Madurai – The Jewel of South India
Madurai, also referred to as Koodal, Thirualavai and Naanmadakoodal, is situated on the banks of Vaigai River in the state of Tamil Nadu. The name Madurai has been derived from Madhura, meaning sweetness, coming out of the sacred nectar sprinkled on the city by Lord Shiva. It has been ruled by many rulers such as the Pandyas, Cholas, Madurai Sultanate, Madurai Nayaks, Vijayanagar Empire, Carnatic Kingdom, Chanda Sahib and the Britishers. There are many famous temples in Madurai which include Tirumalai Nayak Palace and the Meenakshi Amman Temple. It is an important educational and industrial hub of Tamil Nadu. More than 9 crore tourists, including many foreigners, visit Madurai every year.
Climate of Madurai
Madurai is located at an average elevation of 101 meters. It is very hot during the summer months, the hottest being March-July. The climate is moderate from August-October. It experiences moderate rainfall. Winters are cool.
- By Rail – Madurai railway Station is one of the important railway junctions of the Southern Railway. It is well-connected to all major cities in India.
- By Road – Many national and state highways pass through Madurai. The Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation has its headquarters at Madurai and it has five major bus terminals. It is well-connected to all major cities. Auto rickshaws, local city buses and mini-buses are available for travel within the city.
- By Air – Madurai Airport is 12 Kms away from the city and it is an important airport of Tamil Nadu. Domestic flights to all major cities are available, along with international flights to Colombo, Sri Lanka.
The city of Madurai was redesigned by the first Madurai Nayak King – Vishwanatha Nayak, according to the Shilpa Shastras, meaning rules of architecture and so it is built using urban planning. The Meenakshi Amman Temple is the center of the city, both geographically and for performing all religious rituals. A number of festivals are celebrated here throughout the year. Huge processions are carried out and large chariots of the temple are used. The temple has four gateways. The elite class people had homes located near to the temple while the poor had their dwellings away. The British also made Madurai as the headquarters of a colonial complex as well as an industrial town. The social
- Meenakshi Amman Temple– This historic temple is the most important landmark of the city. It is devoted to Goddess Parvati, also known as Meenakshi and Shiva as Sundareshwar, who is her consort. The temple has 14 gateway towers (Gopurams) and two shrines which are golden. This temple has also been mentioned in Tamil literature, since it holds lot of religious significance for the Tamilians. More than 15000 devotees come here every day. There are more than 33000 sculptures in the temple.
- Koodal Azhagar Temple – This Vishnu temple has the idols of the nine planet deities, unlike any other Vishnu temple.
- Alagar Koyil – Located 21 Kms from Madurai is another Vishnu Temple – Alagar Koyil. The deity in this temple is Azhagar, and it is believed that he is Goddess Meenakshi’s brother.
- Kazimar Big Mosque – It is the oldest mosque in Madurai. It was built under the guidance of Kazi Syed Tajuddin, who came from Oman and was a descendant of Islamic Prophet Mohammed. He had received this land as a gift from Kulasekara Pandiyan, a Pandya ruler, in the 13th century. The Madurai Maqbara which contains the dargah of the Madurai Hazrats is placed inside the mosque.
- Thiruparankundram – Located 8 kms from Madurai is the Thiruparankundram hill, where the marriage of the Hindu god Murugan and Deivanai had taken place. It is a very popular tourist spot. There are carvings of many Hindu gods on the walls of the temple.
- Goripalayam Mosque – This mosque situated in Gorippalayam houses the graves of Hazrat Sulthan Shamsuddeen Badhusha, Hazrat Sulthan Alauddin Badhusha and Hazrat Sulthan Habibuddin (Ghaibuddin) Badhusha.
- St. Mary’s Cathedral – The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Madurai is seated in this cathedral.
Other Places to Visit in Madurai
- Thirumalai Nayak Palace – This palace complex displays the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture. It was built by Thirumalai Nayakar. It has been declared as a national monument and the Tamil Nadu Archaeological Department is responsible for maintaining it. A sound and light show is organized here every day.
- Palace of Rani Mangamma – It is used as Gandhi Memorial Museum and it has Gandhiji’s blood stained garment, which he had worn at the time of his assassination by Nathuram Godse.
- The Eco Park – The Eco Park is located in Tallakulam. The main feature of this park is the lighting in trees and fountains.
- Rajaji children’s park – It is located between Tamukkam grounds and Gandhi museum. More than 5000 visitors come here every day.
- MGR Race Course Stadium – This stadium is mainly used for athletic meets. It also has a swimming pool. Many national meets have been hosted here. Many national and international level Kabbadi Championships are also held here.
Numerous festivals are celebrated by the people of Madurai. The important ones are the Car Festival, Chittirai Festival, and Meenakshi Tirukkalyanam.
- The Meenakshi Tirukkalyanam is a 10-day long festival which is celebrated every year in the months of April and May. More than a million people come to see it. The idols of Goddess Meenakshi and Sundareshwar are taken in a beautiful procession during the Cradle Festival.
- Another festival celebrated in September is the Avanimoolam, wherein the thiruvilayadal(64 sacred names of Lord Shiva) are recited.
- The Float Festival, also known as Thepporchavam is celebrated to mark the birth of King Thirumalai Nayak, on a full moon day of the Tamil Month – Thai in the months of January and February. The icons of Meenakshi and Siva are decorated and floated in a tank on a raft, which has glittering lamps and flowers.
- Jallikattu is the most famous sport of Tamil Nadu. It is celebrated in January during the festival of Pongal. It is the popular bull taming festival held every year.
- Santhanakoodu – These festivals are celebrated according to the Islamic Calender to commemorate the Islamic saints.