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.
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.
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.
Vandiyur Kanmoy Tourist Complex
This is an ideal picnic spot with TTDC providing boathouses restaurants services.
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".
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.
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.
This is one of the abodes of Lord Sundareshwara, a rock cut temple carved out of a mountain, just 8-km from the city.
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.
On the same hills of Azhagar Koilthis is again one of the six abodes of Lord Subramanya.
Vaigai dam is surrounded by well-manicured gardens and has come up as a popular picnic spots, just 70-km from Madurai.
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 the Western Ghats.
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
One of the well-known wildlife sanctuaries in the south, Periyar sanctuary attracts a large number of nature lovers every year. Also called the Tekkadi wildlife sanctuary, this place is appropriate to watch and observe the animals in their natural habitat. The forest of this sanctuary slope into the man made lake at the bottom of the hill
The tea estates on the slopes of the Western Ghats nestles Megamalai. This lovely place is bound to capture your imagination. Good place to stay and enjoy a lovely surrounding. One can also watch the animals roaming in the forest, which are close to Megamalai, Just 130-km from Madurai.
123-km from Madurai city is Suruli falls, which are located in a picturesque area. It is an ideal spot and an excellent picnic spot to spend one day.
Courtallam is located about 167-km on the Western Ghats and 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 160-km from Madurai. This place has got nine splendid waterfalls, which attracts a large number of visitors. TTDC offers here a boathouse accommodation apart from the restaurant.
118-km from Madurai is the temple dedicated to Lord Subramanyam. The temple is located on top of a hill 180 meter high. The temple attracts many devotees and people coming to Madurai do not miss visiting Palani. From the hill top one gets an excellent view of the nearby area.
This ideal picnic spot is located just 8-km from Madurai.
Kumbakkarai Water Falls
This place serves as the base camp for the trekkers who venture in the hills of Kodai. Kumbakkarai Water Falls are 105-km from Madurai and form an excellent picnic spot. Waterfall surrounded by forests combined with the pristine beauty of the hills creates a very soothing atmosphere.
Air: Madurai has its own airport and there are
flights, which connect the city with
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.
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.
FAIRS & FESTIVALS
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.
Madurai has been a textile center since ages. The streets and lanes are lines with shops and tailors offering readymade as well as fabric material manufactured in Madurai. The Puthu Mandapam, an old pillared hall along the entrance to Meenakshi temple is popular among the visitors and locals for the cotton fabric and the Batiks. The lovely Sungundi Sarees are in great demand among Indian women. Collectors are delighted to have the Brass lamps from Madurai.
Premier shopping areas are Chithirai, Avanimoola, Puthumandapam and Thevangu Chetty Choultry. The handicrafts Emporiums of the states are also here, which offer a varied range of handicrafts from all over the India.
The climate of Madurai is warm. The temperature seldom comes below 20° C even during the winters. The rainfall is very frequent and spread throughout the year, just like the flow of pilgrims and tourists is the same during the year.
Tourist Office, Government of Tamil Nadu - Hotel
Tamil Nadu Complex, West Veli Street (Near Periyar Bus Stand) Madurai,
Tourist Information Center, Government Of Tamil Nadu - Railway Junction, Madurai, Tamil Nadu
Department of Tourism, Government of India (DOTGOI) - 154, Anna Salai, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC) - 143, Anna Salai, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
POPULATION: About 1.23 Million
Coimbatore - 227-km
Kanyakumari - 253-km
Tekkadi - 137-km
Courtalam - 160-km
Kodaikkanal - 121-km
NOTE: To all tourists - beware of touts, who offer to take you to the Puthu Mandapam for the purchase of cheap textile material.