The holidays had finally come and it was an early start to the journey as we had to travel more than 500 kms to Madurai, the Temple City. The entire point of this 5 day trip around the lesser visited towns of Tamil Nadu was to experience the better parts of India like we have never experienced before. I’ve never extensively toured India and this was my chance to begin in small parts. The agenda for the day was to travel through 5 toll gates from Bangalore to Madurai in the super comfortable Toyota Innova (no promotional business here, I guarantee) and reach our hotel, Hotel Park Plaza, after which we would go to the famous Thirumalai Nayaka Palace and watch the Sound and Light show.
The highways in India vary from state to state. The National Highways are absolutely deplorable up north but improve as you come down south. Between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, although relations are strained in terms of water distribution and other political and border issues, the national highways are a beauty to travel on. With my grandmother and her sister traveling with us, it was essential that they journey be as comfortable as it possibly can. The day was mostly spent reading the latest Game of Thrones book in the backseat which I had all to myself along with watching the new episodes of shows like NCIS and Scandal. We reached Madurai at around 4:30 pm and were promptly lost trying to find our hotel. Imagine a huge Innova, an SUV like car, trying to maneuver the small and tiny roads that were mostly one way. The entire city revolves around the famous Meenakshi Amman temple which is in the centre of the city and can be seen from a distance at practically any point in the city. I was astonished to find that the nature and tempo of the town was much slower than what most Bangaloreans are used to, being that Bangalore is also a sleepy city. The town gave me an idea to compose a murder mystery story/novel on the murder of a man in a town similar to Madurai. Another eye-catching detail was the presence of the temple, a church and a mosque all within 100 meters of each other, displaying the true sense of secularism that most metropolitan cities haven’t been able to exhibit even now.
We then rested for a while and proceeded to watch the famous Sound and Light show at the Thirumalai Nayaka Palace which went on for approximately 45 minutes. The show was a detailed description of the king of Madurai, Thirumalai Nayaka who moved into the palace constructed by an Italian architect in 1636 AD along with his two consorts Rudra and Tholi. The 7th rule in the Nayaka dynasty was besieged with attacks from the king of Mysore and was a just and kind ruler. The courtyard of the palace was where the show took place and the shifting lights and colors were accompanied by resounding and entertaining narration of how the Mysore forces were sent back and how the Nayaka dynasty came into existence courtesy of the Vijayanagara ruler, Krishnadevaraya.
Of course, with the temple still left to be seen and my mother still needing to buy sarees (what with all the shops being closed on account of today being a Sunday), we are to return to Madurai on our way back to Bangalore from Kanyakumari and will thus complete our acquaintance with this charming city then.