Malaysian and family explore Tamil Nadu's Madurai before pandemic


The Pichavaram Mangrove Forest is the world’s second largest mangrove jungle. — Wikimedia Commons

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The tourist car that we were travelling in criss-crossed through the busy narrow streets of Madurai, a vibrant city in India’s Tamil Nadu state, famous for its colossal Meenakshi Amman temple. My wife and I were there with my sister in law and her friend early last year, before the pandemic began.

As we turned a sharp corner, I saw an advertisement showing a picture of a lady holding a glass, and with the words “Cool yourself with jigarthanda” written on the poster.

The word “jigarthanda” caught my attention. It sounded like an Arabic word. I was curious, and soon enough, I figured out what it was when our car stopped at a hotel for some refreshments.

(In this part of the world, a “hotel” is colloquially referred to as a place for feeding your hungry stomach or quenching your thirst on a hot day.)

There was a menu mounted on the wall, and among the drinks offered was this mysterious jigarthanda. I ordered one, just to find out what’s so fascinating about this drink that I had never heard of.

The waiter handed me a tall glass of chilled beverage that was topped with something that looked like ice-cream. I swirled the spoon around to mix the concoction before taking a sip – it was uniquely superb!

Jigarthanda is a sweet drink you can find in Madurai and its neighbouring districts. — KARTYJigarthanda is a sweet drink you can find in Madurai and its neighbouring districts. — KARTYIt’s a sweet drink, that’s also a little milky and creamy. I closed my eyes to fully savour it, but when I opened them, my wife had taken the glass from me and was gulping it down.

Jigarthanda is actually a drink that originated from Madurai. “Jigar” means heart while “thanda” means cool or cold. So jigarthanda literally translates to “a cool or cold heart”.

The basic ingredients include milk, almond gum, sarsaparilla, root syrup, sugar and ice cream.

Jigarthanda is sold in small shops and roadside stalls during the hot seasons in Madurai, and also in neighbouring cities. It’s quite easy to find them – do try one if you ever visit Madurai.

Another memorable experience for us in Tamil Nadu was the Pichavaram Mangrove Forest, the second biggest mangrove cluster in the world.

The four of us moved through the blue waters and slowly glided into one of the many pathways within the forest in a paddle-row boat, steered by a boatman. The environment at the forest was simply enchanting. We were so happy to be there, surrounded by so many different types of flora and fauna.

The boat gently glided through the waters of the lake and gradually moved into an area that seemed to have been camouflaged by a carpet of green moss.

On both sides of the wetland we could hear screeching beetles and croaking frogs, while a solitary little crab rushed into its hole as we approached. The tree branches provided enough shade for us so it wasn’t too hot.

When the boatman took us back to the jetty, we realised that we had spent an extra half an hour or so on the lake! It was only supposed to be a 45-minute tour but we enjoyed ourselves so much that we did not notice the time... and neither did the boatman. He was very happy when we gave him a handsome tip for a job well done.

It was certainly a memorable trip offshore, though we were rather disappointed by the facilities at the jetty like the toilets, waiting rooms and refreshment stalls.

Apart from that, Tamil Nadu has plenty of other interesting places to visit, including many beautiful temples and buildings with amazing architecture and history.

The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.

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