Athens of the East-Madurai

1 Posted by - June 5, 2012 - Indian Holidays, Pilgrimage

Madurai is an example of cultural diversity. Owing to its glorious past, the richness of its culture is visible in everything. This includes its architectural majesty, customs and traditions, religious sanctity, magnificent art work, handicrafts, ballads, folk dances, dramas, songs, festivals and ceremonies. The city has very-well blended its ancient cultural heritage, with the fast paced technological advancements. Madurai is expanding rapidly and is one the major commercial centers of South India. The growing number of educational institutions and industries in Madurai are live examples of its progress.

History of Madurai

Madurai is one of the ancient cities of the Indian peninsula. Its history dates back to the Sangam or Golden Age of Tamil literature in the Pre-Christian era. History records say that Megasthanes visited Madurai as early as the 3rd century B.C. From then on, many Romans and Greeks and established trade with the Pandya kings, the historic rulers of Madurai. the Pandyas were the ones that made the city their capital, and built the Meenakshi Temple, which has always been the greatest attraction of the city. The city flourished under Pandya rule when it was a major trading hub with trading contacts with Greece,Rome, and Middle Eastern countries. It was a fall from eternal glory to deep abyss for Madurai when the Tamil Kingdoms disintegrated, and its wealth was plundered by the ravaging armies of Delhi’s Muslim Rulers.

Places to See

Sri Meenakshi – Sundareswarar Temple

Timings:  The temple is usually open between 0500hrs and 1230hrs and again between 1600 hrs and 21.30 hrs.

Synonymous with Madurai is the Meenakshi Sundareswarar twin Temple, the pivot around which the city has evolved. The Meenakshi Temple complex is literally a city – one of the largest of its kind in India and undoubtedly one of the oldest too. The temple grew with the contribution of each dynasty and victorious monarchs, into an enormous complex extending over an area of 65000 Sq m. The temple first came in to being 2000 years ago and was substantially expanded during the regime of Thirumalai Nayak(1623-55 AD).

Lord Siva in his incarnation as Sundareswarar and his fish-eyed spouse, Meenakshi, are enshrined in this twin temple. There are four massive gateways enclosing these two shrines. Even a casual visitor is fascinated by the many paintings and sculptures. 

Thirumalai Nayak Palace

The Thirumalai Nayak’s palace is open to the public from 9.00a.m. to 1.00 p.m. and 2.00p.m. to 5.00 p.m. The most imposing remnant is a huge Audience hall opening into a countryard with elaborately ornamented arches. A sound and light show depicting the story of Thirumalai Nayakar and Silappathikaram (a Tamil Epic) can be seen here daily. Timings: English: 6.45 p.m. Tamil: 8.15 p.m.. Entrance Fee. Rs.1/- The imposing edifice is famous for the “Stuccowork” on its domes and impressive arches. The Sorgavilasam (Celestial Pavilion) constructed entirely of brick and mortar without the support of a single rafter or girder, is a marvel of indo-Saracenic architectural style. Among other striking features of the palace are the massive white pillars, several of which line the corridor that runs along the courtyard. It is connected by high decorated arches.

Thirupparankundram Temple

It is located 8 Kms South of Madurai Railway Junction. The temple here is one of the six abodes of Lord Subramanya. Its innermost shrine is cut out of a solid rock.

Alagar koil

About 21 Kms North East of Madurai, stands a celebrated Vishnu Temple dedicated to Lord Alagar. The temple is situated on a hill amidst panoramic surroundings. The shrine is know as Alagarkoil and the hill , Solaimalai. The temple also contain some beautiful carvings and makes the visit rewarding. Palamudirsolai, one of the six abodes of Lord Subramaniya is located atop the Hill.

Gandhi Museum

Timings: 1000hrs to 1300 hrs and 1400 hrs to 1730 hrs. (Open all days)

Housed in the old Palace of Rani Mangammal, the Gandh iMuseum depicts the highlights of the freedom struggle and contains a picture gallery of the Gandhian movement. Also can be seen are a gallery of relics, Khadi and village industries section and South Indian Handicrafts section

Mariamman Teppakulam

Mariamman Teppakulam is a beautiful square tank spread over a huge area of almost 16 acres, located about 5Kms East of Meenakshi Temple. The tank is the scene of the colourful float festival held in January/February to celebrate the birth anniversary of King Thirumalai Nayak, who built this tank. The deities of Meenakshi and Sundareswarar are placed in a float, called “Teppam”, decorated with flowers and illuminated with hundred of lights. This float is taken around the tank to the sound of traditional music. On the Northern side of the tank a temple is dedicated to Mariamman , a famous village deity of Tamil Nadu.

Pazhamudir cholai

Pazhamudir Solai is a holy place near Madurai.It houses one of the most sacred temples of Lord Muruga – also known as Arumugan, Karthikeya, Skanda and Kumara and is the sixth Aarupadai Veedu . Saint poet Nakkerar, in his songs in praise of Lord Senthil Andavar, places Pazhamudir -cholai in the sixth place amongst the six battle places( Arupadaiveedu ) that Lord Muruga has fought to win over evil. This shrine is located on a hill adjacent to theKallazhagarTemplein the outskirts of Madurai.

Kodaikkanal

Kodaikkanal is one of the best hill stations in India and one of the few in South India, Kodaikkanal or Kodai is a very beautiful place near Madurai. It takes just 121-km of travel to reach Kodai. Kodai is located 2,130 m above the sea level in theWestern Ghats.

Courtallam

It is located about 167-km on the Western Ghatsand is an excellent health resort in this part of the country.This place is also known as the ‘Spa of the South’. Courtallam is located just 160km fromMadurai. This place has got nine splendid waterfalls, which attracts a large number of visitors.TTDC offers here a boathouse accommodation apart from the restaurant.

Srivilliputhur

The Nayak kings constructed the Vatapatrasayi Temple at Srivilliputhur, but its story goes a long way back to the Pandya times, when moved by her devotion, Lord Krishna married the poetess-devotee, Andaal. which has one of the most impressive gopurams in the south. Also noteworthy is the temple chariot, which is decorated with carvings from the scriptures. The chariot festival every year attracts a large number of devotees.

Thirumohur

Thirumohur There is aVishnu Temple located here and it is 20 kms fromMadurai and 3 kms from Othakkadi. The main deity of this temple is Kalamega Perumal or Thirumal and his consort Sembagavalli.

Thiruvathavur

Thiruvathavur This Shiva temple is located 25 kms from Madurai and 5 kms.from Othakkadi. The presiding deities of this temple are Shiva and Parvathi. It is the birthplace of the famous poet Manikkavasagar.

Churches

Web Memorial Church, Rosary Church, St.Mary’s Church, West Gate Church, YMCA Church, Maninagaram Church and Lutheran Church.

People

A profound influence of the culture heritage of Madurai is seen over its people too. Though the people of the city are slowly adopting the modern lifestyle, their value system remains intact. The social fabric of the place is well fabricated and its people live in harmony with each other.

Religion

The major religion of the people of Madurai is Hinduism. There is also an evident number of Jains, Muslims and Christians in the city. Madurai is an ideal example of unity in diversity. With people following different religions there is no clash amongst communities.

Language

The main language spoken by the people of Madurai is Tamil. It is spoken in its pure form. The Sourashtra language is spoken by the people of Sourashtra community, which is significantly present in the city. People also speak a host of other regional languages like Telugu, Malayalam, Hindi and Urdu. English, being an important international language, is widely spoken by the educated people of Madurai.

Arts and Crafts

Madurai has become a big commercial centre in the south. It is renowned for its textile industry which is rising in stature with time. The city contributes massively to the textile means of the county. The textile industry still uses its traditional techniques of weaving.

Festivals

Madurai is famous for its fortitude of festivity. There are a number of festivals celebrated in the city, forming an vital part of its cultural tradition. People from across the globe gather here to be a part of these festivals. All the major festivals in theMadurai city ofTamil Nadu are celebrated with great pomp and show.

How to Reach Madurai

Madurai By Air

MaduraiAirportis located about 10 km from the heart of the city. Taxi charges about Rs 150 to cover this distance.Maduraiis connected to Chennai by air. Chennai is the nearest international airport, which is connected to most of the Indian cities and international destinations.

Madurai By Train

Direct train services fromMaduraito many cities inIndiaare available. Many trains are running betweenMaduraiand Chennai daily.

Madurai By Bus

Many private operators are providing deluxe AC and non-AC luxury coach buses from Maduraito many cities in the South India, including Chennai, Trivandrum, Coimbatore, Trichy etc. Tamil Nadu State Road Transport Corporation buses connect Maduraiwith other local cities in and around. Super fast buses of TSRTC runs between Maduraiand Chennai.

Photo Gallery of Madurai

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