Hindu Pilgrimage
 
Madurai

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.

History of 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.

During the rule of the Nayaks, the bulk of the Meenakshi temple was built, the main attraction for visitors, today. Madurai also became the cultural centre of the Tamil people. Madurai passed on to the East India Company in 1781, and in 1840, the Company razed the fort which had previously surrounded the city, and filled in the moat. Four streets, the Veli streets, which were constructed on top of the fill, till today, define the limits of the old city.

Sights to Visit

Meenakshi Amman Temple

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.

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.

Thirupparankundram

This is one of the abodes of Lord Sundareshwara, a rock cut temple carved out of a mountain, just 8-km from the city.

Azhagar Koil

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.

Pazhamudhirsolai

On the same hills of Azhagar Koilthis is again one of the six abodes of Lord Subramanya.

 
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