Located in the state of Tamil in southern India, Madurai is a very safe and welcoming environment for travelers from abroad. Here are a few travel tips to ensure ease of travel as you plan to participate in the 2014 meeting of Societas Homiletica.
Before arranging and finalizing your plane tickets, be sure that your passport is valid/up to date and arrange for a Visa. (See below, section 'Visa applications')
Remember that your final city of destination is Madurai. As you make flight connections in India, be sure that you fly into and out of Chennai on your flight to/from Madurai: Chennai is by far the easiest airport in India to navigate through customs.
Our hosts will arrange transportation for you from the Madurai airport to your hotel/place of destination – either the JC Residency Hotel of Madurai or Tamil Theological Seminary (see descriptions, below). Our meetings will move from one location to the other during the week. When you register, notify us of your arrival/departure dates and times so that we can arrange pick up for you at the airport.
For U.S. travelers:
a Tourist Visa is recommended as the simplest way to ensure your admission and departure arrangements for India. You may choose to secure a 15 day visa or longer, depending on the length of your visit. Our conference will meet for 6 days; however, you may choose to stay an additional day or more to participate in various excursions arranged by our hosts or to explore India on your own. For U.S. travelers, visas can take up to 2 months to secure so be sure to allow time for this important step. They may be secured in person at your nearest visa office or online. If you arrange for a visa online, be aware that you will need a passport photo.
For South African travelers:
For European travelers:
For Latin American travelers:
You may reserve a hotel room or seminary housing when you register online for the conference. However, you are responsible for paying for your room at the hotel or seminary before departing Madurai.
The JC Residency Hotel of Madurai has been reserved for our conference guests and meetings. A 3-star hotel, it includes all amenities, air conditioning, excellent food, etc. (It costs approx. $35 – 40/night at current exchange rates). It is strongly recommended that conference attendees stay at the Residency during the conference.
Housing is also available on the campus of the Tamil Theological Seminary (on a limited basis; recommended for students). The rooms are clean and modest, less expensive than the hotel, and may require sharing with another guest.
Health, Food, Water, Clothing
Be sure that your immunization record is up to date, including (for U.S. citizens) inoculations for Hep. A and B, tetanus, and any other shots recommended by your family physician and/or county health department. Also, although mosquitos are not known to carry infectious diseases in southern India, we recommend that you bring along bug repellant/lotion.
Many doctors recommend taking along medication to relieve bacterial infections, such as Cipproflaxin (which requires a prescription). We find this to be helpful advice.
Drink bottled water (and use bottled water when brushing your teeth). The food served at the hotel will be very fine for most diets (i.e., it is not terribly spicy), but do not eat foods for which you do not know the cooking source and stay away from roadside stands and fruits/vegetables that do not have “peels” (i.e., it is best to eat fruits/vegetables that have peels which you remove yourself or whose peel has been removed rather than fruits/vegetables rinsed in unknown water sources).
The temperature in southern India during late July is typically very warm/hot (over 80 degrees F.). Pack summertime clothing (e.g., casual shirts, skirts, shorts), including a light jacket for evenings. The hotel is air conditioned but most of the seminary is not. Usually, the rainfall is not significant during this season; an umbrella is optional.
Also, it may be handy to carry additional sheets of toilet paper in case you visit a location that does not have this in supply.
Phone and computer services
If you choose to bring your cell phone or computer, remember to also bring along an adaptor appropriate for Indian electrical sources. Cell-phone and wifi connections will be available in the hotel and on a limited basis at the Tamil Theological Seminary.
During the week of our conference, all guests/attendees will be offered the opportunity to visit the Meenashki Temple located in downtown Madurai (one of the largest Hindu temples in the world). When you register for the conference online, you will also have the opportunity to sign up for other excursions outside of Madurai to be conducted at the conclusion of the conference (and at additional cost to participants). Our hosts are making every effort to offer quality, interesting opportunities for us to experience religious life and sites of historical interest in southern India.
Please contact your local boardmember!
For U.S. citizens, please feel free to contact one of the U.S. board members of Societas Homiletica if you have further questions: Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm (firstname.lastname@example.org), Frank Thomas (email@example.com).
a brief sampling of resources that may be of interest to participants
Diane Eck, Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India and Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras (Eck is director of the Pluralism Project at Harvard)
Elizabeth Bumiller, May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons (Bumiller is an American journalist; this book focuses on women’s issues)
Anand Giridharadas, India Calling (offers glimpses into tensions between “old” and “new” India); The film Water; the PBS home video, The Story of India with Michael Wood (chronicles the history of Indian history, culture)