Places to see in Central Tamil Nadu - Part II

When you say Central Tamil Nadu, the 2 cities that pop-out of the map, are Trichy and Madurai. We saw Trichy aka Tiruchirappalli in the last post. Now, let's see Madurai. Just like Trichy, Madurai is also a well known destination among Indians and much less among non-Indians! The reason for it to be known among Indians is for pilgrimage at Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple. While the temple is one of the popular places to visit in Madurai, there are quite a few unusual, amazing things to do as well!Madurai is very important for those who are interested in the life and history of Mahatma Gandhi. Madurai is where he decided to stop wearing shirts, after seeing many peasants whose normal attire was just the loin cloth! During the Indian Independence struggle, in 1920s, Gandhiji was fiercely promoting Khadi fabric are the livery of freedom! People all over India were encouraged to spin and weave their own fabrics! Here, in Gandhigram, located between Madurai & Dindigul, the task was overtaken by the couple Dr. T.S. Soundram and Dr. G. Ramachandran. Gandhiji himself had visited here to deliver his speech and that's when he shed his shirt as well! This was in Sept 22, 1921.After that, he had visited Madurai multiple times and the last was in 1946 when the train he travelled in, crossed Chinnalapatti and the people of Chinnalapatti and neighbouring villages, surrounded the train and stopped it just to see Gandhiji. This very site is located just around Gandhigram.Today, Gandhigram is a rural university and Dr.Soundram Trust does dedicated work for the welfare and health of the people around this region. People are trained in Khadi and other Village industries. There is a Khadi Bhavan here which, not only sells the clothes hand-spun and hand-woven by the people of this region, but also grains, food, soaps etc made by in the village industries by the locals! Buying anything here is for the noble cause of supporting the handmade village products in this era of mass produced goods!A walk in this premises takes you to a very different feel! Talking to the people here, tells you what simple village life is like, the one for which Gandhiji gave up his shirt! While talking about handmade goods, a short walk from Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple, closer to Koodalazhagar Temple, is Madurai Kalaiyagam.Being a temple, several festivals and celebrations happen at Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple. During the celebrations, the temple chariots and the palanquins are covered with fabric that’s appliquéd with multitude of colors, motifs and embellishments. This appliqué work is done currently by only 7 craftsmen families in Madurai. The master craftsman at Madurai Kalaiyagam is Mr.Sundaravadivelan. He is the 6th generation of the craft practitioners in his family.The major products include the canopy of temple chariot (thaer), canopy of palanquin (pallakku) cloth pillars (asanjaadi maalai aka thombai), door way decorations (thoranam aka vassal maalai), umbrella (kudai) etc. The appliqué work is done by pasting colored fabrics, cut in certain shapes on base fabric and then folding the edges and stitching them. Embroidery is superficially done to add value and details upon the appliqué. The colors and shapes are traditional and the ones that are considered auspicious.Today, some smaller items are also sold here which can be used as home decor! Again, just like purchasing Khadi, this too is for the noble cause of supporting the handmade village products in this era of mass produced goods!To Stay: Hotels in Madurai are available in all price points.To Get There: Madurai has its own international airport (VOMD) which serve major cities of India as well as Singapore and Columbo.This series will have atleast 2 more posts but before we continue on that, I'll be posting on other topics and then get back on this. Stay tuned!Places to see in Central Tamil Nadu -Part 1 - Trichy & SrirangamPart 2 - Madurai & DindigulPart 3 - Pudukottai (coming soon)Part 4 - Karur & Namakkal (coming soon)

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