April 14, 2008


Although most of my trips were in groups or pairs, there were a few solo trips. These are enjoyable in a different way, as the solo traveler has unlimited freedom to spend as much or as little time as they want at any particular site of interest. He has to be responsible only for his own safety and well being, without having to worry about fellow companions. A trip to the temple towns of Madurai and Rameswaram in the state of Tamil Nadu provided one such opportunity for personal exploration.

Following a reasonably comfortable overnight bus journey from Bangalore, I arrived in Madurai early in the morning. After securing a room in a hotel with a rooftop restaurant that offered a view of Maduria's crown spectacle - the Meenakshi Temple - I headed for the landmark itself. Once inside the temple I wandered around before relaxing by the pool at the centre. I narrowly avoiding being crushed by one of the elephants that bless devotees, before walking around the outside of the temple to view its many intricately decorated gopurams (towers).

I continued on to the Thirumalai Nayak Palace, which was built in the 1600's with the help of an Italian architect. An amalgam of Indian and European architectural styles, I walked into a movie shooting upon arrival with dozens of colourful dancers moving around in unison amongst drapes hanging from the ceilings. Several other onlookers and I were quickly ushered away by the local authorities so that we would not appear in the movie as unpaid extras. Later I found out that movies such as Bombay and Guru had scenes filmed here also.

Madurai is also the place where Mahatma Gandhi first donned his famous loincloth, A comprehensive museum traces his life and the history of India from the its time under British rule to its freedom. Several of Gandhi's personal belongings are also on display as well and an adjacent library houses copies of his many letters and other writings. Several other temple visits, monkey encounters, and a rooftop meal rounded out the day.