Long before Chennai came into existence, there was Madurai and you’re unlikely to find many cities as culturally rich as Madurai. The city has contributed so much to Tamilian culture, it’s considered the soul of Tamil Nadu. Madurai is frequently visited by travelers and pilgrims alike as it is home to the grand Meenakshi Amman Temple.
The temple is one of the oldest temples in the country, and is known for its stunning architecture and is lauded for its cleanliness. Unsurprisingly, the Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple gets over a million visitors a year.
While Madurai is one of India’s oldest cities, with the advent of globalization, the city has been quick to adapt to an ever evolving modern world. While the center and the temple can transport you back to a world that is a lot more than a few centuries old, the rest of Madurai with its business parks and modern infrastructure creates an interesting contrast of a city on the rise that is rooted in its past glories. Intrigued? Continue reading our Madurai travel guide to find out all there is to know about this city!
History And Culture Of Madurai
Madurai is arguably the most Tamilian city there is. The cultural capital of Tamil Nadu has been home to Tamil scholars for centuries and a lot of Tamil culture and history is in one way or the other connected to Madurai. The city is also one of the oldest continuously habited cities in the country. It’s said to have been around since the 3rd century BCE. Madurai was considered an extremely prosperous city that traded regularly with Ancient Rome and has been mentioned several times by Greek and Roman historians alike.
The Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple, which was built in homage to Goddess Parvati (Meenakshi) and Sundareshwar (Lord Shiva) has been around for centuries. The city has been annexed into various kingdoms throughout its eventful history. That means that the temple was also looted and restored multiple times throughout its history.
Under the British rule, Madurai was absorbed into Madras Presidency, a larger Madurai district was formed and the city would become an industrial hotspot through much of the 19th and 20th centuries. In the recent past, Madurai has evolved into an emerging IT hub, forming an interesting dichotomy, one that boasts of a rich cultural heritage and the other that is adapting to the modern endeavors in technology.
How To Travel To Madurai
Getting To Madurai By Air
Madurai has an airport that is located just 12 kilometres outside the city. The city enjoys great air connectivity with southern cities like Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad, you could also find a direct flight from Mumbai. Flying into Madurai from international destinations like Dubai and Colombo is also an option.
Getting To Madurai By Train
Madurai Junction is a major railway station and enjoys great rail connectivity with most cities, especially the ones in southern India. Taking a train to Madurai can be a long journey but is likely to be quite comfortable and inexpensive.
Getting To Madurai By Road
Madurai is about eight hours away from most cities in South India. There’s a lot of state and private A/C and non A/C bus providers that can help you get to Madurai. Getting a bus from Chennai, Pondicherry, Bangalore, Cochin or other parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu is quite easy.
Best Time To Visit Madurai
The best time to visit Madurai is in the winter, especially from October to March. Visiting around April would be interesting too, as Madurai celebrates the Chithirai Thiruvizha. It’s a month-long celebration that celebrates the coronation and the marriage of Goddess Meenakshi.
The months from May onwards are extremely hot and best avoided. While the monsoons are unlikely to dampen your sightseeing plans, we recommend waiting until the winter as it’s cooler and much nicer to visit.
Getting Around Madurai
Taking a bus or an autorickshaw into the city is quite inexpensive, even though you may have to negotiate a bit. You could also choose to hire a taxi for a day, this could set you back about INR 1,500 rupees for a day. If you’re on a shoestring budget, buses are the best option while for most parts rickshaws and walking will do just fine.
Breaking Stereotypes About Madurai
“Madurai just has the Meenakshi Amman Temple.”
The main monument of the city is in fact this beautiful temple complex that is synonymous with the city. However, that is not all, the flower markets of Madurai is arguably the largest flower market in the city and is an absolute must visit. The same goes for the Thirumalai Nayakkar Palace, a palace from the 17th century, which was built by the Nayaka dynasty. The palace is known for its beautiful architecture that seamlessly combines the best of Dravidian and Rajput styles makes it a captivating visit.
Go Check Out
Meenakshi Amman Temple
A lot has been spoken about this beautiful temple complex that pays homage to Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva (Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswarar), and is easily the most important tourist attraction here. The Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple was shortlisted to be named among the wonders of the world. The temple was also acknowledged as the cleanest and the most well-maintained temple in the country.
Madurai Flower Market
The biggest flower market in the country is an assault to the senses in the most unexpected ways possible. A myriad of colors takes over your sight, as the fragrance of the jasmines, marigold, and roses engulf your smell. While you take in all the colors and the smell you are quickly reminded that it is after all a busy market where a lot of trade is happening with all the transactions happening around you.
A quick heads up though: all may not be as rosy as we just portrayed as you are likely to experience a lot of decaying flowers around you as you explore the market. While that may be a bit unsavory, it’s important to have that to have a clearer perspective of the flower market.
Thirumalai Nayakkar Palace
This is the palatial home of King Tirumala Nayaka. The palace is widely visited by travelers owing to its stunning architecture. The architecture of the palace is an interesting fusion of the Rajput and Dravidian architecture and the palace at its peak was considered to be one of the wonders of South India.
Is Madurai Worth Visiting?
Yes! While Madurai has developed into a modern city, it still remains Tamil at heart. What you’ll love in this city are the temples and the gopurams, rich food and a vibrant culture.
Podi Idli – Murugan Idli Shop is considered one of the best idli spots in Madurai, and you should definitely try the idlis there, served with the iconic podi or powder.
Jigarthanda – Considering the hot weather of Madurai, it’s only natural that you’d crave something cool. So try out some Jigarthanda, which is an equivalent of falooda in North India.
Kottu Parotta – Available in both veg and non veg variants, this dish comprises parottas that are minced and mixed with spices and vegetables.
Kari Dosai – This is another iconic Madurai dish. Mini dosas are topped with mutton and a variety of vegetables and spices.
What Is The Nickname Of Madurai?
Madurai has many nicknames including Athens of the East, Malligai Managar (City of Jasmines), Koil Nagar (City of Temples). The most prominent nickname is Thoonga Nagaram (The City That Never Sleeps), owing to its active nightlife.
Is There Any Dress Code In Madurai Meenakshi Temple?
You’re not allowed to wear shorts, lungis or caps when entering the Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple. We recommend that you dress modestly when visiting the temple.
Is Mobile Allowed In Madurai Meenakshi Temple?
Mobile phones are not allowed in the Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple. You’ll have to deposit them at the vaults provided.
Is Ola Available In Madurai?
Yes, cab services like Ola and Uber are available in Madurai.
Is There A Beach In Madurai?
Madurai District is landlocked, so there are no beaches. But if you’re looking for beaches, you can travel to the Tuticorin Beach (151 km away), or the Dhanushkodi Beach (188 km away).
Which Saree Is Famous In Madurai?
Chungidi/Sungudi sarees of Madurai are quite famous. They’re tie-dye sarees made out of cotton and are known to be quite comfortable.
How many hours Madurai to Rameshwaram?
Madurai is about 3 hours away from Rameswaram (roughly 173 km). You can travel between the two temple cities by bus or train.