To truly feel and experience old Madras (for shopping especially), Mylapore tank is the area to explore. Used loosely to describe the streets surrounding the famous Kapaleeshwarar Temple, Mylapore tank is a little town in itself. Right outside the temple, as the fragrance of fresh, wet flowers engulfs you, walk into Rasi Silks for a veritable treat. From kanjeevaram silks, reams of unstitched fabric and dance practice sarees to well-tailored men’s shirts, dhotis, and some silver jewellery, there’s enough to keep you occupied for a few hours.
Next, lug your shopping bags and yourself to Sukra Jewellery, one of the most loved destinations for affordable and well-made authentic temple jewellery (think traditional kemp and pearls) and silver items. But if you're out for imitation jewellery, you can also check out dance shops at Mylapore tank that sell everything from fake garlands to jewellery and fancy costumes at budget prices.
At the small roadside shops in Myalpore tank, you can find ceramic jaadis (to pickle your vegetables in or use as decorative items), plastic wares, woven baskets and innovative LED lamps in traditional vilakku designs, bindis, jhumkas, slippers and excellent quality glass bangles. Walk through the roads, allowing the aroma of freshly ground coffee (do visit Leo’s) to wash over you and make your way to the renowned Ambika Appalam for its (no surprise) appalams which enjoys cult status.
Dabba Chetty Kadai on Kutchery street is next on our list. Now having attained the status of a Madras legacy, the old shop is a one-stop destination for all traditional country medicine. For all things devotional, go to Giri Traders. Located right at the foot of the temple, every pooja item possible including books and CDs relating to religion and worship are sold here. There’s also Vijaya Books which is a famous store that sells school books and other books and stationery items.
If you’re in luck, and there’s a concert or dance recital on at Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan in Mylapore, some art is perhaps the most fitting end to what can only be termed a cultural experience. Finish it all with some food at Mylai Karpagambal Mess – a quaint restaurant reminiscent of yore for the most delicious keerai vadai and podi dosa you’ve ever had, and the mandatory tumbler of suda suda kaapi. Click here and here for more food recommendations in Mylapore.