Madurai is one of India's greatest Hindu spiritual centers and home to some of the country's most spectacular temples and monuments. If you are considering some time in the tropical Southern India, Madurai and Kerala make an ideal combination.
Ancient, Spiritual Madurai
If you already plan to visit the sunny beaches of Southern India, or perhaps Pondicherry and Mahabalipuram, consider adding a two or three days in ancient Madurai. This is a spiritual city full of spiritual treasures. Visit nearby Rameshwaram, which dates to the time of legends. Flights are available from Delhi and Mumbai, which make Madurai a great beginning or ending to a visit to Kerala. The city's magnificent Hindu temples also overlook one of India's most beautiful beaches.
Day One: Greco-Roman Commerce and a Hall of a Thousand Pillars
Ancient Madurai is celebrated for its Meenakshi Temple and is one of India's oldest cities with a history dating back to the 6th century BC. Madurai's trade with the ancient Greeks and Romans is well known. It was the capital of the Pandayan Empire till the 14th century and is now an important commercial center of South India.
In the afternoon, visit The Meenakshi Temple, which is a superb example of Dravidian architecture and sculpture. The temple has two sanctra, one dedicated to Shiva and the other to his spouse Meenakshi. The highlight of Meenakshi temple is the "Hall of Thousand Pillars" - all of which are elaborately sculpted A set of musical pillars carved out of a single block of granite that emit melodic noted when tapped, splendid mandapas and a large temple tank are all part of the huge complex.
Day Two: Rameshwaram--As Old As the Ramayana
Day Excursion to Rameshwaram. Travel from the mainland to this island is through a bridge, also known as Pamban Bridge, which connects the Rameswaram Island with the main land. It is the longest Sea Bridge in India lengths nearly 2.2 kms and stands as a fine example of Indian technology. The bridge was constructed at an elevation and provides beautiful views of the sea and adjoining Islands.
Rameswaram is one of the most holy places for Hindus and is located on the southern most tip of India in the state of Tamil Nadu. This is the place were the devout worship god in three forms, the Moorthy, Sithalam & Theertham. One of the twelve Jyothir Lingams established by the great Hindu Sage Shankracharya is here.
Rameswaram is said to be as old as the Ramayana and its importance as a place of pilgrimage is equaled by only that of Kashi (Varanasi). Pilgrimage to Kashi will be completed only after ritual bathing at Rameswaram.
According to religious legend, Lord Ram went to Sri Lanka from Rameswaram to rescue Sita from Ravana, the King of Sri Lanka. For this Rama had invoked the sea god and made a bridge with the help of Hanuman (the monkey god) along the pathway. It is said that if you travel to Sri Lanka by boat you can still see remains of the bridge. This bridge was built using big rocks that floated on water.
Day Three: Onward
Leave by surface or flight for your next destination. Or you can stick around and enjoy one of Asia's most beautiful beaches, which are just steps away from your hotel and near all of the breathtaking monuments you will have seen.