Madurai known as the "city of nectar", is the oldest and second largest city within the state of Tamil Nadu. The city is located on Vaigai River and was the capital of Pandyan rulers till the 14th century. This sacred town attracts thousands of pilgrims and visitors from India and abroad. The Pandyan King Kulasekarar built a great temple and created a lotus shaped city around the temple. (Interactive map of Madurai)
On the day the city was to be named, as Lord shiva blessed the land and its people, divine nectar (Madhu) was showered on the city from his matted locks. This city was henceforth known as Madhurapuri. The temple and its premises on the southern bank forms the old city, while its textile mills, engineering industries and large university forms the new Madurai. Madurai has a rich cultural heritage passed on from the great Tamil era more than 2500 years old. Madurai is also famous for Jasmine Flowers.
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. 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
episodes of Sundareswarar - that are enacted as a part of temple
festival traditions even today. 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. 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. 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. Among Nayaks,
Thirumalai Nayak was very popular, since, it was he who contributed
to the creation of many magnificent structures in and around
Madurai. Rani Mangammmal, is also a famous queen who shines in
almost solitary eminence as an able and powerful ruler in Madurai.
In 1781, British appointed their representatives to look after
The Meenakshi Temple
There are two sanctuaries in the temple, one is to Meenakshi and the other is to Shiva in the form of Sundareswar. The gopurams have been repainted in bright colours. The high point of the temple is the 'Hall of a Thousand Pillars', built around 1560. This hall is adorned with 985 elaborately carved pillars. This pillars have beautiful images. The Temple art museum is in the hall of Thousand Pillars. Among the mandapams, the Kambattadi Mandapam is outstanding for its excellent sculptured representations of the manifestations of Shiva on the pillars.
Tirumala Nayak Mahal
Tirumala Nayak Mahal is 1.5km north of Meenakshi temple. This Palace was built in 1636 by King Thirumalai Nayak with the help of an Italian . The original Palace Complex was four times bigger than the present structure. This palace consisted mainly of two parts, namely Swargavilasa and Rangavilasa. The Sound and Light show, shown here is excellent. This show dramatizes Madurai's past.
This museum which is housed in the 300 year old Mangammal Palace, is dedicated to Gandhiji, the father of the nation. It has a collection of Gandhi's books and letters. It contains Khadi and Village Industries section and a handicrafts section. Regular classes related to Gandhi's thoughts and are conducted here.
Mariamman or Vandiyur Teppakulam
This tank,1000 ft length and 950 ft wide is situated at the eastern end of the city. At the center of this tank there is a mandapam (covered structure) surrounded by four small mandapams. This mandapam houses an idol of Lord Vinayagar. The float festival is celebrated here on the full moon day of Tamil month Thai. At that time the center mandapam is illuminated with colorful lights and temple deities are brought to it in decorated floats.
A cave temple which is situated 10 kilometers south of Madurai. It is one of the six abodes of Lord Murugan, the second son of Shiva. Its innermost shrine is cut out of solid rock. Legend says that Murugan Deivanai, Indira's daughter, in this hill.
Alagar temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu is situated 19 kilometers west of the city, at the bottom of Alagar Hills. Lord Vishnu appears here in three poses sitting, standing and reclining each being depicted one above the other. This temple is older than Meenakshi temple. Legend says that Vishnu came down to this place from heaven to give away Meenakshi in marriage to Sundareswara.
Pazhamudhir Cholai is a temple situated 2 kilometers away from Alagar Koil on a small hillock. This is another one of the six abodes of Lord Murugan.
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