is the administrative headquarters of Madurai District in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Madurai or the "city of nectar" is the oldest and third largest city of Tamil Nadu. Located on the banks of River Vaigai, it has been a major settlement for two millennia and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. 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 has been inhabited since at least the 3rd century BCE. Megasthenes may have visited Madurai during the 3rd century BCE, with the city referred as "Methora" in his accounts.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.
Places to see in Madurai
Meenakshi Temple :
The Meenakshi temple, as we know it today, covers a vast area and is an eclectic mix of architectural styles, improved upon by different dynasties such as the Vijayanagara and Nayaka rulers. The temple is dedicated to Meenakshi, the consort of Lord Shiva. The original temple was built by Kulasekara Pandya, but the entire credit for making the temple as splendid as it is today goes to Tirumalai Nayak who brought back glory to this magnificent structure. Located at the heart of the city, the Meenakshi-Sundareshwar 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. People of the city wake up to the chant of hymns at the temple, which is the very centre of their cultural and religious life.
Thirumalai Nayak Mahal
Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam :
This is a huge temple tank about 5 km east of the Meenakshi temple. The mandapam in the centre has an idol of Vigneshwara (Vinayaka). Discovered during excavation to build the Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal
, the place was believed to be sanctified and was converted into a teppakulam (tank). This enormous temple tank is fed by water brought from the Vagai through an ingenious system of underground channels. It is the site of the temple's float festival.
Thirumalai Nayak Mahal :
There is no other building in Madurai, which better illustrates the architectural style of the Nayaks. The palace of Tirumalai Nayak is about 1 km away from the temple. This Indo-Saracenic building was constructed in 1523 and was originally four times as large as it is today. This palace consisted mainly of two parts, namely Swargavilasa and Rangavilasa which house the royal residence, theatre, shrine, apartments, armoury, palanquin place, royal bandstand, quarters, pond and gardens. The most remarkable part of this palace is the dome of Swarga Vilasam, which lies beyond a huge courtyard and is a magnificent example of the engineering skill of its builders, rising as it does to a height of 20m without support of any kind.