Best Places to Visit in Madurai – Part 2

Let’s move along with our previous post on some of the must-visit places in one of Tamilnadu’s most bustling cities–Madurai. Here are a few places you can add to your travel bucket:

6.  Thiruparankundram Dargah (also, Sulthan Sikandhar Badhusha Shaheed shrine):

The Thiruparankundram Dargah is located at the top of the Thirupparamkundram hill. Housing the grave of the Islamic saint Sultan Sikandhar Badushah shaheed, this shrine is frequented by people of all religious faiths and stands as a symbol of inter-faith harmony, secular and pluralistic values. Devotees gather in large numbers during the annual Urs (anniversary ) festival to pay their respect to the great Sufi saint.

7. Gandhi Memorial Museum:

Situated across the famous Vaigai River and tucked in the Summer Palace of Nayak queen Rani Mangammal, is the Gandhi Memorial Museum, one of the seven museum galleries dedicated to the ‘father of the nation’ Gandhiji. It has some of the rarest collections of Bapuji such as the spectacles, shawl and the bloodstained dhoti (loincloth) worn by him at the time he was shot dead in 1948. Gandhi turned to wearing the dhoti only on his visit to Madurai in 1921 and termed it “national pride”. Don’t miss out on the Madurai Government Museum located within the same campus.

Koodal Azhagar Temple

8.  Koodal Azhagar Temple:

This is another famous temple in Madurai dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is one of the 108 Divya Desams, the holy shrines of Vishnu. Located near the Meenakshi Amman Temple, this temple holds significance as much as the Thirupallandu. According to legend, the great Tamil poet Periyalwar sung the first 12 verses of the 4000 Divyaprabadam eulogizing the Hindu deity Azhagar. The lord was so pleased that he appeared in the form of ‘Koodal Azhagar’. Koodal is also the ancient name of the city.

9. Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam:

The Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam is a huge square water tank spread over a sprawling 16-acre land. Constructed in 1646 by Thirumalai Nayak, this tank is situated 5km east of the Meenakshi Temple. In the middle of the tank is placed an idol of Lord Vinayaka or Vignesh resting on a platform. Legend has it that this place was unearthed when the earth was excavated to make bricks for building the Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal. The place was turned into a temple tank and was dedicated to Lord Ganesh, one of the supreme deities of the Hindu religion. The annual “Teppakulam Float Festival” takes place here with great fanfare and celebrations, during the months of January and February.  It is said that the water from River Vaigai flows into the largest temple tank in the state.

10. Azhagar Kovil Temple:

Situated at a distance of 21km from the city, Alagar Koyil Temple (or Alagar Kovil), dedicated to Lord Vishnu holds a lot of religious significance. Nestled in the foothills of the Azhagar (Alagar hills), the temple features an enthralling architecture; even more mesmerizing is the natural setting encircling this temple. The main deity the temple is Lord Paramaswamy, with the processional idol being Lord Alagar or Sundararajan, considered to be the brother of Goddess Meenakshi. The Kalyana Sundaravalli, the consort of Lord Alagar, has a separate shrine enclosed within the temple complex. You can also find separate shrines for deities Yoga Narasimha, Sudarshana and Andal.

Though built by the Pandyas, the temple known for its intricate sculpting, detailing and mandapams, was later renovated by the Nayak rulers. Many Theerthams are located nearby including the “Noopura Ganga”, believed to have descended directly from the heavens.

Madurai is just not about temples, it is also famous for its wholesale banana market, Murugan Idli Shop, Vilachery Pottery Village, Keelakuyilkudi and Samanar Hills and many more attractions that will bring out the complete ‘traveler’ in you. So if you come down south, Madurai is the place for you to refresh your spiritual as well as your nocturnal quotient as this city never sleeps at night!

Best Places to Visit in Madurai – Part 1

Madurai, the land of the glorious Tamil Pandya Kingdom, is the second largest city in Tamilnadu. This almost 3500-year old city is one of the state’s major destinations, and has remained since the cradle of Tamil civilization and culture, and the seat of learning. Often dubbed as the “Athens of the East”, Madurai resembles the ancient city in architectural style such as its many alleyways.  When the famous Nayaks ruled the city, several outstanding buildings and temples were constructed that still attract tourists and pilgrims in large numbers.  In a two-part series, we will bring you some of the must-see places in this ancient Tamil city.

madurai meenakshi temple

1. Meenakshi Temple:

There is no point in touring the city if you miss out on visiting the Meenakshi Temple, the cynosure of the city. The temple, apparently, was built around the Shiva Linga that you can find inside its sanctum.  The sacred temple is built in an area of 15 acres and comprises 4500 pillars and 12 majestic towers standing tall.  One of the most frequented temples in South India; you will have no problems even spending days inside the sanctum. You can also find Hindu couples gathered in large numbers, during auspicious days, to get married in the temple’s corridor. No wonder, it’s worth visiting the temple once in the morning and again for the night rituals in the evening.

2. Puthu Mandapam:

Feel free to venture inside the capacious Puthu Mandapam, pillared entrance hill that stands opposite the Meenakshi Temple. Built in the 17th century, this hall today is the lifeline of several tailors and small stalls selling scarves, fabric, designer jewellery, fashion accessories, art work and handicrafts. You can get the aforementioned stuffs and more at good discount prices and offers. You can also check good quality clothes, including near replicas.

3. Tirumalai Nayak Palace:

Located about a kilometre south-east of Meenakshi Temple is the renowned Tirumalai Nayak Palace constructed in 1636 by the famous Nayak ruler King Thirumalai Nayak. Considered as the city’s second major attraction, the palace is based on the Indo-Sarcenic style with an Italian architect helping in its design and construction. It was the King’s residential palace before leaving it open for public view. It seems like only a part of the original structure comprising the courtyard, entrance hall, audience hall and dance hall remains intact today. The structure saw some major renovation works with the Government recently spending substantial money on it.

4. Saint Mary’s Cathedral:

The Saint Mary’s Cathedral is one of the oldest Roman Catholic (RC) churches that was constructed in the year 1840. Situated on East Veli Street, the structure took its present form in 1916 with its architecture including two tall bell towers, and is a fusion of several Continental and European building styles.

5. Thiruparankundram:

If you think you still have some time left for strolling along Madurai, then you shouldn’t miss out Thiruparankundram, about 20 minutes south-west of the city. Thiruparankundram houses another ancient temple that is dedicated to one of Hindu religion’s supreme deities Lord Murugan (son of Lord Shiva in Hindu mythology), venerated as a Tamil God. On the hill top of Thiruparankundram, you can find a 14th century-old Islamic shrine (or Dargah) of the sufi saint Hazrat Sultan Sikandhar Badhusha.  We will be covering more about this shrine and few other attractions of the city in the concluding part-series of the article. Until then, it’s happy travel time from us!

How will choose you the best honeymoon package?

The wedding season is on and you are about to taste its flavour soon. What next? Honeymoon? There can be no denying that. A lot has been already discussed on the choice of honeymoon destinations, but how one chooses the right honeymoon package obviously drives other things in place. There are a lot of options on cards and honeymooners, no doubt, latch on the first available package they find, either online or offline. Remember honeymoon is something that must be remembered for the right reasons.  Some of the initial questions that need to be answered in the planning phase: what type of travel do you prefer? What destinations suit you genre? What is your budget? What hotel or resort falls within your considerations and budget? If you can answer these questions, you are well on your way to your dream honeymoon.

Honymoon packages

What do you want out of your honeymoon?

From Europe to Hawaii, the Caribbean Islands to Las Vegas, there are a whole lot of honeymoon destinations to pick from. You need to decide first on the type of travel, what you want out of your honeymoon trip, then the rest of the things will fall in place. It must be noted that every destination will offer its unique feature: history, mysticism romance, adventure, thrill and other travel genres; sometimes a combination of one or two travel genres will turn out to be really cool.

In general, go for something that will offer varied travel experiences for your honeymoon vacation.

Destinations that’ll match your interest

Now that you have some idea on the type of honeymoon you are looking for, let us be more specific on the selecting the specific destination that will match your interest.  While there are some European vacations that offer the ability to travel multiple countries in a single trip, most travel packages are single-country or single-location based.  If you’ve decided to honeymoon on an island, research a bit on the local attractions around, traditional culture, language, foods and information on the beaches and the type of activities the place offers such as fishing, diving, sailing, or chilling on a lounge chair around the pool, enjoying the sun, etc.   There may be a few more questions, but let’s narrow down our focus to the basics.

How much is your travel spend?

Like most things in life, travel is decided on the basis of budget. How much are you willing to spend on your honeymoon trip? How many days have you planned to cover in your trip? This, more often than not, isn’t a difficult one as there are several resorts, hotels, tour operators, travel websites and app platforms all competing for some business space. All you need to do is refine your search a bit, either online or offline, and match your needs with the budget. Look for discounts and offers and check if the available packages cover meals, transportation, and entertainment at the hotel or resort. Some extra bucks will probably allow you to spend outside the all-inclusive travel package that you’ve selected.

Finding the right resort

If you have managed to answer the first three questions, then finding the best resort, hotel or accommodation is only a cinch. As we discussed earlier, it’s always considered a great idea to participate in social media interactions, travel forums, travel blogs, and other social networking sites to say what others have to say about a particular resort or hotel. Find out how from the experience of previous honeymooners on particular destinations; this will go a long way in helping you make the right decision and spice up your honeymoon trip.

 

 

 

What can you learn from the ‘Langar’ lessons of Golden Temple?

The Golden Temple (or the Harmandir Sahib) in Amritsar is the ‘Mecca’ of Sikh community all over the world.  Considered the holiest Gurdwara, it is the most important pilgrimage site of Sikhism. If the architectural features of the Golden Temple are striking, even more unique is the ‘Langar’ (or Sikh community kitchen), which brings people of all religions and faiths together shedding all communal differences altogether. The main objective of this revolutionary concept started by the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev, is to feed the poor and the needy and unite people of all walks in the name of service to God and humanity.

Golden temple

This timeless tradition of cooking and serving food to people together paves the way to community sustenance and upliftment.  Visitors to the Gurudwara actively engage in Langar activities such as cooking food, cleaning utensils and visiting the local farmer markets and cattle diary, the main suppliers to the Gurudwara for feeding around 60,000 pilgrims every day.

The volunteers mingle with the devotees to perform ‘sewa’ (voluntary service) as they cut and chop vegetables, peel and slice onions, roll and make ‘chapathis’ with their heads covered sitting with crossed legs on the floor in the Langar housed within the Golden Temple.  Take a closer look – the volunteers give in everything they can to sustain the efforts of the community kitchen and uphold the age-old sacred tradition. The scale of Langar in the Golden Temple can be beyond one’s wildest imagination.

One can learn a great deal of lessons from the Golden Temple including the art of building communities with haves and have-nots working together and sharing tasks and resources with another. The volunteers are also drawn by the ‘magical’ power to serve humanity and the role played by farmers, traders and merchants in donating 10% of earning to the Langar (also, known as “daswandh”).

If you are at the Golden Temple and miss out on serving at the Langar kitchen community, then you haven’t derived the full benefit of visiting the sacred site.

 

How do students benefit from educational trips?

Schools, colleges, educational and academic institutions organize annual educational trips that are important in many ways:

hanover universityGoing on an educational trip means leaving the school premises as a group for a collective objective of gaining pedagogical knowledge while also deriving pleasure out it, at the same time. Educational trip is a key educational element, but its impact can be more in terms of content. It brings students of a particular group or community closer, helps them experience new learning environments and, if anything, gives them a little break in the middle of a stressful academic environment.  Students may also display fresh and renewed focus on their schoolwork right after a successful educational outing.

Fresh learning experience:

The first tangible advantage of any educational trip is the collaborative learning experience of both students and teachers in a new environment. It may also invoke innovative learning experience, teaching many subjects such as exotic wildlife, rare plants, and may be even the Milky Way or Galaxy if the intended educational trip field is a planetarium.  Remember, they are extremely rare to find in schools or colleges. It is also good if the details about the educational trip are discussed beforehand as students may get to know what they’ll experience in the planned educational trip.

Networking opportunities:

Educational trip can be a relaxing escape from the everyday school grind as students get to network better in a new, fresh environment. They can connect and relate things better with one another on a more personal level without any structured approach. Networking can be much more effective in smaller groups that are involved in chatting, observing and learning things together.  When students participate in educational trips early in their lives, they are well on their way to winning another’s true heart and friendship for life.

Informal Learning Environment:

WOW is a day of escape from the classroom at some point during the year, keeping aside textbooks, notebooks and other study materials for a while and enjoying a few quiet moments. Educational trips lend a more informal set-up for learning. If the educational trip field or destination has individuals with hands-on teaching experience with a bit of practical skills, they can be an invaluable asset to visiting students during the trip, opening up a new realm of immersive learning experience.

Lastly, it is fun throughout:

Whatever is the learning experience derived out an educational trip, ultimately it is the fun part that simply is matchless, at the end of the day —there can be no denying that. Educational trips offer rich, positive experience and — in any case — the beginning of a lifetime love affair with students.