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Destinations · Asia · india · Tamil Nadu · Things to do ·

Things To Do

Author: Gunita Kakteniece0 COMMENTS

Things To Do

Definitely make sure you visit:

- SREE MEENAKSHI TEMPLE. This Madurai temple is one of the largest Hindu shrines in Tamil Nadu. The enormous complex of buildings practically covers the area of a couple of street blocks. Forget about not wanting to look like a typical tourist, just follow a guide. Firstly, you will learn a lot. Secondly, you will at least not get lost wandering between twelve temple towers, a number of gates and numerous statues of Hindu gods. There is also a museum on the premises of Sree Meenakshi.

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- THIRUMALI NAYAK PALACE. The 1636 palace built by King Thirumalai Nayak is one of the most popular landmarks in Madurai. Although the building hasn't been fully renovated, it is nevertheless incredibly beautiful and impressive. During the dark hours you can also watch a light and sound show.

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- TIRUPARANKUDRAM. The rock-cut temple is located just outside Madurai, quite near the Taj Garden Retreat hotel. Shoes, normally left in front of Hindu temples, will have to be taken off on the other side of the road this time. Once you have made your bare-foot way to the temple, a local worshipper for a symbolic charge will show you even the altar (which non-Hindus are banned from approaching elsewhere) and anoint you by making a white mark on your forehead. You leave the place as something of a Hindu yourself, at least visually.

- KANNADUKATHAN. This is a typical town of the Chettinad region, one of the many where the old houses of wealthy bankers and financiers with the unique exquisite woodwork are still preserved. The well-to-do locality is also home to the local Raja's palace. Every now and then the owner arrives and throws a huge party for the locals, including bountiful treats. For the rest of the time the opulent house is open to visitors free of charge - you won't be allowed inside the royal bedroom, however...
Next door to the Raja's palace the wife of a distant relation has mounted a small but very tasteful exhibition of her hobby, the beautiful things made by the local artisans, including traditional saris in the exclusive colour-scheme typical of this particular region.

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- ATHANGUDI TILE FACTORY. Thanks to the clayey soil, the Chettinad region is the producer of the traditional tiles used for the floors in most local houses, including the Raja's palace. The tiles are made manually and hand-painted to be left to dry in the sun for at least a couple of weeks. Visitors are welcome (do ask for more exact directions at your hotel), just don't expect to see super modern equipment or anything like that. What you will find are a couple of shacks with some 3-4 workers sitting on the ground, making and painting the tiles. 100 % hand-made!

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- BRIHADISHWARA TEMPLE. The moment will come when the countless vivid and bright Tamil Nadu temples start to look depressingly similar; a short tour of the Brihadishwara Temple in the city of Thanjavur will seem like a breath of fresh air then. No blues or reds there, the façade and interior of Brihadishwara Temple are strictly greyish-brown stone. As befits a proper Hindu temple, you will be greeted by an elephant; the giant animal - a symbol of happiness in India - will give its blessing by touching its head with the trunk. Perhaps it's the simplicity and homeliness that makes a visit to this particular sightseeing object so much more memorable.

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- THE ROYAL PALACE COMPOUND AND FACTORY OF METAL FIGURES. The former royal palace of Thanjavur now houses a museum of the Chola bronze deities, the best known of which is, of course, the Dancing Shiva. Chola bronzes are probably the only Tamil Nadu art form widely known in other parts of the world - a sort of a trademark, as it were, of the region. The process of making these masterpieces involves the so-called Lost Wax technique. Namely, the incredibly finely sculpted wax figurine is coated with mixture of sand and clay. Once the cover has dried and hardened in the sun, the wax is melted and poured out but the empty clay mould is filled with a metal alloy (zinc, bronze, etc.). The only thing that remains to be done is cleaning the bronze figure, and a work of art is ready. You can witness this exciting process and its result with your own eyes - and by a bronze deity as a souvenir - at the Swamimalai factory.

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- THE AUROVILLE MEDITATION CENTRE MATRI MANDIR. The small experimental lifestyle town of Auroville built by the community founded by the spiritual teachers Sri Aurobindo and Mirra Alfassa (better known as The Mother), situated approximately 10 km from Pondicherry, is one of the most popular Tamil Nadu destinations among curious and spiritually-inclined travellers. The Matri Mandir meditation centre is based on a single principle: its door is open for anyone, regardless of religious persuasion and geographical affiliation. The centre of the complex is a huge globe-like building that is very much reminiscent of a gilded golf ball; the interior of the centre is completely white. There is a certain ritual you have to comply with to gain entrance: first you have to watch a 5-minute documentary on the history and main ideas of Auroville, and only then everyone is given a free pass to the grounds of the meditation centre. To see the "gilt ball" itself from the inside, you have to announce your visit at the information centre (at least a day in advance). There is no shortage of foreign nationals living and working in Auroville. The slight western influence in the clothing produced here as well as the general atmosphere creates a certain illusion of a visit to a 1960s hippy town with a free lifestyle and vivid colours.
The ashram of the spiritual teacher and philosopher Sri Aurobindo is located in Pondicherry. It is a place where people come to meditate and/or buy books on meditation, spiritual world outlook, healthy lifestyle, yoga and even management - admittedly, one with a certain spiritual twist - by him and the Mother.

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- THE OPEN-AIR MUSEUM will impress you most if you visit it first thing during your trip, before you check into a hotel housed in a typical Indian building. The main exhibits are the ancient dwellings traditional in three southern Indian states: Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. There is no shortage of various attractions: you can get an elaborate henna hand drawing or perhaps learn a tradition craft - an ideal destination for the younger travellers among you. The territory is quite large but an hour is enough for at least a cursory tour.

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