Madurai is one of the oldest cities of southern India. It has been a centre of learning and pilgrimage, for centuries. Legend has it, that the divine nectar falling from Lord Shiva's locks, gave the city its name - Madhurapuri, now known as Madurai. Madurai's history dates back to over 2000 years ago, when it was the capital of the Pandyan kings. In the 10th century AD, Madurai was captured by the Chola emperors. It remained in their hands, until the Pandyans regained their independence in the 12th century, only to lose it to the Muslim invaders under Malik Kafur, a general in the service of the Delhi Sultanate. Malik Kafur's dynasty was overthrown by the Hindu Vijaynagar kings of Hampi. After the fall of Vijayanagar, in 1565, the Nayaks ruled Madurai until 1781 AD.
and prospered to become the capital of the Pandyan Kingdom. It is
referred to in the Ramayana and Kautily`s Arthashastra. Megasthenes
(302 BC), Pliny (77 AD) and Ptolemy (140 AD) wrote of "Madura,
the kingdom of the Pandian`. Macro Polo visited Madurai in 1293 AD
and Ibn Batuta in 1333 AD. Madurai lies on the banks
Attractions In Madurai
temple is located at the heart of the city; the
Meenakshi-Sundareswarar temple has long been the focus of both
Indian and international tourist attraction as well as one of the
most important places of Hindu pilgrimage. It is the hub of the
religious and cultural life of the city. Kulasekara Pandya built
this pre-Christian era temple. However, it was in ruins before
Tirumalai Nayak who brought back the glory to this magnificent
structure rebuilt it. The Meenakshi temple is an excellent example
of Dravidian architecture, with Gopurams (large gateways) and
Mandapams (multi-pillared halls) covered from top to bottom in a
profusion of multi-coloured images of gods, goddesses, animals and
mythical figures. Spread over six hectares, the temple has four
entrances to it. The Rajagopuram on the eastern side is an
unfinished structure that has a 174 sq. ft base, and had this tower
been completed, it would surely have been the largest of its kind in
the country. The eight smaller Gopurams are within the compounds of
the twin temples. In the Ashta Shakti Mandapam inside the Meenakshi
temple, the sculpted pillars tell the story of the beautiful
princess of Madurai and her marriage to Lord Shiva. It was believed
that the princess was actually an incarnation of Parvati who came to
earth to honour a promise. Shiva came to Madurai as Sundareswarar to
marry Meenakshi and the two ruled over the kingdom for many years
before they left for their heavenly abode from the spot where the
temple now stands.
- Thirumalai Nayak Mahal
armies on the rampage brought an end to the royal line of the
Vijayanagar Empire paving way for the Nayaks, who assumed royal
powers over their principalities, which included Madurai. The city
and the dynasty flourished from the 16th to the 18th century.
Thirumalai Nayak built this palace 1 km Southeast of the temple.
Built in the Indo-Saracenic style, all that remains of this
magnificent mansion today are the principal entrance, the dancing
hall and the main hall. The main attraction now is the light and
sound show in the palace, which depicts events from Thirumalai
Nayak's life and also snatches from the ancient Tamil epic
- Mariamman Teppakulam
built by Thirumalai Nayak in the 17th century, this huge tank in the
eastern part of the city is said to have underground channels
connecting it with the Vaigai River. There is a Mandapam with an
idol of Vinayaka or the Elephant God, right in the middle of the
tank, brilliantly illuminated during the Float Festival celebrated
on the full moon day of the Tamil month of Thai, falling between
15th January and -15th February.
- Gandhi Museum
museum as the name suggests is dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, fondly
known as the Father of the Nation. It is housed in what used to be
the palace of Rani Mangammal. Among the collection of Gandhi
memorabilia exhibited here is the bloodstained dhoti that he was
wearing on the fateful day of his assassination.
Palani Murugan Temple
The temple at Palani is one of the six
abodes of Lord Subramanya or Murugan. Dedicated to Sri
Dandayuthapani, the temple is built atop a 140m high hill and can be
reached by either using steps or the electrically operated winch.
During the festivals of Panguni Uthiram (March-April) and Adi
Krithikai (July-August) Kavadi dancers dance and walk their way from
far and near as they flock to the temple in hundreds, often in a
state of trance. Situted at 119 km from Madurai.
famous festivals held at Madurai, include Teppam festival, the
annual Float Festival, wherein the images of Shree Meenakshi and
Lord Sundareswara are mounted on floats, and taken to Mariamman
Teppakkulam Tank, where for several days they are pulled back and
forth across the water in the middle of the tank, on an illuminated
raft embellished with flowers, before being taken back to the main
temple. Chithirai festival held during March-April, celebrates the
marriage of Shree Meenakshi to Lord Sundereswara. On the occasion,
an elaborately decorated chariot bearing the images of the divine
couple, is taken around the city. The resounding notes of the
nadaswaram and the drums, creates a vibrant ambience. Avanimoola
festival is held in late August-early September, when temple cars
are drawn around the streets of Madurai.
to Get There
There are daily
flights to and from Tiruchirapalli, Madras and Bangalore.
There are train connections to Madurai from Madras,
which takes eight hours via Trichy and from Rameshwaram, takes six
hours. If you approach Madurai from Kerala, some spectacular scenes
of the Western Ghats can be viewed.
very good service from Madurai to most of the major cities in the
state. State run or private buses commute at regular intervals.
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