Madurai - The Ancient Dravidian City
Madurai is one of the oldest cities in India with a recorded history dating back to 300 BC. It has been mentioned in the writings of Megasthenese, the Greek traveler. The land, famous for its rich culture, ancient monuments, and unparalleled history, will make anyone flabbergasted. Many monuments are centuries old and proclaim the ancient Dravidian culture and architecture of the land. Moreover, the riverside city is renowned as the epicenter of Tamil Sangam – a congregation of Tamil scholars. If you desire to learn the ancient Dravidian culture, there is no other place than Madurai.
Located in Tamil Nadu, the place is considered as the cultural capital of the state. There are many interesting places to visit in Madurai. The ancient city is constructed around the Meenakshi Amman Temple. The land is designed with many concentric quadrangular streets around the ancient monument. It is believed that Vishwanatha Nayak the first Madurai king from the Nayak dynasty, redesigned the city according to Shilpa Shastras (ancient architectural rules). The streets still retain their traditional names.
There are many famous tourist places in Madurai, most of which are ancient monuments, like Thirumalai Nayakkar Palace, Gandhi memorial museum, Kazimar Big Mosque, and so on. If you are an art and history enthusiast, you will be thrilled by all these places.
The major tourist attractions in Madurai are:
Top attractions in Madurai
Meenakshi Amman Temple
Meenakshi Amman Temple, otherwise known as Minakshi-Sundareshwara Temple, is planned and executed by the well-known Kulashekarar Pandyan. The temple is constructed in Dravidian style and is the oldest temples in India which are prominent for its historical and mythological significance. According to the mythology, it is believed that Lord Shiva in the form of Sundareswarar ( the handsome one) got married to Parvati who is known as Meenakshi and that area is later constructed as the Temple. Presently, the temple is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World and the only wonder of India. During the 10days festival “Thirukalyanam“, the temple attracts devotees from far and near. The temple is well-maintained and is awarded the title ‘Best Swachh Iconic Place’ (cleanest iconic place) in India.
Gandhi Memorial Museum
Gandhi Memorial Museum is a historic monument that situates in Madurai. The 1670 A.D. built Tamukkam palace owned by Rani Mangammal was converted to a museum in 1955 and was inaugurated by the then Prime Minister Jawarharlal Nehru. It was in 1955 the palace with about 13 acres of land was gifted by the Tamil Nadu State Government to the All India Gandhi Smarak Nidhi for housing Gandhi Memorial Museum. The Museum was inaugurated by Jawaharlal Nehru on 15 April 1959.
The Museum has an array of attractions that includes the blood-stained clothes worn by Gandhiji, the letter written by Gandhiji to Shri Narayanan Sathsangi of Devakottai, an appreciation letter sent by Gandhi to freedom fighter and poet Subramania Bharati. Besides, the letter was written by Gandhi to Adolf Hitler addressing him as ‘Dear Friend' is also a treasure of the museum. The museum also has a ‘Visual Biography of Bapuji' which comprises photos, sculptures, paintings, manuscripts, etc.
Alagar Kovil set on the backdrop of a hill surrounded by thick woods is a true beauty. It is believed that Lord Vishnu who is adorned as the “Azhgar“, the brother of Meenakshi resides here. The temple is famous for the procession during the Chitrai festival which is celebrated in April or May. As per the belief, during the wedding ritual, Azhagar travels to Madurai and to denote the same, Sundararaja, a processional icon made of gold is carried by the devotees from Azhagar to Madurai. It is believed that Pandyan Kings has constructed the main tower of the temple and based on the characters from epics, the sculptures are carved out. The temple is a beauty known for its calm and relaxing setting.
Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam
Vandiyur Mariamman Temple is 3kms away from the Meenakshi temple and is located on the banks of the Vaigai river. The temple is devoted to Mariamman, the temple also has goddess Pechi Amman and Lord Ganesh as devotees. This temple is 2000 years old and was built by Thirumalai Nayak in 1646. The temple is famous for the Float festival which is celebrated during January or February. The still water reflects the lights used to decorate the temple on the full moon night, and that is an auspicious sight too. It is believed that people with health issues like sore eyes, pox, marriage, and infertility will be protected and blessed with a visit to this temple. The temple is opened from 6.00 a.m. to 9.00 p.m.
Kazimar Big Mosque
Built-in the 13th century, Kazimar Mosque is the first Islamic place for worship in Madurai. The mosque was established by Hazrat Kazi Syed Tajuddin, a progeny of Prophet Muhammad. The land was handed over by King Kulasekara, the then ruler of the Pandyan Dynasty. The mosque also called Maqbara can accommodate around 2500 people at a time. This mosque is comprised of the famous dargah of esteemed Hazrats of Madurai city which is fondly called Madurai Maqbara. Within the mosque complex situates At Hazrat Kazi Syed Tajuddin Arabi Madrasa, a center for Arabic learning. A visit to the mosque assures a soothing experience. Visitors are advised to remove their footwear and to cover their hands and leg before getting inside the mosque.
Thirumalai Nayakkar Palace
Tirumala Nayakkar Palace, constructed in 1636 CE, is a national monument under the care of the Tamil Nadu Archeological Department. The Indo-Saracenic style followed in the palace is sure to make you wonderstruck. The palace is constructed using foliated brickwork and finished with chunnam (shell lime). The smooth and glossy texture is made possible by using egg white in the mix. The huge 13 meters high pillars are a glorious sight. The workmanship of the statues and the effort it took to build such a structure when there were no mechanized tools, will surely make you stand in awe. Hence this architectural wonder is not to be missed while you make the list of places to visit in Madurai.
Best Time To Visit Madurai
It is better to visit Madurai during the winter season. The Madurai weather is normally hot and dry and hence uncomfortable for foreigners during other seasons. Winter, which falls between October to March, presents a pleasant climate with an average temperature of nearly 30 degrees Celsius.
How To Reach Madurai
Madurai has high accessibility and can be reached through road, rail, or air. The different ways to travel to Madurai are:
- By Air: Madurai is easily accessible through roads as the city is connected to state and national highways. There is a bus terminus at a distance of 6 kilometers from the city. You can get AC and Non-AC buses from the terminus.
- By Train: Madurai has an airport at a distance of 10 kilometers. It has frequent flights to all major cities in India. This is one of the factors that aided Madurai tourism. The nearest international terminus is at Chennai.
- By Road: Madurai Junction Railway Station is the nearest railway station to the city. Almost all trains that pass through the route have a halt at the station. There are also direct trains from major cities in India to this tourist destination.