India Explored: Destinations: Madurai: Posted By Arunchs



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Posted on: Tuesday , Jun 17, 2008 At 20:52 PM

Destinations: Madurai

The name of Madurai immediately brings into mind the huge Meenakshi Temple. The temple is indeed the star attraction of Madurai, with a few more ancient structures surrounding it.

Overview. Madurai is an all season destination, though it can get hot in summer. Winter is the best time to go, as the days will be pleasant and it hardly gets cold in the night.

Madurai Meenakshi Temple

The city of Madurai has a long history and is one of the oldest in southern parts of India. Megasthanese, the well-known Greek traveller is said to have visited the city in 3rd century BC. The city was ruled by Pandyas and Cholas for most part of its history, and Nayak kings from 17th century before the British took over from them. The Meenakshi Temple is said to be first erected by Pandya Kings. Legend has it that Madurai is the place where Shiva wedded Parvati.

Orientation. Madurai is well connected by rest of the country by trains, since it falls on the route connecting Chennai and Kanyakumari. It is located on the plains of Tamil Nadu, close to Western Ghats near Kodaikanal. It is medium sized city that can be comfortably covered from end to end by an auto-rickshaw. Most of the old structures of Madurai are located at the center of the city, around Meenakshi Temple. A few new attractions, like Gandhi museum will require some additional commute.

Sightseeing and activities.

Meenakshi Temple. The Meenakshi temple is a huge complex and can take a complete day to see from end to end. The temple can be roughly divided into three sections - the enclave of Meenakshi shrine, of Sundareswarar shrine and the areas in the eastern part comprising markets and the thousand-pillar hall.

Meenakshi Temple

Meenakshi Shrine. The shrine can be approached directly from north gate or through a passage on the east gate. When you enter through east gate, you walk past the beautiful environs of the Golden Lotus Pond - Potramarai Kulam. The Meenakshi shrine has a golden gopura, which can be seen from a corner of the Pond. In the inner courtyard, there is a silver statue of Nataraja, and further ahead is the sanctum of the goddess.

Sundareswarar Shrine. This is a separate section to the south of Meenakshi Shrine, enclosed in layers of walls. When you enter from east, you walk to a mantapa hosting Nandi. The pillars of the Mantapa have statues of Shiva in various forms, such as Bhairava and Nataraja. A mural of Hanuman on a pillar to the left of the mantapa is popular with devotees. Entering through two more set of doors takes you to the sanctum where you can see the lingam resting under a four headed serpent.

Meenakshi Temple

Thousand Pillar Hall. This is a large hall filled with pillars, located close to the eastern entrance of the temple. This is now made into a museum that hosts many stone statues and other artifacts. Unfortunately, the museum is poorly maintained and the artifacts are unaesthetically arranged.

Markets. Near the eastern gate is a market selling various pooja materials, trinkets, photos and statues of all possible gods and goddesses. It is a nice place to hang around and see interesting materials for sale. There is also a small flower market that is a separate section, near the entry to Meenakshi shrine.

Meenakshi Temple

Pudu Mantapa and Raya Gopura. Just outside the eastern gate to Sundareswarar shrine is a large mantapa, called Pudu Mantapa. It is worth a visit to the place just to see the scale of the large Mantapa and the size of big pillars inside. Unfortunately, the Mantapa is not properly maintained and the gates are locked, which means you can only take a peek from outside. To the opposite side of Pudu Mantapa is another ancient structure with four tall pillars, called Raya Gopura.

Pudu Mantapa

Nayak Palace. This is a palace built by Nayak Kings, located a kilometer away from the temple. Only a part of the palace has now survived, which includes a large hall and a private auditorium call Natakasalai. The big open hall with its giant pillars and paintings on the roof make the palace worth a visit.

Nayak Palace

Gandhi Museum. The Gandhi Museum contains many artifacts and materials tracing the history of India since the landing of Europeans, in the perspective of freedom struggle. A very visible artifact in the museum is the blood stained dhoti of the Mahatma that he was wearing when assassinated.

Food and Accommodation. There is no dearth of hotels of all classes in Madurai. You can find many conveniently located budget hotels along the streets surrounding the temple. Madurai is a good place to taste traditional South Indian food if it is not your everyday diet.

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By arunchs| Posted on:20 Jun 2008

Thanks Miyan. Yes, I also had some qualms about the first image. Wanted to put up an image of environs of the temple though.
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By Mukesh Miyan| Posted on:19 Jun 2008

Good read Arun.. loved your pics.. the only disappointing is the main lead pic of Madurai, how power wires destroy a good shot.
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