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Madurai, an ancient city was the land of the Tamil Sangams. This second largest city in Tamilnadu is located on the banks of the river Vaigai. It is the land, where Lord Shiva performed the sixty-four wonders called Thiruvilaiyadals. This city is famous for the fragrant jasmine flowers.

A lotus shaped city is said to have been built by the Pandyan king Kulasekhara around the siva linga worshipped by Indra in the forest of Kadamba trees. When Lord Siva came to bless them, nectar dripped from his matted locks & hence the city was named Madhurapuri (madhu - honey), & is now known as Madurai.

Madurai was the capital of the Pandyas. Art & trade flourished. They maintained trade links with Greece & Rome. The Pandya rule was overthrown by Malik Kafur. Next followed the rule by the Hindu Vijayanagar kings of Hampi. After the fall of Vijayanagar, in 1565, the Nayaks ruled Madurai until 1781 AD.

Meenakshi Amman Temple
The Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple (twin temples) is one of the biggest temples in India. The original temple built by Kulasekara Pandyan was in ruins. The plan for the current temple structure was laid by Viswanath Naikar and was completed by Tirumalai Nayakar.
There are 12 massive gopurams in the temple, the four tallest gopurams at the outer walls. The golden lotus pond (Potraamarai Kulam) is located to the left of the Meenakshi shrine. Sundareswarar gives darshan in the form of a linga.

The thousand pillared hall (Aayirangaal Mandapam) is an architectural & engineering marvel, built in the 16th century. The pillars have the Yazhi figure sculpted on them. There are musical granite pillars here, which when struck yield different musical notes.
Madurai is also known as the festival city. All the usual festivals are celebrated, yet the Chitrai festival that is held in April/May (for 3 days), is very important when the celestial marriage of Meenakshi and Sundareswarar is celebrated, drawing a huge crowd of people from all over the state. Other important festivals celebrated here are the Avanimoola Festival (Sep - Oct ) & Navarathri Festival.

Photographs of Sculptures in the 1000 Pillared Hall

Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal
The Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal is located about 1 km south east of the Meenakshi Amman temple. It has been constructed in the Indo-Saracenic style by Thirumalai nayakar in 1636. The portico known as Swarga Vilasam is an arcaded octagon wholly constructed of brick and mortar without the support of a single rafter or girder, standing testimony to the skill of the Nayaks. Sound & light shows are held everyday depicting th eTamil classic Silapadhikaram.

Temple Art Museum
This museum located in the 1000 pillared hall boasts of a good collection of temple art and architecture.

Gandhi Museum
This is located in a 300 year old palace (Tamukkam Palace of Rani Mangammal). The museum houses a picture gallery, a gallery of relics, personal memorabilia of the Mahatma (It has the blood - stained dhoti worn by Mahatma Gandhi, at the time of his assassination), a library, Khadi and village industries section and a South India handicrafts section.

The Gandhi Memorial Trust decided on seven locations which had close associations with Gandhiji's life. Madurai was one of the selected locations, for it was here that Gandhiji chose the loin cloth as his dress, until all Indians could dress properly. Also Gandhiji succeeded in his struggle to allow harijans to enter the Hindu temples here. He entered the Meenakshi Amman temple along with the harijans. The Gandhi Memorial Museum at Madurai has been built and organised by Gandhi Smarak Nidhi.

Government Museum
This museum was established during the 5th World Tamil Conference held in 1981 and is situated within the Gandhi Museum complex.

Vandiyur Teppakulam
This huge tank also known as the Mariamman tank is at the eastern end of the city and is almost equal in area to that of the Meenakshi Amman temple. There is a mandapam in the centre of the tank enshrining Lord Vigneswara.

This idol was found here when earth was being dug for the Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal. A tank was created in this area with the Ganesha idol. This tank is fed with water from the Vaigai through an ingenious system of underground channels. A colourful float festival is held on Thai Poosam day (in January/February) to celebrate the birth anniversary of Tirumalai Nayakar. Various temple deities are taken in decorated floats.

Places of interest near Madurai