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Madurai

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Also known as: -
Shopping: Books, Handlooms, Fabrics & Sarees
History of: Ancient times - around 2000 years
Population: 11 Lac

Madurai is one of the oldest cities of India, with a history dating all the way back to the Sangam period of the pre Christian era. The glory of Madurai returned in a diminished form in the earlier part of this millennium; it later on came under the rule of the Vijayanagar kingdom after its ransack by the ravaging armies of Delhi (Malik Kafur). During the 16th and 18th centuries, Madurai was ruled by the Nayak Emperors, the foremost of whom was Tirumalai Nayakar. The Sangam period poet Nakkeerar is associated with some of the Tiruvilayaadal episodes of Sundareswarar - that are enacted as a part of temple festival traditions even today.

The Sangam age or the Golden age of Tamil literature produced masterpieces way back in the Pre christian era and in early 1st millennium . Madurai was the seat of the Tamil Sangam or Academy of learning. The entire city of Madurai, is built around the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple the temple par excellence. Concentric rectangular streets surround the temple, symbolizing the structure of the cosmos.

Major Attractions

 

The Meenakshi Temple
The enormous temple complex is dedicated to Shiva, known here as Sundareshvara and his consort Parvati or Meenakshi. The original temple was built by Kulasekara Pandya, but the entire credit for making the temple as splendid as it is today goes to the Nayaks. The Nayaks ruled Madurai from the 16th to the 18th century and left a majestic imprint of their rule in the Meenakshi - Sundareswarar Temple.

The temple complex is within a high-walled enclosure, at the core of which are the two sanctums for meenakshi and Sundareshwara, surrounded by a number of smaller shrines and grand pillared halls. Especially impressive are the 12 gopuras. Their soaring towers rise from solid granite bases, and are covered with stucco figures of dieties, mythical animals and monsters painted in vivid colours.

Thirumalai Nayak Palace
This Palace was built in 1636 by King Thirumalai Nayak with the help of an Italian Architect. The building we see today was the main Palace where the King lived. The original Palace Complex was four times bigger than the present structure. This palace consisted mainly of two parts, namely Swargavilasa and Rangavilasa.
In these two parts, there are royal residence, theatre, shrine, apartments, armoury, palanquin place, royal bandstand, quarters, pond and garden. King Thirumalai Nayak celebrated festivals like Sceptre festival, Navarathri, Chithirai festival, Masi festival and the Float festival.

He conducted daily dance and music performances in the palace. This palace was destroyed by his grandson Chokkanatha Nayak and the valuables were transferred to other places.

Gandhi Museum
The Gandhi Memorial Museum is one of the distinct places to be visited in Madurai.
This Musuem is one of the rare living memorial of "The Father of India".

Thirupparamkundram
Cave temples have been so much identified with the Pallavas (600-850 A.D.), that many people do not know that other rulers also excavated similar rock-cut cave temples and monoliths. The Pandya rulers especially could be credited with a large number of these cave temples but for want of a more definite nomenclature, historians club all these together under the common term, Pallava style even though these temples are in the heart of the Pandya country where no Pallava ever set foot.

Many of the big and small temples around Madurai in Tamilnadu and the Muruga temple at Tirupparankundram are popular. Situated almost on the outskirts, only 7 kms away from Madurai, Tirupparankundram, Parankundram, as it was known in the olden days, has been a place of pilgrims throng to the shrine of Muruga (Subramanya) in their multitude, but hardly one of these devout souls pays attention to the beauty of the temple or the construction of the sanctum.

Azhagar Kovil
Here 'Vishnu' presides as Meenakshi's brother 'Azhgar'. During the Chitrai festival in April/May, when the celestial marriage of Meenakshi to Sundareswarar is celebrated, Azhagar travels to Madurai. A gold processional icon called the Sundararajar is carried by devotees in procession from Azhagar Kovil to Madurai for wedding ritual.

 

Nearby Excursions

 

Narasingam
A very less known place even in Madurai. There is a Temple carved out of Stone dedicated to Lord Narasima Near Othakkadai.

Thirumohoor
Narasingam On the Madurai Thiruvathavoor Road is the small but beautiful vaishnavaite temple. It has a beautiful Lotus Pond in the backdrop of lush green paddy field.

Tombs of the Madurai Sultan
The sultans of Madurai ruled the city after the invasion in 1310 by Malik Kafur, a general of Alauddin Khilji. They lie buried to the north of the city. The complex includes Alauddin's Mosque, with its flat - roofed prayer hall and tapering octagonal towers, and the tomb of a local Sufi saint, Bara Mastan Sada, built in the 16th century.

Anglican Cathedral
A fine example of Neo-Gothic architecture, this church was designed by Robert Fellowes Chisholm and consecrated in 1881.
 

Fun Festives

  • Madurai Meenakshi temple has festivals in all twelve Tamil months.

  • Chithirai Festival in April - May

  • Avanimool Festival in September - October

  • Navarathri Festival

  • Float Festival in January- February

Distance from major cities
Ernakulam 286 Kms
Tiruchirapalli 143 Kms
Thiruvananthapuram 308 Kms

 

How to reach there

by Air There are daily flights to Madurai from Chennai, Bangalore, Tiruchirapally & Coimbatore.
by Rail Madurai Railway Station is well connected with Chennai and other major cities of Tamil Nadu.
by Road There are excellent roads connecting Madurai to all parts of South India.

Recommended Restaurants

  • Abees Punjabi Restaurant, Madurai

  • The Bell Hotels, Madurai

  • Surya Roof Top Veg. Restaurant, Madurai

Hotels in Madurai

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