Madurai is an important heritage and cultural destination in Tamil Nadu. The name Madurai is derived from Madhura (sweetness) arising out of the divine nectar believed to have been showered on the city from the Hindu god Shiva’s matted hair.
Madurai, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, is closely associated with the Tamil language, enabling ‘sangams’ or congregations of Tamil literature and scholars to meet here every year. The city has significant antiquity and enjoyed trade links with Greece. It had been ruled at different times, by various Indian dynasties and the British.
Home to a number of historical monuments, the city is centered round the Goddess Meenakshi Amman Temple. Madurai is also an important industrial and educational hub in South Tamil Nadu. If you love ancient temple architecture, you will see the best of it in Madurai!
Attractions: The over 2000 year old Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple, the abode of warrior goddess Meenakshi, a 6-hectare complex with 12 tall towers, encrusted with a staggering array of gods and goddesses. Bewitching ceiling and wall paintings adorn this magnificent temple. Dress code is strict in the temple.
Another architectural marvel close to the temple is the Thousand Pillared Hall. It features ornate, bold sculptures that look life-like. Viewed from any angle, these pillars appear to be in a straight line, a mathematical masterpiece indeed! In the outermost corridors are situated the unique musical pillars carved out of stones. When tapped, each pillar produces a different musical note!
For the highly devotional, the other temples to visit are the ones dedicated to Goddess Mariamman, Lord Vishnu and Lord Subramanya. One of the beautiful landmarks of Madurai is the Thirumalai Nayak Palace built in 1636 with high domes, pillars and arches, with a light show that extols the virtues of King Thirumalai, particularly his passion for arts, his victories in battle and his love for his subjects. Also worth seeing is the Gandhi museum dedicated to India’s freedom struggle.
Shopping: Readymade garments, cotton sarees, handicrafts, hand-woven silks and fabrics, bell-metal lamps, bronze images, wood and stone carvings.
Accessibility: Madurai is easily accessible by road, train and air.
Best time to visit: Madurai is hot throughout the year, with April and May being the hottest months. December – Feb would be a pleasant time to visit when temperatures are between 20 and 29 degrees Celsius.