A Temple city, a Festival city, a city that never sleeps
Madurai is an over night journey from Chennai and is well connected by air, rail and road.
Madurai is a fascinating city with a soul. Fodor's guide described the city as "Rich Pandemonium"!
The tiara of Madurai is the famous
Sri Meenakshi - Sundareswarar Temple
Timings : The temple is usually open between 0500hrs and 1230hrs and again between 1600 hrs and 21.30 hrs.
Synonymous with Madurai is the Meenakshi Sundareswarar twin Temple, the pivot around which the city has evolved. The Meenakshi Temple complex is literally a city - one of the largest of its kind in India and one of the oldest too. The temple grew with the contribution of each dynasty and victorious monarchs, into an enormous complex extending over an area of 65000 Sq m. The temple first came in to being 2000 years ago and was substantially expanded during the regime of Thirumalai Nayak(1623-55 AD).
Legend says that the city was founded by Indra, the King of the Gods,who found a lingam in the forests and ordered to built a temple for it.When Indra set foot in the temple, he found that its tank was filled with golden lilies,by a miracle.This tank is still in existence.Tradition also says that a Tamil author's work was judged here by simply placing the manuscript on the water.If it stank,it sank.
Lord Siva in his incarnation as Sundareswarar and his fish-eyed spouse, Meenakshi, are enshrined in this twin temple. There are four massive gateways enclosing these two shrines. Even a casual visitor is fascinated by the many paintings and sculptures.Their tall and highly decorated concave profile increase in size from the inner to the outer enclosures. The gopuram to the south, for example, rises up to 60 m and is covered with over thousands of brightly painted idols of Gods. The Temple is home to lakhs of idols, all of them meticulously sculpted.The sculptures are picures in stone and even the sublime shyness of Sri Meenakshi as she marries Lord Sundareshwar is stunningly portrayed.
A striking feature of the temple is the astonishing structure know as “Ayiramkaal Mandapam” or the Hall of Thousand Pillars (exactly 997)and each pillar features high, ornate, bold sculptures that look life like.This is indeed application of structural engineering as art form. View from any angle these pillars appear to be in a straight line, an architectural masterpiece indeed In the outermost corridors are situated the matchless musical pillars carved out of stones. When it is tapped, each pillar produces different musical note.Baroque in Europe ia about the only western style approaching the wonderful exuberance of the art forms displayed in this finest temple on all earth.
Thirumalai Nayak Palace
Timings : The Palace is open for visitors between 0900hrs and 1300 hrs and again between 1400 hrs and 1700 hrs.
About 1.5 Kms from the Sri Meenakshi temple, this palace was built in 1636 by the ruler whose name it bears. The imposing edifice is famous for the “Stuccowork” on its domes and impressive arches. The Sorgavilasam (Celestial Pavilion), measuring 75m x 52m, constructed entirely of brick and mortar without the support of a single rafter or girder, is a marvel of indo-Saracenic architectural style. Its curved dome, which soars without any visible support, is quite an accomplishment.Among other striking features of the palace are the massive white pillars, several of which line the corridor that runs along the courtyard. Connected by high decorated arches, these pillars measure 20m in height and have a circumference of 4m. Elsewhere, there are polished black stone pillars of varying heights. It was King Thirumalai Nayak’s grandson who demolished much of the fine structure and removed most of the jewels and woodcarvings in order to build his own palace in Tiruchirapalli. (His dream never came true).
Thanks to Lord Napier, the then Governor of Madras, who partially restored the palace in 1866-72, and the subsequent restoration works carried out several years ago, today, we get to see the Entrance Gate, The Main Hall and the Dance Hall. There’s daily sound and light show in English at 1845 hrs and in Tamil at 2015 hrs. This half an hour show extols the virtues of King Thirumalai, particularly his passion for arts, his victories in battle and his love for his subjects.
Timings: 1000hrs to 1300 hrs and 1400 hrs to 1730 hrs. (Open all days)
Housed in the old Palace of Queen Mangammal who ruled Madurai, the Gandhi Museum is dedicated to the Memory of the Father of the nation, highlights the freedom struggle and contains a picture gallery of the Gandhian movement. There are some original relics of Gandhiji including the blood stained shawl that was worn when he was shot dead.Also can be seen are a Khadi and village industries section and South Indian Handicrafts section.
Mariamman Teppakulam is a beautiful square tank spread over a huge area of almost 16 acres, located about 5Kms East of Meenakshi Temple.The tank was said to have been dug when sand was required to build the Thirumalai Naik Palace. The tank is the scene of the colourful float festival held in January/February to celebrate the birth anniversary of King Thirumalai Nayak. The deities of Meenakshi and Sundareswarar are placed in a float, called “Teppam”, decorated with flowers and illuminated with hundred of lights. This float is taken around the tank to the sound of traditional music. On the Northern side of the tank a temple is dedicated to Mariamman , a famous village deity of Tamil Nadu.