South India Temple Tour – A journey towards divinity
India is a land of religions. A country that is covered with different religions, Hinduism being one of the most popular among them. The temples in India have always been special for the belief they have in the followers of this religion. South India is known for its temples all around the world. The temple cities of India, as they are fondly called, are known for its marvelous architecture and high religious beliefs. We recently happened to be on a South India Temple Tour visiting some of the famous temples in the temple cities of South India. The journey, a combination of a road and rail, took us through famous cities like Chennai, Madurai, Rameshwaram, Kanyakumari and Trivandrum to name it all. The journey was even more special as we had our parents (read Saumya’s parents) also traveling with us.
The 6- days itinerary of South India was focused on keeping it religious with other attractions that each city had to offer. We will take you on a city-wise journey of this South India trip and would talk about the famous temples of South India, the one that we visited and few that we missed. We will also talk about other mythological significance of various towns in South India and the roles that they played especially in Ramayana. So, let’s begin.
One of the most important cities of South India and the capital of Tamil Nadu, Chennai is well known for its temples. The city has beautiful temples and museums along with it also being a hub of IT in the modern world. Our South India trip started from here when we boarded a flight from Delhi to reach Chennai in approximately 2 and a half hours. After checking in to our hotel, the famous Crowne Plaza Chennai we started our expedition.
Government Museum Chennai:
The first stop for the day was the Government Museum in Chennai. This is also known as the Madras Museum. Located in the Egmore area, this museum is famous for its art collection of archaeological and numismatic artifacts. Going to museums is always fun with parents. You seem to go down the memory lane when our parents used to take us to museums when we were kids. We had this opportunity to relive our childhood days again. Our parents enjoyed the museum experience and loved spending a good amount of time there.
Next in line was the Kapeeleshwarar Temple. This temple is architecturally one of the most distinctive temples in South India known for its Dravidian architecture. This is a Shiva temple located in the Mylapore area of Chennai, the old city area. The temple is known for its Goddess Parvati, known as Karpagambal in Tamil, worshiped here. The story behind the temple takes us back to Lord Bramha and Lord Shiva when Shiva headed one of Bramha’s head as Bramha wasn’t able respect Shiva appropriately. Bramha then came to Mylapore and established the lingam here to please Lord Shiva. The temple is located in the old Chennai area and is a perfect location for street photography. One of the best time to visit the temple is in the evening during the sunset to capture the architecture and beauty of this temple perfectly.
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As it was evening by the time we covered the temple we came back to the Crowne Plaza in Chennai where we were staying. After a hearty meal at the in-house restaurant, On The Rocks, where they prepare your meal on your table, On the Rocks, we loved the different experience.
Day2 in Chennai was spent at the Crowne Plaza, Chennai. One of the best hotels in Chennai, we loved spending time at the hotel itself exploring the various amenities there. After having a superb breakfast, spending time with our parents, followed by a traditional lunch at Dakshin, the in-house South Indian specialty restaurant, we left as we had a train to catch for Madurai.
After the overnight train journey from Chennai to Madurai, we reached the new destination early morning. We checked into Marriott by Courtyard, one of the most popular hotels in Madurai for a day’s stay. We were here in Madurai for only a day and we wanted to make the most of it. So after the morning chores and a sumptuous breakfast we went out to explore the city.
When you are in Madurai the first thing that you have to visit is the World Famous Meenakshi Temple. Located in the center of the city and known for its historic and religious significance, this was one of the biggest temples on our South India Temple Tour. The temple is famous all over the world for its belief in Hindu mythology Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva. The architecture of this temple is simply brilliant and you are left in awe of the creativity and craftsmanship of people during that era. The temple derives its name from the Sanskrit work Meenakshi meaning fish-eyed and attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every year. The temple can be easily reached by bus, rail or flight from all major cities in the country, the most popular being Chennai.
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Another major tourist spot in Madurai is the banana market. Known for various varieties of bananas that are sold here, this market is quite popular among both the locals and the tourists. Located next to the vegetable market of Madurai, the banana market is flooded with almost 16 different varieties of bananas which are hung and displayed at the shops here. Quite a place to make you go bananas!
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St. Mary’s Cathedral Church:
After the Banana Market, the next stop on the line was the St. Mary’s Cathedral Church Madurai is a home for this one of the oldest Roman Catholic Church in the country. This church is famous for the design and architecture of both its interiors and exterior. Known as one of the top places to visit in Madurai, the church’s mass are quite popular and the church is very well maintained.
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Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal:
As we were out to explore the temples and other historic places in the city of Madurai, we could not miss but visit the Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal Palace. This is one of the oldest and the most beautiful palaces in South India. Known for its Dravidian and Rajputana architecture, the palace is one of the top tourist attractions in Madurai. The light and sound show held in the evening here is a treat to watch.
Koodal Azahar Temple:
Madurai is known as the temple city of India for one reason that it has lots of temples. From big to small to even being famous around the world, the temples of Madurai has always attracted followers from all parts of the country and abroad. One of the other famous temples of Madurai we visited during our South India Temple Tour is the Koodal Azahar Temple. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is also known for its Dravidian architecture. Managed and administered well by the Hindu Religion Endowment Board, Govt. of India, this temple hosts 4 rituals daily and 3 festivals yearly.
Post an entire of covering the different tourist attractions in Madurai we returned back to our base, Courtyard by Mariott in Madurai. After an early dinner at their in-house restaurant, we called it a day as we had to catch an early morning train to Rameshwaram.
Our next stop in the South India Temple Tour with parents was Rameshwaram. Another city which is very famous for its temples, beaches and other historical monuments. After catching an early morning train from Madurai, we reached and checked into an awesome property, the Hyatt Place in Rameshwaram. Located centrally, this property had an easy access to the major places to visit in Rameshwaram. As soon as we checked in we started out for the first stop for the day, the Ramanathswamy Temple.
Ramanathaswamy Temple is one of the 12 jyotirlinga temples across the country. This temple is known for its unique architecture, has the longest corridor within a temple and is flocked by pilgrims from around the world. We reached the temple early morning and were surprised to see the number of people gathered there for the darshan. The temple is known for the various teerthams (water bodies) in and around the premises and is considered holy to take a dip in them. We went for a dip in all the 22 teerthams there at the Ramanathaswamy Temple, the famous ones being the Agnee Teertham and the Lakshman Teertham.
Post a very religious start to the day we returned to the Hyatt Place for some quick breakfast. We wanted to start early today as we had a lot to cover in Rameshwaram with just one day at hand.
Panchmukhi Hanuman Temple:
This is also one of the famous temples of Rameshwaram which has an idol of Lord Hanuman bearing 5 faces. The temple is located near the Ramanathaswamy Temple and is known for the floating rocks that are preserved here. These rocks are considered to have been used by Lord Rama when he made a bridge from India to Sri Lanka to get his wife, Seeta, back from Ravana. The temple is one of the most popular tourist attraction in Rameshwaram.
Rameshwaram is a house to 64 different water bodies known as Theerthams. Villoondi, on the other hand, means a place pierced by the arrow. It is surprising to know that there is a non-saline water spring right in the middle of the sea at Villoondi Theertham. The story behind this magical spring water says that Lord Rama pierced the sea with his arrow to quench Sita’s thirst on his way back to Ayodhya. Thus the place got its name as pierced by the arrow, Villoondi.
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With this, we came to the end of our day’s trip to Rameshwaram and returned back to Hyatt Place. We had a delightful dinner for buffet at their in-house restaurant and totally loved every bit of their hospitality. A special mention to our host Manisha who personally took care of everything and made us feel at home. With loads of memories from this island town Rameshwaram we headed out to our next destination in the series of South India Temple Tour.
Next, we reached Kanyakumari. We reached early in the morning as we took a late night train from Rameshwaram. Kanyakumari has always been on our list of places to visit in South India as it gives you a feeling of being on the mainland southernmost point of India. Although this city was on the list of our South India Temple Tour we decided to give temples a backseat here and visited the Vivekanand Rock Memorial instead.
Vivekananda Rock Memorial:
Vivekananda Rock Memorial is one of the most popular tourist attraction in Kanyakumari. It is said that Vivekananda attained enlightenment over a rock here and thus the memorial is built in his honor. One has to board a ferry to reach the Vivekananda Rock Memorial from Kanyakumari.
A place where the three seas namely Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal meet is known as the Thriveni Sangamam. This place in Kanyakumari is popular for its sunrise and sunsets as you can distinctively see the three different color water bodies meeting here. One of the most Instagrammable places in Kanyakumari, this should not be missed.
We also had the option to visit the Kanyakumari Temple the same day but we decided to give it a pass during our South India Temple Tour. However, you can definitely visit it if time permits. With that we returned back to our hotel and geared up for our next destination and a quick detour before our final destination during our South India trip.
Poovar and Trivandrum
After reaching the southernmost tip of India and exploring the temple cities of South India, it was time for us to start our journey back home. We had our flight to Delhi from Trivandrum which is also the nearest airport to Kanyakumari. We started on a road trip from Kanyakumari to Trivandrum and decided to stop at Poovar mid-way to experience the backwaters there.
Poovar Backwaters, Kerala:
Poovar means river of flowers which is an island by the Neyyar river in Kerala. The backwaters of Kerala are famous in the world and Poovar is no different. Located at a distance of around 55kms from Trivandrum and midway from Kanyakumari, this island was peaceful and quiet. My parents really enjoyed the boat ride here amongst the coconut trees and blue waters. We would recommend a few days here at Poovar if the time permits during your trip to South India.
After enjoying the backwaters we reached Trivandrum around noon. Although we had our flight late in the evening, we preferred to stay at the airport and enjoy the lounge facilities for two reasons. Firstly because we had been traveling continuously for a week with very less rest and a choppy sleep and secondly since it was a Monday, most of the shops and tourist attractions in Trivandrum were closed. So next time whenever you are planning your trip or stopover at Trivandrum, make sure it is not a Monday.
After almost a week-long trip to South India, exploring some of the most beautiful, rare and scenic beauties we returned back to where we started, Delhi. This was our first trip with our parents and we enjoyed it as much as they did with us. A self-realization that happened during this trip was that nothing gives them more happiness than seeing that we want them to be happy. We loved every bit of our South India Temple Tour – A journey towards divinity.
Do let us know your experiences of visiting the temple cities of South India in the comments section below.