» Location : Tamil Nadu
» Historical Significance : Remained The Capital Of Pandayan Empire Till 14th Century.
» Main Attractions : Meenakshi Temple, Koodal Azhagar Temple, Thirumalai Nayak Mahal
» Festive Attractions : Meenakshi Kalyanam In April-May And The Teppam Festival
Madurai or the “city of nectar” is the oldest and second largest city of Tamil Nadu. This city is located on Vaigai River and was the capital of Pandyan rulers till the 14th century. The Pandyan king, Kulasekhara had built a gorgeous temple around which he created a lotus shaped city. Mythology says when city was being named; Lord Shiva blessed the city and its people. On the auspicious occasion some Divine nectar (“Madhu”) fell from the matted locks of Shiva and hence the city was named “Madhurapuri”. This sacred town of south attracts thousands of pilgrims and visitors from India as well as abroad.
Madurai’s Pilgrimage – Meenakshi Temple
The life of Madurai revolves around the Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple. This magnificently carved temple is the main attraction of Madurai and its huge Gopurams towers over the city. Meenakshi temple has a thousand pillared ‘Mandapam’. Precisely there are 985 pillars and each of them is delicately and exquisitely carved. Among these are the musical pillars, which produce music when tapped. Surprisingly, these musical pillars are carved out of a single granite rock. The temple has been a hub of Tamil culture and has been sponsoring literature, art, music, and dance in the region for a long time. The temple also has an art museum. The city apart from temple is crammed with shops, street markets and temples, pilgrims choultries, hotels and restaurants. Though Madurai is considered as pilgrimage but it has also developed as a business centre and is famed for its traditional handicrafts in bronze and brass.
Prime Attractions of Madurai
§ Meenakshi Amman Temple : An excellent example of Dravidian Architecture, the Meenakshi Temple attracts devotees from all over India and Tourist from all over the world. One can climb to the southern Gopuram of the temple to get a great view of the city.
§ Vandiyur Kanmoy Tourist Complex : This is an ideal picnic spot with TTDC providing boathouses restaurants services.
§ Vanditur Mariamman Teppakulam : This huge tank is covers an area equal to the six of Meenakshi temple. Tirumalai Nayak built it in 1646. It is said that channels from the Vaigai River connect the tank. Today, this tank remains empty for most of the year except during the Teppam Festival.
§ Thirumalai Nayak Mahal : This palace is an excellent example of Indo-Sarcenic architecture. It was built in 1523 AD and originally was four times larger than what it is today. The gardens, the defensive wall all have gone and what remains are the main entrance gate, the dancing hall and the main hall. Lord Napier renovated the palace in 1866-72 and later further restoration works were carried on. Today, the main attraction of the palace is light and sound show, which is based on the life of “Tirumalai Nayak” and “Silapathikaram”.
§ Koodal Azhaar Temple : One of the most ancient temples in Madurai, Koodal Azhagar temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. In this temple he is seen in various postures sitting, standing, reclining one over the other. There are intricate woodcarvings in here, including one of Lord Rama’s coronation.
§ Azhagar Koil : This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is located 18-km northeast of Madurai on a picturesque hilltop. The gold image of Azhagar travels for the Celestial marriage during the Chithirai festival.
§ Pazhamudhirsolai : On the same hills of Azhagar Koilthis is again one of the six abodes of Lord Subramanya.
§ The Gandhi Museum : The museum was initially the palace of Rani Mangammal. It gives a clear account of the history of Independence movement of India. This museum also tells some little known facts about Gandhiji but the real piece of Gandhi Memorabilia is the blood stained Dhoti, which he was wearing at the time of his assassination. The local government museum is also situated over here. The small bookshop offers plenty of reading material from Gandhiji’s works.
§ Thirupparankundram : This is one of the abodes of Lord Sundareshwara, a rock cut temple carved out of a mountain, just 8-km from the city.
Fairs & Festival in Madurai
Most important festival of Madurai is the sacred wedding ceremony of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareshwar. This festival is held during March -April. During this festival the city displays a colourful and joyous mood. Images of the divine couple are taken around the city in a tastefully decorated chariot, amidst the presence of a huge gathering of devotees. The notes of Nadaswaram and drums further aggravate the festive ambience.
The annual float festival marks the images of Meenakshi and her consort floating on the Mariamman tank on an illuminated raft bedecked with flowers. As such there are festivals throughout the year in Madurai. All most 11 big annual festivals are celebrated in Madurai, which are spread through the year with exception of the monsoon months.
Places to stay in Madurai
Madurai has got a wide range of accommodation, varying from reasonable ones to luxurious that cater for the flocks of pilgrims and tourists. Most of the reasonable places to stay are located at Town Hall Road and West Perumal Maistry Street, not far from the railway station.
How to Get There
Air : Madurai has its own airport and there are flights, which connect the city with Chennai, Tiruchirappalli. The airline services have at least one flight daily from Madurai to Chennai. From there one can take flight to anywhere in India.
Rail : Madurai has one of the major railway junctions of South India. It is connected with the all the major tourist as well as religious places in Tamil Nadu. Though there are not many trains, which connect the city with major cities of India such as, Madurai is easily accessible from any part of the nation.
Road : There are good motorable roads, which connect this, second largest city of Tamil Nadu with other parts of the state as well as other places in India. Madurai has five bus stands, which cater to the needs of the people.