The Amazing Meenakshi Temple + Other Things to Do in Madurai, India
In Madurai, a small city in Tamil Nadu, colourful towers covered in ornate carvings rise from the grounds of Meenakshi Temple, one of the most striking places of worship in India. The colour, the detail and the dominating presence of this amazing temple brings a steady stream of tourists (and a large influx of pilgrims) to Madurai, which is also home to some other historic sites. Keep reading for everything you need to know about visiting Meenakshi Temple (also known as Meenakshi Amman Temple) and the other interesting things to do in Madurai.
Visiting Meenakshi Temple
There are four main gates / towers at Meenakshi Temple and you walk around the outside and photograph these psychedelic artistic structures. Upon entering these gates you’ll be stripped of your electronic devices, meaning you won’t be able to photograph the interior of the temple. It’s pretty frustrating, but I guess it gives you more time to feel spiritual. For the non spiritual folks out there it’s still a fun place to explore. The architecture is unique to southern India and there are some impressive carvings throughout the complex. There are a total of 14 gopurams (gateway towers) and several halls featuring countless sculptured pillars.
It’s frustrating not being able to show you any of this from the inside, but rules are rules! Non Hindus aren’t allowed into the inner sanctum, which seemed like a bit of a blessing to me as the line was really long! It is kind of strange to be one of the only people in a place of worship not worshiping, but you’ll get used to that pretty quickly in India.
There has likely been a temple at (or close to) the current location since the 6th Century AD, but the structure you’ll see today mostly dates back to the 16th / 17th Century (plus some later repairs and improvements).
- Entry price: Free (a few rupees to store your shoes / electronic devices).
- Opening Hours: 5 am – 12 pm / 4pm – 10pm (the temple is closed between 12 pm and 4 pm).
- What to wear: There doesn’t seem to be a strict dress code but wearing shorts / sleeveless shirts will probably see you rejected.
Walking Around the Outside of the Temple
My favourite part of Meenakshi Temple was walking around the outside of the complex. The towers stand tall above the hectic streets of Madurai, where merchants hawk all sorts of products to visiting pilgrims. It’s actually quite a pleasant place to walk and you’ll get some great views of the towers, which are bursting with colourful carvings. You can also peak into the temple from the gates outside and capture some of the carvings and paintings, which kind of makes up for the no photo rule inside the temple complex.
Seeing Meenakshi Temple from Above
When walking around the outside of the temple you’ll likely be approached by people wanting to take you to a rooftop to get a better view. There’s always a catch with these things — in exchange for an awesome view of the temple you’ll have to do some “shopping”. It’s kind of annoying but it’s easy enough to have a quick look through some rugs / paintings / wooden elephants. It’s definitely worth it to see this amazing place from above. You can also see the temple from some of the hotels in Madurai — find out where I recommend staying below!
Meenakshi Temple overshadows everything else in Madurai, but there are a few other places worth checking out. Thirumalai Palace, which dates back to the mid 1600s, is an elegant throwback to a more luxurious era. The main hall is really impressive but there isn’t a lot else to see — you can easily see this place in 30 minutes or less.
St Mary’s Cathedral
This blue and white church, built in the mid 1800s, is just across the road from the palace.
I decided to visit the Ghandi Museum because it’s housed in a cool old building, but the actual museum part was better than I expected. I learnt a lot about the history of India, from a divided land before colonialism to the struggle for independence.
Drinking a jigarthanda
Is the extreme Indian heat getting you down? Try a jigarthanda, a sweet drink with ice cream served in a small glass from street side stalls. I saw a shop called “Famous Jigarthanda” on Google Maps and decided to check it out. It was really busy so it obviously deserves its name, and the drink was really refreshing.
Where to stay in Madurai
I was invited to stay at Kolam Madurai; a small hotel located a short walk from Meenakshi Temple. It’s a fantastic option in the budget / mid range category and provides an extremely comfortable sanctuary to the typical chaos outside. The staff are also really friendly and helpful and you can order some delicious food from the menu. You can also get a great view of the temple from the rooftop and from the windows of the rooms!
There are other budget / mid range hotels in Madurai so you can shop around and look for a good deal, but if it’s in your price range you’ll struggle to do better than Kolam Madurai (check out the rave reviews on booking.com!).
Getting to Madurai
Madurai is located in Tamil Nadu in the far south of India. It’s around 2.5 hours by train from Tirachurappalli (Trichy) and 12 hours from Mysore (I broke up my trip between Madurai and Mysore in Coimbatore as I was too late to book a train ticket). There are heaps of cool places to see in this part of India, including some of the country’s most important temples.
Are you planning a trip to Madurai? Let me know in the comments below!
Disclaimer: I was hosted by Kolam Madurai. As usual, all thoughts and opinions are my own.