Places to see in Central Tamil Nadu - Part II

When you say Central Tamil Nadu, the 2 cities that pop-out of the map, are Trichy and Madurai. We saw Trichy aka Tiruchirappalli in the last post. Now, let's see Madurai. Just like Trichy, Madurai is also a well known destination among Indians and much less among non-Indians! The reason for it to be known among Indians is for pilgrimage at Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple. While the temple is one of the popular places to visit in Madurai, there are quite a few unusual, amazing things to do as well!

Madurai is very important for those who are interested in the life and history of Mahatma Gandhi. Madurai is where he decided to stop wearing shirts, after seeing many peasants whose normal attire was just the loin cloth! During the Indian Independence struggle, in 1920s, Gandhiji was fiercely promoting Khadi fabric are the livery of freedom! People all over India were encouraged to spin and weave their own fabrics! Here, in Gandhigram, located between Madurai & Dindigul, the task was overtaken by the couple Dr. T.S. Soundram and Dr. G. Ramachandran. Gandhiji himself had visited here to deliver his speech and that's when he shed his shirt as well! This was in Sept 22, 1921.

After that, he had visited Madurai multiple times and the last was in 1946 when the train he travelled in, crossed Chinnalapatti and the people of Chinnalapatti and neighbouring villages, surrounded the train and stopped it just to see Gandhiji. This very site is located just around Gandhigram.

Today, Gandhigram is a rural university and Dr.Soundram Trust does dedicated work for the welfare and health of the people around this region. People are trained in Khadi and other Village industries. There is a Khadi Bhavan here which, not only sells the clothes hand-spun and hand-woven by the people of this region, but also grains, food, soaps etc made by in the village industries by the locals! Buying anything here is for the noble cause of supporting the handmade village products in this era of mass produced goods!

A walk in this premises takes you to a very different feel! Talking to the people here, tells you what simple village life is like, the one for which Gandhiji gave up his shirt! While talking about handmade goods, a short walk from Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple, closer to Koodalazhagar Temple, is Madurai Kalaiyagam.

Being a temple, several festivals and celebrations happen at Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple. During the celebrations, the temple chariots and the palanquins are covered with fabric that’s appliquéd with multitude of colors, motifs and embellishments. This appliqué work is done currently by only 7 craftsmen families in Madurai. The master craftsman at Madurai Kalaiyagam is Mr.Sundaravadivelan. He is the 6th generation of the craft practitioners in his family.

The major products include the canopy of temple chariot (thaer), canopy of palanquin (pallakku) cloth pillars (asanjaadi maalai aka thombai), door way decorations (thoranam aka vassal maalai), umbrella (kudai) etc. The appliqué work is done by pasting colored fabrics, cut in certain shapes on base fabric and then folding the edges and stitching them. Embroidery is superficially done to add value and details upon the appliqué. The colors and shapes are traditional and the ones that are considered auspicious.
Today, some smaller items are also sold here which can be used as home decor! Again, just like purchasing Khadi, this too is for the noble cause of supporting the handmade village products in this era of mass produced goods!

To Stay: Hotels in Madurai are available in all price points.

To Get There: Madurai has its own international airport (VOMD) which serve major cities of India as well as Singapore and Columbo.

This series will have atleast 2 more posts but before we continue on that, I'll be posting on other topics and then get back on this. Stay tuned!

Places to see in Central Tamil Nadu -
Part 3 - Pudukottai (coming soon)
Part 4 - Karur & Namakkal (coming soon)

Bhushavali

An ardent traveler by passion. I am a wanderlust.. Read more about me here.

12 comments:

  1. We haven't visited Madurai yet but I would love to do so in the future. Madurai temple is so famous and would love to pay our respects at this temple. I am also keen on visiting Khadi Bhavan and Kalaiyagan after reading your post. Purchasing the regionally made handicrafts is a great way to support the talented artisans. This is exactly the reason why I love to shop at Dilli Haat whenever I am visiting New Delhi. Thanks for sharing the informative post.

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  2. No doubt Madurai is beautiful place with lovable people. With the help of your post i feel like i have really visited them. You always have something unique to post and that is why readers like me wait for your blogs. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. I remember visiting Madurai with my parents when I was very small. And no doubt, it was to see the Meenakshi Temple. I had no idea this place held so much significance for the Indian freedom struggle. Tracing back the history of Khadi is definitely an interesting thing to do in Madurai.

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  4. Oh wow I didn't know anything about Tamil Nadu but after reading this I really want to visit all these places! Such a powerful story that these places tell. Thank you for sharing :)

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  5. Wow the temple looks incredible. I would love to see some of the applique fabrics in person - they are so colorful. I'm planning a visit to India in the future and will have to read more about this area. Thanks for the info!

    -Summer
    travelingsummer.com

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  6. I have never heard of this place before but I know Mahatma Gandhi. I love handicraft and would love to buy something made by people from this village. Patterns and colors are really amazing! I would love to see more of it.

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  7. I always learn so much from reading your blog. I'm not familiar with this region of India, but what a wonderful place. The fabrics being made there are just beautiful. I love purchasing handmade items from locals when I travel as well. In the last few months I've made the decision to stop buying typical souvenirs when I travel and only buy locally made items. The mass produced stuff is mainly junk anyway, but you can treasure handmade local items for a lifetime. Plus they help the local economy. I'd love to visit this area so see how those fabrics are made myself.

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  8. One of my biggest regrets from my last trip to India back in 2017 was not spending enough time in Tamil Nadu. It’s one of the first places on my list when I decide to visit next time. And in the meantime, I can enjoy the beauty of this place via virtual tours like this one :).

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  9. Being an Indian girl I always prefer to find cultural unity while traveling specially in India, a country of multi culture. It is really beautiful watching different colours in different part of the country. You just nailed it and showed a beautiful combination of culture and travel.

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  10. I am actually not familiar with this destination. So neat is has such rich history with such an icon. Those are my favorite kind of places to visit!

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  11. Had you been to Madurai before? Do they export the finished products outside of India? and lastly do they market Gandhi's name outside of the town in relation to the story about taking his shirt off? It's a fascinating story.

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  12. I have heard of Madurai from my parents when they visited there. I have never really managed to visit it yet I have always wanted to visit Madurai especially for what you mentioned, the Meenakshi Amman Temple. It is so beautiful indeed. I will keep in mind about buying some handicraft there that will support the locals there.

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