- Magnificent Madurai, the ancient city on the banks of river Vaigai with an antiquity of over 2,600 years is often referred as the “Athens if the East”
- It is considered to be the ‘cradle’ of Tamil culture and literature and was an important seat of learning.
- According to legends, a Swaymbhu lingam, found here was once worshipped by Indra, the king of gods.
- The Pandya king Kulasekara built a great shrine at the site of the lingam and a city was built around the temple.
- Lord Shiva made a divine appearance on the day when the city was to be named and blessed it with drops of nectar which fell from his matted locks.
- Thus, it came to be known as Madhurapuri (Madhura – Nectar) and flourished as the capital of Pandyas, who ruled here for over four centuries up to the 10th century.
- After Pandyas, the city was ruled by the Cholas and then by the kings of Vijayanagar empire.
- The Nayaks came into power during the 16th century and carried on the great works of the Pandyas.
- Madurai, the city of myriad culture and history is well known for its delectable cuisine and fragrant flowers if jasmine.
- The modern city has also emerged as an important centre of textile and engineering industries.
MODE OF COMMUNICATION:
- Airport: Madurai Airport, Madurai (IXM), 11 kms away from Madurai city centre.
- Rail: Madurai Junction Railway Station, Madurai, 1.5 kms away from Madurai city centre.
- Road: Well connected by road.
SIGHTSEEING AT A GLANCE
Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple Mariamman Teppakulam Azhagarkoil Tiruparankundram
FORT & MONUMENTS
Thirumalai Nayak Palace
FAIRS & FESTIVALS
Pongal Float Festival Chithirai Festival Avanimoolam Festival Navarathri
ATTRACTIONS OF MADURAI
- Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple:
- Magnificent twin temple complex sprawling over an area of about 65,000 sq. mts. in the heart of the old city, dominates the life and landscape of Madurai.
- It was originally built by Kulasekara Pandya and was dedicated to Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswarar (Shiva).
- According to a legend, goddess Meenakshi was born as a Pandyan princes and got married to Lord Shiva, who came to her disguised as Sundareswarar.
- During the regin of Tirumalai Nayak (1623-55), major portions of the temple were built and the entire credit for making the temple as splendid as it is today goes to the Nayaks.
- Temple complex within a high-walled enclosure is dominated by four gigantic gopurams (gateways) and eight smaller gopurams, dedicated with multi-coloured images gods, goddesses, animals and mythical figures.
- Southern gopuram is the tallest and affords a fine view of the temple and Madurai city.
- The huge temple complex has several exquisite mandapams and shrines.
- It is customary to pray first at the shrine of Goddess Meenakshi and then Lord Sundareshwar.
- Thus devotees enter through the eastern gopuram.
- Temple bustles with activity from dawn to dusk and attracts pilgrims and tourists from all over the world.
- The Potramaraikulam or Golden Lotus Tank here was once the meeting place of the ‘Tamil Sangam’, the ancient academy of poets.
- Ayiramkal Mandapam or Hall of Thousand Pillars has 985 beautifully carved pillars and is indeed a marvel of architecture.
- Temple Art Museum in the hall exhibits icons, photographs, drawings etc.
- To the west of the mandapam in the outer most corridors are the famous Musical Pillars, carved out of a single black of granite.
- Thirumalai Nayak Palace:
- Majestic palace was built by Thirumalai Nayak in 1636, about 1.5 kms south-east of Meenakshi temple.
- Today, only a quarter of the original palace has remained, but it still reflects the grandeur of the bygone era.
- Daily sound and light shows are held here depicting the story of Shilipaddikaram and the history of Nayaks, with special emphasis of King Thirumalai.
- The Palace Museum in the adjacent hall exhibits Pandyan, Jain and Buddhist sculptures and terracotas.
- Mariamman Teppakulam:
- Huge temple tank 5 kms east of Meenakshi temple is almost equal in area to that of Meenakshi temple.
- The mandapam in the centre of the tank has an idol of Vinayaka.
- Annual Float Festival celebrated here on the full – moon day of Thai (January – February) attracts a large number of devotees.
ATTRACTIONS AROUND MADURAI
- 21 kms away from Madurai city.
- Lord Azhagar temple here is said to be the site where Lord Vishnu came down from haven to give away Meenakshi in marriage to Sundareswarar.
- The Chitrai festival of the Meenakshi temple celebrates this journey.
- 8 kms away from Madurai city.
- Rock cut temple is regarded as one of the six sacred abodes of Lord Subramanaya.
- According to legends, Lord Subramanaya married the daughter of Lord Indra here.
- 120 kms away from Madurai city.
- The home of Chettiars, known for their business acumen, prosperity and hospitality is 45 kms from Sivaganga, on the Tiruchchirapalli – Rameswaram High Road.
- Small town is studded with palatial bungalows noted for beautifully carved woodwork, as well as the stone and mortar work.
- It is also famous for Sri Meenakshi – Sundareswarar temple or Sivan temple built during 1872.
FAIRS & FESTIVALS OF MADURAI
- 3 days harvest festival is celebrated at Madurai with traditional fervour and gaiety in mid-January every year.
- Jallikattu or the ‘taming bull’, a highly exciting game of valour is held here.
- Float Festival:
- It is held on every year in the month of January/ February.
- This colourful festival is held at Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam.
- The idols of the tank in a specially built raft, which is decorated with flowers and lights.
- Chithirai Festival:
- It is held on every year in the month of April/ May.
- It marks the holy matrimony of Meenakshi and Lord Sundareshwar.
- According to mythological legends, Lord Vishnu as Azhagar came to Madurai on a golden horse to attend the celestial wedding.
- Avanimoolam Festival:
- It is held on every year in the month of August/ September.
- It marks the coronation of Lord Sundareswarar (Lord Shiva).
- A play is enacted during this time and the priest recites the legends of Lord Shiva in his 64 miracles.
- On the ninth day Lord Sundareswarar is dressed like a worker and taken to the banks of river Vaigai.
- Nine night festival is celebrated in honour of Goddess Meenakshi in her nine forms.