One of India's most holy cities for more than 2,500 years, Madurai attracts thousands of Hindu pilgrims each day to its many temples, none more famous than the huge Meenakshi Temple with its beautiful 16th century 'Hall of a Thousand Pillars'. The complex is alive with pilgrims and traders, its bazaars abounding in spices and temple offerings. Musicians perform beneath the granite arches and a colourful temple elephant (below left) stands unmoved by the hubbub all around. At the centre of the complex is the Golden Lotus tank in which are reflected some of the 9 towering gopurams, with their multi-coloured stucco images of gods, goddessess and animals which are renewed and repainted every 12 years. You will also visit the Thirumalai Nayaka Palace (below right), built in 1636 in the Indo-Mughal style, with its impressive Central Hall where musicians and dancers used to entertain the ruler and his guests. The palace is slightly run down these days, as several sections were removed by the founder's grandson in order to build another palace at Tiruchirapalli, but the 15 domes, arches and enormous pillars, some of them rising to 12 metres, bear witness to its past splendour.