, offers a 5-star eating experience with a spectacular view of the entire Madurai city at night.
- There is a small mosque about a five-minute walk from LAICO. Larger mosques are found near the Goripalayam junction and one in K.K Nagar, in the presence of Wakf Board College.
- Madurai has many churches. At the beautiful and historic St. Marys Cathedral masses are held every Sunday, although in Tamil. Sunday services in English are also held at the quaint American College chapel. Regular 7:30 am and 6:00 pm communion mass can be attended at the pretty church of Divine Patience in the Railway Colony, also in English. There are various other churches, such as the large Lutheran Church near the railway station and the Pentecostal church at KK Nagar.
- In the temple city of Madurai, you ll find a temple on virtually every street. They vary greatly in size and architecture and house different deities. You will be asked to remove your shoes and socks before entering a temple. A storage place is usually available nearby when you get your shoes back, a two-rupee tip is generally appreciated. Cameras may not be permitted inside some temples, and at others you need to purchase a camera pass. If in doubt, ask. The following list will give you an idea of a few of the major temples (See the section on Sightseeing for additional descriptions.):
- Meenakshi Amman Temple
- Alagar Koil is located 20 km from Madurai at the foothills of Alagar Malai.
- Surya Nagar a fascinating temple found about 7km south of Madurai, located on Alagar Koil Road, about 1/3 of the way to Alagar Koil.
- Thirumohur Temple about 10 km north of Madurai.
- Thirupparankundram, 6 km southwest of Madurai,
- Buddhist Prayer Hall.
- Pandian Temple, located about 5km east of Madurai.
- There is a Buddhist prayer hall within the Gandhi Museum campus.
- Meditation rooms at all the Aravind Buildings are always open. There is one on the first floor of the paying section of the hospital and one on the ground floor at LAICO.
- Nithyatha is a retreat center that celebrates the life and work of Dr.G.Venkataswamy situated at Aurofarm.It is an ideal place for contemplative practice as well as collective strategic planning and organisational retreat. The brilliant floor plan of this building incorporated the Mother symbol through a stunning combination of building, landscaped garden and ponds.The entrance of the building lines up with a beautiful banyan tree Dr. V himself planted.
- The Tamil film industry is one of the largest in the world. Most Tamil films are musicals and are two-and-a-half hours long. Film-going is very popular in Tamil Nadu and a number of theatres are located near the Aravind campus.
- Most of the theatres are air-conditioned. Ask for balcony class for the most comfortable seats.
- With the entry of INOX multiplex in Madurai, most of the English and Hindi movies are also showcased. Tickets for most of the film theatres can also be booked online (through www.bookmyshow.com).
- Hotel Sangam, on Alagar Koil Road has a small swimming pool with sun beds.
- The Taj Garden Retreat Hotel is located on a hillock just out of town providing a spectacular view over the whole of Madurai in a very peaceful setting. The hotel has a swimming pool, available at a nominal charge for the day and includes towels, changing facilities and showers.
- The Fortune Pandyan has a swimming pool, though quite small.
- The Madurai Corporation maintains a swimming pool near the Gandhi Museum. Tickets can be purchased at the entrance.
- Aurofarm Swimming Pool: Aravind’s own swimming pool is located at Aurofarm which is 6 kms from Aravind Eye Hospital. This clean, and attractive pool is built with all the modern amenities and contains a special shallow section exclusively for the kids. To avail the facility one can contact HR department.
- For early risers there are Yoga classes held at 6:00 am each morning at the Swami Sivananda Yoga Centre located in K.K. Nagar just 3 km’s from Aravind. Classes are held from Monday through Saturday, for an hour and a half. Classes are also from 6.30pm to 8pm.
Shopping in Madurai is a whole new experience. The streets around the Meenakshi Amman temple are jammed with shops. Madurai markets, many of which are located on narrow streets, can be overwhelmingly noisy and crowded. Small shops selling the same wares are often grouped together in the same area. You will need to bargain in most smaller shops where there isnt a fixed price. Books and cotton clothes are cheap. Madurai is also a good place for local crafts.
Clothes Shopping in Madurai
- Pothys located in West Masi Street is your ultimate destination for silks and silk sarees, perfect for weddings & other festive occasions. We give you the assurance of the finest silks, authentic designs, genuine customer service and a luxurious shopping experience. Pothys offers you our own exclusive brands of pure silk sarees, artistically designed & hand crafted at our looms. The collections are displayed in different sections within the complex where you can have wide choice for ladies outfits, kids and Mens ware.
- If you are looking for traditional Indian wear, the best-known outfit for women is the Sari. Churidars or Salwar Kameez are also elegant and comfortable to wear. Most Indian girls and younger women prefer wearing them.
- Hajeemoosa is a trusted name for clothes. Besides mens wear they also have an excellent collection of silk saris.
- Miliineum mall is located in KK Nagar where there are different varieties of shops from Clothing, footwear, jewellery, food court and departmental stores. The mall will be open from Morning 10am to 10pm. You can also go by walk or can hire an Auto and ask for Millennium mall.
- Naidu Hall is located in 80 Feet Road, KK Nagar the famous outlet of all kinds of Ready made materials.The most appropriate landmark is below the mega mart. You can get varieties and latest designer outlets .
- Next to the famous Meenakshi Temple is a bustling business centre that is housed in a quaint, ancient stone-pillared hall -the Puthu Mandapam: This is a delight for most visitors. You can select from an assortment of silk and cotton material and have one of a dozen tailors to make your outfit. Both the material and the tailoring are inexpensive here.
Handicrafts Shopping in Madurai
- Palma Corner, near the TTS Building at Arasaradi is a small shop that sells handicrafts produced by the locals. The rates are cheap and the proceeds go to supporting the local artisans.
- The Kadhi Bhavan located on the Town Hall Road is an authorized sales depot for handicrafts as well as Kadhi clothes. If you are purchasing antiques or crafts from the boutiques around the temple, be sure to bargain hard!
General Shopping in Madurai
You can purchase most things, from stationery to clothes, along the 80 ft Road in Anna Nagar.
The new Milanem Mall on the KK Nagar Main Road has a good supermarket (Nilgiri’s). It also has a good food court
Reliance Fresh which is National chain of super markets has two shops near Aravind one in Anna Nagar and one in KK Nagar.
Fresh vegetables and fruits can also be bought from Farmers Market located near 80 feet road.
Festivals Unique to Madurai
- The Float Festival in Madurai in January is a grand spectacle in which the deity is taken around the large Mariamman Teppakulam temple tank on an elaborately decorated float.
- Chithrai Festival in April is Madurais most colorful carnival. It is about a fortnight-long celebration of the coronation and the marriage of the local deity, Goddess Meenakshi in the first month of the Tamil Calendar, Chithirai. This is a wonderful time to visit the Meenakshi Amman Temple, but the streets will be extremely crowded.
Within the city of Madurai, common places of interest include the Meenakshi Amman Temple, Gandhi Museum, etc. While these can be visited during the day, tours to other places can be arranged. Local travel agents can organize short trips over the weekends. Besides these, look out for periodic special events and festivals, which are announced by the Tamil Nadu Tourist Office or local newspapers (Metro Plus section of The Hindu), for example Jallikattu at Alanganallur, Pongal in the villages and classical dance or music concerts.
Meenakshi Amman Temple
The main attraction of Madurai is the Meenakshi Amman Temple, which is situated in the heart of the old town. It is a fine example of Dravidian architecture with gopurams covered from top to bottom with a breathless profusion of multi-coloured images of gods, goddesses, animals and mythical figures. It houses the large central Tank of the Golden Lotus. Its large towers and sunning architecture is not to be missed. It is the heart of the Old Madurai city. The city is said to be ruled by Lord Shiva and his consort Goddess Meenakshi, who are the main deities. If you bring a camera, you will need to purchase a camera pass. Some parts of the temple are for Hindus only if in doubt, ask first. It is just a 15 minute autorickshaw ride travel from Aravind.
Tirumalai Nayak Mahal
About 1.5 km from the Meenakshi Amman Temple is this palace that was built in 1636, by King Thirumalai Nayak with the help of an Italian Architect.
It is open from 9 am to 5 pm. There an entertaining sound-light show in English everyday at 6.30 pm, narrating Madurai history and the temple carvings.
It was in Madurai in the year 1921, that Gandhiji adopted for the first time, the loin cloth as his mode of dress, which made him known throughout the world as The Naked Fakir. It was in Madurai again that the doors of the great Meenakshi Amman Temple were thrown open to Harijans, thus winning a historic battle against Untouchability. Gandhiji visited the Temple in the year 1946 along with Harijans as a triumph for the cause of Harijan Temple entry.
Located at just a 10 minute walk from the Aravind Eye Hospital the Gandhi Museum is housed in the old palace of Rani Mangammal. This museum is worth seeing and gives a clear history of the independence of India. Some of the utensils used by the Mahatma are also kept on display.
Mariamman Teppakulam Tank
This tank is located 5 km east of the old city and covers an area almost equal to that of the Meenakshi temple. It is the biggest tank of its kind in Tamil Nadu and one of the most imposing sights of Madurai when it is full of water. This enormous temple tank was fed by water brought from the Vagai River through an ingenious system of underground channels.
This is the site of the popular Teppam festival. In commemoration of the birth of the king, the colourful Float Festival is held in this tank, in the Tamil month of Thai (January-February).
Located 6 kms southwest of Madurai, this is a small town known for its sacred granite hill. Also regarded as one of the six abodes of Lord Subramaniya, this is a rock-cut temple . Here, Lord Subramaniya was wedded to Devayanai, daughter of Indra, after annihilating the demon, Surapadman. There is a long walk to the top, but the view is spectacular once you get there!
It is a fascinating temple found about 7km south of Madurai, located on Alagar Koil Road, about 1/3 of the way to Alagar Koil.
is a quiet and serene temple with a lotus pond about 10 km north of Madurai. The main deity is Lord Vishnu.
This is a Vishnu temple located 21 kms north of Madurai at the foothills of Alagar Malai, a lovely wooded hill. It is a picturesque place alive with monkeys. The main deity is Lord Vishnu. Vishnu presides as Meenakshis brother Azhagar. During the Chithirai festival in April/May, when the marriage of Meenakshi to Sundereshwarar is celebrated, Azhagar travels to Madurai for the wedding ritual in an impressive procession.
Athisayam Theme Park
Located at a distance of 12 kms from Madurai along the Dindigul road at Paravai is the Athisayam theme park, the only one of its kind in this part of the region, which promises you non-stop fun. World-class water sports offer plenty of exciting entertainment.
This is a popular picnic spot 70 kms from Madurai. Well laid out gardens on one side of dam is a prime attraction. On Sundays the dam is illuminated with an array of colored lights.
Is an enchanting hill station 2,130 m above sea level on the Western Ghats and 120 km from Madurai. Travel takes about 3 hours. Kodaikanal is an ideal place for trekking.
Known as the Varanasi of the South, Rameswaram is a major pilgrim site for Hindus. With temples, shrines, and an incredible beach, it makes for a nice day or an overnight trip from Madurai. Bus tours leave at 7.00 am and return in the evening at 7.00 pm. Hiring a car and driver is also a good option. It takes four hours to get there and the drive itself is picturesque. This is beautiful historic town is only a 4 hour train ride from Madurai and offers good sightseeing in a relaxed atmosphere. The Hotel Vinayaka next to the Railway station previous comfortable rooms at a reasonable price.
Aravind Guest houses
- Harmony: A three-storied guesthouse with all facilities, located just a five-minute walk from the hospital. It consists of sixteen air conditioned and two non-a/c rooms all attached with western style bathrooms. A housekeeper is there to serve the volunteers and guests. The guest house is equipped with a TV and DVD player. The guesthouse also has a small library.
- Aspiration, (also called PG Hostel) is located just across the Aravind Eye Hospital, set up mainly for post graduate students, fellows and short term trainees.
- Inspiration Hostel for the international visitors and trainees
The following are some timings and guidelines for guests, to allow smooth running of the guesthouse and hostels
- Breakfast is served from 7am to 8am
- Lunch is served from 1pm to 2pm
- Dinner is served from 7:30pm to 8:30pm
If you will be away for a meal, please inform the staff in advance. This will allow them to clear the table after the meal so they will not have to wait for you. Lunch and dinner are not served on Sunday, as this is the cooks day off.
Hotels near Aravind
Hotel Sri Annapoorna Towers: It is a 3-star hotel located near to Aravind Eye Hospital. The amenities include provided here are direct dial phone, local and international TV channels, laundry and dry cleaning facilities.www.annapoornatower.com
Hotel Star Residency: The rooms are elegantly furnished with centralized AC, LCD,satellite TV, telephones with direct dialing facility, Wi-Fi internet and so on. www.starresidencyhotels.com
Hotel Fortune Pandiyan: An ideal place to stay for business and leisure travelers. It offers the highest standards in accommodation and cuisine.www.fortunepandiyanhotel.com