Madurai – temple town of South India

Madurai – one of India’s great temple towns is synonymous with the celebrated Meenakshi Temple. Endowed with a rich cultural heritage and glorious tradition, Madurai is grouped among the antique cities of India. Thousands of pilgrims and tourists from around the world visit Madurai every year in search of spiritual peace. Temples, monuments and ancient cultural wonders abound in Madurai making it one of the most important tourist spots of India. About 5.5 million tourists visited Madurai in 2009, out of which foreigners numbered to about 3.1 million.

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Meenakshi Temple with Madurai city in the backdrop

Where is Madurai?

Madurai is the district headquarter of the district of Madurai in the Indian state of Tamilnadu.

About Madurai

The city of Madurai is situated on the banks of the River Vaigai and is surrounded by 3 hills as its boundary. The temple town of Madurai is one of the most ancient heritage sites of India truly reflective of the cultural ethos of the country.
This 2600 years old ancient city is often referred to as the “Athens of the East”. Once the capital of Pandya kings, Madurai flourished as an important centre of Tamil culture and literature due to active patron and participation of its rulers. Madurai had trade links with Rome and Greece and was the major trade center in its early periods.
The city is also a host to a number of textile industries and is the largest producer of quality Jasmine flowers in the country. Thus, Madurai presents a beautiful blend of art, culture, tradition, spirituality, technology and entertainment, making it a popular tourist destination.

Sightseeing in and around Madurai

Meenakshi Temple – Regarded as one of the greatest cultural and architectural landmark of India, the temple was originally built by the early Pandya King Kulasekara and reconstructed later by the Nayak King Thirumalai Nayak. Madurai Meenakshi temple attracts more than six thousand visitors a day and gets an annual revenue of rupees sixty million. It attained 26th place in the list of top nominees for the new Seven Wonders of the World. This landmark temple of south India is one of the most popular Hindu pilgrimage and tourist destinations of India.

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Meenakshi temple – inside view

The Meenakshi Temple complex is literally a city in itself extending over an area of 65000 Sq m. Lord Shiva in his incarnation as Sundareswarar and his fish-eyed spouse, Meenakshi, is enshrined in this twin temple. The four massive gateways enclosing these two shrines at each cardinal direction is encrusted with more than thousands of brilliantly painted sculptures depicting mythological and auspicious themes. Hall of Thousand Pillars in the temple complex is a major tourist attraction with each pillar having high, ornate, bold sculptures that look life like. Views of these pillars from any angle appear to be in a straight line. In the outermost corridors are the matchless musical pillars carved out of stones which when tapped produces different musical note.
Thirupparankundram – Located at about 8 Km from Madurai is Thirupparankundram, a symbol of religious harmony. The 8th century rock-cut shrine dedicated to Lord Muruga – Karthikeya is considered to be one of the six abodes of Lord Subramanya and is situated at the top of the hill. The temple is an important religious destination of Hindu pilgrimage. Figures of Hindu deities carved on the walls speak eloquently of the talents of the contemporary artists and are finest examples of Dravidian style of architecture.
There is also a 13th century Islamic Durgah (shrine) at the top of the hill, where there is the grave of an Islamic saint Hazrat Sultan Sikandhar Badushah shaheed Radiyallah Ta’al anhu. It is believed that people who come here with a wish is answered in a very short time.

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Thirumalai Temple inside view

Thirumalai Nayak Palace – Located at about 1.5 Km from the Meenakshi Temple Palace of Tirumala Nayaka constructed during his reign (1623-1645 A.D.). Swarga Vilasam, which served as the audience hall, is the most remarkable part of this palace. The Palace is a classic fusion of Dravidian, Islamic and European styles. Its dome, which lies beyond a huge courtyard rising to a height of 20 m. without any support, is a magnificent example of the engineering skills of the contemporary builders.
There’s daily light and sound show in English at 1845 hrs and in Tamil at 2015 hrs. This half an hour show describes the virtues of King Thirumalai, particularly his passion for arts, his victories in battle and his love for his subjects. The show is extremely popular among tourists who get an insight into the rich cultural tradition of this part of India.
Azhagar Koil – This is another popular Vishnu temple at about 18 Km northeast of Madurai on a picturesque hilltop. This celebrated Vishnu temple amidst panoramic surrounding is worth a visit. The beautiful carvings on the walls of the temple are finest examples of Dravidian style of architecture. This is an important tourist destination for people visiting Madurai.

Koodal Azhaar Temple – Located at about 2 Km west of Madurai city is the ancient Vishnu temple of Koodal Azhaar. Statue of Lord Vishnu in three poses – sitting, standing and reclining one above the other is unique of its kind. Beautified with exclusive woodcarvings, including one of Lord Rama’s coronations, temple environs are embracing in all aspects and extremely popular among tourists and followers of Lord Vishnu.

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View of Koodal Azhaar Temple

Gandhi Museum – Extremely popular and the most distinguished tourist attractions in Madurai is the Gandhi Museum. Housed in the old palace of the Rani Mangammal, the museum is a living memorial of Mahatma Gandhi. This museum houses photos, paintings, sculptures, manuscripts, quotations, and some articles that were used by this great freedom fighter. The museum also gives an insight into our freedom struggle and freedom fighters.

How to reach Madurai?

By Air – Madurai airport is just 10 Km from the city and is well connected to all the major cities of the nation including Chennai, Bangalore, Trichi and Coimbatore.
By Rail – Madurai Railway Station is an important railway junction of the Southern Railway and is well connected with Chennai, Bangalore, Tiruchy, Palakkad and Tirunelveli.
By Road – Madurai is well connected by good motorable roads to Madras (472 Km), Trichy (142 Km), Rameshwarm (139 Km), Kanyakumari (232 Km), Tirunelveli (151 Km), Kodaikanal (120 Km), Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary (136 Km), Palani (122 Km), Thanjavur (223 Km) and Bangalore (446 Km).

Where to stay at Madurai?

Madurai being an important tourist destination and a popular pilgrimage centre offers a wide range of accommodation facilities ranging from cheap budget hotels to star category luxurious hotels. Only a very few of the vast number of hotels are listed below.

The Madurai Residency – Located in the heart of the town of Madurai, at a distance of just five minutes walking from the Meenakshi temple, Madurai Residency is quite popular among tourists visiting Madurai. The hotel has 82 thoughtfully designed rooms plus convenient amenities including wireless internet access and more. The roof-top restaurant with varieties of Indian, continental and specially south Indian delicacies will definitely be an experience.
To know more about this hotel, including its accommodation availability, log on to the hotel’s website at: http://www.madurairesidency.com/ or you can directly call at the hotel at: 0452 – 4380000, 4380647, 4380648, 4380649.

Hotel North Gate – Situated at a distance of about 2 Km from the famous Meenakshi Amman temple, this a good budget staying option for both travellers and pilgrims on a tour of the temple town of Madurai. Well appointed clean rooms with all modern amenities like WI-fi and others coupled with hospitable staff members will definitely make your stay at the hotel a comfortable experience.
To know more about this hotel, including its accommodation availability, log on to the hotel’s website at: http://www.hotelnorthgate.co.in/ or you can directly call at the hotel at: 0452-2523030, 0452-4383030.

Hotel Annamalai International – In spite of being a pocket friendly budget hotel, its decor and service matches with any Luxury category hotel. Located in the heart of Madurai, Hotel Annamalai is well connected to all the major places of the city. The hotel is just 5 Km from the Meenakshi temple, the most revered temple of south India. With 61 comfortable suites, including single rooms, double rooms, executive and luxurious suites all equipped with modern facilities, it has an aesthetic ambience and luxurious opulence. Its exquisite interiors, impeccable service and fine cuisine combine to make it amongst the most graceful and elegant downtown hotels in Madurai.
To know more about this hotel, including availability of accommodation and other related queries, log on to the hotel’s website at: http://www.hotelannamalai.in/ or call the hotel’s reception at any of the following numbers: +91-452-2589001 – 05 [ 5 Lines ], +91-452-4219001, +91 958 557 1000 | +91 822 066 6665.

Star Residency – Located in the heart of the temple town of Madurai, Star Residency is well connected to all the major places of the city. Star Residency offers its guests a cocoon of comfort filled with grand tradition, culture, heritage and service. Star residency offers a wide choice of about 65 individual accommodations in four distinct Collections. The hotel’s tariff is relatively low considering its location, service, luxury and hospitality. It is a good budget staying option in Madurai.
To know more about this hotel, including availability of accommodation and other related queries, log on to the hotel’s website at: http://www.starresidencyhotels.com/madurai/madurai or call at phone number of the hotel: 0452-4343999.
Hotel Sethu Tower (0452 2343326).
Hotel Aarathi (0452 2331571 / 233634).
Hotel Centaur (0452-2350490).
Classic Regency (0452-2343140).
German’s Day’s Inn (0452-2781478).
Ravi Towers (0452-2341961)
Hotel Grand Central (0452-2343940).
Hotel Kirti (0452-2341501).

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About the Author: Hi! friends, travelling is my passion and my only hobby. High mountains to deep seas, lush green forests to barren deserts, holy places to sites of historical importance, - every beautiful place attracts me the same way. I want everyone to feel the same and so through my writing I intend to take you all to a virtual trip to all those lovely places that I have visited.

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