Madurai, the cultural capital of Tamil Nadu, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities of India. Ruled by Pandya kings for the longest time in its history, it is called the ‘Lotus City’ as it was planned and built in the shape of a lotus.
Madurai is known for Meenakshi Amman Temple, dedicated to the goddess Meenakshi with a sanctum for her consort, Sundareshwarar. There are many other ancient temples in Madurai, including Thiruparankundram. It is one of the important old temples dedicated to Lord Muruga(Karthikeya) and is located on a hillock approximately 8 km from the city.
Having trade ties with ancient Rome, the place holds a great cultural heritage. With bustling bazaars and fantastic street food, Madurai has heritage walks conducted throughout the day.
Tamil speakers and long-term visitors may be interested in the classes and workshops offered in subjects as diverse as t’ai chi and local herbs. Madurai is instrumental in promoting Tamil language and preserving the culture.
Places to Visit
The historic Meenakshi Amman temple is located on the southern bank of the Vaigai River, Madurai, Tamil Nadu. Built sometime between the year 1623 and 1655, the wonderful architecture of the place is renowned globally. Meenakshi Temple is primarily dedicated to Parvati, known as Meenakshi, and her spouse, Shiva. What makes this temple different from the others is the fact that both God and Goddess are worshipped together.
According to the mythology, Lord Shiva visited Madurai to marry Parvati and it has been the sacred abode of Goddess Parvati since her birth. Meenakshi temple was hence built here to commemorate the same and to pay respects to the Goddess. The most striking feature of the temple is its exquisite facade, which has highly minute details with great art pieces incorporated in the walls and pillars. Meenakshi Amman temple complex is made in accordance to the Shilpa Shastra and has 14 gateway towers or ‘gopurams’, golden ‘vimanas’, holy sanctums and shrines dedicated to the revered Goddess Meenakshi and many others. It is a major tourist attraction, with thousands of devotees visiting the shrine on a daily basis.
Thirumalai Nayakar Palace
Thirumalai Nayakar Palace was erected in 1636 AD in the city of Madurai, by King Thirumalai Nayak. The palace depicts the perfect blend of Dravidian and Rajput styles. After Independence, this palace was declared as a national monument and till date continues to be one of the spectacular monuments of Southern India. The magnificent palace is located in the vicinity of the very famous Meenakshi Amman Temple. Depicting the Saracenic style of architecture, it was constructed during the rule of Nayak Dynasty and is widely considered as the most illustrious monument built by the Madurai Nayak Dynasty.
The Thirumalai Nayak Palace was the residence of King Thirumalai Nayak and was approximately four times bigger than what is seen today. The exterior, as well as the interiors of this palace, have been richly adorned. One can notice the excellent stucco work done on the arches and domes of the palace. It showcases an array of architectural wonders ranging from the massive pillars to the overall daunting structure. There are a total of 248 pillars in this grand palace. Visitors can also enjoy a magnificent sound and light show at Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal.
The main palace is divided into two sections, namely Swarga Vilasa and Rangavilasa. In these two parts, there are various sections of the royal residence, theatre, shrine, apartments, armoury, royal bandstand, pond and garden. This glorious palace is widely considered as the most illustrious monument constructed by the Madurai Nayak Dynasty. Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal was built to mark the shift of the capital of King Thirumalai Nayak from Tiruchi to Madurai, which was done for strategic and administrative reasons.
Vaigai Dam, a magnificent human-made structure, is constructed over River Vaigai near Andipatti, Theni District in the South Indian State of Tamil Nadu. Andipatti lies about 70 kilometres from Madurai and travellers on their way to Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary often visit this massive and wondrous dam. Over the years, the site has become a favourite picnic spot as it gets beautifully illuminated in the evenings especially on weekends, and one can spend hours admiring the splendid view. The soft and warm sunrises by the reservoir are worth experiencing too.
On one side of the dam is a beautiful garden known as Little Brindavan maintained by the management for the visitors. Little Brindavan has a variety of exotic flowers and plants and is a preferred getaway for nature lovers living nearby. The play area made especially for children is a relief for parents as they watch their little ones have fun in the unpolluted air. Picturesque hills border the river on the other side, and the lush greenery surrounding the 111 feet tall dam will take your breath away.
The massive dam was built in 1959 and is often referred to as the lifeline of the region as the areas have flourished by leaps and bounds from its waters. Vaigai Dam is the central source of water for drinking and irrigation purposes in Madurai and hence of great strategic and political importance.
Alagar Koil is an exquisite temple situated in the north east of Madurai. The temple is the resting place of Lord Vishnu and is the sacred place for several followers of Lord Vishnu in the region.
It is situated in the Alagar hills and is also known as Azhagarkovil. The statue of the lord is made entirely of stone and is a splendid masterpiece created from kallalagar. A variety of statues in different postures of the Lord are all kept in the temple under the same roof and is the best form of distinct temples in southern India. H73The people of the region consider Lord Vishnu to be an extremely knowledgeable,humble yet powerful king and the ruler of the earth. The devotees offer holy prayers from the bottom of their hearts. The temple has spectacular halls and other facilities to perform different rituals with sacred mantras in the holy environ.
Often known as the “High Wavy Mountains”, Meghamalai is a petit yet beautiful place located in the Western Ghats in the state of Tamil Nadu. At an elevation of 1500 meters, this place is a perfect getaway to beat the heat and enjoy some peaceful time relaxing amidst nature. Nestled between the evergreen forest this place is filled with the fresh aroma of cardamom, cinnamon and pepper. The lush green tea plantations will give you an opportunity to sip fresh piping tea and enjoy a lazy stroll amidst nature replete with flora and fauna.
Biodiversity – Being a part of the Western Ghats, Meghamalai is bound to be rich in flora and fauna. The dense forests of Meghamalai inhabit diverse wildlife. Some of the animals that can be spotted easily include flying squirrel, sloth bear, grey jungle fowl, wild boar, and spotted deer. Wild elephants can be spotted easily roaming lazily around the forests and if you are lucky enough you might get a chance to come face to face with either a tiger or a leopard. The trees in the forests can be seen perched with myriad colourful birds including red-whiskered bulbul, great Indian Hornbills, common iora, barn swallow, pied bush chat and white-browed wagtail. A large number of vivid butterflies and insects also flutter in the forests.
Located in Keelakuyilkudi village near Madurai, Samanar Hills or Samanar Malai is a beautiful hill rock complex which was originally home to Tamil Jain monks. The hill caves are a popular place of tourism and have elaborate carvings and drawings of the monks, on the interior walls. The spot also has a beautiful lotus temple located in the premises.
The Gandhi Memorial Museum serves as a remembrance and tribute to the efforts of our very own father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi. Established in 1959 in his cherished memory, eleven years after his demise, it is one of the few Gandhi Museums in the country. Located in the heart of Madurai, the museum houses a wealth of remarkable mementoes associated with Indian history such as the bloodstained cloth Gandhi was wearing when he was assassinated in 1948. It is one of the five great Gandhi Museums in the country which depict the life of the Father of the nation and India’s freedom struggle from 1757 until 1947.
Jawaharlal Nehru inaugurated the premises on 15th April 1959, and the illustrations and graphic representations convey an understanding of the struggle for freedom during the British era. The enclosure is associated with a rich history, and the building itself is a former 17th-century palace. Gandhi Memorial Museum in Madurai comes under the Peace Museums Worldwide selected by the United Nations Organization (UNO).
The galleries of the museum display the chronicles of the pre-independent nation during an era when unfortunate atrocities were committed by the British. Special collections include historical stamps of British ruled India and letters written to and by Mahatma Gandhi. The letters sent to the poet, activist Subramania Bharati and infamous dictator Adolf Hitler are kept here! The most exciting part of the museum is the sections containing 124 rare photographs of Gandhiji’s personal life. It has photographs depicting various stages from his childhood days until being taken to the crematorium. A bloodstained cloth used by him on the day of his assassination is also kept at this museum. The museum is also home to around 100 relics and replicas of artefacts about Gandhiji.
Koodzal Azhagar Temple
Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the Koodal Azhagar Temple, located in the centre of Madurai city of Tamil Nadu is a unique and famous temple of historical significance constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture and supposedly built by the Pandyas. Koodal is another name for the city of Madurai and Azghar in Tamil translates to ‘beautiful one’, referring to Vishnu as Koodal Alagar and his consort Lakshmi as Mathuravalli. Beautifully sculpted and carved by adding different shades of colour, the majestic temple imposes itself in the eyes of the beholder.
With Lord Vishnu as the main deity in the form of Sri Koodal Azhagar, this temple is one of the 108 Divyadesams and lies on the 65th spot. This ancient temple is situated near the famous Meenakshi Amman Temple. Six pujas are performed in this temple which covers an area of 2.5acres. What makes this temple so rare and unique, is the presence of three different postures of Vishnu at such proximity to each other. The temple complex is big and built in traditional style with a big front Gopuram and beautiful vimanam. Thousands of pilgrims flock here every day and most importantly during the Tamil month of Vaikasi (May – June) to offer their prayers. Glorified in the words of ancient literature, from the Sangam period to the works of Alvars, the temple is the present embodiment of unparalleled craftsmanship of a past era.
Located on the Madurai – Dindigul National Highway near Madurai, Athisayam is a massive water cum amusement park. Sprawling over a vast 70 acres of land, the park boasts of a total of 40 games and 20 water rides. The park also has a 7D theatre, an eatery and a recreation garden for kids.
Constructed in the honor of Lord Vigneshwara, this divine temple is situated about 5 km from the meenakshi temple. It has a huge tank in the compound of the temple and holds the record of being the biggest tank in the region of Tamil Nadu.
The tank is filled with water all year long. Legends say that the idol of the temple too was obtained from the bottom of the tank, while it was dug in the olden times.So the tank gained its popularity since then and the temple too was constructed in its memory. Several different kinds of festivals are celebrated in the temple and all rituals are done with great pomp and pleasure and the people have a wonderful time while they are in the temple.
Must Try Food in Madurai
1. Hotel Gowri Krishna
2. Hotel Sree Sabarees
3. Murugan Idli Shop
4. Zaitoon Restaurant
5. Punjabi Restaurant
6. Hotel Gowri Gangaa
7. Phil’s Bistro
8. Hotel Royal Court
9. Annapoorna Mithai Shop
10. Sree Mohan Bhojanalaya
How To Get Here
Main modes of transport for travelers are by air and by train. Madurai has a domestic airport which has daily flights to Madras.Madurai is also well connected by trains to major cities of India like Chennai , Bangalore, Mumbai , and Delhi. The city is also well connected by buses to all major cities in Tamil Nadu via state government operated and private buses. Buses also commute from important cities in the neighboring states of Kerala and Karnataka(Bangalore, Mysore). One can choose between A/C and non A/C semi luxury buses.
It is very convenient to reach Madurai by air. It is well connected to all the major cities in the country through regular flights. Also, the airport is just 10 km away from the main city.
Nearest Airport: Madurai Airport (IXM)
There are bus services from most of the major cities in South India. NH 44 leads to the city. Madurai is well connected to all parts of South India. The city has 5 major bus stands, from where you can get a bus to almost every city in Tamil Nadu.
It falls on the Madurai-Tiruchirappalli-Dindigul-Quilon line which is an important junction of the southern railways. There are abundant train services to Madurai throughout the year. However, advance booking is recommended during the summer and holiday season.