Chennai - Trichy - Madurai - The Road Guide (Version 1.0)
The Road route from Chennai to Trichy and Madurai.
All distances are approximate and conditions are as when I traveled (Sometime in 2005).
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Chennai - Trichy - Madurai Road Route I
Chennai - Chengalpattu(60) - Tindivanam (120) - Villupuram (160) - Ulundurpettai - Trichy (320) - Viralimalai (355) - Melur – Madurai (450) : NH 45 until Trichy and NH 45B to Madurai
Distance: 450 Kms
There are hardly few in Tamilnadu who might not know or have travelled at least a part of this route. The road from Chennai to Madurai (and beyond to Kanyakumari), is the lifeline of Tamilnadu. If India has its historic Grand Trunk Road, this highway called Grand Southern Trunk (GST) road, which may not have as much history, plays even more a significant role in connecting the people of Tamilnadu with it's capital, Chennai. Well, with the IT boom, Chennai and maybe Coimbatore seeing influx of outsiders, there may yet be a use for this guide.
We leave Chennai city proper at Guindy and enter the NH 45 at Kathipara junction. A multilevel interchange under construction here promises to ease the congestion and add a little glamour to the city. The highway from here until Tambaram functions as a city thoroughfare with heavy traffic. The child in you (or with you) may enjoy the flight take-offs and landings at the Chennai airport on the way. Tambaram is a big mad mess of people,buses, trucks and other vehicles. Crossing Tambaram, the road becomes better, the traffic lesser, the sorroundings greener. The peripheral towns on the urban fringes of Chennai pass in a blur. Not for long as the Mahindra World City in Maraimalai Nagar promises to spread the metropolitan boundaries along with the traffic and pollution to well beyond Chengalpattu.
This section of NH 45 from Tambaram to Tindivanam is very smooth, 4 lanes, divided carriageway with good scenery. Don't miss the Rail / road/ lake / mountain interplay at Chengalpattu. You can't as there is a toll plaza :)
Chengalpattu bypass is a personal favorite. We quickly pass the temple town of Maduranthakam and reach Tindivanam, the next major town. The pleasure ends as the 4 lane part of NH ends and the road further sees heavy traffic and mad bus drivers competing with each other to get to the next stop and take waiting passengers there. So, Drive CAREFULLY. Tindivanam intersects with NH 66 linking Pondicherry with Bangalore. On our route, a little further after Vikravandi is the SH deviation to Panrutti, Neyveli and Kumbakonam. I believe this road has been re-designated as NH 45C and should see some improvements.
Viluppuram or Vizhuppuram is midway between Chennai and Trichy. An important transport hub and now a district headquarters, it is connected to Pondy (30 Kms) and further to Nagapattinam by NH 45 A. State highways connect it to various nearby towns. Ulundurpettai is our next highway town on the intersection with NH 68, the road leading to Salem from then on to Erode, Coimbatore and Kerala (on NH 47). The route is mostly rural after here until Trichy which we enter after crossing Kollidam and Cauvery river bridges and the temple town of Srirangam.The Kollidam bridge is pretty impressive if and when there is water in the river, which is very rare.
Trichy or Thiruchirapalli is a crowded big city with famous temples, colleges and factories, could well be your destination. If not, thankfully you can avoid much of the town and get into the Madurai road. Trichy has always been a major transport hub of the state with it's central location. Many of the roads from here have been designated as NH in recent years and some are in the process of being 4 laned. NH 67 links Trichy to Coimbatore via Karur on the west and Nagapattinam via Thanjavur on the east. NH 45 itself continues onto Dindigul, while the Madurai road going upto Tuticorin is now NH 45B. NH 210 connects Trichy to Pudukkottai, Karaikkudi and Ramanathapuram.
There are two roads to Madurai, the shorter one covered here was a state highway until few back when it was designated as NH 45B. This road is also getting widened to 4 lane. Viralimalai on the way is famous for a Murugan temple and a peacock sanctuary too here. This route is a mostly rural road on the plains to Madurai. Buses used to cover this 120+ kms in 2.5 hours even when it was a SH. You reach Madurai via Melur and the new Mattuthavani bus stand.
Fuel stops are available at frequent intervals. Scenery wise, it is all flat rural country side interspersed with towns as we travel fully in the plains without any ghat section. Only Chengalpattu district provides variety with some mountains in the landscape.
Good South Indian Food is available at most places enroute. IIRC, there was a well known tiffin centre at a small place called Acharapakkam (abt 100 Kms from Chennai) where I once had very tasty Idly and Pongal. Trichy provides you with more food choices. Madurai is considered the bastion of Idlies. Even the small roadshide eateries provide you with the tastiest idlies here.
Mamallapuram (30 odd Kms) and Thirukazhu(gu)kundram are reachable from Chengalpattu. Maduranthakam, on the highway itself is famous for its Rama Temple. Vedanthangal bird sanctuary, off the highway, is also reachable from here.
Pondicherry, Gingee (Senji) and Thiruvannamalai are reachable from Tindivanam on the NH 66. Viluppuram is closest to Chidambaram, famous for Nataraja Temple.
Trichy with its rock fort and the Srirangam - Ranganathaswamy temple is an important tourist place. Trichy and Thanjavur belt form the historic Chola (Chozha) kingdom and is the base for most of the Chola era temples of Tamilnadu.
Madurai is THE TOURIST place of TN. With its several thousand years of history, as the former capital of Pandiyan empire, centre of Tamil culture and literature and a place of religious significance with a famously huge temple, this would have rubbed shoulders with Rome, Paris and Athens, had it been in any western country. Unfortunately situated in India, it looks like just another dusty, dirty large town.
Trichy - Madurai Road Route II
Trichy - Manapparai (40) - Dindigul(90) NH 45 - Vadipatti - Madurai (150) NH 7
Distance from Chennai: 475 Kms
In the past, of all the highways out of Trichy, this was the only National Highway and hence this road is the best out of the lot. Unfortunately this also attracts more traffic and this road is very busy. Manapparai is a famous for Murukku (a snack). Dindigul (pronounced Dhindukkal) is another major highway hub. NH 7 towards Bangalore on the north and Madurai to the south, NH 209 to Coimbatore via Palani branch off from here. NH 45 itself which used to terminate here seems to have been extended to Theni. Madurai is about 60 KMs from here on the NH 7 which links Varanasi to Kanyakumari.The last 15-20 Kms of the road sees very heavy city bound traffic.
Dindigul is not much of a tourist place but has a rock fort / temple. Palani, the richest temple in TamilNadu is nearby. It has a famous temple for Lord Murugan or Subramanya. This temple on a hillock has winch and rope-car facilities and is very crowded. Kodaikanal hill station, a smaller and better version of Ooty is also near to Dindigul.
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