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Holy Destinations of India

Madurai

An ancient city, more than 2,500 years old, Madurai is believed to have been built by the Pandyan Kind Kulasekara. Legend has it that drops of Maduram (nectar) fell from Lord Shiva's locks when he cam to bless its people for constructing a temple for him. Madurai's history can be divided into roughly four periods, beginning over 2000 years ago when it was the capital of the Pandyan Kings. Apart from a brief period when it fell to the cholas, Madurai remain.ed with the pandyas until the decline of the empire. The 2000 year old reign of the Nayaks marked the golden era where art, architecture and learning scaled new heights. 

The next major rulers of Madurai were the Vijayanagara kings who won over the territory in 1371. They appointed the Nayaks as governors who, in time, became powerful in their own right. The 200 - year old reign of the Nayaks marks the golden period of Madurai when art, architecture and learning, scaled new heights. In fact, the most beautiful buildings in the city including its most famous landmark, the Meenakshi temple, are Nayak contributions.

But unlike the other temple cities of Tamil Nadu whose fame relies heavily on the fabulous contributions of great empires, Madurai, though undoubtedly known first and foremost for the Meenakshi temple, is very much modern and progressive city

 

History of Madurai

Madurai is one of the oldest cities of India, with a history dating all the way back to the Sangam period of the pre Christian era. The glory of Madurai returned in a diminished form in the earlier part of this millennium; it later on came under the rule of the Vijayanagar kingdom after its ransack by the ravaging armies of Delhi (Malik Kafur). During the 16th and 18th centuries, Madurai was ruled by the Nayak Emperors, the foremost of whom was Tirumalai Nayakar. The Sangam period poet Nakkeerar is associated with some of the Tiruvilayaadal episodes of Sundareswarar - that are enacted as a part of temple festival traditions even today.

The Sangam age or the Golden age of Tamil literature – produced masterpieces way back in the Pre christian era and in early 1st millennium . Madurai was the seat of the Tamil Sangam or Academy of learning. The entire city of Madurai, is built around the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple – the temple par excellence. Concentric rectangular streets surround the temple, symbolizing the structure of the cosmos.


As early as the 3rd century BC, Megasthanes visited Madurai. Later many people from Rome and Greece visited Madurai and established trade with the Pandya kings. Madurai flourished till 10th century AD when it was captured by Cholas the arch rivals of the Pandyas.

The Cholas ruled Madurai from 920 AD till the beginning of the 13th century. In 1223 AD Pandyas regained their kingdom and once again become prosperous. Pandian Kings patronised Tamil language in a great way. During their period, many master-pieces were created. "Silapathikaram", the great epic in Tamil was written based on the story of Kannagi who burnt Madurai as a result of the injustice caused to her husband Kovalan. In April 1311, Malik Kafur, the general of Alauddin Khilji who was then the ruler of Delhi, reached Madurai and raided and robbed the city for precious stones, jewels, and other rare treasures. This led to the subsequent raids by other Muslim Sultans. In 1323, the Pandya kingdom including Madurai became a province of the Delhi empire, under the Tughlaks.

The 1371, the Vijayanagar dynasty of Hampi captured Madurai and it became part of the Vijayanagar empire. Kings of this dynasty were in habit of leaving the captured land to governors called Nayaks. This was done for the efficient management of their empire. The Nayaks paid fixed amount annually to the Vijayanagar empire. After the death of Krishna Deva Raya (King of Vijayanagar empire) in 1530 AD, the Nayaks became independent and ruled the territories under their control. Among Nayaks, Thirumalai Nayak (1623-1659) was very popular, even now he is popular among people, since, it was he who contributed to the creation of many magnificent structures in and around Madurai. The Raja Gopuram of the Meenakshi Amman Temple, The Pudu Mandapam and The Thirumalai Nayakar's Palace are living monuments to his artistic fervor. Madurai started slipping into the hands of the British's East India Company. In 1781, British appointed their representatives to look after Madurai. George Procter was the first collector of Madurai.

Now after India's independence, Madurai is one of the major districts of Tamilnadu State. Later on Madurai district was bifurcated into two districts namely Madurai and Dindugul Districts. In Madurai District, there are 15 State Assembly constituencies and two parliament constituencies.

The history of Madurai will not be complete without mentioning the name of RaniMangammal, the woman of great skill and sagacity. History does not provide many instances of ruling queens in Tamil Nadu. Though it was considered that women were not suited to succeed the throne of a kingdom, Rani Mangammmal, however shines in almost solitary eminence as an able and powerful ruler in Tamil Nadu.

Madurai is famous for its temples.The Aappudaiyaar Koyil Tevara Stalam and the Koodalazhagar Divya Desam are the most important temples one should rarely miss to go. In the vicinity of Madurai is Tirupparamkunram, one of the 6 padai veedu shrines of Murugan (glorified in Madurai Sangam Nakeerar’s Tirumurugaatruppadai). Also in the vicinity of Madurai is Alagar Koyil, one of the prominent Divya Desam shrines of the Sri Vaishnavite faith.

Varanasi has also been a great center of learning for ages. Varanasi is associated with promotion of spiritualism, mysticism, Sanskrit, yoga and Hindi language and honored authors such as the ever-famous novelist Prem Chand and Tulsi Das, the famous saint-poet who wrote Ram Charit Manas. Aptly called as the cultural capital of India, Varanasi has provided the right platform for all cultural activities to flourish. Many exponents of dance and music have come from Varanasi. Ravi Shankar, the internationally renowned Sitar maestro and Ustad Bismillah Khan, (the famous Shehnai player) are all sons of the blessed city or have lived here for major part of their lives

 

General Information of Madurai :-

Area 22 sq. kms.
Population 1,093,702 (1991 census)
Altitude 101 meters above sea level
Climate
Max. Min.
Summer
37.1º c 25.0º c
Winter
29.0º c 20.0º c
Rainfall 85 cms average
Clothing Tropical
Season Throughout the year
Languages spoken Tamil, Sourashtra, English
STD Code 0452


Major Attractions of
Madurai

MEENAKSHI TEMPLE - 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. For the people of Madurai, the temple is the very centre of their cultural and religious life.

It is said that the people of the city wake up, not by the call of nature but at the chant of hymns at the temple.While the major festivals of Tamil Nadu are celebrated here with gaiety that equals the rest of the state, the most important moment in Madurai is the Chitrai festival that is held in April/May, when the celestial marriage of Meenakshi and Sundareswarar is celebrated, drawing a huge crowd of people from all over the state.

This pre-Christian era temple was actually built by Kulasekara Pandya but it was in ruins before it was rebuilt by Tirumalai Nayak who brought back the glory to this magnificient structure.

Of its 12 gopurams, four of the tallest stand at the outer walls of the temple. The 48.4m high southern gopuram is the most spectacular and has over 1500 sculptures. From its top, it is possible to obtain a panoramic view of the city. The Rajagopuram on the eastern side is an unfinished structure which 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 Siva. Meenakshi was the daughter of King Malayadwaja Pandya and Queen Kanchanamala, who begot her after performing several yagnas (sacrificial rites). The three-year old girl who emerged out of the fire during the final yagna was found to have three breasts but a divine voice informed the surprised royal couple that the third breast would disappear when the girl met her consort. The princess who was named Meenakshi, grew to be a beautiful young woman of great valour who conquered several lands and challenged the mightiest kings including Indra, the King of the Devas. Indira appealed to Lord Siva for protection and Meenakshi, chasing the fleeing king, confronted Siva whereby her third breast disappeared. It was revealed that the princess was actually an incarnation of Parvati who came to earth to honour a promise given to Kanchanamala in her previous life. Thus Siva 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.

The Portamaraikulam or the golden lotus tank is the place where the Tamil literary society called Sangam used to meet to decide the merit of the literary works presented to them. The manuscripts that sank were dismissed while those that floated were considered to be great works of literature. On the western end of this tank is the Oonjal Mandapam where there is a swing on which the two presiding deities are seated and worshipped every Friday. Next to this mandapam is the Kilikootu Mandapam or hall of parrots where there are some beautiful sculptures as well as parrots which chant the name of Meenakshi. The shrine to the goddess is just beyond this hall and entry is restricted only to Hindus.

At the Sundareswarar temple across the courtyard, Lord Siva is represented as a lingam and here too, entry is restricted. The corridor outside the shrine has the stump of a tree under which Indra is believed to have worshipped a lingam. In the Kambathadi Mandapam there is a unique idol of Nataraja dancing with his right leg raised to the shoulder instead of the other way round. The pillars of the Mandapam are decorated with scenes from the wedding of Meenakshi and Sundareswarar, many of which depict Siva and Vishnu together, the latter having come to give Meenakshi away in marriage. The Temple Museum is housed in the hall of thousand pillars. There are 985 richly carved pillars here and each one surpasses the other in beauty. More scenes from the wedding can be seen in the Vasantha Mandapam or Pudhu Mandapam. It was constructed by Tirumalai Nayak and is used during the celebration of the spring festival in April-May.

There are few temples in India which share the grandeur of this twin-temple complex. Since the temples is so huge it is quite possible to lose one's bearings and it is therefore advisable to engage a guide or go with a person who has already been there several times. 5km. east of the Meenakshi temple is a tank called Mariamman Teppakulam with an idol of Vinayaka installed on a platform in the centre. It is the site of the temple's float festival.

THIRUMALAI NAYAK MAHALL:

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. There is no other building in Madurai which can better illustrate the architectural style of the Nayaks. The most remarkable part of this palace is the Swarga Vilasam which served as the audience hall. Its dome which lies beyond a huge courtyard 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.

Sound and light shows on the life of Tirumalai Nayak and the story of Silappathikaram(a Tamil classic) are held everyday.

Koodal Azhagar Temple : This ancient shrine has Vishnu in sitting, standing and reclining postures one above the other.

Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam : The tank has a mandapam at the centre enshrining Lord Vigneshwara. -The Teppakulam float festival is conducted in Jan-Feb.

The Gandhi Museum : The old palace is dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi.
Timings 10.00-13.00 hrs. and 14.00-17,30 hrs. Ph : 531060

Thirupparankunram (8 Kms/5 mile): One of the six abodes of Lord Subramanya.

Azhagar Koil: (21 kms/15 mile.) A Vishnu temple on a picturesque wooded hill. During the Chithirai Festival in April/May, Azhagar travels to Madurai for the Celestial marriage.

Pazhamudhirsolai : One of the six abodes of Lord Subramanya, is on the same hill, about 4 kms. above.

 

EXCURSION:

Vaigai Dam : (70 kms/40 mile.) A popular picnic spot with beautiful gardens.

Kodaikkanal : (120 kms/65 mile.) Kodai is a hill station 2130 m above sea level in the Western Ghats. Wooded hills, pleasant walks, picturesque waterfalls and a magnificent lake make Kodai one of the most beautiful hill stations in India.

Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary (Thekkadi) : (155 kms/80 mile.) One can view wildlife in its natural habitat. The forests of this beautiful sanctuary slope down to a man-made lake where one can see elephant, gaur, sambhar and even tigers which come to the lake. Season : Oct. to June

 

Photos  of Madurai

Meenakshi Temple   Madurai


Accessibility / How to reach
:-

Air:Madurai Airport is connected with Chennai, Mumbai

Rail:Madurai is a major Railway junction connected with important cities of Tamil Nadu.

Road:Madurai is connected with all the important cities of South India.

 

Accommodation in Madurai

There are Many good Hotels in Budget and Other Range.

Where to Eat in Madurai

Pasumalai Hill, Madurai . Ph:2371601 (8 lines) Veg.,Non-Veg.,Continental
Madura Park Inn
38, Madakulam Main Road, Palanganatham, Madurai - 3. Phone:2371155
Veg.,Non-Veg.,Continental
Hotel Chentoor, *
106, West Perumal Maistry Street, Madurai Phone : 2350490
Veg.  Serving Indian, South Indian, 
Tandoori & Continental Foods 
Hotel Madurai Ashok,*
Alagarkoil Road, Madurai-2
Veg., Non-Veg., Continental and Chinese Dish
Hotel Tamilnadu,* 
West Veli Street, Madurai-1.
Veg., Non-Veg.
Hotel Tamilnadu,* 
Alagarkoil Road, Madurai-2. Phone:2537461
Veg., Non-Veg.
Hotel Supreme,*
110, West Perumal Maistry St., Madurai-1. Phone:2343152 ,2343153, 2343154, 2343160
Veg., Andhra Meals Chinese and Continental
Mahal Restaurant A/c.,
21, Town Hall Road, Madurai-1.
Veg., Non-Veg., Chinese, Continental & Panjabi
Hotel blue Lines (P) Ltd.*
Perunkudi, Madurai-1.
Veg., Non-Veg., Chinese, Continental & Panjabi
Taj Restaurant,
10, Town Hall Road, Madurai-1. Phone:2343650
Veg., Non-Veg., Chinese, Continental
Classic Restaurant,*
14,15, West Marrat St. Madurai-1. Phone: 2343140
Veg., Non-Veg., Chinese, Continental
Hotel Sulochana Palace,*
96, West Perumal Maistry St., Madurai-1. Phone:2341073, 2341073, 2340627
Veg., Non-Veg., Chinese, Continental
Arya-Bhavan By-Night,
East Veli St., Madurai-1.
Veg.
Hotel Ashok Bhavan,
103, Alagarkoil Road, Madurai-2.
Veg.
Hotel Kannimara
 256, Nethaji Road, Madurai-1.
Non-Veg.
Hotel Rajeswari, (A/c)*
Anna Bus Stand, Madurai-20
Veg. & Non-Veg.
Hotel Annapoorna,*
Anna Bus Stand, Madurai-20
Veg. & Non-Veg.
College House, *
Town Hall Road, Madurai-1. Phone:2342971, 2341145
Veg.
Hotel King Metro,
37, Alagarkoil Road, Madurai-2.
Veg.
Hotel New Karpagam A/c
Opp. Court Melur Road, Madurai-20
Veg.
Pandian Hotel,*
Alagar Koil Road, Madurai-2 Phone:2537090
Veg.,Non-Veg.,Continental and Chinese
Park Plaza,*
West Perumal Maistry St., Madurai-1 Phone:2342112, 2343654
Veg., Non


Information Centre for
Madurai

Madurai Tourist Office
180 west Veli St;
Madurai, Tamilnadu, India.
Ph: 2334757
Time: 10am - 5pm (Monday - Friday) 11am - 1pm on (Saturday)
Helpful staff, as well as brochures and maps. Tourist counters are also available at Railway station and airport.

The tourist office can organise half-day (five-hour) sightseeingtours that include the Tirumalai Nayak palace and Gandhi Museum and finish at the Sri Meenakshi temple. Tour starts at 7am and 3pm and cost Rs.125 per person.

 

Fairs and Festivals at Madurai

Avanimoolom Festival - August/September.
Float Festival - January/February.
Chitirai Festival - April/May
Govt. Chithirai Exhibition - April/May.


 

       

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