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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

Things to do in India

See the alleyways of old Madurai through the eyes of a storyteller

Our tour takes you back 2,000 years to when the gods are said to have walked on Earth…

By Swarna Palaniswamy
Centre head and storyteller at Storytrails Madurai

Storytrails was started in 2007 with the idea that Indian cities are to be experienced, rather than just seen or photographed. And there’s no better way to experience a city, especially an Indian city, than through her stories because India is full of them. Listening to these stories takes you beyond the obvious to reveal what it is that you’re actually looking at, and they stick with us much longer than facts and figures thrown at us. And who doesn’t like listening to stories? 

Once Upon a Madurai takes guests through the by-lanes of old Madurai on foot as the storyteller shares tales about history, mythology and customs. It takes you back 2,000 years to when the gods are said to have walked on Earth, and to the kings who built some of the monuments that you still see today, and to Gandhi and his experiences here. There are lots of monuments, many that you wouldn’t notice if we didn’t point them out because they’ve just become part of the street: there’s a house, for instance, that’s built along a fort wall dating back to the 13th century.

This part of the city has a lot of character and life. We pass by a shop that sells the different coloured powders that people put on their foreheads and explain why we wear the pottu and why that woman across the street has a yellow face. We pass a Jain temple and see people going in and out in their traditional garb and talk about the history of Jainism in South India. We reveal why there are these humongous wooden chariots in an enclosure on a very busy street and give people a flavour of the annual festival that they’re part of. And we share lots of stories that give the guests an insight into what Madurai is all about.

I think the charm and spirit of Madurai is something that is showcased really well in our tour because most of the time you visit the temple, you visit a monument or two and then you head back. Here you’re walking through the city and looking at people going about their everyday life either in the relative calm of the morning or the hustle and bustle and colour of the evening, and each of them brings with it its own identity and experiences.

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  • History
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Alfred & Swarna Palaniswamy

Swarna Palaniswamy trained as a chartered accountant but was lured away from her job in finance in 2012 when the opportunity to set up and run a Storytrails franchise in Madurai came her way. When she’s not at work, she enjoys reading, trekking and camping in the great outdoors and wandering around cities by herself trying to uncover their secrets.