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Madurai
Madurai

Madurai - The Temple City
 
Madurai is one of the oldest continually inhabited city in the Indian peninsula, with a history dating all the way back to the Sangam period of the pre-Christian era. It was the seat of power of the Pandyan empire. The Sangam period poet Nakkeerar is associated with some of the Tiruvilayaadal episodes of Sundareswarar - that are enacted as a part of temple festival traditions even today. As early as the 3rd century BC, Megasthanes visited Madurai. Later many people from Rome and Greece visited Madurai and established trade with the Pandya kings.

In legend, the original town of Madurai, traditionally called ThenMadurai or Madurai of South was destroyed by a tsunami in ancient Kumari Kandam. The new city was home to the last Tamil Sangam in the early part of last Century. The great national poet Subramanya Bharathi worked as a Tamil language pandit / teacher in Sethupathy High School during the early 20th century. There is a village town in the neighbouring district of Dindigul called Vada Madurai, and another in the neighbouring district of Sivagangai called Manamadurai.

Madurai flourished till 10th century AD when it was captured by Cholas, the arch rivals of the Pandyas. The glory of Madurai returned in a diminished form in the earlier part of this millennium as it later came under the rule of the Vijayanagar kingdom and Madurai was ruled by the Nayak Emperors, the foremost of whom was Tirumalai Nayakar.
 
The Temple City
 
Tourism and Landmarks
Madurai is one of the most important Hindu pilgrimage sites of India. The city attracts a large number of pilgrims and tourists from within the country and abroad. About 4,100,000 tourists visited Madurai in 2007, out of which foreigners numbered 224,000.

Sri Meenakshi - Sundareswarar Temple
Madurai's Meenakshi-Sundareswarar temple, which stands today as one of the India's greatest cultural and architectural landmarks, was originally built by the early Pandya King Kulasekara. It is also one of the greatest Shiva Temples of Tamilnadu. The labyrinthine Meenakshi Temple, celebrating the love of the Meenakshi goddess and her groom Sundareswarar(the Handsome God) is of world renown. madurai_meenakshiamman_temple_resize.jpgThe ancient city of Madurai was supposedly laid out in a lotus-like formation, with the temple at the center and the streets and main thoroughfares layered one after the other concentrically, outward from the center. One legend says that on the day the city was to be named, Lord Shiva blessed the land and its people while divine nectar showered on the city from his matted locks. The city hence came to be known as Madhurapuri meaning The City of Divine Nectar. The legend is likely a late tale attempting to Sanskritise the otherwise-Dravidian derivative of Madurai. This is the place where Lord Natarajar performed the dance raising his right leg . (Kal maariya Aadiya natarajar). Lord shiva was very happy with the temple construction and performed a different dance. This is the temple which survived after Kannagi burnt the complete city. All of the towers are currently draped in scaffolding and opaque coverings obscuring the sculptures at least until the end of 2009.

Timings : The temple is usually open between 0500hrs and 1230hrs and again between 1600 hrs and 21.30 hrs.

Thiruparankundram - Temple
Thiruparankundram is about 8 km or 5 miles from the Madurai city center.Thiruparakundram temple has become a symbol of the religious harmony as of the people of Madurai. The traditional legend is that Lord thiruparankundram_resize.jpgMurugan married Deivanai at Thiruparankundram Murugan Temple, which also is the first among the Six Holy Abodes of Murugan (Arupadai Veedu, literally "Six Battle Camps") This evocative cave temple is much older and has a more sacred atmosphere than the Meenakshi temple, particularly on Fridays, when women place candles or sit around the temple floor and create kolams or rangoli patterns on the ground using coloured powders, ash and flowers as an offering to goddess Durga

Koodal Azhagar Koil - Temple
A beautiful vishnu temple which has Navagraham also(Usually Navagraham is found only in shivan temple). There is a hayagrivar temple close to this temple wherekoodal_azhagar_koil_temple_resize.jpg hayagrivar (Horse/"haya"griva avataram) is the main deity. Most of the students do their regular prayer here as hayagrivar is the one who brought the epic fallen into water back to the earth. This is one of the temple found in center of city. This is located 100 mtrs north to the Kazimar Big Mosque (Periya pallivasal) and to the south of Sunnambukara street.
 
Tourist Attractions Around Madurai
 
Madurai acts as a tourism hub of south Tamil Nadu because of its strategic location.There are various tourist visiting places around madurai. Gandhi Museum
The museum displays information about Mahatma Gandhi, and most importantly it showcases the original blood-stained garment of Gandhi when he was assassinated by Nathuram Godse. The other piece of the gandhi_museum_resize.jpggarment is kept at the Gandhi Museum in Delhi. This museum, is one of the 5 museums in India (others in Mumbai, Barrackpore, Sabarmati and Patna) known as Gandhi Sanghralayas. Also lot of pictures taken during the Life time of Gandhi with various leaders all around the world and also during various incidents of freedom struggle is kept. Martin Luther King Jr. visited the museum during his tour of India in 1959 and is said to have got his inspiration to launch a series of peaceful agitations against racial discrimination .No entry fee for museum visitors.

Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal
This palace complex was constructed in the Indo-Saracen style by Thirumalai Nayakar in 1636. It is a national monument and is now under the care of the Tamil Nadu Archaeological Department.

The original palace complex was four times bigger than the present structure. It was divided into two parts, Swarga-vilasa and Ranga-vilasa. In each of these there are royal resithirumalai_nayakar_mahal_resize.jpgdences, theater, shrines, apartments, armory, palanquin place, royal bandstand, quarters, pond and garden. The ceilings are decorated with large paintings showing Shaivite and Vaishnavite themes.

The portico known as Swarga Vilasam is an arcaded octagon wholly constructed of bricks and mortar without the support of a single rafter or girder. The stucco work on its domes and arches is remarkable. The gigantic pillars and structures represent architectural mastery. The courtyard and the dancing hall are central attractions for visitors. There are 248 pillars, each 58 feet tall and 5 feet in diameter.

Furniture and utensils used by the kings is on exhibit inside the palace. The palace is equipped to perform "Light and Sound" shows depicting the story of "Silappathikaram", in both Tamil and English languages.

Alagar koil
Azhagar Kovil, located about 25 km from the city, is a vishnu shrine. The location is surrounded by hills. The principal god of the shrine is that of Lord Kallazhagar. The Tamil new year festival called Chittirai Thiruvizha alagar_koil_resize.jpghas been celebrated for centuries in this temple. In the entrance of the Azhagar kovil one can view the Badhri Narayanan temple, built similar to Badrinath near Mount Kailash in northern India: the principal idol in this shrine represents Vishnu in a meditative posture, flanked by Nara-Narayan.

The Lord Kallalagar is said to visit the temple on the eve of the Chittirai festival, one of the famous festivals in Tamil Nadu. He starts the journey from the Alagar Koil, crossing the Badri Narayanan Shrine.[1] During this time, he visits Vandiyur, near the Vaigai River, on the eastern outskirts of Madurai. It is believed that he realizes he is too late for his sister's wedding, so refuses to cross the river, and returns disappointed to Alagar Koil. On the top of the hills, is a shrine of Lord Muruga, popularly known as Pazhamudircholai. This is the last of Murugan's arupadai veedu and he is seen along with his consorts, Deivanai and Valli

Mariamman Teppakulam
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 is the scene of the colourful float festival held in January/February to celebrate the birth anniversary of King Thirumalai Nayak, mariamman_teppakulam_resize.jpgwho built this tank. 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. Kodaikanal Around 120 km away from Madurai is Kodaikanal, one of the most beautiful hill stations in India. It is also known as princess of Hills. Kodai is located 2,130 m above the sea level in the Western Ghats.

Vaigai Dam
vaigai_dam_resize.jpgAbout 70 km from Madurai on the way to Thekkady is Vaigai Dam. The dam offers a breathtaking sight on weekends when it is illuminated.

Thekkady / Kumily
Thekkady is one of the world's most fascinating natural wildlife reserves - the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. Spread across 777 km², of which 360 km² is thick evergreen forest, the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary was declared a Tiger Reserve in 1978. It lies 155 km from Madurai and is home to many animals and birds.

Coutrallam (near Tirunelveli)
It lies 160 km from Madurai and is famous for its waterfalls. coutrallam_resize_1.jpgPopularly known as the 'Spa of the South', it is blessed with immense natural beauty.








Suruli Falls
suruli_falls_resize.jpgSituated amidst rich flora and fauna, Suruli Falls serve as a perfect picnic spot. They lie on the way to Thekkady, at a distance of 123 km from Madurai.


Rameswaram
A holy town located on the Pamban island in the Gulf of Mannar, Rameswaram is connected to the mainland by the Indira Gandhi (Pamban) Bridge, which is regarded as one of India’s engineering wonders. Apart from the temples, the beaches of Rameswaram are also worth a visit. The town lies 160 km from Madurai and it is connected by rail and bus.

Palani Hills
Located at a distance of 122 km from Madurai, Palani Hills are of great religious importance for Hindus. The major attraction of the hills is a temple, dedicated to Lord Subramanya.
Festivals
 
Pongal ( Harvest festival) January
Pongal or the Harvest Festival is celebrated by way of paying tribute to the Sun, Nature and cattle for helping them with a rich harvest. The 3 day festival is celebrated with great pomp and pongal_festival_resize.jpg splendour. Bogi is celebrated the first day. Homes are given a fresh lick of paint and old articles are removed. The second day is Pongal, the main festival. Sugarcanes, Pongal (a sweet variety of rice) and festoons of mango leaves mark this auspicious day. Mattu Pongal is celebrated the third day. On this day people pay tribute to the cattle for bringing in prosperity.



Jallikattu(Taming the Bull)
The most popular sport in Tamil Nadu is part of the pongal celebrations. This gave of valour is held in the jallikattu_resize.jpgvillages with great pomp and splendor though only as a popular sport. People from the neighbouring villages throng the open grounds to watch man and beast pitting their strength against each other.


Chithirai Festival
April/May
It is celebrated every year on the Full moon day of the Tamil Month Chithirai.chithirai_festival_resize.jpg (April/May). Legend says that Lord Vishnu, as Alagar, rode on a golden horse to Madurai to attend the celestial wedding of Goddes Meenakshi with Lord Sundareswarar (Lord Siva). This festival is marked by solemnity and serenity





Festival of the Cradle
During the festival the deities - Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswarar (Lord Siva) are taken in procession to a mirror chamber. For nine days they are on a swing, which rocks gently.

Avanimoolam Festival
September
This festival during September celebrates the coronation of Lord Sundareswarar (Lord Siva). A “Lila” or play is performed where the temple priest recite the stories of Lord Siva in 64 miracles, which protected the city of Madurai from adversity.

Navarathri ( Nine nights) festival
This festival is held in honour of Goddess Meenakshi in all her forms, which embody fury, compassion and wisdom. During this nine day festival, Goddess Meenakshi is offered nine varieties of rice meals and nine varieties of flowers.

Dance Festival
January/ March/ November/ December

A dance_resize.jpgdance festival is being organized by the Tourism Department for Fifteen days. Exponents of various dances forms from all over the country perform in this festival.
The Aadheenam
 
This is one of the oldest mutt in India constituted during the period of Thirugnana Sambanthar.There are lot of immovable properties donated for this mutt, right from the day of its origin. The tradition of madurai Aadinam goes back to 1300 years and Thirugnana Sambanthar being the 1st Maga Sannidhaanam The Madurai Aadheenam. The mutt is headed by the Guru Maga Sannidaanam, The Aadinam of madurai. Though being a saiva, the Aadheenam is considered as the religious head of all Saiva and vaishanava hindus of madurai. The Guru maga sannidanam, Arunachalam Swamy is the present Aadinam and he is 292nd Aadinam in their genealogy. The present Aadeenam is very well versed in the Knowledge of Vedas, Quraan and Bible. The aadinam takes parts in all major festivals of madurai connected with Hindu religion and also in religious harmony meetings. Kumbhabishekams, Meenkshi-Shokkar marriage, Azhagar's entry into vaigai and other Hindu festivals in the city are headed by the Aadinam. The sitting Aadinam, during his life time appoints his junior, who succeeds him after his death.
Entertainment
 
The city houses the following weekend spots:
Athisayam water theme park
The water park situated on the outskirts of Madurai (20 km from the city) attracts people of all age groups and from different places in and around Madurai. Several high-tech entertainment games offer interesting experiences to visitors. The park is scientifically designed and perfect during the summer heat.

Eco park:
The park situated near city corporation building where the lighting and fountain arrangements are impressive and the illuminated optic fiber trees add luster to the beauty.The most attractive thing in the park is the water show with music.

Hava valley:
It is located on the Natham road in the outskirts of Madurai. This place is filled with natural beauty with the hills in the backdrop. It houses a restaurant and also a go-kart track.

Rajaji children park:
It is situated in between the Gandhi museum, and the Tamukkam grounds. It has lots of children play with some hotels like Poonga Arya bhavan and some other eateries shops. Also there are some collection of birds and some Light and music play. This park is run by madurai corporation within its limits.

MGR Race Course Stadium:
It is an athletic stadium which has a synthetic track. Several National Meets are held here and also International Kabadi Championship was held here.

Arasaradi Ground :
It is the only cricket stadium in the city.
 
Geography and Climate
 
Madurai city has an area of 52 km within an urban area now extending over as much as 130 km, and it is located at 9°56′N 78°07 9.93°N 78.12°E. It has an average elevation of 101 meters above mean sea level. The climate is dry and hot, with North East Monsoon rains during October-December. Temperatures during summer reach a maximum of 40 and a minimum of 26.3 degrees celsius,though temperatures over 43 degrees celsius are not uncommon. Winter temperatures range between 29.6 and 18 degrees Celsius. The average annual rainfall is about 85 cm.
 
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