TOP TIPS FOR TAMIL NADU
1 Photography is banned inside the Meenakshi temple
The rule is strictly enforced by temple attendants, but you are allowed to use your phone (though not tablets) to capture stills and video footage.
2 Dress appropriately
When visiting Hindu temples in Tamil Nadu, men and women are not permitted to enter wearing short sleeves or short trousers. Socks are prohibited and have to be left with footwear at special shoe deposits outside the entrance.
3 Bring your own booze
Tamil Nadu is a dry state. Spirits and beer may be procured at licensed hotels, but are expensive and of dubious quality. Old hands bring their own duty free.
4 Photographers should head to Madurai’s wonderful flower market
On the north-east outskirts of the city, at Mattuthavani, the wholesale flower market is the largest of its kind in India and a fabulous photo opportunity. Heaps of Madurai’s famous jasmines are piled next to giant marigolds and garlands of roses – popular offerings to the Goddess. Get there early, when the flowers are fresh and the crowds thin, for the best shots.
5 Rent a cycle
Motorised traffic has been banned in the streets around the Meenakshi temple, which makes them great for cycling. Look for rows of identical bikes around the market – you will pay by the hour.
6 Explore the boulder hills
The plains around Madurai are riddled with outcrops of granite, such as the one at Thiruparakundram. Filled with ancient sculptures, caves and inscriptions, they make ideal daytrips. Start with Yanaimalai (Elephant Hill – 10km north-east), which has fine 2,000-year-old Jain carvings. Beyond the north-west edge of the city, Nagamalai (‘Snake Hill’) also has some interesting grottoes and flights of carved stone steps.