Tamil Nadu: Madurai and Meenakshi Temple

 

Madurai:

The Athens of India, located in the middle of Hasti and Nag hills, is an epitome of
culture and tradition. The city has gained its reputation in India as a city of marvelous
architectures. The graceful city has been attracting tourists and temple lovers for many
years for its innovative festivals round the year.

The history of the ancient city provides many instances where from historians and tourists
can recollect the mystic tales of Pandya dynasty. The time honored city was built when the
Pandyas king Kulashekhar deforested the city and thought of building this temple city. The
city is situated at an altitude of 133 meters.

The Meenakshi Temple:

The lotus shaped city was planned and built around the foremost Meenakshi temple. Madurai,
the second largest South Indian city, is the homeland of more than 11 lakhs habitants. The second
largest temple of South India, the sanctified Minakshi temple, was built by the Nayak king
Tirumalai. During the Nayak dynasty, Madurai got its reputation as a culturally strong
destination for its graceful and elegant Dravidian architectures.

The holy Meenakshi Amman temple, about 1 km towards the eastern side of the Madurai
railway station, is not only an imperative south Indian enticement but also depicts a striking
Dravidian architectures and fine arts. The artistic and majestic temple is covering an
expansive area of 15 acres. More than 33 crores Hindu deities are engraved on the walls of
the stunning temple. Various animals, devils and mythological tales are imprinted on the
awe inspiring temple as well. The colorful representations of these sculptures still have the
power to entice large group of people to the city.

Two prime temple complexes are there on the 847*792 feet temple premise. The deity
Shiva is residing in a temple where as the deity Minakshi is residing on a white marbled
throne of another holy temple complex. Enjoy the peace of mind while you are watching the
face of the Minakshi idol.

Ashtashakti mandap, the holy edifice of the Meenakshi temple, located at the main entrance,
houses innumerable mythological and spiritual sculptures and deities which are wonderfully
carved on the temple walls all around. Spend some time inside the temple and try to watch
the innovative and well thought out ever green creations vigilantly.

Various items which are used for worshipping the deities are sold on the temple premise.
Stabling of elephants and camels are also there at the back end of these shops. The art
gallery, on the 1st floor, is attractive for its collections.

Get into the temple premise to witness the divinity of the deity, Meenakshi and deity,
Sundareshwar. Both of the shrines of these temples are made up of the expensive and
classy gold. Walk down to the Tirupati temple, another devout temple, on the prime temple
premise. 1008 diyas are placed right at the crest of the Tirupati temple.

12 Gopurams of the temple look impressive for the depiction of stylish Stuko architectures.
More than million deities are astonishingly embossed on these Gopurams. The oldest
but stunning, Chitrai Gopuram, built in 13th century, placed at the opposite side of the
Sundareshwar temple, marks the chief entrance of the temple. 48.8 meters tall, 9 storied
gopuram which is the oldest of all the South Indian temples, displays 1511 idols. 12 Kalash

(es), made up of various minerals, are place atop the Gopuram. Take a walk higher up
through the slender and slithery stairways to watch the panoramic sight of the city of
Madurai and temple.

According to an innovative and singular tradition of the temple, the Tamil Sangam literature
books were put into the water of the Potta Marai Kulum or Golden Lotus tank to know the
excellence and modishness of the literature books. It was believed that if the content of that
particular literature is not valuable it will sink otherwise it will not.

It is quite evident according to the history of the temple that the structure and façade of
the temple had changed over the years. In 700 the temple was built with stones. The newly
constructed holy temple was built in 1510 by the Biswanath Nayak at the same place where
the old temple was situated. The temple got a nice and different look during the Nayak king
Tirumalai.

Another example of the excellent art is Kambathadi mandap, built in 19th century. The tales
of the marriage of Sundareshwar and Minakshi, Shiva in 24 forms, and sculptures of Vishnu
and Shiva are carved on the fastidious mandapam.

Even though the size of the Rani Rangammal Mandapam, built in 18th century, is not very
large but is definitely very attractive.

Ayirakkal Mandapam, built in 1560, at the north- east side of Rani Rangammal Mandapam,
was built on 985 strong pillars. The excellent and stylish architectures of the pillars entice
many temple lovers. Apart from the various mythological tales, the sculptures of Shiva
(riding on a peacock) and Parvati (playing a musical instrument) are also artistically
engraved on the mandapam. The Kaleidoscopic view of the mandapam from anywhere of
the temple premise will amuse holiday makers. 5 musical pillars, located in front of the
985 pillars, are other impressive creations of the contemporary artists. 22 pillars made
up of granite stones create a magical tune if you hit those with a small stone. It creates a
soothing music.

The Pudu Mandapam, located at the eastern corridor of the temple, showcases striking idols
of Nayak kings. The work on nets will entertain everyone.

A lot of other temples are also there to welcome tourists and temple lovers.

The museum of the temple is another foremost attraction. Old coins, innumerable
mythological idols and ancient collections of South Indian scriptures and books are kept and
maintained in the museum.

The temple is always crowded with spiritual throng and temple lovers. The deities are
reverenced in the temple always. The day starts with the worship of the Devi Meenakshi.
The deity, Sundareshwar, always occupies the back seat though. Tourists are entertained
by the musical concerts of the temple. Religious people should visit the temple at 21-15 to
witness the spirituality of Lalipuja for half an hour. This marks the end of the worship for
the day. More than 15000 people congregate on the temple premise from different states of
India and outside India every day. Most number of devotees can be seen in the temple on

Fridays.

On the auspicious occasion of Tamil New Year, crowd flock to the temple to watch the
celebrations of the marriage anniversary of the deities. Interested people can take part in
the charming procession that leaves the temple premise in the evening of that particular
day. The 3 days long festival, also known as Chithirai, is observed during April. This
fastidious occasion bridges the Arya and Dravid cultures.

Vinayak Chaturthi in September, Teppa during January- February, Vasant in May, Navaratri
during September- October and many more festivals are observed and celebrated with lot
of fervor every year. Hire a guide to know the history and tales associated with the temple.
Only people who belong to the Hindu communities can watch the face of the deity. You are
also allowed to take snaps if you pay 30 rupees. The temple is sheltered in a very congested
area.

Tirumalai Mayak Mahal, situated at a distance of 1.5 km towards the south- east side of
the temple, built in 1936, is a delight to the eyes for its marvelous and splendid blend
of excellent Indo-Serasenic and Rajasthani architectures. Watch the aesthetics of the
240 pillars (12 meters tall), 15 domes and circular but pillar less roof. The Mahal was
revamped during 1866-72 by Governor of Chennai, Lord Nepier. The monument again was
reconstructed and redesigned in 1995 to uphold its flairs. The prime doorway of the palace,
huge hall, dancing auditorium, swarga bilasam, musical pillar and small museum are the
important and coveted attractions. However, a number of monumental parts had been
destroyed when Muslim kings intruded into the temple. A court is now built in the rooms of
the palace. Enthusiasts can take the pleasure in the amiable and enchanting light and sound
show. Tourists who don’t want to walk can watch the temple and palace by hiring an auto or
rickshaw.

The Gandhi museum, built in 1955, about 5 km towards the north- eastern side of the city,
was built in the 300 years old Tamikkam palace. Various items related to Mahatma Gandhi
decorate the museum. The shawl of Mahatma Gandhi is exhibited in the museum. Bloods
were sprinkled on this shawl after he was targeted by the anti socials. A library and seminar
hall is also there. Mahatma Ghandi had spent some days in the small house, located in the
adjoining premise.

The nearby Government museum showcases craft items of South India, woven textiles,
musical instruments, dolls, terracotta sculptures and a lot of arty items. The museum can
be accessed by road from Madurai.

Mariyamman Teppakulam, about 5 km towards the south –east side of the Meenakshi temple,
is a holy pond. Water is coming from the Bhaigai River through an artificial tunnel. The
Teppam festival is very popular in the vicinity. The festival is celebrated during January-
February. It is believed that the deities, Minakshi and Sundareshwar, visit the Dwip temple,
located adjacent to the Teppakulam, during the festival. Ride on a boat to go beyond the
holy pond. Teppakulam attracts devotees during the festive season.

Tiruparankundram temple, about 8 km towards the south of Madurai, on NH- 7, houses the
deities Ganesh, Karthik and Durga. A number of mythological deities are carved out of hill
rocks and are imprinted on the temple walls. The mausoleum of Sikandar, a Muslim saint, is
there at the hilltop.

Located at a distance of 50 km from Madurai, Hamlet of Banners is the homeland of the
Nadar communities. They are the people who belong in the lower segment of the society.
However, the place is gaining its reputation as an important and leading business hub of
South India.

Amyon Lodge and Coronation House are the places where tourists can stay overnight in
Virudhunagar.

Located at a distance of 21 km towards the north- east side of Madurai is Azhagar Kovil
temple
. The age old temple showcases mind blowing fine arts. The architectural panache of
the temple will surely free you from the worries of the humdrum city life. The deity, Azhagar
or Vishnu, is the prime deity of local Kallar tribes. The golden idol of the deity travels to
Madurai during Chithirai festival in the month of April.

The Azhagar Kovil temple is connected to Madurai by bus.

Narasingam temple, about 20 km off Madurai, at the foothills of Hasti hills, is another
devout temple, built long back in 10th century.

Kodaikanal (120 km from Madurai), Palani temple (122 km from Madurai), Puruli waterfall
(128 km from Madurai) and Periyar wildlife sanctuary (160 km from Madurai) are the other
nearby sought after destinations.
Madurai is also the gateway to Munnar, one of the most popular hill stations in Kerala.

How to reach: Avail Kanyakumari express from Howrah and get down at Madurai. Trains to
Madurai are also available from Chennai Egmore and other south Indian cities. Madurai can
be accessed by road from different cities of south India as well.
Quite a few flights are also going to Madurai. Check our transportation lins below for details and ticketing.

Where to stay: Hotel Senthosh, Hotel Times, Kaveri Mahal, Hotel Krishna, Hotel Ragu,
Hotel International, Hotel Prem Nivas, Ruby Lodge and Hotel Taj.
Check our hotel booking links below for photos, rates, options and online bookings.

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