Madurai, the third largest city in Tamil Nadu is the cultural capital of the state. The city of Madurai and the Meenakshi temple here are believed to have been built by the Pandiyan king Kulashekar, after clearing a forest. Situated on the banks of the Vaigai River, Madurai is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, with recorded history dating back to 3rd century BC. Ancient texts of the Greeks and Romans mention the trade links with Madurai. Being culturally advanced, the city is said to have hosted the Tamil Sangam and plays a notable role in the promotion of Tamil language. Though the city is mainly associated with the Meenakshi temple, Madurai has also contributed to the Indian Independence movement. The agricultural laborers of Madurai are said to have inspired Mahatma Gandhi to wear the loin cloth. Predominantly an agricultural sector, today Madurai is a blend of cultural heritage and technological advancement. Getting around this heritage city is easy as every road ultimately leads to the temple. Designed to resemble lotus petals, Madurai city is built around the thousand pillared Meenakshi temple.
Bus: As it is in most of the Indian cities and around the world, buses are the cheapest and safest option for a traveler. Buses in Madurai can be crowded, however, it is an experience in itself.
Madurai has several bus stations and bus services are operated by the state administration. Bus routes and timings are available online and all bus stations have an information center. One could even ask directions to anyone around as the people are generally helpful. As routes displayed on buses are in Tamil it is advisable to confirm with the bus conductor or driver about the route and destination.
Major bus stations and originating terminals:
- Madurai north – Pudur Bus station
- Madurai north-east – Othakadai Bus station
- Madurai south -Palanganatham Bus station, Thiruparakundram Bus station, and Thirunagar Bus station.
- Madurai suburb –Thirumangalam Bus station
- Madurai central- Periyar Bus station, a short walk from the railway station.
- Madurai east -Anna Bus station, Anuppanadi Bus station.
- Madurai West- Aarapalayam Bus Terminus
- MIBT (Mattuthavani Integrated Bus Terminus) have buses to southern and northern districts of Tamil Nadu.
Taxi services are easily available from the airport or train stations or can even be booked through the hotel. There are many car rental companies and private taxi services operating out of Madurai. Chauffeur driven cars are also available. Average taxi rates are 600-700 rupees. Driving through Madurai can be challenging as the city sees an influx of traffic during working hours.
Hiring an autorickshaw is a convenient option as they are easily available from the bus stations, railway stations, and shopping centers across the city. The standard rate is 10- 15 rupees per kilometer. It would help to get your bargaining skills sharpened to strike a reasonable deal to visit nearby areas. The rickshaw drivers can also impart valuable local information as well.
One could even lease, rent or share bikes to explore the city and surrounding places. Keep a map of the city and surrounding areas handy at all times when exploring on your own.