After a very restful break at Mammallapuram, we drove to Madurai.
The rural scenery was again very pleasant with various crops including rice being cultivated.
We drove past a salt evaporation factory where pools of salty water were left for four days (in summer) to evaporate leaving the salty residue. We stopped briefly to see the operation up close.
Enroute to Madurai, we stopped for a walk around part of Pondicherry, a former French colony. On arrival, we paid a brief visit to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, a spiritual community in Pondicherry. Strict silence and no photography were the order of the day.
Once we had been to the ashram, we walked down to the waterfront and then to a cafe where we had coffee and pastries before resuming our trip to Madurai.
On arrival in Madurai, we spent a little time to find the serviced apartments that we would be housed in for our visit which were owned by Zafar, a 41 Club member. The accommodation was very comfortable and we all enjoyed our stay. We were hosted by various Round Table and 41ers for the evening at different locations which was very pleasant.
The following morning we did a city tour, stopping at Thirumalai Nayak Palace, built in 1636 AD and was designed by an Italian architect. Only a quarter of the palace still remains as much of it was either pulled down or incorporated into other buildings in the 18th century. What does remain is the public courtyard which is very grand along with an adjoining theatre.
After our visit to the palace, we went to the Meenakshi Amman Temple, a very large complex which is the central Hindu temple complex within 2,500 year old Madurai. Across the road was an incomplete temple which houses a number of tailors and other shops. As we left the Temple, we found a small child who's parents had just sacrificed his hair - not particularly happy.
In the early afternoon while we were waiting to board our bicycle rickshaws for a ride around the local area, an Elephant appeared at the end of the road. It turned out that the elephant from a local temple is taken around the neighbourhood on a daily basis to raise money by giving blessings to pay for it's food and upkeep. The elephant accepted money in it's trunk and then placed it's trunk on the person's head as a blessing.
Once done, Charles our guide took us for a bicycle rickshaw ride around the local area and into the poor quarter of Madurai. The Vaigai River is the main river in Madurai and is virtually devoid of water due to the lack of monsoon rains in the past year. Whilst in a poorer area, the opportunity was taken to visit local businesses including the manufacturers of stainless steel waterpots, a printshop and a weaving factory. A disturbing sight was the local creek which was very polluted and is the source of disease and infections.
Once we had completed our tour, we returned to our apartments.
That evening were were kindly hosted by a local 41 Club member Suresh and his wife Davi at their lovely home. It was a wonderful evening and the bonus for all of the ex Tabler's amongst us was to attend a Round Table meeting held during the evening. It was wonderful to hear the range of activities being undertaken to better the local community - clearly a very active and committed club. A fantastic conclusion to our interaction with 41ers and Round Tablers during the tour of India.
The following morning, we departed Madurai bound for Thekkary for one evening.