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.
How to reach Madurai
Madurai houses its own airport, which is situated 10 km away from the city center. There are daily flights from Madurai to Chennai, Bangalore, Tiruchi and Coimbatore. From the airport, you can easily find taxis to take you inside the city, costing around Rs 200.
Madurai, being an important pilgrimage site and the seat of Madurai Kamraj University, has a railways station of its own. In fact, the city serves as an important railway junction of the Southern Railway. It falls on the Madurai-Tiruchirappalli-Dindigul-Quilon route and is well connected with Chennai, Bangalore, Tiruchy, Palakkad and Tirunelveli.
Madurai is approximately 447 km from Chennai, 128 km from Tiruchirapalli, and 435 km from Bangalore There are excellent roads connecting Madurai to all the major cities in South India. With as many as 5 major bus stands, the city offers comfortable travel by road. Many private operators ply AC and non-AC deluxe and sleeper coaches from Chennai to Madurai. In case you plan to travel by car, take NH45 to Madurai, via Tindivanam, Trichy and Dindigul. An alternative route will take you to Trichy, via NH45. From there, take NH45B to Madurai, via Melur
Weather:: Dry and hot, with rains during October-December
Summer Temperature: 37.5°C - 26.3°C
Winter Temperature: 29.6°C - 20.9°C
Average Rainfall: 85 cms
The climate of Madurai is hot and humid, with typicality of the rest of the Deccan plateau. The summers can be uncomfortable especially in the month of May, which is the hottest in the season and the temperature can shoot as high as 380C. It is advisable that you wear cotton and light clothes during these months and have plenty of coconut water to keep your body hydrated.
The winters are only in name for there is hardly any shift to the temperature. December, January and February are the months, which are slightly less hot than the summers.
The city becomes a pleasant host to the Monsoons in the months of September, October, and November. This is the period when Madurai is wet with intermittent showers, however they are never heavy enough to deter one from sightseeing.
Places Of Interest
- Meenakshi Temple
- Sivaganga Palace
- Koodal Azhaar Temple
- Vanditur Mariamman Teppakulam
- Thirumalai Nayak Mahal
- The Gandhi Museum
- Vandiyur Kanmoy Tourist Complex
- Azhagar Koil
The Meenakshi temple complex is one of the largest in India. The presiding deity at the Meenakshi temple at Madurai, the Athens of South India, is Goddess Meenakshi. The nucleus of the temple is older than the Madurai city. The splendor of the Meenakshi temple has remained intact for the past so many centuries. The Meenakshi temple complex at Madurai is not only an architectural marvel but also the epitome of Indian culture and civilization.
Madurai is one of the ancient cities of India and truly personifies the cultural ethos of India. Madurai has been closely associated with the literary wealth of Tamil. It is interesting to note that four of the 6 major streams as codified by Sankaracharya (i.e. Saivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism and the worship of Skanda) converge in this historic city especially during festivals and celebrations.
The Meenakshi temple complex is spread over an area of about 6 hectares. The temple has 12 gateways (Gopurams), which range in height from 45 to 50 m and the tallest Gopuram is the southern. The southern gateway is nine stories high and has images of gods and goddesses. A unique feature of the ancient Dravidian culture of South India is that people paint their gods in brilliant and bright colors. This is very much evident atop the gateways of the Meenakshi temple.
The Sivaganga palace, also called "Gowri Vilasam", is situated in the Sivaganga district about 40 km from Madurai. It was once the seat of Marava kings. At present the palace is in dilapidated condition but the architectural beauty can still be appreciated. The architectural style of the palace reflects elements borrowed from the Thirumalai Nayak's period and infused with Rajputana arts.
Inside the Palace
The Temple of Sri Raja Rajeshwari
The only portion intact at the Gowri Vilasam is the temple of Sri Raja Rajeshwari. It is the family deity of the royal family. Sri Raja Rajeshwari temple is open for the public only in the evenings and on auspicious days. On the Southern part of the temple there is a huge hall supported with numerous pillars. It is believed that the entire royal household functions used to take place there. There is a palanquin in the front facade of the palace that lies in a decrepit condition.
Nadai Kinaru is another important and interesting feature in the Sivaganga palace. It is actually a miniature swimming pool. It is believed that the tank had direct connections so that fresh water could be provided and also fill two huge tanks beside the Nadai Kinaru. It was apparently meant for the womenfolk of the royal family.
How to Reach Sivaganga Palace
Due to its close proximity to Madurai, Sivaganga is easily accessible to the tourists. Buses and taxis are easily available from Madurai. Madurai is the nearest airport.
Koodal Azhaar Temple
Koodal Azhaar Temple
Among the most ancient temples in Madurai Koodal Azhagar temple stands high. It is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. You could see him in various postures sitting, standing, reclining one over the other. Apart from that there are intricate woodcarvings, one of them depicting Lord Rama's coronation.
Vanditur Mariamman Teppakulam
Vanditur Mariamman Teppakulam
Built by Thirulmalai Nayak in 1646, this huge tank covers an area equal to the six of Meenakshi temple. Some sources say that this tank was once connected to Vaigai River, however today it lies empty except during th Teppam Festival.
Thirumalai Nayak Mahal
Thirumalai Nayak Mahal
Built in 1523 AD by the Nayak ruler Thirumalai Nayak, the palace is an excellent example of Indo-Sarcenic architecture. Once four times larger than what is left of it today, the palace is only left with the main entrance gate, the dancing hall and the main hall. You can enjoy the main attraction of the palace which is light and sound show based on the life of "Tirumalai Nayak" and "Silapathikaram".
The Gandhi Museum
The Gandhi Museum
All those with interest in Gandhi's philosophy may well plan a visit to this museum, which has some of the little known facts about Mahatma Gandhi. The museum has a real Gandhi Memorabilia in the form of a blood stained dhoti, which he was wearing at the time of his assassination. The museum is the repository of various testimonies relating to the freedom movement of India
As one of the abodes of Lord Sundareshwara, it is a rock cut temple carved out of a mountain, just 8-km from the city.
Vandiyur Kanmoy Tourist Complex
Vandiyur Kanmoy Tourist Complex
An idyllic picnic spot with TTDC with boathouses restaurants services.
Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the temple is located 18-km northeast of Madurai on a picturesque hilltop. You can attend Chithirai festival when the gold image of Azhagar travels for the Celestial marriage.
It is one of the six abodes of Lord Subramanya on the same hills of Azhagar Koilths
Though Madurai does not offer much to those who love to shop, but still shopping in Madurai can be adventurous. The city is famous for its textile industry since long. So, the best items to purchase here are readymade garments, fabrics and sarees. You will also find a number of tailors, along with the garment shops in the market. The city also has handicraft shops where people can buy some good art pieces for their house. The shopping places in Madurai are usually packed with people, especially during weekends and festivals.
You can enjoy the colorful shops and spend time bargaining for your favorite item. Since clothes are a specialty here, the most famous shopping items are cotton fabrics and Batik and Sungundi Sarees, providing a great deal of variety for the Indian woman wardrobe. The best market for cotton is the Prithu Mandapam. It is an old pillared hall inside the eastern entrance of Meenakshi temple. Here, you can buy good cotton and batiks, for which Madurai is famous. After shopping you can sit back and relax on the Pottramarai tank and feel the essence of the city.
For buying handicrafts, you can go to the Handicrafts Emporiums of Government situated here, which offer handicrafts from all over India. You can also visit the Government Poompuhar Handicrafts Shop, Cottage Arts Emporium and the Madurai Gallery. Here, you can get hand-woven silks and cottons, bell-metal lamps, bronze images, wood and stone carvings. Leading shopping areas of the Madurai city of Tamil Nadu are Chithirai, Avanimoola, Puthumandapam and Thevangu Chetty Choultry. You can also explore the following outlets for a nice shopping experience.
If you are a foodie and enjoy eating out, then Madurai is the right place for you. Madurai has a host of restaurants, hotels and road side food stalls. All of them are famous for their fresh and tasty traditional South Indian food . Madurai is famous for the Jil Jil Jigarthanda, Paruthi Pal, and sugar cane juice. Jigarthanda is a delicious drink made of algae, milk and sugar. Paruthi pal is another drink prepared by cotton seeds, flour of raw rice, coconut and jaggery.
There is also a special 'fruit mixture' drink that is sold near the Meenakshi Amman Temple. In Madurai, food is available at reasonable prices and you can satisfy your apetite almost 24 hours a day. Madurai's road side food joints are available almost all the time. The tourists are recommended to try the Dosa and pongal here. There are over 30 variety of Dosas available here. Some of the famous restaurants in Madurai, providing the answer to 'where to eat', are
Modern Restaurant i
It is famous for its spicy Chilli Parantha,garnished with green chillies, lemon and cilantro.
Murugan Idli Shop
It is famous for its steanimg hot idlis and a variety of chutneys with it.
It is located on the corner of west Masi Street and Dindigul Road. It is famous for its astoundingly large dosa.
Is located next to Ruby Lodge, on the west Perumal Maisury Street. It is the only garden restaurant in Madurai. Delicious non-veg food is served here. The tandoori items served here are the best. It's a popular place for a drink and stays open until after midnight.
Temple View Roof Top Restaurant
It is located in the Hotel Park Plaza and serves non-veg dishes. One can also enjoy delicious vegetarian dishes here.
Taj Garden Retreat
There are excellent A la carte meals in this multi-cuisine restaurant. Buffet is organised on Saturday and Sunday evenings.
Other good food joints are
- Madurai Meenakshi Bhavan
- Madurai Saradha Mess
- Madurai Muniyandi Vilas
Apart from traditional food joints, Cafes are also opening up in Madurai. Café Coffee Day has its outlet here, which attracts lot of "cosmopolitians" in the city. One can also enloy fast food at Fast Food openings like Shake Away and Tornado. Hava Valley is one of the best "Date Spot" in the city. It is located on the foothills of Alagarmalai.