Last year December we, four of our family, wife and two kids traveled Madurai, Rameshwaram, Kodaikanal, Kannyakumari. We started from Kolkata. All of us love to travel by train so we did our reservation in Coromondol Express, which leave Howrah Station at about 2 pm.
After a relaxing sleep in train we reached Chennai Central next day at 5 pm. A 4 berth coupe in AC 1st was booked before hand in Pandian Express from Chennai Egmore. Prepaid Taxi from Chennai Central to Chennai Egmore is 5 minutes, but charged us INR 100/- Much costlier than our city Kolkata! We had some time in Chennai Egmore. We roamed around a little and packed our dinner (vegetarian) from a clean restaurant and Pandian express left Chennai in time. We are now approaching our 1st destination Madurai scheduled to come at 6 am.
Madurai is 492 Km from Chennai and is very well connected by bus with Kannyakumari 235 Km, Trichi 128 Km, Coimbatore 222 Km, Kodaikanal 120 Km. Many trains are coming to Madurai throughout day and night from Chennai.
We Reached at 6 am. There are many hotels of different budgets in the city.
TTDC: Non AC INR 500, AC INR 800 for DB room (+91451 2537461/ 2337471)
Madurai is almost 2500 years old place, second largest city of Tamilnadu. It was established by Panda king Kulsekhar by rhe side of Vaigai river at an altitude of 133 Meters between two mountains Hasti and Nag.
The Main attraction of Madurai is Meenakshi Amman Temple. It is a fabulous creation of Dravidian architecture. Nayekraj Tirumalai built this temple at 17th century.
The temple has a stunning architecture and a significant testimony for Vishwakarma Brahmins for their master architecture in sculpting this temple.This was a front runner in the election for the modern seven wonders of the world for its architectural importance.The complex houses 12 magnificent gopurams or towers that are elaborately sculptured and painted. The temple is a significant symbol for the Tamil people, and has been mentioned since antiquity in Tamil literature, though the present structure is believed to have been built only recently in the early 17th century.
The temple can be entered by any of the 4 large Gopuram. There are two temples inside the main compound one is of Devi Meenakshi and other is of Sundareshwar, another name for Lord Shiva. The sculptures on the wall of both the temples are fascinating.
We seen the temple on the same day we reached Madurai. It is very close to the Railway Station.
The narrow road is through market place with shops of all kinds, one can very easily walk up to the temple. Temple remain closed everyday from 1 to 4 pm. In the evening we hired a car to see the other places of Madurai and nearby.
It did not take more than 5 hours to see rest of the places around Madurai. Tirumalai Nayek Mahal 1.5 Km, Gandhi Museum 5 Km, Government Museum, Mari Amman Teppakulam, where Meenakshi and Sudareshwar deiti is brought each year with a grand procession during the float festival in Jan- Feb. The other two temples to see are Tirupankundram Temple 8 km, and Ajhagar Temple 21 km.
We booked the car for the next day- our destination Kodaikanal.
It was raining from the morning. Once we thought of cancelling but ultimately decided to go. At least we can enjoy the road the nature, the beauty from the car. Kodaikanal is a lovely hill station
( 5000 Ft) at western ghat. The main attraction and the name is from Kodai Lake. It is a very big lake 26 Hectares with lush green vegetation around. Though we could not do, leisurely boating in the lake will be a nice experience. We should have stayed there for a day or two, but our schedule was tight. It is better to add one and if possible two days for Kodai. We visited all the places in Kodai with our car, could not come out of the car at some places due to rail and extreme cold breeze. We saw Briants Park. The glass house there has collection of many colorful flowers. Though could not walk we saw Koker's walk, a beautiful walking area on the top of the hill. We drove a little higher to reach a temple. We first learnt about Kurinji flower, which bloom every 12 years! It bloomed just a year back, so we had to remain satisfied by looking at the picture of that.
Green valley view, suicide point is another place to see, from where nice view of Vaigai dam is visible. The two beautiful falls we enjoyed in rain Fairy Falls and Silver Cascade Falls.
We missed boating at Kodai Lake but we will come again here.
Tamil Nadu Tourism Hotel: A/C Deluxe DB room INR 650, Deluxe Cottage INR 750, Kurinji Cottage INR 1100. (+914542 2413336)
There are many other hotels in Kodai of different budgets.
We came back to Madurai on the same day evening.
How to go to Rameshwaram was the big question! We can go by bus. by car or train then whether A/C or non A/C! The reason is Pamban Bridge. Ultimately we chose to go by second class in a local train and we were right. Train started from Madurai at 6 am, filled with local people and was not much crowded. It was a nice change. Rameshwaram is 163 Km from madurai and took four hours to reach. It is a 52 square Km island at the Gulf of Mannar of Tamil nadu. Two bridges, one Railway and other for other vehicles connect the island with the mail land.
Railway bridge is awesome! It took 7 mins to cross the bridge and the feeling was we are traveling over the sea! Even the waves can hit the train coaches. We were so excited. The other bridge is placed on long pillars and much higher than the level of the sea.
My 10 year old son was excited to see Tonga (horse pulled carriage) and we decided to avail that for the sight seeing.
The main attraction of Rameshwaram is Ramnath swamy Shiva Temple. It is one of the 12th Jyotirlinga temple in India.
According to legends, this is the place from where Lord Rama, built a bridge Ram Setu (also known as Adam's bridge) across the sea to Lanka to rescue his consort Sita, from her abductor, Ravana. This is also the place where Rama worshipped Shiva to be absolved of the sin of killing Ravana, hence the name of Shiva, which became the name of the town - Rameswara ("lord of Rama"). Both the Vaishnavites and Shaivites visit this pilgrimage center which is known as the Varanasi of the south.
The masterpiece of South Indian architecture boasts of the largest temple corridor in India. Different rulers built the Ramanatha Swamy Temple over a period of time starting from the 12th century. The temple comprises twenty two wells where the taste of the water of each well is different from the other.
The grandest part of the temple is the 1219 m pillared corridor consisting of 3.6 m high granite pillars, richly carved and well proportioned. The perspective presented by these pillars run uninterruptedly to a length of nearly 230 m.
The main entrance, gopuram of the temple is near the Agnitirtham beach.
Not much to say about these places except at Sita mandir they kept some stones, floating in water. These stones might be having air pockets within them, so floating. People were ecstatic by seeing them. It was said that Ramachandra made the bridge to Srilanka by these stones.
Though it is not necessary to stay there, but there are many hotels there of all budgets. Over enthusiasts may stay a day.
Dhanuskoti , a place 16 kms from here where Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal meets. It is a quiet sea beach with all its beauty to offer.
Tamil Nadu Tourism Hotel (+91 4573 221064)
A/C DB 700 -900 INR, NON A/C DB 350 INR
We came back to Madurai same day by a car from there. We had our reservation for kannyakumari in a train from Madurai scheduled to arrive at 11 pm.
DAY 5- 7:
It is a strange feeling to reach Kannyakumari, the last point of India. Three oceans Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, and Bay of Bengal meet each other here. From one point one can see both sunrise and sunset on the sea!
Except very crowded at tourist season, this place is just fabulous. Kumari Amman temple is at the beach. It is a Durga Temple. The pillars in the temple produce beautiful musical sounds when they were hit. Gandhi Mandapam and Vivekanand memorial is also worth seeing places nearby.
Vivekananda Rock is of course the most attractive. There is regular ferry service through out the day from the beach to the rocks. There is also another rock with a large statue of great Tamil poet Thirubhallubhar. The whole journey to the rocks and the views are so intoxiating your camera clicking will never stop.
There are few other places to see which we saw by hiring a auto rickshaw.
We missed sunrise next day due to cloud, but sun set at Arabian sea and the play of colours in the sky we will remember through out our life.
Plenty of hotels are there of different budgets are there to choose from:
Tamil Nadu Tourism ( +91 04652 246257- 58)
Non A/C DB 575 INR A/C DB 775 INR
Central Reservation office of Tamil nadu Tourism:
2, Walaza Road, Chennai 600 002.
(044) 2538 3333/ 4444/ 9857; 2356 7850 - 54
Our leave is exhausted ..now time to return to work and kids to school. But everyone was fulfilled. There was something for everyone of us in this trip. We came directly to Chennai by train and then to our city of joy, Kolkata.
Here are some other photos