The city of Madurai captures the essence of the Tamil culture. Today it is best known for its famous Meenakshi temple. It was the capital of the Pandya kings and is the oldest city of the south. Its existence could be traced back to the Roman era when it carried out a brisk trade with Europe. According to legend, when this lotus shaped city was built, nectar or madhu fell here from the hair of Lord Shiva. The city came to be known as Madhurapuri, later Madurai.
Location : State/District
Madurai is the headquarter of the district of Madurai in the state of Tamil Nadu at the southern tip of India. The latitude of Madurai is 9° 56' 0" N and its longitude is 78° 7' 0" E.
Madurai is an important pilgrimage center and thousands of devotees visit the Meenakshi temple that is located here. However, the temple is a treasure store of exquisite art and carvings. People from all over the world visit the temple to appreciate its beauty. The city is also an important commercial and cultural center of Tamil Nadu.
Large numbers of pilgrims visit the city with their families. Art enthusiasts and those interested in the culture of India also come to the city to view the beautiful architecture. Since it is a commercial center, it also attracts young people.
Madurai enjoys a hot wet weather. Summers are hot and they last from March to May. Moderate rainfall is recorded during the monsoon season which extends from June to September. The winters are pleasant. Days are warm while nights are cool. This season lasts from November to February. Though winter is the best season to visit this city, a number of tourists come here during the summer season as well.
Indian citizens do not require any special documents while travelling to Madurai. Foreign nationals must carry a valid passport with Indian visa.
Places to Visit
Madurai is truly the soul of Tamil Nadu. The most important attraction in the city is of course the Meenakshi temple. This temple is about 2000 years old and is a massive complex covering 65000 sq mts with twelve gates or gopurams. A huge market selling items of worship and textile are located within the main hall. Every surface of the temple is decorated with thousands of sculptures of gods, goddesses, demons and other figures from mythology. Many are brightly colored, imparting a lively atmosphere to the temple. The hall of thousand pillars with its bold sculptures is one of the greatest attractions of this temple. The presiding deity is a form of Parvati called Meenakshi and her consort, Lord Sundareswar – a form of Lord Shiva. Only Hindus are allowed inside the sanctum sanctorum but the rest of the temple is open to art enthusiasts of all faiths. While visiting the temple, one should not miss the temple museum which is located within the complex. It houses some of the finest examples of art.
The huge Tirumalai Nayak palace was made by king Tirumalai Nayak with the ideas of an Italian architect. Though a large part of the original palace was later dismantled, the massive structure is still impressive. The fancy stucco work, the huge pillars and the Dravidian Islamic style are the most notable features of this monument.
The Thirupparankundram is a beautiful cave temple created by the Pandyas and is presided over by Lord Subramanya – a form of Muruga. It attracts a vast number of devotees who come here to worship. Located at a distance of only 7 kms from the city center, this temple is another beautiful example of south Indian architecture.
The Gandhi Museum displays a detailed account of the British rule in India and the freedom struggle with particular emphasis on the role of Mahatma Gandhi in it. One of the most important exhibits is the blood stained dhoti that Gandhiji was wering at the time of his assassination.
The Mariamman Teppakkulum tank covers an area of 16 acres and was built by king Tirumalai Nayak. Connected to the Vaigai River through underground channels, this lake is where the famous Teppan festival is held. Meenakshi and Sundareswar are placed on a float and taken around the tank to the accompaniment of traditional music. The temple of Mariamman stands guard on one side of the tank.
The most important activity in Madurai is definitely to explore the Meenakshi temple to appreciate its art in full and to offer worship at the shrine of Meenakshi and Sundareswar. You can also organize a picnic to the Samanar hills. It is a beautiful scenic spot which offers plenty of opportunities for taking amazing photographs. You can also see some beautiful sculptures from here. The sound and light show at the Tirumalai Nayak palace provides a glimpse of the glorious history of Madurai.
Shopping is one activity that you cannot ignore in Madurai. Pudhu mandapam or the market within the complex of the Madurai temple is best suited for this purpose. This huge market sells a variety of things. Textile are most coveted. Explore the shops to get a true feel of Tail taste and culture.
Madurai is extremely well connected and there are a number of excursions to interesting places which you can undertake. Tourists often travel to the village of Menakkal Kanavai. This place is famous for the grave of Hazrat varushai Syed Ibrahim. In addition, the view of the Namgalai hills is beautiful from this village which is situated on the Vaigai.
The temple of Azhagar Kovil lies 21 kms from Madurai. This is a Vishnu temple devoted to Azhagar who is the brother of Meenakshi. He is carried by the devotees in a golden procession to Madurai when the marriage of Meenakshi with Sundareswar is celebrated. The temple covers a large area and is decorated with beautiful carvings.
The beautiful Periyar Wildlife sanctuary is located only 123 kms from Madurai and attracts thousands of nature lovers every year. The sanctuary is best known for the variety of bordlife to be found here.
Suruli falls, at a distance of 123 km is a picturesque spot that is popular for picnics and outings.
The sacred pilgrim spot of Palani devoted to Lord Murugan is located 122 kms from Madurai. You have to climb 693 steps to reach the temple. It attracts thousands of devotees.
Srivilliputhur lies 80 kms away from Madurai. It is famous for its temple with its exquisite carvings and decorations. The Thirumohur temple is another famous spot lying 12 kms from Madurai. The presiding deity is lord Vishnu and it attracts a number of tourists.
The Kumbakkarai falls is another scenic spot, located 87 kms away from Madurai. It is a beautiful area where you can enjoy the beauty of nature with verdant greenery and a beautiful waterfall.
The Vandiyur Kanmoy tourist complex and the Adhisyam parks are modern water parks that offer plenty of opportunities for water sports and children’s activities.
Food and Accommodation
Both vegetarian and on vegetarian foods are found easily in Madurai. There is a definite predominance of the typical south Indian or Tamil food. However, other cuisines are also available. Surya, Divya Mahal, Emperor, Anna Meenakshi, Taj and Taj gateway retreat are some of the best restaurants in the city.
A variety of accommodations are available in the city. Star hotels like JC Residency, Supreme, Royal Court, Gateway hotel, The Nook offer high quality but expensive accommodation while more reasonable rates can be found at the Golden Park, Sreenithi, Astoria etc. It is best to avoid the lowest budget hotels in the central part of the city.
Safety and Security
The level of safety and security is quite high in Madurai. Though thousands of devotees and art enthusiasts visit the Meenakshi temple, it is large and well regulated so that there is no chaos.