South India Tours
Pondicherry
An Ancient Roman Settlement
Known as ‘Poduke’ to the classical geographers of Greece and Rome, the ancient port of Pondicherry flourished from the 2nd century BC. It has now been established that the place had a Roman settlement about 2,000 years ago. Excavations at Arikamedu, near Ariankuppam, on the outskirts of the present city prove that the Romans settled here and regular commerce was carried on between the port of Pondicherry and the Roman cities. The area later formed part of the kingdom of the Pallavas, the Cholas, the Vijayanagar rulers and the Nayaks.
 
The Great Transformation
Legend has it that the great sage Agastya came to Vedapuri, by which name the present Pondicherry was once known, only to worship Vedapuriswara, one of the oldest deities worshipped here. The deity, Lord Shiva, the presiding spirit of Vedapuri, was also known as “Agatiswara” the Lord of Agastya. Pondicherry was traditionally a seat of learning and Vedic culture. Such a tradition must have developed from the presence of a great sage in a remote past, surrounded by seekers and disciples living in his Ashram.

Unity In Diversity
Pondicherry is the corruption of “Puducherry”, which means a new hamlet. The fact that people speaking 55 different languages reside here and that Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, French and English are the five official languages certainly raises eyebrows. In spite of this linguistic plethora, there is no confusion but absolute harmony.

The Promenade
Pondicherry is oval-shaped with parallel streets cutting each other at right angles. The long canal street, that runs from north to south was constructed on purpose to separate the Black town lead to the Promenade, via the White Town. The Promenade, one of the finest in the whole country, is 1,500m long. It is an irresistible attraction for the young and the aged alike.

Ashrams Characteristics
To Sri Aurobindo, one time National leader, Pondicherry was something more than a political asylum. It was here he did his Integral Yoga and wrote his literary and philosophical works. With the advent of a French lady, Madam Mirra Richard, later known as the Mother, who had followed the same spiritual path on her own, Sri Aurobindo started his Ashram to train others in his comprehensive and world-accepting system of spirituality. The Samadhi that houses the bodies of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, in the main premises of the Ashram, is always decorated with a wide variety of flowers in charming patterns hundreds of devotees visit this holy place every day.

Auroville - Pondy’s Other Half
8-km north of Pondicherry is Auroville. The foundation was laid on 28th February 1968, when a boy and a girl representing each of 124 countries of the world poured a handful of their native soil into a concrete lotus, symbolic of their support of the project. The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity.

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Madurai
Madurai, celebrated for its Meenakshi temple, is one of India's oldest cities with a history dating back of the 6th century BC. Madurai's trade with the ancient Greeks and Romans is well known. It was the capital of the Pandyan empire till the 14th century and is now an important commercial centre of South India.
 
Travel Information

Climate :-
Summer (Mar. to Jun.): Warm
Winter ( Nov. To Feb.): Mildly warm and pleasant

Clothing :-
Throughout the year-Cottons

Getting There :-
Connected by road to Madras (461 km) and to all major towns of South India.
Regular bus services.
Madurai is connected to Madras and other southern towns by express trains.
Madurai is connected by air to Madras.

    
Where to Stay :-
  • Luxury Hotels
  • Hotel Supreme
  • Madurai Ashok
  • Pandyan Hotel
  • Taj Garden Retreat
     
What to see :-

Alagarkoil
A temple at the foot of the Algar Hills (20 km). It has exquisite sculptures in the hall that faces the sanctum sanctorum.

Meenakshi Temple
A superb example of Dravidian architecture and sculpture, and the focal point around which the city has developed.
The temple has two sanctra, one dedicated to Shiva and the other to his spouse Meenakshi. The highlight of the
Meenakshi temple is the "Hall of a Thousand Pillars".

Tirmumalai Nayakar Palace
The curved dome, standing without the support of a girder or rafter, is an architectural feat.Vandiyur Mariammant Tank
A huge temple tank measuring 304.8 metres on each side, with a mandapam in the centre.


Shopping :-
Glass bangles and other trinkets. Palm baskets, jaggery from palm trees are some of the specialities.The streets around the Meenakshi temple in Madurai are the best places to shop. The areas are Chitirai, Avanimoola, Masi Street, Pudumandapama and Thevangu Chetty Choultry, all in and around the Meenakshi temple and Town Hall road.

Cuisine :-
Madurai is a city more known for its typical vegetarian South Indian cuisine particularly idlis and dosas.
Egg parota and kothu parota are two non-vegetarian specialities in Madurai other than biryani.

Festivals :-
Important festivals are Jallikattu Rekhla, The Float Festival and Chithirai Festival.

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