This year vacation was to India mainly Coimbatore and Chennai, so thought of going to nearby places. I am writing a small travelogue in parts, will post the pictures soon. First plan was to go to Madurai as my DH belongs to this place. We left Coimbatore in the morning by 10 AM and reached Madurai by 2 PM. Checked in at Madurai Residency. We chose this hotel as we had already stayed here earlier and was very close to the Meenakshi Amman temple. After check-in, refreshed and left for Thirumalai Nayak Mahal. This has been renovated, the pillars painted and statues colourful. The courtyard and the dancing hall are the center of attractions. There are around 248 pillars of each 58 feet toll and 5 feet diameter. Many of Maniratnam's shootings have taken place here. Songs like Kannalane from Bombay and another one from Guru have been shot here. This Palace was built in 1636 by King Thirumalai Nayak with the help of an Italian Architect. The building we see today was the main Palace where the King lived. The original Palace Complex was four times bigger than the present structure. This palace consisted mainly of two parts, namely Swargavilasa and Rangavilasa. Today, only the spacious rectangular courtyard called the Swarga Vilasam and a few adjoining buildings survive, their awesome scale evoking the grandeur of a vanished era. The courtyard measures 3,900 sq.m and is surrounded by massive circular pillars. To its west lies the Throne Chamber, a vast room with a raised, octagonal dome. This room leads to the Dance Hall, which houses the museum now. <?xml:namespace prefix = v ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:vml" /><v:shapetype id=_x0000_t75 stroked="f" filled="f" path="m@4@5l@4@11@9@11@9@5xe" oreferrelative="t" o:spt="75" coordsize="21600,21600"><v:stroke joinstyle="miter"></v:stroke><v:formulas><v:f eqn="if lineDrawn pixelLineWidth 0"></v:f><v:f eqn="sum @0 1 0"></v:f><v:f eqn="sum 0 0 @1"></v:f><v:f eqn="prod @2 1 2"></v:f><v:f eqn="prod @3 21600 pixelWidth"></v:f><v:f eqn="prod @3 21600 pixelHeight"></v:f><v:f eqn="sum @0 0 1"></v:f><v:f eqn="prod @6 1 2"></v:f><v:f eqn="prod @7 21600 pixelWidth"></v:f><v:f eqn="sum @8 21600 0"></v:f><v:f eqn="prod @7 21600 pixelHeight"></v:f><v:f eqn="sum @10 21600 0"></v:f></v:formulas><vath o:connecttype="rect" gradientshapeok="t" o:extrusionok="f"></vath><o:lock aspectratio="t" v:ext="edit"></o:lock></v:shapetype><v:shape id=Picture_x0020_1 style="VISIBILITY: visible; WIDTH: 265.5pt; HEIGHT: 159.75pt; mso-wrap-style: square" alt="Thirumalai Nayakar Palace" type="#_x0000_t75" o:spid="_x0000_i1026"><v:imagedata o:title="Thirumalai Nayakar Palace" src="file:///C:\DOCUME~1\LAKSHM~1\LOCALS~1\Temp\msohtmlclip1\01\clip_image001.gif"></v:imagedata></v:shape> After visit to the Mahal, left for Thirumogur, one of the 108 Divya Desams of Vaishnavites – Mohana Kshetram. Lord Vishnu’s name is Kaalamegha Perumal temple in Thiru Mogur is situated about 10 kms East of Madurai, off the Madurai Melur Road. The huge Aanamalai can be seen on the way, it is worth stopping on the highway (Madurai-Madras route) to see this elephant shaped rock that runs quite a distance. The moolavar is Kalaamegha perumal in nindra thirukolam and in same posture like Varadharaja perumal of Kanchipuram with gadha in left hand and right hand as if blessing the devotees. The Moolavar is very huge and fills the garbhagriha. It was a wonderful sight to see the Lord so close. The specialty of the temple is the presence of Chakrataazhwar with 16 hands and each hand holding a different weapon. There is Lord Narasimha behind chakratalwar with shanku chakra. There are 154 alphabets carved in the 6 circles and there are pictures of 48 gods. Chakrataazhwar is found in Prathyaaletha posture that implies that the readiness to help devotees at all times. The place got its name as moghur due to the Mohini avatharam taken by Lord Vishnu to ensure that the devas got the amrutham that came out of the churning of the ocean rather than the asuras so that the devas get back the lost power. It is believed that a drop of amrutham fell into the temple tank and hence it is also known as periya thirupaarkadal and siriya thirupaarkadal. Then we had our dinner at Modern Restaurant. Ironically, there is nothing "modern" worth mentioning about the restaurant, which is more than half-a-century old. Perhaps it was modern when it came into being and over the years expanded its customer base for its delicious varieties of vegetarian food. Modern Restaurant even though a very old one in Madurai, the food was excellent. Nice soft idlis / moru moru dosais, to top of with coffee – hmmmmmmmmm heavenly. Nothing to beat this. Next morning, started very early – by 6 am we were at Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple. I don’t think anyone requires details about this famous temple. Still I will only say that this is the most beautiful temple that I have seen. The way it is built, the hugeness, the sculptures and beauty. Oh … unbelievable. We had a beautiful Darshan of the goddess and then her spouse, Sri Sundareswarar. Then all the other ‘upa devatas’. Later we went to the Aayiramkaal mandapam – 1000 pillar hall which has within itself the museum, the musical pillars and many many beautiful sculptures. After this we went over to the Koodal Azhagar Temple The temple is situated in the heart of Madurai city and is again one of the 108 Divya Desams. This place is popular for singing of Thirupallandu, which are the first 12 verses of the 4000 divyaprabandam, Periyalwar in praise of the splendor of Azhagar. The Moolavar here is Koodalazhagar in a seated posture facing east, while Taayaar is Madhuravalli in a separate sanctum. The name Koodal stems from the legend that at the behest of Vishnu, four clouds gathered at Madurai in the form of tall buildings, and prevented a deluge from overpowering the city. The Lord is found in three postures in three levels in the temple 1) In the lower portion of the temple, the lord appears as “Viyooga Soundararajan” in sitting posture called Veetriruntha Thirukolam under Aadhiseshan – the size of the Moorthy is so huge that you will be amazed at the height and weight of the Lord. I was overwhelmed, he also had his 2 devis next to him. Lovely Darshan 2) In the second portion the lord is in sleeping posture and known as Andhara Vaanathu Empiraan 3) In the final portion the lord appears as Sooriya Narayanan in Nindra Tirukolam or standing posture. <v:shape id=BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5220501432565280370 style="VISIBILITY: visible; WIDTH: 180pt; HEIGHT: 240pt; mso-wrap-style: square" alt="http://bp0.blogger.com/_sLlssg2aNJE/SHLyZL14rnI/AAAAAAAADnY/jFRx3VXzNjI/s320/koodal+azhagar.JPG" type="#_x0000_t75" o:spid="_x0000_i1025" o:button="t" href="http://bp0.blogger.com/_sLlssg2aNJE/SHLyZL14rnI/AAAAAAAADnY/jFRx3VXzNjI/s1600-h/koodal+azhagar.JPG"><v:imagedata o:title="koodal+azhagar" src="file:///C:\DOCUME~1\LAKSHM~1\LOCALS~1\Temp\msohtmlclip1\01\clip_image002.jpg"></v:imagedata></v:shape> The climb up this Vimanam was piping hot. We were literally running on the terrace to save our legs from getting burnt. But still was worth it. After this went over to Sriram Mess for lunch. Again an old restaurant, however food was excellent. We opted to sit in the AC hall as the regular one was full and also not so clean. Once done with lunch we checked out and headed for Coimbatore a nice 4 hour journey with a break for coffee at Palladam. Hope you like this writeup. Will post the photos soon.