Earlier this year, on the 2nd of January, I took a flight out of Mumbai for Chennai to join a small group of music and culture enthusiasts for a 3-day tour of Madurai.
Known variously as Halasya Kshetram, Koodal Nagaram, Aalavai and Kadamba Vanam, among others, Madurai is better known today as a temple town and is synonymous with the Meenakshi Amman Kovil. But Madurai has rich history that predates the temple and one that goes back to more than 2,000 years making it one of the oldest cities in the country. The city has been the seat of Tamil literature, culture, learning, politics, religion, and more.
An overnight train journey later, our group was in Madurai looking forward to exploring the city and getting to know it better. This was my second trip to Madurai, but it could very well have been my first for the previous visit in 2005 was only about visiting the Meenakshi Temple ! This trip, too, began with a visit to the Meenakshi temple — considered to be the heart of the city and the point from where the city is believed to radiate out like a lotus — before we moved on to explore other parts.
I fell in love in Bukhara. I wasn’t expecting to, but then love is always unexpected, isn’t it?
In fact, I wasn’t expecting anything from Bukhara when I visited Uzbekistan in September 2015. I was too busy dreaming about the Savitsky Museum at Nukus, the blue domes of Samarqand, and the minarets of Khiva. Bukhara was part of my itinerary, but it was more like a pit stop in the 700+ km road distance between Khiva and Samarkand — a place to rest and relax before moving on to the city that had inspired my Uzbekistan trip in the first place — Samarqand. Therefore, my online research for Bukhara only comprised a cursory reading of its history and finalising a B&B to stay.
I arrived in Bukhara after a 7-hour drive through the gorgeous Kyzyl Kum Desert from Khiva. The journey wasn’t particularly tiring as the roads were good for most of the distance, but after seven hours in the car, I just wanted to reach Bukhara. My first impressions of Bukhara were of a clean city with wide tree-lined avenues, multi-storied and traditional buildings existing side by side, and a very different vibe from the cities I had visited in Uzbekistan thus far.