- Getting to Aravind
- While at Aravind
- Travelling in Tamil Nadu
- Aravind Centres
Greetings from Aravind Eye Care System
As you prepare for your travel to India and to the Aravind destinations, Vanakkam will provide you with detailed information on what to expect when you arrive. This includes travel arrangements, living conditions, local weather and local food, as well as information on sightseeing and restaurants in the cities where the Aravind facilities are located. Vanakkam includes many suggestions from previous travelers, which may help make your trip more enjoyable.
While at Aravind you can contemplate your work, and hone your skills. You will have the opportunity to mingle with people from many diverse backgrounds and countries, which facilitates the exchange of meaningful ideas.
We welcome you to Aravind, and we wish you a productive and comfortable stay with us!
- Pre Arrival
- Travel to India
- Registration requirements
- A Visa is necessary for you to travel to India. Please contact your local Indian Embassy or Consulate for the proper forms and information. Note: As of 2007, Indian visas for visitors from the USA are being outsourced to Travisa India. See the "https://indiavisa.travisaoutsourcing.com" section for website information. Be sure to apply for your visa early enough. You will need to send your passport together with the necessary payment.
- Foreign nationals desirous of coming to India are required to possess a valid passport of their country and a valid Indian visa. There is no provision of Visa on Arrival in India and no fee is charged for immigration facilities at the airports. Foreign passengers should ensure that they are in possession of valid Indian Visa before they start their journey to India except nationals of Nepal and Bhutan who do not require visa to enter India.
- The Government of India has issued a rule requiring people with multiple entry tourist visas to wait for a period of two months before returning to India. Initially, it was deemed relevant only to those holding five and 10 year tourist visas. So, even if you have a six month multiple entry tourist visa and you leave India, you most likely wont be allowed to return to India for two months. Exceptions can be made by applying for special permission from the Mission/Embassy abroad.
- Depending on the length of your stay it may be necessary to obtain a Residential Permit from the Police Department in Madurai on arrival.
- It is advisable to carry additional copies of your visa/ passport/ residential permit. Having spare passport-sized photographs with you will also be useful.
- It is advisable to obtain a travel insurance policy to cover theft, loss and medical problem before leaving for India. There are a wide range of policies, and your travel agent can advise you. Be sure to check the small print that covers things such as an emergency flight home with a medical escort and the ambulance costs. Keep a copy of this policy apart from the original.
- Before leaving your own country you should visit your doctor to receive information on the precautions and vaccinations needed for travel in India.
- Since India can be quite dusty, contact lens wearers may find it difficult, especially in the rural areas. It is advisable to bring along a pair of sunglasses and some sunscreen lotion. It also advisable to bring along some mosquito repellant or use electric mosquito repelling devices..
- When making your flight arrangements, try to find a travel agent familiar with India. Some inexpensive flights can be found, both from the major carriers and also from some of the new budget carriers in India.
- For travel to India from the USA, you can purchase a TSA approved travel lock with a strap to go around your suitcase, minimizing the chances of items disappearing from your luggage.
- Planes are sometimes double-booked and confirmation of booking and flight time is important.
- When checking your luggage for your journey to Aravind, you can usually check your baggage all the way to Chennai (or other major international airports). After going through customs inspection, you can re-check your bags for the remainder of your journey.
- For local flights within India, in addition to the other items you normally carry in your checked baggage, transfer all extra batteries from your hand baggage to your checked baggage otherwise they will be seized by airport security during check-in.
- Most Indian airports with international facilities have two separate terminals, one for international and one for domestic flights. When scheduling connecting flights, be sure to allow enough time for immigration, customs inspection, and transfer to the other terminal.
- Retain the baggage tags that you receive when you check in, as security may require you to show the tags when you leave the destination airport.
- If you have to stay overnight in Chennai, between connecting flights, we recommend the Hotel Mount Heera as a safe place to stay.
- Retiring rooms are also usually available at the Chennai airport. The cost is 750 rupees for one bed in a two-bed room, or around 500 rupees for a bed in the eight-room dormitory. These retiring rooms cannot be booked in advance. When you arrive at the Chennai airport, go to the Airport Managers offices, mid-way between the domestic and international terminals, and enquire whether space is available. This is a convenient, clean, and safe way to spend the night if youre leaving on a flight the next day. The airport restaurant is located above these rooms, on the next floor.
Registration requirements for Foreign Nationals
Foreigners entering India on a Student, Employment, Research or Missionary Visa, which is valid for more than 180 days, are required to register with the Foreigners Registration Officer under whose jurisdiction they propose to stay. This should be done within 14 days or arrival in India, irrespective of their actual period of stay.
Foreigners visiting India on any other category of long term VISA that is valid for more than 180 days are not required to register themselves if their actual stay does not exceed 180 days on each visit. If such a foreigner intends to stay in India for more than 180 days during a particular visit, he/she should get registered within 180 days of arrival in India.
The following categories of foreign nationals are exempt from registration:-
- (A) Those visiting India on any short term VISA i.e. valid for 180 days or less,
- Pakistan nationals are required to register within 24 hours of their arrival in India. Afghanistan nationals are required to register within 7 days of their arrival in India.
- There is no fee charged for registration. However, US$ 30 (Rupees equivalent amounting to Rs. 1395/-) is charged for over-stay and/or late registration, if overstay is condoned by the competent authority.
- Registration facilities are not provided at the airport. Registration is done in the offices of FRROs/CHIO or the Superintendents of Police/districts.
Formalities to be observed by registered foreigners:
A registered foreigner is issued a registration booklet containing his latest photograph, details of residence etc. An endorsement is made in the passport also regarding registration. The foreigner is required to intimate any permanent change in his address to the Registration Authorities. A foreigner is also required to inform the registration officer if he proposes to be absent from his registered address for a continuous period of 8 weeks or more. Similarly, a foreigner, who stays for a period of more than 8 weeks at any place other than the district of his registered address, shall inform the Registration Officer of that district of his presence.
Registration formalities for foreigners are guided by the Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939 and Registration of Foreigners Rules, 1992
Forms to be filled by foreigners staying at hotels
Foreigners visiting India on Tourist Visa and not staying continuously for more than six months in India are not required to register themselves. However, all foreigners including even tourists and others who are not required to register, are required to fill up a form called Form-C (Rule-14, Registration of Foreigners Rules, 1992) at the time of their stay in any hotel (which includes any boarding-house, club, rest house, paying guest house, sarai and other premises of like nature).
Documents required at the time of registration
- Registration form.
- 4 photographs.
- Proof of residential address in India
- Photocopy of main pages of passport i.e. those containing the photograph, personal particulars, Indian Visa and latest arrival stamp in India.
- Since South India is warm even in December and January, you really do not need any warm clothes. Cotton clothes are most suitable. However, if you are planning to travel to North India during winter months or if you plan to visit any of the regional hill stations, it is advisable to bring adequate warm clothes, as it could be cold.
- Women: It is appropriate for women to wear long skirts or full pants and loose fitting tops. Sleeveless tops are not appropriate. Please do not wear tight leggings or jeans and skimpy tops to work. Those who are staying for longer periods can buy indian clothes such as the salwar kameez, as these will be more appropriate and comfortable.
- Men: Here the men mostly wear button-down shirts and loose trousers. Avoid wearing jeans, t-shirts or shorts to work.
- Shoes: Sandals or other loose shoes would be comfortable. Most visitors wear socks for fear of foot problems. Flip-flops are useful and can be purchased locally at a cheap rate.
- LAICO and Aravind Eye Hospitals work a six-day week: Monday through Saturday.
- Working hours at the hospitals are 7:00 am - 5:00 pm.
- Working hours at LAICO are 9:00 am - 6:00 pm.
Madurai Hospital Address:
Aravind Eye Hospital
No.1, Anna Nagar
Madurai - 625 020
Tamil Nadu, India
Phone No. +91 452 4356100
Fax No. +91 452 2530984
Important Phone Numbers:
Aravind Eye Hospital : +91 452 4356100
LAICO : +91 452 4356500
Harmony Guest House : +91 452 2521364
Inspiration : +91 452 4356800
Note: When Calling one of the Operators, please tell the receptionist who your contact person at Aravind is,so she will be able to connect you to the right person
Tamil is the local language in Tamil Nadu (South India) though English is widely understood and spoken.
Climate is tropical, generally hot and humid for most of the year. Daytime temperature ranges from 25C (77F) in the winter to 45C (113F) in the summer. The rainy season strikes in May/June and a smaller monsoon once again in November/December. The most pleasant time to visit is during the months of July through February. April and May are the hottest months.
- Food is generally spicy. So, always specify if you would like your meal to be made less spicy.
- Tipping at restaurants: A moderate tip of 20 INR is acceptable.
- Drinks: While it is generally acceptable to get coffee or tea from the local street vendors, other drinks should only be purchased in sealed bottles. This includes bottled water (ask for mineral water), soda, and beer.
- Do not ask for ice cubes, as they are merely frozen water.
- Fruit drinks mixed with local water should also be avoided.
- Sugar cane juice from local vendor should also be avoided.
- Use bottled water for brushing your teeth.
- Though incidents of theft are rare, it is advisable to keep your luggage and room locked. Madurai is a constantly bustling city making it quite a safe place to go about.
- Film processing and printing from either film or digital cameras is readily available. The Mini Studio in Madurai is located about four blocks from LAICO and does excellent work at low prices.
- Generally locals in TamilNadu love to have their photos taken. Please ask first to be sure, but once you take one photo, you will probably be asked to take dozens more!
- Photography inside temples is sometimes restricted. You may need to purchase a camera pass.
Pharmacy at Aravind carries all the common drugs. However, there are many well-stocked drug stores near the Aravind campus. You should bring your own supply of any special medicines you take, as they may not be readily available in India in the same prescription strengths.
In case of any medical emergency, the physician at Aravind is available. Guests who feel ill should not hesitate to see the Aravind physician, as in many cases a simple cure is available for visitors with stomach problems, etc.
- 240 V AC, 50 Hz
- Sockets: 2 or 3 Round pin
- If your country uses a different kind of plug, conversion adapters are available.
- Most computer related devices and chargers will operate on 110 or 220 volt power, but check yours ahead of time to be sure. It is handy to bring one 3-way adapter to plug into the conversion adapter.
- Auto-Rickshaw This is the most convenient way to get around. Auto rickshaw stands can be found all over, or you can simply flag one down if you see one without passengers in the back seat. Typical charges should be from 80 to 100 rupees per trip as an example, from the Aravind campus to the Meenakshi Temple the charge should be 80 rupees. Tipping is not expected. Always agree on the price before getting into the auto rickshaw, and be prepared to bargain with the driver. If the driver insists on a higher price than you feel is reasonable, simply walk away to find another autorickshaw.
- Buses Most Indian cities have an excellent system of low-cost buses, which are a convenient and inexpensive way of getting around. However, the signs and other information are all written in Tamil. If asked, the bus conductor will usually help you out by telling you when to get off for your desired destination. For finding the correct bus, look for the bus number prominently displayed on the front of the bus. There are three main bus stands in the city of Madurai, namely Periar bus stand, Arapalayam bus stand and Mattuthavani bus stand. If you are taking a long distance bus, ask which bus stand you should go to, to find the bus for your destination.
- Taxis Taxis are also available, at a higher charge.
Culture / Conduct
South Indians are mild mannered and are quite open to foreigners. The following tips should help you understand what appropriate behavior is.
- Use only your right hand to give or receive anything.
- Avoid criticism of local customs or traditions.
- Avoid aggressive behavior.
- Be a patient guest; the pace may not be as fast as that to which you are accustomed. The formality of sitting at length in conversation is a time-honored custom.
- Shaking hands: Dont shake hands unless a hand is offered. If in doubt say Namaste with both hands clasped together, especially when greeting women. Handshakes may be longer and could involve both hands at times.
- Always remove your shoes before entering a temple or someones house.
- Indians assume that Westerners dislike hot and spicy food, so if you prefer hot and spicy food do tell them.
- If your host insists on paying for things, dont force the issue.
- Observe social protocols in meetings - for example, dont force junior people to speak in front of the seniors.
- The approach to time in India is more relaxed than abroad, so dont be surprised if people turn up late for meetings or just cancel it at the last minute.
- Its a friendly and common gesture for people of the same sex to hold hands.
- Smoking, consumption of alcohol, and chewing gum are not permitted within any of the Aravind premises. Smoking in public is also banned.
- Shop Hours: Most shops are open from 10 am to 6 pm. They generally dont close for lunch. Many shops are closed on Sundays.
- Credit Cards: Only the larger shops accept credit cards (Master Card and Visa) and travellers cheques.
- Bargaining: At most of the local shops the prices start out quite high, and you are expected to bargain to get a more reasonable price. If you dont feel comfortable about bargaining, there are some fixed price shops you can go to.
- The current exchange rate is around 50 Rupees per Dollar, as of March 2011 visit www.xe.com to find the current exchange rate
- Currency Exchange:You can contact any government approved exchange office or hotel to change money, or you may ask the hospital cashier for help.
- ATM machines are available in plenty and usually handle VISA & master cards.
- If you change money from your local currency to Indian currency, keept the receipt. You will need it later if you wish to change your extra Indian currency back to you local currency.
- Post and post-related services like courier and FAX are available; ask the hospital receptionist where to find these services.
- There are three kind of telephones, sometimes located inside a phone booth. There are phones for LOCAL calls, Long Distance within India (STD), and international calls outside of India (ISD). They are located on many streets near the hospital. In addition, there is an STD and ISD booth at the hospital.
- Cell phone service is available at reasonable rates from several local service providers including Airtel, Vodaphone (formerly Hutch), and BSNL. Cell phone reception is generally good in all major cities and even in most small towns. If you want to purchase a mobile phone in Madurai, you will find excellent pricing starting as low as 1500 rupees for a basic phone.
- You will need an unlocked GSM tri-band or quad-band cell phone for use in India. If you are bringing a GSM style phone with you to India, first call your home phone company to obtain the unlock code which may be necessary to allow you to use your phone with a different mobile phone service.
- To obtain a local SIM card to insert in your phone, along with your application you will need to submit a copy of your passport and a letter from Aravind saying that you are involved in Aravind related projects.
- If you will be spending most of your time in Madurai you should purchase your SIM card in Madurai rather than a different Indian city, to be sure of being charged only local Indian rates when using your phone in Madurai.
- Cell phone service for visitors is usually pre-paid. You purchase air time and validity as required. Extending either is very simple there are numerous mobile phone suppliers who will be glad to assist you and sell you the appropriate card. One such supplier is located only two blocks from the LAICO building.
- If your home service provider allows it, you can also use your existing SIM card, but you will be paying higher prices as your local and International calls will all become international calls.
- Many Aravind buildings including the Aravind Guest House in Madurai and Pondicherry provide WiFi. You can connect directly from your laptop. Simply turn on your wireless search program, and it should find an access point to connect to. Ask the hospital receptionist where WiFi is available. If asked for a security code, ask someone from Aravind to get the access code. Internet service at most Aravind locations is often good enough to allow the use of programs such as skype for free phone calls, although the connection speed sometimes will slow down when the networks are busy. Internet Browsing Centre offers Internet access at nominal charges. You will find quite a few cyber cafs in most commercial areas of the cities.
- Internet from Mobile Phones - Most newer high-end mobile phones also have WiFi capabilities. You can use these to perform most of the same functions as a laptop computer. A Good way to get an in expensive connection for laptop on phone is to sign up at www.jajah.com.
Festivals (Tamil Nadu State)
South India celebrates fairs and festivals in a very grand manner. Festivals in India are usually celebrated with the family. These festivals are some of the more grand occasions when the city comes alive
- PONGAL or the harvest festival, in January, is a thanks giving to the Sun God and is a colourful sight complete with decorated cows!
- JALIKATTU or bull-taming on the days after Pongal is an impressive show of strength and courage by the village youth. The Madurai Chamber of Commerce organizes tourist visits to the bull taming.
- DIWALI, the festival of lights in November, is a nation-wide celebration of the conquest of good over evil.
- It is advisable to bring your own supply of toilet paper with you when traveling to India, as it is not always available at public toilets. If you travel away from the hospital area, you should carry your own supply with you.
- Also bring along some mosquito repellant or use electric mosquito repelling devices.
- Make copies of your passport and visa, and carry them with you instead of the originals.
- Be aware that what people in other countries such as America call the second floor is referred to as the first floor in India. Think of the ground floor as 0 and count up from there for additional floors.
- If you expect to use the autorickshows, have your destination / return address written down in Tamil so you can show the driver. This will make your communication much easier.
- About Madurai
- Travel to Madurai
- Getting to Aravind once you Arrive in Madurai
- Communicating in Madurai
- Places of Worship
- Leisure Time
- Festivals Unique to Madurai
- Places to Stay
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 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.
- 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, 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: https://sr.indianrailways.gov.in/ Additional assistance can be provided by your contact person at Aravind.
- 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.
To travel within Madurai Public busses, rickshaw and taxis are available. Taxi’s and Rickshaw can be ordered through OLA mobile application also.
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.
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.
- 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.
Sightseeing in the city of Madurai
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!
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.
Sightseeing Outside the City of Madurai
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
- The Land of Tamirabarani
- Traval to Tirunelveli
- Leisure Time
Situated in the far south of Tamilnadu the Tirunelveli district is famous for its ancient temples, enchanting forests, waterfalls, and the elegantly flowing river Tamirabarani - the lifeline of the region. In this district we have the Pothigai Hills, the abode of sage Agasthiyar who is said to have developed the Tamil language. A number of renowned Tamil scholars, journalists and writers have their origins in Tirunelveli district. The green paddy fields fed by Tamirabarani and the tall palm groves add a picturesque dimension to the landscape of this district.
The district headquarter town of Tirunelveli is blessed with the river Tamirabarani and the legendary Nellaiappar - Kanthimathi temple, the holy landmark of the city. Another holy landmark is the beautiful Cathedral built in 1826 by Rev. Rhenius. Once the capital of the Pandiya Kings, Tirunelveli, has a 2000-year-old history and a rich tradition. Though the weather here can be quite hot (reading upto 420 C in the summer) it is quite pleasant in winter. Tirunelveli is well known for korai (reed) mats woven in a small village, Pathamadai, 30 kms. away from Tirunelveli town. Tirunelveli is also popular for useful articles made of palm leaves and the delicious sweet ?Halwa?.
By air: The airports nearest Tirunelveli are Madurai (170km) and Tuticorin (52km).
By Train: Railway connections are available from all major cities.
By Road: Tirunelveli is linked by a good network of roads including a national highway.
Handicrafts Shopping : Poompuhar, a unitof Tamil Nadu Handicrafts Development Corporation Limited is located very close to Aravind Eye Hospital. The shop offers bronze icons, brass lamps, carvings on stone, sandalwood and wood, paintings, kalamkari, Thanjavur art plates and so on. Textile Shopping: RMKV and Pothys are the famous textile shops in Tirunelveli.
There are many places for short tours and pilgrimage near Tirunelveli. Notable among them are:
Swami Nellaiyappar Temple
Swamy Nellaiappar Gandhimathiamman Temple dedicated to Siva (Nellaiyappar) and Parvati (Kanthimathi) is situated in the heart of the city and built by the Pandyas. The main deity is a Suyambu Lingam or a Shiva Lingam which erupted from underneath the earth. The temple is worth seeing for its beautiful sculptures, musical pillars, valuable jewels, a golden lily tank and a thousand pillared mandapa. It is one of the five sacred places in Saiva religion.
District Science Centre
The District Science Centre is unique Institution popularising Science. Inculcating the spirit of enquiry, fostering creative talents and infusing scientific temper in life are its objectives. This autonomous body is a unit of the National Council of Science Museums. This is one among the 124 such centres in the country.
It is 57 kms away from Tirunelveli and is at an elevation of 1162 sq. metre. There are many tea plantations in and around this place. Manjolai is noteworthy for the climate, scenery and calm atmosphere. Just above Manjolai, there are places like Kakkachi and Nalumukka which are real gifts of the nature. On the way to Manjolai from Manimuthar there is a very beautiful place called Dasan Pool with plenty of fresh water, greens and fine climate.
Koothankulam Bird Sanctuary
It is situated in tiny village in Nanguneri Taluk of Tirunelveli District and is emerging as a new favourite haunt of the migratory birds. It is just 38 Kms. away from Tirunelveli. Migratory birds start coming by December end and fly away to their northern homes by June or July. About 35 species of birds visit this calm but congenial village for breeding.
60 kms away from Tirunelveli town, at the foot of the Pothigai Hills lies the curative Courtallam. It is the summer resort of thousands of middle class people who could not afford a Ooty or Kodaikanal.
Courtallam is a cluster of 9 waterfalls, both big and small. These lush waterfalls, as well as the cool breeze from the Pothigai Hills, are said to possess medicinal properties. At the entrance of the Main falls, there is an ancient Siva Temple known as Tirukkutralanathar Temple.
Not far from this temple there is a Hall of Pictures called Chitra Sabha which is dedicated to ``Lord Nataraja. This is one of the five sabhas where the Lord performed the cosmic dance.
42 kms away from Tirunelveli town, on the western slopes of the Pothigai Hills, there is a holy place called Papanasam. Here there is a waterfall named after the great sage Agasthiyar. And there is also a temple dedicated to him.
48 kms away from Tirunelveli is Thiruchendur, one of the six abodes of Lord Muruga. Situated on the shore of the Bay of Bengal sea, the temple draws a perennial stream of devotees. Kandha Sashti festival which culminates in the killing (Sura Samharam) of a demon is celebrated in the month of November every year.
85 kms away, Kanyakumari lies at the southern most tip of India where the Arabian sea, the Indian Ocean and the Sea of the Bay of Bengal meet. The temple of Kanyakumari, Gandhi Memorial, Rock memorial of Vivekananda and the gigantic statue of the timeless poetTiruvalluvar are worth seeing, as well as the spectacular sun rise and sunset over the ocean.
About 13 kms away from Tirunelveli is Krishnapuram. The temple here is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Breathtakingly beautiful life-like sculptures carved with great intricacy adorn the temple.
Kalakkadu Wild Life Sanctuary
This Sanctuary located 47 kms away is a naturalist delight. Tigers, panthers, Jackals and wild dogs can be seen roaming in this hilly forest. Lion-tailed macaques can be spotted here.
Srivaikuntam, 27 kms away from Tirunelveli, is one of the Nava Tirupathis. It is famous for the temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Its lofty tower and the Tiruvenkata Mudaliyar mandapam rich with sculptures of yazhis, elephants and warriors are worth seeing.
Mundanthurai wild life sanctuary
Situated 55 kms away from Tirunelveli, this sanctuary spans an area of 567 sq. km. This sanctuary is a Project Tiger reserve area, so one might well be rewarded with a glimpse of this magnificent beast. Trekking is allowed, with prior permission from the forest department.
- Manchester of South India
- Travel to Coimbatore
- Leisure Time
- Famous Temples
Coimbatore is an important industrial city, in the state of Tamil Nadu. An important textile-manufacturing centre, it is also known as the Manchester of South India. There are more than a hundred textile mills in and around Coimbatore apart from a number of other manufacturing units, which produce engineering equipment and electronic items. Today it is also known for its educational institutions, medical care and software industry. Coimbatore lies at the foot of the quaint Nilgiri Hills. Its vicinity to the Nilgiri hills gives Coimbatore a pleasant climate.
There are interesting versions as to how modern Coimbatore got its name. Historical evidences from the 8th Century AD point to a particular tribal community called the irulas who lived in the jungles and led a life in harmony with nature. As their population grew, little hamlets and villages sprouted alongside the jungles and rivers. Legend has it that people chose kovan as their king. Down the ages, puthur, the area that became kovan capital was called kovan pudur. Over time, it came to be known as Coimbatore. Another version of the name draws its story from the tale of Koniamman, the ruling deity of Coimbatore. It is believed that Koniammanpudur has today become the city it is.
- By Air Coimbatore has an international airport connected to most metropolitan cities in India and the UAE.
- By Rail Coimbatore is well connected to major cities like Bangalore, Chenai, Madurai, New Delhi, Thirupathi, Trichy, Ooty and Palghat by rail.
- By Road Coimbatore is easily accessible by buses. Taxis at reasonable prices are also available
Coimbatore offers an array of products for anyone with an aesthetic eye. Of course, it is the woven cottons and fabric that rule. Shopping as relatively hassle free if one already knows what to buy, there are specific streets that cater to specific demands. The city is demarcated into 3 distinct commercial hubs and each is a beehive of activity - Oppanakara street, which offers everything from groceries to clothes; the Cross Cut Road, a criss cross road of commercial complexes and magastores and RS puram, the place that houses hip brands with as much ease as locally fashioned accessories.
Sightseeing in and Around Coimbatore (Kerala Area)
It is the capital of Nilgiris district. It is one of the most popular tourist resorts in India. Nilgiris means Blue Mountains. It is a land of picturesque picnic spots and used to be popular summer and weekend getaway for the British during the colonial days. An added attraction for tourists to Udagamandalam is the mountain train journey on a ratchet and pinion track which begins at Kallar, near Mettupalayam and wends its way through many hair-raising curves and fearful tunnels begins at the train chugs along beside deep ravines full of verdant vegetation, gurgling streams and tea gardens. With an influx of modern development surrounding it, the old Ooty still retains its charm and appeal. At an elevation of 2,333 m, Ooty makes for a great escape from the heat of the plains below. Hiking, horseback riding and rowing are the main attractions. There is also a large botanical garden on the edge of the town, and peaceful St. Stephen Church that has views out over the town. The best way to get to Ooty is on the toy train (Blue Mountain Express) from Mettupalayam, which is 40 minutes from Coimbatore.
There are tourist cruises available from Allepey to Kollom running daily. You can choose to go one way only or return to where you started. A more extravagant option is to hire a houseboat, definitely worth the cost.
A real treat for your body and mind is a trip to an Ayurvedic resort An Indian style health resort. Ayurveda (meaning life knowledge) is the traditional health science of India. At the resort you can choose from a variety of treatments including a general massage, hot oil treatments, a medicated steam bath and a facial. There are also 7 to 28-day treatment packages designed for different illnesses or for general health care. Yoga classes are also held.
One such resort is the Somatheeram Ayurvedic Beach Resort located south of Kovalam. Set upon the hill overlooking a wide beach and the Arabian Sea are traditional style Kerala houses with Western amenities. A private beach and excellent restaurant are also available.
Asia Number one Theme Park - Black Thunder, is situated at the foothills of the gigantic Nilgris. It is a thrilling and adventures water park as Mettupalayam. The water theme park is spread over 65 acres of land with green hill as backdrop and full of coconut and arecanut trees is a pleasant atmosphere. This park has adventurous water games and land games.
Another such one is the Maharaja Multiplex and Theme park situated at Nilambur. It is situated about 12 km from the city, on the Avinashi Road. It promises fun and variety in entertainment - lots of games, movies, and food courts. Water games are the main crowd puller and children are the target visitors.
This is located about 20kms for Udumalpet on the highway from Palani to Coimbatore. A perennial stream flows by the side of the Amaralingeswarar temple and near by there is a water fall. Thirumurthy Dam is built adjoining the Thirumurthy Hill.
Top Slip is a national park and a medical plant conservation area in Annamalai hills. It is famous for its elephant camp and its wildlife at Kollikamuthi. It got its name during British era, as lots of its timber sliped down to the plains below. For thrill seekers accommodation is also available in a tree house. There are bungalows available within the Sanctuary in order to view natural sceneries and its wildlife.
A picturesque locale in the Anamalai Hills. It is about 37 Kms. from Pollachi (about 90 Kms from Coimbatore).There are bungalows available within the sanctuary. For thrill seekers, accommodation is also available in a tree house.
It is situated some 65 km away from Coimbatore city and it is some 27 km away from Pollachi on Coimbatore-Pollachi-Valparai main road. The Monkey Falls are the most famous and popular tourism spot. People making their travel in the area of Coimbatore or Pollachi district will never miss to visit Monkey falls are they have an outstanding scenic attraction. This Monkey falls is an ideal place for the little children to take bathe.
The entry ticket fee is very low and it just cost Rs.2 to enter inside the falls. It lies on the foothill of Valparai. It is about 5 km from Aaliyar. It is continuing waterfalls, one can relax their mind and body by taking Ayurvedic bath in this falls.
There are many waterfalls, stream, dams and many dense forests in the Anamalai range. This hill station is 102 kilometers from Coimbatore. The main plantation here is tea. The place looks green all over. One can travel to Kerala from Valparai through the mountain route.
This falls is amidst a thick forest, hence visitors are not allowed after 5pm. The Kovai Kutralam waterfalls are located in the Siruvani Hills. It is situated in the dark forest area of the outer part of Coimbatore. The Siruvani River, which flows in the Siruvani Hills, makes the famous Kovai Kutralam waterfalls.
Location: 10kmfromPalakkadtown,NorthKerala. Attractions: Dam, amusement park, boating facilities, rock garden and ropeway. Malampuzha, a little township on the foothills of the Western Ghats takes its name from the River Malampuzha. Nurtured by this tributary of Kerala longest river, the Bharathappuzha, Malampuzha is a lush green town is a major tourist attraction for its trekking trails and the large irrigation dam.
Around the reservoir of the dam are beautiful gardens and amusement parks. Boating facilities are available on the lake. Other attractions in the Malampuzha garden are the beautiful rock garden, the fish-shaped aquarium, the snake park, the ropeway which takes you on an aerial tour of the park, and the gigantic Yakshi (an enchantress) sculptured by Kanai Kunhiraman, a renowned sculptor of Kerala.
The most interesting feature of the rock garden is that the whole place is made of unwanted and broken pieces of bangles, tiles, used plastic cans, tins and other waste materials. The garden is a master work of sculptor Padmasree Neck Chand Saini. His rock garden in Chandigarh is world famous and attracts thousands of tourists every year.
Aliyar lake receives water from Upper Aliyar Reservoir through the hydroelectric power station inNavamali and the Parambikulam .
Aliyar Dam is located at a distance of 24 kilometers from Pollachi, Coimbatore District Aliyar is easily Accessible from Coimbatore (TN) and Palakkad (Kerala). Near Aliyar dam, a good-looking park, an aquarium and a mini theme park is being maintained by Tamilnadu Fisheries Corporation.
Marudhamalai Shri Murugan Temple is a small natural hill lying about 12km to the west of Coimbatore. More than 800 years old, the presiding deity is Lord Subramaniaswamy. The temple dedicated to Lord Murugan is at a height of 600 feet from the foot of the hill. The flight of steps are interspread with attractive mandapams. Though shorn of all sculptural and architectural glories, the hilly background of this temple compensates for their absence and makes it an attractive picnic spot even from the point of view of an holiday - maker. Thai Poosam and Tirukarthigai festivals are celebrated with great pomp and gaiety at this temple.
Dhyanalinga and Adiyogi
Minutes within the sphere of Dhyanalinga is enough to make even those unaware of meditation to experience a state of deep meditativeness and feel the divine energy that overflows from this glorious form. The Dhyanalinga Multi-Religious temple situated at Vellingiri foothills about 30kms from Coimbatore is very much a part of this glorious tradition. Dhyanalinga was consecrated by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, a realized master, Mystic and Yogi, after three years of intense process of prana prathista. Measuring 139, Dhyanalingam is the largest mercury based live linga in the world.
Perur Patteeswara Swamy Temple
It is located 7kms away from the city and is said to be built by Karikala Cholan before 1500 years. The temple is dedicated to Lord Patteeswarar and his better half Pachainayaki. Devotees gather during the festival occasions. The kanagasabai hall has some exciting sculptures. This is one of the ancient temples of this region. The temple stands on the banks of the holy river Noyyal called Kanchi Manadi by the locals. It is believed that the mortal remains of the dead turn into white stones after about 144 days. Pilgrims from all over visit this spot to pay homage to their ancestors. The greatest attraction of the temple is the Kanaka Saba or the golden hall which is aborned by a gold plated statue of Nataraja bestowing blessings upon the two sages - Gowmuni and Pattimuni. The gopurams and pillars of the hall display exquisitely carved out sculptures highlighting Dravidian architechure.
Then Thirumala Balaji Temple
This temple is a model of the one at tirupathi and is located on the outskirts of Coimbatore city, in beautiful hilly surroundings. The total distance between Tirupati to Coimbatore is 393 KM (kilometers) and 830.85 meters. The mile based measurement distance is 244.7 miles. Tirupati is located nearly north side to Coimbatore.
Mundhi Vinaykar temple in Coimbatore
Coimbatore Mundhi Vinayakar temple in Tamil Nadu has the largest Ganesh idol in Asia. The presiding deity in the temple is 10-foot tall idol, which has been carved out of single block stone. Weight of the Idol is 110 tons. It is situated at Puliakulam road.
Eachanari Vinayagar Temple
The temple is at Pollachi Main Road, Eachanari. The idol that is 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide was being transited from Madurai to Perur, during which the wheel of the conveyance gave away at Eachanari. The Moolavar at this temple was actually meant for Perur Patteshwarar temple and since it got stuck on its way from Madurai, Eachanari became the blessed place. This is one of the oldest temple in Coimbatore and dates to 1500 A.D. Lord Vinayagar is the residing deity of Eachanari Temple.
Arulmigu Bannari Amman Temple
To the Southern side of the temple located is Coimbatore,on the Eastern side is Erode and to the southWestern side we have Mettupalayam railway stations.By buses,from Sathyamangalam to Samaraj nagar,Kollegal will lead to the temple.Other than this we can get the buses from BavaniSagar(via Coimbatore,Tirupur,Tarapuram,Metupalayam) and reach the temple via Kothamangalam. Other than this on every Sunday,Monday,Friday and on no moon days there are special buses to the temple from Sathiyamangalam and Coimbatore
- About Puducherry
- Travel to Puducherry
Puducherry town is the headquarters of the Union Territory of Puducherry comprised of Puducherry, Karaikal, Yaman and Mahe - four widely separated towns. The first two enclaves in Tamil Nadu, and the other two enclaves in Andhra Pradesh and Kerala respectively, are united by their French connection. Puducherry has recently been renamed to its original name, replacing the name Pondicherry which was used for many years.
Legend associates Puducherry town with the Sage Agastya, who travelled from the north and settled here. Recorded history talks of Puducherry being, for almost 300 years, the centre of Anglo-French conflicts, and, later, the retreat of Indian freedom fighters, including Sri Aurobindo.
Puducherry was a French colony from 1675 until 1954, when Puducherry merged with the Indian Union. Puducherry has a rich history - at one time an obscure village, later a centre of trade with the Romans, then a place of learning. Francois Martin, Dumes and Joseph Francois Dupleix were the most famous Governors who administered Puducherry, which still retains its French character.
Today, the Puducherry of the French is to be found in the policemen red kepis, on quaint signboards, in a few houses, in the statues of Dupleix and Joan of Arc, libraries and in the accented Tamil, English and French still spoken there. This oval-shaped township, with the streets aligned at right angles is not like any other Indian town. Its skyline from offshore is typical of the French-influenced Mediterranean settlements as is its town-planning.
Neat, pleasant, and charming, Puducherry has a beautiful beach and a sea that is always warm and refreshing. It has been made world-famous by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and its offshoot, Auroville. And in what still remains of its French connection there is a uniqueness that sets it apart from the rest of India.
Rains occur principally in October, November and December with a few showers from July to September. The dry season lasts from January to July and the hottest period is from April to August . The most pleasant months are December, January and February. The mean monthly temperature varies from 24C (75.2F) January to 30C (86F) June. The maximum temperature reached in May or June is sometimes 43C (109.4F).
Puducherry is connected with Chennai by railway and road (170 kms). There are regular bus services. Taxis can also be hired.
Airports: Madras and Tiruchirappalli (I.A.), Puducherry (Vayudoot)
Sightseeing in the city of Puducherry
Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Shri Aurobindo, the great seer, poet and prophet of the twentieth century, made Pondicherry his home from 1910 till his death in 1950. His vision and ideals continue to draw people from all over the world. The Ashram has become a centre for the practice of Yoga and a place of learning. The ashram activities include agriculture, industries, art and culture. The Samadhi in the Ashram premises is the final resting place of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother (see below).
Located 10 kms north of Puducherry town, Auroville is envisioned as a universal town, where people from different nationalities, faiths and beliefs, can live in peace and harmony.
The construction of this universal town was started in 1968 under the guidance of the Mother, a Paris - born painter-musician who become Sri Aurobindo disciple and close companion from 1924 until his death in 1950. The development of this Utopia is still in progress. Several countries have offered to set up permanent pavilions, reflecting the culture and ethos of their countries.
Water Sports Centre known for its virgin beaches and backwaters, Chunnaamber has a water sports centre which offers exciting boating experiences. It is also a great tourist attraction.
For sun-bathing, swimming or merely strolling, Puducherry beach and the 1 1/2 km-long promenade alongside, are the most delightful parts of the city. On the beach front is a statue of Mahatma Gandhi surrounded by eight exquisitely carved monolithic pillars and a War Memorial raised by the French in honour of those who died in World War I.
Established by C.S Perrotet in 1826, it preserves a large varity of exotic species of plants from all over India and abroad.
On display are the findings of Arikamedu, the chola bronzes and sculptures, glimpses of French heritage, specimens of modern and traditional handicraft, paintings, armoires, carvings and many other things of historical interest.
Houses of Bharathi, Bharathidasan and Ananda Rangapillai
Subramanya Bharathi, the Tamil poet-revolutionary whose pen was an important weapon during India freedom struggle, sought refuge in this French enclave when the British made life impossible for him elsewhere in South India. At No. 20, Easwaran Koil Street, where he lived in Puducherry, Bharathi composed some of his finest patriotic songs and such immortal works of Tamil literature as the Panchali Sabadham, Kannan Pattu and Kuyil Pattu.
Bharatidasan, another great poet, was inspired by Subramanya Bharathi, whom he regarded as his guru. He won the Sahitya Akademi award for his play Pisirandayar. He lived at No.95, Perumal Koil Street. The houses of both Bharathi and Bharathidasan are now maintained as memorials and are places of pilgrimage for Tamil-lovers.
Ananda Rangapillai lived at No. 69-C, Rue Rangapillai (Maison Ananda Rangapillai). His palatial house is an excellent piece of 18th century architecture, a unique blend of French and Eastern styles. Ananda Rangapillai is the famous diarist of Dupleix time. The records he maintained of the events between 1736 and 1760 are an invaluable source of information on the history of Puducherry and the French India of that age.
The former palace of Dupleix is now the residence of Puducherry Lieutenant Governor. Across the road from Raj Nivas is the Government Park.
Sightseeing outside the city of Puducherry
Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram (130 kms from Pondy)
Mahabalipuram is famous for its beautiful rock cut temples build over 12 centuries during the Pallava days. It is one of the greatest concentrations of temple art in India, with fourteen cave temples, eight monolithic rathas, and a host of the fragmentary sculptures and of course, the famous shore temples. Crocodile Bank (20km from Mamallapuram).
Tirukkalukkunram (near Mamallapuram)
Thirukkalukkunram, with its hill top Pallava temple, famous for the two eagles which come to be fed by a priest everyday. Legend has it that they are two ascetics who upset Shiva and were turned into birds. Everyday they start in Varanasi, and make their way south to Rameswaram making pit stops at several particularly favoured temples on route.
Crocodile Bank (150 kms from Puducherry)
Backed by the Worldwife fund, Crocodile Bank was set up in 1976 to provide a captive breeding program for the, rapidly vanishing species of native Indian Crocodiles. The Crocodile bank has around 2,000 crocodiles of six different species and a number of other reptiles, including tortoises, turtles and snakes. Open from 8.30am - 5.30 pm.
- About Salem
- Travel to Salem
- Leisure Time
- Places of Worship
Salem is one of the southern districts of Tamil Nadu. The important towns of Salem are Mettur, Omalur and Attur. The district is well connected to other districts of Tamil Nadu by established road and rail networks. The district headquarters is Salem city and it is well noted for mangoes and steel. Salem being the part of Kongu Nadu, is located at the base of Yercaud hills. The boundaries are Jarugumalai on north, Kanjamalai on west, Godumalai on east and Nagarmalai on north.
Salem is one of the ancient districts from which Dharmapuri and Namakkal districts were bifurcated. It has the first cinema theater in India, named as Modern Theater and it is also the fourth most urbanized region of Tamil Nadu.
Three important National Highways pass through or originate from Salem:
- NH 7 (North-South) - Originates at Varanasi and terminates at Madurai and Kanniyakumari. Passes via Salem.
- NH 47 (Southwest) - Originates at Kondalampatti in the outskirts of Salem and proceeds towards Kanniyakumari via Coimbatore, Palakkad, Thrissur, Ernakulam and Thiruvananthapuram.
- NH 68 (East) - Originates at Seelanaickenpatti in the southern end of Salem and goes via Attur, Talaivasal, Chinnasalem and Kallakurichi to meet NH 45 (South Trunk Road) at Ulundurpettai. This is the preferred route used to travel from Salem to Chennai.
Salem is the headquarters of the TNSTC Division 1, Salem (SLM-DIV-I) and Division 2, Dharmapuri (SLM-DIV-II). Salem is connected to all important Cities and Towns in Tamil Nadu. Salem has maximum number of buses plying to Bangalore, Hyderabad, Tirupati in Tamil Nadu only after State Capital, Chennai.
There are two major bus stations in Salem
- MGR Integrated Bus Terminus (New Bus Stand)- It is located in the Swarnapuri Area in northern Salem. All mofussil, intercity and interstate routes originate from here.
- Town Bus Station (Old Bus Stand)- It is the located in the Town Area in the heart of Salem. Town Buses originate from here to various destinations in Salem district.
Salem has an airport, which is located on Salem-Bangalore Highway (NH-7) in a place called Kaamalapuram near Omalur, which is about a 20 minutes drive from the city. Though the Airports Authority of India (AAI) had spruced up the airport and made it ready for operation in 1993, airlines did not show interest to fly fearing low patronage. The nearest major airports are at Tiruchchirapalli (135 km) and Coimbatore (159 km).
The nearest international airports are Chennai and Bengaluru.
Salem Railway Station is a divisional headquarters of Southern Railway and has good rail connectivity. Salem Junction Railway station is located in the suburb of Suramangalam, 5 km to the west of Salem. Salem is a divisional headquarters in the Southern Railway which was carved out of the existing Palakkad and Tiruchchirapalli divisions in the year 2007. Salem Junction is a very important railway station in the Southern Railway. Salem is connected all important Cities and Towns in rest of country. The Station is well connected by Buses to other parts of City round the clock.
The traditional shopping areas of Salem are located in the town. They are Bazaar Street, Car Street, 1st and 2nd Agraharams and Chinna Kadai Street. There are many famous shops here, such as ARRS Silks, Sri Bhavani Stores, Home Foods, ANS Jewellery, AVR Kumbakonam Silver Shop,Thangamayil Jewellery etc. Salem flower market is located in Chinna Kadai Street. Shevapet and Fort area are famous for hardware and furniture products.
Yercaud (Jewel of the South)
It is one of the most well known hill stations of Tamil Nadu, at a distance of 22 km from the city of Salem. These hills form a part of the Servarayan Range in the Eastern Ghats and are situated at an altitude of 1515 m above sea level. The area of these hills is also popular for coffee plantations and orange groves, along with an orchidarium, which is run by the Botanical Survey of India. The highest point at these hills is the site of the Servarayan Temple, due to which, these hills are also sometimes referred to as Shevaroy Hills. It is also home to the Murugar group of temples. The place also has a nearby lake, which is famous as a boating site, and also for its gardens.
This delightfully breathtaking waterfalls is 3 km from the Yercaud Lake and should be visited after the South West or North East monsoon. The surplus water from the Yercaud Lake and reaches of the Shevaroys Hills and falls deep into the Kiliyur Valley.
Vantage Point gives a beautiful view of the Yercaud lake, town and the shevaroyan peak. Vantage point can be reached by taking a steep road from the Yeracud town.
Pagoda point is on the eastern side of the Yercaud hills. The name Pagoda point arrives from the four piles of stones in a pyramid shape made by the tribes in Yercaus. Presently there is a temple situated near to the pagodas
The main picnic spot in Dharmapuri is Hogenakkal, the place where the River Cauvery enters Tamil Nadu. The broad stream of the river Cauvery gets forked at this point, forming an island from where one stream continues and plunges into a deep chasm to create lovely waterfalls. As the spray of this waterfall raises clouds of droplets resembling smoke this place is known as Hogenakkal (Hoge means smoke, Kal-rock) - smoking rock.
The Mettur Dam
It is a large dam in India built in 1934. It was constructed in a gorge, where the Kaveri River enters the plains. The dam is one of the oldest in India.
The terrace type 70 hair pin-bend road leads you to this place. Fruit orchards abound in this place. Still the tribes here are unchanged and follow meticulously their traditional customs and practices.
Kurumpapatti Zoological Park
This is a small zoological park with natural beautiful environmental circumstance.
Paravasa Ulagam Water Theme park
It is located at a distance of about 16 km from Salem city near Mallur on the NH-7 Trichy Main Road in the midst of cool hilly region surrounded by green trees in a calm atmosphere. This is an ideal place for exciting water games such as Wave Pool, Activity Pool, Rain Dance and activities such as Karting and Biking, Baby Fun Toys, Video Games, Science Park and so on.
- Jama Masjid - The oldest mosque in Salem, situated on the southern bank of the Thirumanimuthu Aru in the heart of the city. It was reportedly built by the Mysore ruler, Tippu Sulthan, who is said to have offered prayers here.
- Meltheru and Keeltheru Mosques in Fort Area. There is a famous Arabic college located near Tamil Nadu Magnesite, Salem, offering world-class Arabic studies to the students.
- Al-Amin Masjid is in Mohammed pura, near old market.
- Infant Jesus Church situated at Four Roads, Salem.
- The Church at Anayampatti situated at Gangavalli,Salem.
- The Calvary Assembly of God Church situated at Bangalore high way, Mamangam, Salem.
Kailasanathar Kovil (Tharamangalam)
This Siva temple is about 30 kms from Salem. Parts of it existed as early as the tenth century: as it stands now, it is the product of the Gatti Mudhali dynasty of the seventeenth century.
It is a paradise to lovers of sculpture. The Kailasanathar temple here vividly portrays the dance competition between Siva and Kali. The two sculptures depicting the episode make the visitors spellbound. The various other sculptures are a feast to the eyes with their minute details and lively expression
This is a temple complex, constructed between the years 1970 and 1971 by Santhanandha Brahmendhra Sarasvathi Adhyavadhutha Swamy and is about 5 kms from Salem. It is situated on the extreme northern end of the Jarugu Mountain on the banks of stream called Kannimar Odai and is dedicated to three deities: Murugan as Skandha Guru, Lakshmi as Dhurga Paramesvari.
Also known as the Sundhara Kandhaswamy Kovil, this temple is one of the seven richest temples in the district. The karum sambal (black ash) that is given to the devotees is believed to cure diseases and to serve as an antidote for snake poison. The temple was founded in the late eighteenth century by Pazhani Kavundar and later (around 1820) was built up by Katteri Lakshmana Kavundar.
Lingam (1008) Temple
This temple is under the control of a private department of the Vinayaga Mission. This temple contains 1008 Lingam with Nandi in the Moolasthanam. This temple is located in Ariyanoor.
Kottai Mariamman Temple
This Temple is one of the very oldest pilgrims in the Salem district. Mariamman festival conducted in July August is very famous. This temple is located in heart of the city. The Kottai Mariamman Temple is one of the oldest pilgrimage centres of Salem City and is situated in the heart of the city and on the banks of River Tirumanimuthar. The presiding deity of his temple is Goddess Kottai Mariamman. The most popular feature of this temple is its Shevapet Mariamman Temple Car Festival, which is held every year, between the months of July and August and lasts for a week.
In 1997 Theni District was formed after separation from the Madurai District. Subsequently the Theni municipal town was upgraded as Taluk and district head quarters. It is mainly a commercial town and is known for its big weekly Shandy held every Sunday.
Travel to Theni
By Road: You can easily get regular buses to Theni from other major cities of the country.
By Rail: Theni does not have an train station. Nearest option is Palani.
By Air: There are no regular flights from other major cities of the country to Theni. Nearest airport is Madurai Airport.
Places of Interest around Theni
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary at Thekkadi is 155kms from Madurai. Situated in Kerala, the forest of this beautiful sanctuary slopes down to a manmade lake. The motor boat ride allows one to view wildlife in their natural habitat. Elephant, gaur, sambhar, bear, even tigers and leopards come down to drink from the lake.
The fascinating city of Cochin has a plethora of things to see including churches, winding streets crammed with 500 year old Portuguese homes, Chinese fishing nets, a Jewish community whose roots go back to the diaspora, a 16th century synagogue and a palace built by the Portuguese. The best way to get there is by hiring a taxi, which may cost you around Rs.3000 (US$70).
Kerala is a labyrinth of lazily meandering backwaters. Sprinkled with traditional houseboats, country crafts, rural lifestyles and tranquility, it is an intricate network of innumerable lagoons, lakes, canals, estuaries and the deltas of forty-four rivers that drain into the Arabian Sea. Kerala thrives along these backwaters. That snake across the state, bestowing paddy fields with good harvests, and provide whole villages with drinking water.
It is an enchanting hill station located 2,130m above sea level on the Western Ghats. It is an ideal place for trekking.
Rolling mountain scenery, craggy peaks, manicured tea estates and crisp mountain air form the quaint hill station Munnar. It is the commercial centre of some of the worlds highest tea growing estates. A 3.5 hour drive from Theni, it is a perfect getaway for a weekend.
130 kms from Madurai, Megamalai lies 1500 m above sea level. One has to climb up from the Chinnamanur side. There are many cardomon estates and tea plantations in the hills. Wild animals like sambhar, elephant, tiger, cheetah, gaur and spotted deer are found amidst thick vegetation.
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