Now as we crashed into bed at about 9:00 p.m after our visits to Thirumalai Naicker Mahal and Meenakshi temple we promised ourselves we would be up by 5:00 a.m the next morning.The plan was to set off to Samanar Hills, a small hillock which was inhabited by Jain monks in the 1st century B.C. But are humans that adept at keeping promises and that too to yourself. Nah! So we slept in for another hour and woke with a start at 6:00 a.m. Had a shower, dressed up and made a mad dash through the door just to see the sun beat us and smile wickedly because it was 7:00 a.m already.
But our spirits were still high ’cause we were going to see something epic today, a 2000 years old archaeological wonder steeped in ancient history. Samanar hills is in fact protected under ASI(Archaeological Survey of India).We took a bus from the Periyar bus stand to Keelakuyilkudi (15km from Madurai)and then another bus to reach Samanar Hills(the frequency of the second bus is a little unpredictable, you can walk to the hills too or take an auto-rickshaw if the the heat is too much). If there is anyone else planning to visit Samanar hills please make note “Leave as early as you can“. Because the sun is relentless. Since you would have to climb the hill [well ,stone steps have been carved into some places on the hill] to see all the sculptures and carvings and the heat is unforgiving carry as much water and snacks as you can. There is no shade or cover once you reach the top, save for a Peepul tree which is another steep climb from the first level but once you reach the top the view is awe inspiring.
The first level has the carvings there are five carvings of Mahavira, Gomateshwar, Bahubali and few more though I couldn’t figure which is what .The entire place has a mysterious aura to it and you can’t help but wonder how life must have been for the monks(If only someone could demystify the Tamil-Brahmi writings we would know).A Jain monastery is believed to have been functional here.The four majestic Gopurams of the Meenakshi temple is visible from the top.The entire city of Madurai dazzles from the top!Coolest vantage ever!
There are also dozens of small hills surrounding Samanar hills that have vegetation and look lush green.But Samanar hills is devoid of any greenery except for the huge Peepul tree and a few wild reeds and shrubs.After soaking in the brilliant views we started our descent which proved to be even more difficult than our climb.After we reached the foothills , we were fortunately taken notice of by a passing auto-rickshaw(Our Saviour). We alighted at the Keelakuyilkudi bus-stop , savoured some ice-cream and got back on the bus to reach our room and crash again for the rest of the day.