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Travel To Madurai
 

Madurai - The Destination


Ceiling Painting work Meenakshi Temple, Madurai

Madurai is rightfully called the cultural hub of South India. One of South India’s temple towns, Madurai is synonymous with the famous Meenakshi Temple. Situated on the banks of river Vaigai, Madurai has a rich cultural heritage passed on from the great Tamil era more than 2500 years old. Madurai was the capital city for the great Pandya kings.

Legends have it that the daughter of a Pandyan king was born with three breasts. At the time of her birth, the king was told that the extra

breast would disappear when she met the man she was to marry, and this duly happened when she met Siva on Mt Kailasa. Siva told her to return to Madurai and, eight days later, arrived there himself in the form of Lord Sundareshwara to marry her. Henceforth they settled in the Madurai Temple as Meenakshi (Fish-Eyed Goddess) and Sundareshwar (Lord Shiva).

The temple is filled with devotees, each performing his unique ritual—bowing down before any of the 33,000 sculptures, young Brahmin boys reciting the Vedas, devotees constantly rubbing ash on hands and foreheads, drinking the holy water, pressing close to the heart the sacred flowers. An atmosphere full of incense smoke, reverence and religious fervor, shrouded in Godly mystery. The 1000 pillar hall has beautifully carved columns, each different in pattern and some made out of extraordinary stones which ring out like metal when hit upon.

Outside you can find anything from religious music and ladoos (sweets) to sacred ash and literature about the temple. Even elephants graciously accepting offerings in their trunks. And cows acknowledging all requests for a healthy harvest. It is estimated that in a single day, at least 15,000 devotees and visitors walk through the gopurams for a glimpse of the Goddess. On certain auspicious days (festivals and Fridays) the number literally doubles. Keeping such numbers in mind, it is but obvious, that the essence of Madurai lies within the temple precincts. True, there is a life on the outside, but can anything come close to the self-giving seen and experienced in the Meenakshi temple?

Madurai - Facts at a Glance

State : Tamil Nadu
Temperature : 29°C - 36°C (Summers)
21°C - 26°C (Winters)
Altitude : 100 mts
Best Season :
December-February, since winter months are relatively cooler and better to pay a visit.

History of Madurai

Madurai's history goes back to over 2000 years ago, when it was the capital of the Pandyan kings. In the 10th century AD, Madurai was taken over by the Chola emperors. It remained in their hands, until the Pandyans regained their independence in the 12th century, only to lose it to the Muslim invaders under Malik Kafur, a general in the service of the Delhi Sultanate. Malik Kafur's dynasty was overthrown by the Hindu Vijaynagar kings of Hampi. After the fall of Vijayanagar, in 1565, the Nayaks ruled Madurai until 1781 AD.

During the rule of the Nayaks, the bulk of the Meenakshi temple was built, the main attraction for visitors, today. Madurai also became the cultural centre of the Tamil people. Madurai passed on to the East India Company in 1781, and in 1840, the Company razed the fort which had previously surrounded the city, and filled in the moat. Four streets, the Veli streets, which were constructed on top of the fill, till today, define the limits of the old city.

The Pandyan King Kulasekarar built a great temple and created a lotus shaped city around the temple. On the day the city was to be named, as Lord Shiva blessed the land and its people, divine nectar (Madhu) was showered on the city from his matted locks. This city was henceforth known as Madhurapuri.                               
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