Long before Chennai came into existence, There was Madurai and you are unlikely to find many cities as culturally rich as Madurai. The city has contributed so much to Tamilian culture, it is 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, known for its stunning architecture is one of the oldest temples in the country was also interestingly in the short list to be named among the 7 wonders of the world. The Meenakshi Amman temple gets over a million visitors a year and is lauded for its cleanliness.
While Madurai is one of India’s oldest cities, with the advent of Globalizations 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 centureies 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.
History and culture of Madurai
Madurai is arguably the most Tamilain 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. Madurai is also one of the oldest continuously habited cities in the country. It is 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 Meenakshi Amman Temple was built in the first century and pays homage to Goddess Parvati (Meenakshi) and Sundareshwar (Shiva) has been around right from the beginning. 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 century. 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 get 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.
By Rail – Madurai railway station is a major junction 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.
By Road – Madurai is about 8 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, Pondichery, Bangalore, Cochin or other parts of Kerala and Tail Nadu is quite easy.
Best time to visit Madurai
The best time to visit Madurai is in the winter especially from October to March. Madurai celebrates the Chithirai Thiruvizha is an annual festival in Madurai is a month long celebration that takes place in Madurai that celebrates the coronation and the marriage of Goddess Meenakshi. (Parvati)
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 while its 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 1500 rupees for a day. If you are 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. Similarly a visit to the Thirumalai Nayakkar Palace, a palace from the 17th Century, was built by 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) The mazy and sharp dravidian architecture was considered to be in the running to be one of the wonders of the world. The temple was also acknowledged 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 take 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. Heads up 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 and while that may be an unsavory experience it is important to have that to have clearer perspective of the flower market
Thirumalai Nayakkar Palace – 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.