Favorite thing: Before I was allowed to enter inside the Sri Meenakshi Sundareshvara Temple, I was told that I had to cover my legs as I was wearing shorts. My guidebook didn't mention this and so I was stuck with a dilemma - should I walk all the way back to my hotel and change or should I look around for something to cover my legs with (a piece of material, for example)? I decided on the latter and found a fabric/tailor shop across the road from the temples main east entrance and managed to buy a cheap piece of fabric material, a metre wide and long, so that I could wrap around my legs. This felt and looked a bit weird to me, but guys here where this sort of thing called, I think, a veshti, so I didn't look out of place! Anyway, be aware about this and maybe wear a pair of trousers instead.
In Madurai, you can find buch of tour operator offering daily tour of Madurai, as well as excursion to Kannyakumari, Rameswaram and Kodaikanal.
All of those places can be visited from Madurai in one day. If you don't want to get around on your own, it's great way to see places.
Favorite thing: As elaborate as the detailing of the exterior of the Sri Meenakshi Temple is, don't forget to keep your eyes open for decoration where you least expect it. The Ayirrakal Mandapa, or Thousand-Pillared Hall, has 985 columns sculpted with lions and other animals. There is also a beautifully painted ceiling to boot.
Favorite thing: Bathing tanks, shrines, elephants. . .and the temple still has room for a corridor of stalls selling religious trinkets, puja offerings and other sundry items ~ it's called the Meenakshi Nayaka Mandapa.
The temple is a fascinating place to hang out and watch worshippers ~ the puja rituals are interesting and some of the temple seems to serve as a social hub, with people chatting and catching up.
There are some other interesting corners to explore ~ including multiple elephants (one which "blesses" you after you offer your rupee note). I'm not sure exactly what the elephant in the photo did to earn his keep. . .
The Meenakshi complex has 12 gopuras (gateways) with plaster carvings. The figures are fixed, painted and re-blessed every 12 years.
There are some pretty fierce images on the gopuras ~ acting as guardians ~ check out the character in the bottom left corner of the photograph. Yes, those are intestines he's pulling out. . .
Favorite thing: You enter the massive Sri Meenakshi complex through tall gopuras (gateways) that are decorated with brightly painted plaster sculptures. Inside the complex, you can find a marriage hall, bathing tank, the main inner sanctum and numerous smaller shrines.
Favorite thing: The temple was originally constructed in the 7th through 10th centuries. . .newer sections date from the 14th to 17th. This is an amazing place to spend time people watching. . .there is a constant buzz of activity. We were able to stay long enough to see Sundareshwara (Shiva) taken to Meenakshi's shrine. . .the procession takes place every evening ~ fascinating!