Saturday, August 20, 2011

Madurai - The oldest city

Madurai - The temple city

Madurai is the oldest inhabited city in the Indian peninsula. Madurai is more than 2500 years old, was once the mighty capital of the ancient pandya kingdom. Reference to Madurai is made in the Indian epic Ramayana and kautilya’s Arthasastra. Great chroniclers such as Megasthenes (302BCE), pliny (77CE) and Ptolemy (140CE) have made references to this city. Ashoka inscriptions dated back to 300BCE referred this city and its rulers Pandyas.
Legends state that Madurai was originally a forest known as Kadambavanam, where the kadamba trees grew luxuriously. The discovery of the sacred place is attributed to a merchant by name Dhananjaya of Manavoor, a few miles to the east of the present town of madurai. The Merchant was returning from the west coast, it became night. The day was somavara or Monday and the merchant observed Indira, the lord of the Devas, workshipping the swayambu(self-created) linga. He reported the fact to the king, Kulasekara Pandian, who then cleared the forest and built the temple and the beautiful city around it, as laid down in the sirpa sastras or the science of architecture. The town is planned in the shape of coiled serpent and it is said that the design of the town was suggested to the king by Lord Sundreswarar himself.
                This ancient city has many attractions in and around the city. This city is also the commercial and transportation hub for South Tamilnadu. It is well connected by Road, Rail and Air.

Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple

Meenakshi Amman Temple: The Meenakshi Sundrareswarar temple located at center of Madurai city is the major attraction among tourists and locals. This temple brings people all around the world to this ancient city. The temple was initially built by Kulasekara Pandya. Later Nayaks constructed the current structure and the gopuras. There are twelve temples towers among which four towers in each direction on the outer corridor are huge and more than 160 feet in height. This temple complex is very vast and you need to take breaks to cover each one of the prominent structures. Some of the major tourist attractions in the temple are Ashta Shakthi Mandapam(Hall), Meenakshi Nayakkar mandapam(hall), Potramaraikilam(golden lotus tank), Oonjal mandapam(hall), The thousand pillars mandapam(hall) and Vasantha mandapam(hall). The temple will be closed in the afternoon.

Madurai Tirumalainayakay mahal

Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal – This 17th century palace was built by Thirumalai Nayak. It is a classic architecture of Dravidian, Islamic and European styles. This is a national monument and it’s maintained by Archeological Survey of India. This palace is located nearer to Meenakshi Amman temple, 2 kilometers southeast. Operating hours are from 9AM to 5PM.

Madurai Gandhi Museum - Tamukkam Palace

Gandhi Museum/Tamukkam Palace:  The palace of Rani Mangamma, constructed around 16th century CE, has been converted to Gandhi Museum, one of the five Gandhi museums in India.

Madurai Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam

Vandiyur Mariamman Temple/ Theppakkulam: This temple and the massive tank 300 meters in length and width built by Thirumalai Nayak. This is situated seven kilometers from Meenakshi temple and it’s almost as vast as Meenakshi temple. This tank is connected with Vaigai river through underground channels. Theppam festival celebrated in January or February is very famous.

Madurai Koodal Alagar temple

Koodal Azhagar Temple: It is one of the 108 divya desams and one of the oldest temples in the city. Though this temple does not have big temple tower, this temple’s vimana is very unique and only one of its kind in south India.

 Nearby Attractions:               
  • Thirupparamkundram Murugan Temple – 7 km
  • Palamudhirsolai – 25 km
  • Azhagar Koil  - 21 km
  • Thiruvengadam – 15km
  • Thiruvadhavur – 30 km
  • Madapuram Badrakaliamman Temple – 20 km
  • Vaigai dam – 70 km
  • Cumbum Valley – 125 km
  • Surli falls – 128 km
  • Thekkady(Periyar wildlife sanctuary) – 155 km
  • Courtallam – 160 km
  • Kodaikanal – 120 km
  • Palani – 122 km

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