Madurai or the "city of nectar" is the oldest and second largest city of Tamil Nadu. This city is located on Vaigai River and has been a centre of learning and pilgrimage for centuries. Legend has it, that the divine nectar falling from Lord Shiva's locks, gave the city its name - Madhurapuri, now known as Madurai. The city of Madurai has become an industrial, commercial and educational center besides retaining its spiritual heritage. Madurai is surrounded by several mountains. It is famous for Jasmine Flowers. Jasmine flowers are transported to other cities of India from Madurai. Madurai city is famous for its Temples. They are known for its rich Architecture and Sculptural works. Besides, there are interesting places to be visited in Madurai. The people of Madurai are incredibly friendly with the brotherly way of talking. The local slang would seem to be more affectionate language. Madurai people can pick-up a thread of discussion with strangers easily. Madurai has been a textile center since ages. The city apart from temple is crammed with shops, street markets and temples, pilgrims choultries, hotels and restaurants. Though Madurai is considered as pilgrimage but it has also developed as a business centre and is famed for its traditional handicrafts in bronze and brass.The streets and lanes are lines with shops and tailors offering readymade as well as fabric material manufactured in Madurai. The Puthu Mandapam, an old pillared hall along the entrance to Meenakshi temple is popular among the visitors and locals for the cotton fabric and the Batiks. The lovely Sungundi Sarees are in great demand among Indian women. Collectors are delighted to have the Brass lamps from Madurai. Premier shopping areas are Chithirai, Avanimoola, Puthumandapam and Thevangu Chetty Choultry. The handicrafts Emporiums of the states are also here, which offer a varied range of handicrafts from all over the India. The climate of Madurai is warm. The temperature seldom comes below 20° C even during the winters. The rainfall is very frequent and spread throughout the year. Most important festival of Madurai is the sacred wedding ceremony of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareshwar. This festival is held during March -April. During this festival the city displays a colourful and joyous mood. Images of the divine couple are taken around the city in a tastefully decorated chariot, amidst the presence of a huge gathering of devotees. The notes of Nadaswaram and drums further aggravate the festive ambience. The annual float festival marks the images of Meenakshi and her consort floating on the Mariamman tank on an illuminated raft bedecked with flowers. As such there are festivals throughout the year in Madurai. All most 11 big annual festivals are celebrated in Madurai, which are spread through the year with exception of the monsoon months.
How to reach
There are daily flights to Madurai from Chennai, Bangalore,Tiruchi & Coimbatore. Madurai Airport is 10 Kms away from Madurai City.
Madurai is an important railway junction of the Southern Railway and is directly connected to Chennai and Tirunelveli. Madurai is on the Madurai-Tiruchirappalli-Dindigul-Quilon line. The Vaigai Express, which is a super-fast day train between Chennai Egmore and Madurai takes 7 hours for the 495kms.
There are excellent roads connecting Madurai to all parts of South India. Madurai City has 5 Major Bus Stand.
Places of Interest
The Meenakshi Temple
Just one Kilometer distance from Bus stand, the Meenakshi temple is an excellent example of Dravidian architecture, with gopurams or multi pillared halls, covered from top to bottom, in a profusion of multicoloured images of gods, goddesses, animals and mythical figures. The temple occupies an area of around six hectares, and has four entrances to it. It also has 12 gopurams or gateways, ranging in height from 45 to 50 m, the tallest being the southern one. The southern gateway is beautifully proportioned and is nine stories high. Like the other gopurams, it is also crowded with the images of gods, goddesses, gargoyles, and gryphons. Like the statues of classical Greece, the people who follow the ancient Dravidian culture of South India also paint their gods in brilliant colors. Thus, one can experience a myriad of colors atop these gateways. The museum called the Temple Art Gallery, is located within the temple and contains beautiful stone and brass images, examples of South Indian scripts, friezes and attempts to explain the Hindu pantheon and many other legends associated with it. The life of Madurai revolves around the Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple. The temple has been a hub of Tamil culture and has been sponsoring literature, art, music, and dance in the region for a long time.
Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam
This is a huge temple tank about 5 km east of the Meenakshi temple. The mandapam in the centre has an idol of Vigneshwara (Vinayaka). Discovered during excavation to build the Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal, the place was believed to be sanctified and was converted into a teppakulam (tank). This enormous temple tank is fed by water brought from the Vagai through an ingenious system of underground channels. It is the site of the temple's float festival. This tank remains empty for most of the year now except during the Teppam Festival.
Tirumalai Nayak Palace
About a kilometre away from the temple is the Tirumalai Nayak Palace. This palace is an excellent example of Indo-Sarcenic architecture. Much of the palace has now fallen into ruins, and only the entrance gate, main hall and dance hall remain. Today, the main attraction of the palace is light and sound show, which is based on the life of "Tirumalai Nayak" and "Silapathikaram". The most remarkable part of this palace is the dome of Swarga Vilasam, which lies beyond a huge courtyard and is a magnificent example of the engineering skill of its builders, rising as it does to a height of 20m without support of any kind.
Located 21 kms. northwest of Madurai is a Vishnu Temple on a picturesque wooded hill. Here 'Vishnu' presides as Meenakshi's brother 'Azhgar'. During the Chitrai festival in April/May, when the celestial marriage of Meenakshi to Sundareswarar is celebrated, Azhagar travels to Madurai. A gold processional icon called the Sundararajar is carried by devotees in procession from Azhagar Kovil to Madurai for wedding ritual.
Koodal Azhaar Temple
One of the most ancient temples in Madurai, Koodal Azhagar temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. In this temple he is seen in various postures sitting, standing, reclining one over the other. There are intricate woodcarvings in here, including one of Lord Rama's coronation.
One of the six abodes of Lord Subramanya is on the same hill, about 4 kms. above. A natural spring called Nuburagangai where pilgrims bath, is located here.
This is one of the abodes of Lord Sundareshwara, a rock cut temple carved out of a mountain, just 8 km south of the city. It is a cave temple . Here Lord Muruga was wedded to Devayanai, daughter of Indra, after annihilating Surapadman. In the temple there are separate shrines dedicated to Shiva, Ganapathy, Durgai, Vishnu and other deities. At the entrance to the temple there are 48 pillars with artistic carvings. The Rock-cut Temple of Subramaniya here is thronged with pilgrims on all days of special worship. Its innermost shrine is cut out of a solid rock.
The Gandhi Museum
The museum was initially the palace of Rani Mangammal. It gives a clear account of the history of Independence movement of India. This museum also tells some little known facts about Gandhiji but the real piece of Gandhi Memorabilia is the blood stained Dhoti, which he was wearing at the time of his assassination. The local government museum is also situated over here. The small bookshop offers plenty of reading material from Gandhiji's works.
Annamalai and Nagamalai
Annamalai and Nagamalai are two striking rock formations, and home to ascetics of the Jain and Hindu faiths. There are inaccessible caves with Tamil Brahmi inscriptions on rock beds which are chiselled out as quarters for the sages. The sages, reclusive philosophers and savants, were responsible for the development of the Tamil Language, Madurai, the cradle of Tamil Literature, attained further eminence on hosting the Tamil Sangam-an epochal events in the history of the language.
The chance discovery of 13th century icons of Bikshadanar and Krishna in child form, a sacred conch, a lamp and other vessels at Manalur, about 20 km from Madurai, has thrown fresh light on the history of this place.
Vandiyur Kanmoy Tourist Complex
This is an ideal picnic spot with TTDC providing boathouses restaurants services.
This ideal picnic spot is located just 8 km from Madurai.
Courtallam is located just 160 km from Madurai. In the far south, in Tirunelveli district, in a deep recess of the Western Ghats lies Courtallam. This place has got nine splendid waterfalls, which attracts a large number of visitors. This place is also known as the 'Spa of the South'. Courtallam is famous for its season, which lasts from June to September, the hottest period of the plains.
The most popular and frequented waterfalls are the Main falls. Not only during the season, but also during the period November to January, the crest receives the Northeastern monsoon emptying itself on the slopes to swell the falls and the Chittar River. From a height of 300 ft., the Chittar River makes its last descent to the plains.
Chittaruvi Or Small Falls
Adjacent to the Main falls is a small cascade called "Chittaruvi".
A mile away from the Main falls is the Shenbagadevi falls, so called because of its location near to the temple of Shenbagadevi. During full moon days large crowds visit this temple.
About 3 miles from the Main falls on the upper crusts of the rocks is the Honey falls. It is so called because of beehives on the promontory. It is a romantic place of solitude and those who seek seclusion come here to meditate on reality.
Connected by a good road about 3 miles from the Main falls are the Five falls, so named as the cascade spreads in five heads like a hooded cobra. This spot is venerated highly as it presents an image of Adishesha with several hoods.
About 6 furlongs from the Main falls is the Tiger falls with a temple for Shastha nearby. Bathing ghats have also been provided for pilgrims.
Perched at an elevation of 1,000 ft, and one and half miles from the Main falls is the New falls amidst a sylvan landscape of wild forest. The panoramic view from this ledge is beautiful affording a sight of the entire town below.
About 4 miles from the Main falls is the Old falls, rarely frequented. Apart from all these falls the place is also famous for the Shiva shrine, Thirukootachala Nathar, meaning - "Lord of three peaks".
Vaigai dam is surrounded by well-manicured gardens and has come up as a popular picnic spots, just 70 km from Madurai.
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
One of the well-known wildlife sanctuaries in the south, Periyar sanctuary attracts a large number of nature lovers every year. Also called the Tekkadi wildlife sanctuary, this place is appropriate to watch and observe the animals in their natural habitat. The forest of this sanctuary slope into the man made lake at the bottom of the hill
The tea estates on the slopes of the Western Ghats nestles Megamalai. This lovely place is bound to capture your imagination. Good place to stay and enjoy a lovely surrounding. One can also watch the animals roaming in the forest, which are close to Megamalai, Just 130 km from Madurai.
123 km from Madurai city is Suruli falls, which are located in a picturesque area. It is an ideal spot and an excellent picnic spot to spend one day.
118 km from Madurai is the temple dedicated to Lord Subramanyam. The temple is located on top of a hill 180 meter high. The temple attracts many devotees and people coming to Madurai.
Kumbakkarai Water Falls
This place serves as the base camp for the trekkers who venture in the hills of Kodai. Kumbakkarai Water Falls are 105 km from Madurai and form an excellent picnic spot. Waterfall surrounded by forests combined with the pristine beauty of the hills creates a very soothing atmosphere.
Agasthiyar Temple And Falls
Agasthiyar temple adjoining the falls named Agasthiyar falls is located half way to Panatheertham, which is at a distance of 4 km from Papanasam Shiva temple. One can reach the Agasthiyar falls and temple by trekking a distance of 3 km. Regular buses are available to these temples. Papanasam is a nearby village, where the river Thamirabarani flowing from the Western Ghats reaches its plains and drops to form a small waterfall. It is believed that people who bathe in this waterfall are relieved of all sins as "Papanasam", which means absolution of sins. The Shiva temple here is also very famous. Apart from Papanasam, Tenkasi, Srivaikuntam, Manappad Church, Krishnapuram are the other nearby places of tourist interest. The nearest airport is at Madurai, 151 km away. The nearest convenient railway station is at Tirunelveli, which is an important railway junction on the Southern Railway and is connected to all the major cities of South India. Tirunelveli is well connected by road with the important towns and cities within and beyond the state. Regular buses are available from Tirunelveli and the neighbouring towns to the temple.
Gulf Of Mannar Marine National Park
Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park is a marine biosphere, running along with coasts of Ramanathapuram and Tuticorin districts. The entire Gulf of Mannar abounds in distinguished marine life covering 10,500 sq.kms and 21 islands with continuous stretches of coral reef. Gulf of Mannar is the first Marine Biosphere Reserve not only in India but also in South East Asia. It is full of coral reefs, Dugong, Turtles and Balano- Glossus. Dolphins could create euphoria to the tourists. The presence of coral reef, flora and fauna here are in their virgin form. The coral reefs, which surround the islands in the area are highly productive and are often referred to as "Underwater Tropical Rain Forest" and a treasure house for marine ornamental fishes. More than 3,600 species of fauna and flora have been recorded in this reserve. Moreover, more than 138 villages and towns spread over five districts depend heavily on the fishery resources of the Gulf. Commercial fishing is done in about 5,500 sq. km. and nearly 50,000 people dwelling in 47 villages along the coastline bordering the Gulf of Mannar depend directly on the biodiversity resources of the biosphere reserve for their livelihood. The establishment of the Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere reserve has enhanced India's position as an environmentally responsible country in the comity of nations. The nearest airport is at Madurai 150 km away. The nearest railway stations are the Mandapam railway station and the railway station at Tuticorin.