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Monday, March 31, 2014

Solo Tour Diary: Trip 2 - Day 2: Pamban Bridge, Pazhamudircholai, Madurai, Meenakshi Temple, Thiruparankundram

Continued from Day 1

I intended to wake up as early as 3.45 am, but ended up snoozing up to half an hour and woke up at 4.15 am. By the time I finished bathing, packing, checking items etc, it was 5.15 am. I checked out of the hotel, thanked the staff for all their care and walked down to Agni Theertham. After having a cup of hot tea, I took the bus to the bus stand. From the bus stand, there were plenty of buses to Madurai in high frequency. I boarded one and got down at Pamban Bridge at 5.45 am.

I always wanted to take a walk on this bridge since God knows when and it was finally going to happen. I started clicking away to glory when I heard the horn of a train. I immediately rushed to the spot in front of the lever that goes up for ships, so that I could take pics of the train coming in. It was my good fortune, I was able to click a few :).

The walk continued and by the time I covered the 2.2 km stretch, I was rewarded with a view of a beautiful sunrise!

Now, buses hardly stop at the other end of the Indira Gandhi road bridge, so you'd have to walk up to Mandapam, which is about a kilometer away. You can see peacocks on the way.

But to my good fortune, I was able to catch an auto that charged me 40 Rupees. I got down at Mandapam bus stand and got a bus to Ramanthapuram from there. From Ramanthapuram, I got a bus to Madurai. I had assumed that the bus would go to Periyar bus stand, but I was wrong. The bus reached Maatuthavani bus stand at 11 am. I was stunned thinking whether I was in Madurai or the Sahara desert! Madurai is scorching hot! The heat is just brutal, merciless and murderous. Chennai feels like a hill station in comparison!!!

I got a headache within minutes of reaching Madurai. I took an auto to Meenakshi temple. It cost 120 Rupees. I hadn't had breakfast, so I decided to eat the popular Kezhangu Pottalam at the very famous Nagapattinam Halwa Kadai. But to my bad luck, food was unavailable on that day and I had to make do with Halwa.

I then had poori and chapathi and the famous Delhiwala Sweets.

My headache was increasing big-time and I was getting really exhausted as I walked in search of a Jigarthanda shop. I finally found one.

Jigarthanda is to Madurai what an oasis is to a desert. Jigarthanda is an ABSOLUTE MUST-NOT-MISS drink in Madurai, it is THE PERFECT ANTIDOTE to the murderous Madurai heat. I felt a little better after I drank it.

The shopkeeper told me that Madurai temples shut down till 4 pm and there was nothing to do until then. Normally, I'd have tried to visited Thirumalai Naicker Mahal, but I was too exhausted and decided to take it easy. So I just checked into the nearest random lodge around, Hotel Sree Devi and booked an A/C room for 1050. The lodge was just about okay, quite sub-standard with a not-so-impressive loo, but I didn't care. All I wanted was an A/C room and a bed to fall flat on. And I did just that - turned on the A/C, popped in a dart tablet and just slept. I woke up at around 3.15 pm and an attendant at the hotel arranged for an auto that would take me to the Alagar Koil and bring me back to the hotel for 600. It sounded okay to me and I went ahead.

Pazhamudircholai Alagar Koil is about 18 km away from Madurai city and opens at 4 pm. There's a whole lot to see here. From the bottom of the hill, there are vans that take you up the hill to the Murugar temple for 10. It's about a 10-min drive uphill. No restrictions here, you can wear shorts and Tshirt and take your bag in.

It's a forest area, so there are loads of monkeys, watch out! Once you're done with the temple, you can walk a few meters further uphill and find the Ramar theertham to your left. Once again, it's a high-monkey zone. I walked up the steps, drank the holy water and came back. Many devotees chose to take a holy bath too, but I didn't want to waste too much time, so I came back.

I took another van downhill for 10. At the bottom of the hill, I went to the Alagar koil. It is quite huge and interesting.

By the time I was done with this, it was around 5.45 pm. We headed back towards Madurai city and by the time I reached Meenakshi temple, it was 6.45 pm. I entered through the West Tower.

Now, at the Meenakshi temple, cameras are NOT allowed. Bags are NOT allowed. Wearing shorts is not allowed. Luckily, I had got a veshti along with me, so I wore that. Cell-phones are allowed, but should be in silent mode and no photography is allowed near the sannidhis. There is a good cloak room to keep all your belongings and the charge is 10, if I'm not mistaken. Once you enter the West Tower, you go anti-clockwise and from the South, you enter into the Amman Sannidhi. There's the free darshan which takes the longest time, whereas there are 20 and 100 tickets for special darshan. I went for the 100 special darshan and it was fully worth it! I got a good, 5-10 min darshan of Meenakshi Amman and what a beauty she was! Dressed up and embellished extremely well, it was totally worth it! No wonder, thousands from around the world flock to see her. After this, I moved on to the Sivan temple, which is covered under the same special darshan ticket.

This is another resoundingly peaceful experience - the feeling of peace which you get when you're in the home of God, far away from all the routines in life, is unbelievable! From here, I headed to the Sivan temple inside. Once that was done, I covered all the other shrines, including Kalyana Sundareswarar etc (prayed that I get a good wife :P) ...I then visited the 1000-pillars hall+Temple museum for 50. Another mind-blowing place!

I was famished by the time I covered the huge temple complex, so bought myself a laddu prasadam for 5

By the time this was done, it was 7.45 pm. I headed back to the hotel and decided to check-out. My bus was at 11.30 pm, so I decided that I would cover Thiruparankundram and then head to the bus stand directly from there. Once again, the hotel staff arranged for an auto, that would do this for me, for 300. I said okay and we went to Thiruparankundram.

Thiruparankundram is another nice Murugan temple. Shorts are not allowed here. Gadgets are allowed, but photography is not. There wasn't much of a rush, but I took the special darshan anyway, priced at 50. I didn't want to lose any time. This was quite an interesting temple and I was done soon.

The auto dropped me at Hotel Ashok Bhavan at the Periyar Bus Stand. I had told him that I wanted to eat good Vegetarian Parottas and he suggested this place. And boy, were they awesome!! SLURPILICIOUSLY YUM!

Unfortunately, I was told that my bus to Kanyakumari was from the Maatuthavani bus stand and not this one, so I had to take a connecting bus to Maatuthaavani for 10. At Maatuthavani, I waited and waited and waited. Hundreds of buses to Nagercoil and Kanyakumari kept coming and going, but not mine. I was scared of missing the morning sunrise at Kanyakumari! The manager finally over-wrote my e-ticket and put me on a bus to Kanyakumari at 12.15 am.

So a lesson - NEVER BOOK BUS TICKETS in Tamil Nadu, it's a waste. There are loads of buses every now and then, you can just get into one of them ad-hoc and go wherever you want.

I got into the bus and caught as much sleep as I could. That ends an eventful day 2 at Madurai.

Day 3 at Kanyakumari can be read here.

P.S - All temples in Madurai close from 12 pm - 4 pm. 
I wanted to cover the Mariamman Theppakulam too, but was told that there is absolutely no water in the kulam. So I dropped the idea.

1 comment:

Namaji said...

Great post and good pics. I am planning a trip to Pazhamudhircholai and Thirupparankundram soon.