Madurai – The Jewel of South India

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.

Reaching Madurai

  • 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.

Architecture

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

Religious sites

 

  1. 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.
  2. Koodal Azhagar Temple – This Vishnu temple has the idols of the nine planet deities, unlike any other Vishnu temple.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. St. Mary’s Cathedral – The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Madurai is seated in this cathedral.

Other Places to Visit in Madurai

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The Eco Park – The Eco Park is located in Tallakulam. The main feature of this park is the lighting in trees and fountains.
  4. Rajaji children’s park – It is located between Tamukkam grounds and Gandhi museum. More than 5000 visitors come here every day.
  5. 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.

Festivals

Numerous festivals are celebrated by the people of Madurai. The important ones are the Car Festival, Chittirai Festival, and Meenakshi Tirukkalyanam.

  1.  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.
  2. Another festival celebrated in September is the Avanimoolam, wherein the thiruvilayadal(64 sacred names of Lord Shiva) are recited.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Santhanakoodu – These festivals are celebrated according to the Islamic Calender to commemorate the Islamic saints.

Kanyakumari – The Tip of India

Kanyakumari – The Tip of India
Located at the southernmost tip of India, Kanyakumari lies in the state of Tamil Nadu. In olden times, it was called Cape Comorin. Kanyakumari is one of the most famous tourist spots of India. The name Kanyakumari has been dervised from the name of a hindu goddess Kumari Amman, whose temple is located on the shores of the Laccadive Sea.

Reaching Kanyakumari
Railways – Trivandrum Central is the major rail station near Kanyakumari and it is connected to all major cities of India. Kanyakumari Junction is 1Km from the bus stand.
Airways – Trivandrum International Airport is the nearest airport and it is 87 kms away. One can hire a taxi from Trivandrum. Trivandrum is well-connected all major cities of India.
Roadways – Kanyakumari is connected to all major cities through the Tamil Nadu and Kerela Road Transport Corporation Services.

Climate of Kanyakumari
Kanyakumari enjoys a moderate climate throughout the year. Winters and summers both are pleasant but it gets a bit warm and less tourists visit here during the summer months. It receives heavy rainfall and also experiences thunderstorms. The best time to visit Kanyakumari is October-March.

Legends
There are many legends about Kanyakumari. One Hindu Legend states that Kanya Devi who was an avtar of Goddess Parvati was supposed to marry Mord Siva but he failed to show up on the wedding day and the grains and rice which were to be used for the wedding feast remained unused. These unused grains turned into stones and these stones are still seen on the seashore.
Another Hindu Legend states that Lord Hanuman had dropped a small piece of the earth when he was carrying a mountain from the Himalayas with a life-saving herb, while going to Lanka during the war between Ram and Ravana. This piece of the earth is known as Marunthuvazh Malai which means the hill where medicine lives. This is why once can find lots of medicinal plants in the area. Marunthuvazh Malai is 7 Kms away from Kanyakumari.
A medicinal expert, the sage Agasthya also lived around this area in the olden times. This is also one of the reasons why so many medicinal plants are found here. A nearby village has also been named after the sage. It is called Agastheeswaram and there is an ashram also where many tourists visit. A can get a fantastic view of Kanyakumari from the top of the hill.

History of Kanyakumari
Kanyakumari is well known for its art, culture and religion since the ancient times. In the earlier times, it was also a major centre for trade and commerce. The Cholas, the Cheras,the Pandyas and the Nayak rulers ruled here. The temples built by these rulers display great architectural beauty. Kanyakumari was later made a part of the Venad Kingdom by King Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma who made Padmanabhapuram his capital. Between 1729 to 1758, the King set up Travancore and the current Kanykumari town was called as Southern Travancore. In the year 1741, the Dutch East India Company was defeated by Maharaja Marthanda Varma in the Battle of Colachel. After the downfall of the Pandyan Kings, the Travancore Royals ruled over Kanyakumari till 1947. It was during the reign of the Travancore Royals that Kanyakumari got its present name. Malayalam is the preferred language in Kanyakumari.

Places to visit
Tourism is an important industry in Kanyakumari.There are many noteworthy locations in Kanyakumari:-
• The Kanyakumari Temple – The Kumari Amman temple is located on the shore and is devoted to Goddess Parvati. The diety of Goddess Parvati has a scintillating nose ring which is said to be visible from the sea.
• Vivekananda Rock Memorial – Eknth Ranade built this 41 m high structure of the famous Tamil poet and saint Thiruvalluvar in the year 1970. This statue is one of the tallest statues of Asia.
• Sri Padhaparai – This rock is believed to have the footprints of the Goddess Parvati, the virgin goddess and Swami Vivekananda also meditated on this rock.
• Gandhi Memorial – is also place worth-seeing, since Gandhiji’s ashes have been preserved here and can be seen by the public.
There are many other religious sites, beaches, forests and mountain valleys in the Kanyakumari district.