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If you want to visit a place with a glorious past that flaunts the architectural brilliance of the artisans, you need to be in Madurai. The second-largest city of Tamil Nadu with a rich heritage is situated on the banks of the Vaigai river. It is one of the oldest inhabited cities of India and home to innumerable splendid Madurai temples present since the ancient and medieval era. The interesting stories about Madurai city and its temples with their architectural grandeur enchant the visitors to this exquisite in large numbers.
Location: Tamil Nadu
Nearest Airport: Madurai
How to reach: by air/train/road
Famous for: Meenakshi Temple, Hindu Pilgrimage, Jasmin Plantation
Best time to visit: October to March
Meenakshi Amman Temple
Thirumalai Nayakkar Palace
Saint Mary’s Cathedral
History of Madurai:
Mythologically, Madurai was earlier a forest known as Kadambavanam where Lord Indra worshipped a Swayambhu Lingam. The King Kulasekara Pandya got the forest cleared and built a fascinating temple known as the Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple, around the holy Lingam and later built an amazing lotus-shaped city surrounding the temple, which is Madurai City today.
Culture of Madurai:
The vibrant festivals, music, arts, dances, and alluring architectural marvels reflect the rich culture of Madurai which is celebrated gloriously through festivals such as Meenakshi Tirukkalyanam. Famous for its Arts and crafts, the ancient weaving techniques that are still used today are admired all over the world. Some of the popular dance forms like Bharatanatyam, Ottan Thullal, Krishnattam represent their lively culture whereas you won't feel like missing on Dosai, idly, sambar and Pongal which are the famous delicacies of Madurai, Tamil Nadu.
Places of Interest:
Meenakshi Amman Temple: This temple constructed by King Kulasekara Pandya is one of the most popular pilgrim centers with its 14 colorful gateway towers dominating the skyline of Madurai, Tamil Nadu. The hall with a thousand pillars is what makes its architectural brilliance worth captivating. The exquisite museum and the statues add up to the beauty of the historic Madhura Meenakshi Temple which boasts of intricately carved sculptures and serves as a lifeline of the city.
Thirumalai Nayakkar Palace: Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal is one of the most iconic buildings in Madurai, built in the 16th century and is known for its majestic Dravidian Islamic style architecture and beautiful interiors. Its large courtyard with stucco work on the domes makes this imposing edifice praise-worthy. The giant white pillars lining the corridor connected by high decorated arches are 20m high that makes this palace unique in its way.
Gandhi Museum: Housed in the old Palace of Rani Mangammal, the Gandhi Museum depicts the highlights of the freedom struggle sparing no detail about British rule. The museum houses a gallery that preserves some relics including the blood-stained dhoti that Gandhi was wearing when he was assassinated in Delhi. Gandhiji first took up wearing the dhoti in Madurai, in 1921. The museum has an open-air theatre where several cultural programs are conducted and the library in the Gandhi Museum has a vast collection of books by Gandhiji.
Saint Mary's Cathedral: Just around the corner from the Tirumalai Nayak Palace, this 20th-century neo-Gothic construction presents a beautiful blend of Roman, European and other architectural styles. Its magnificent blue-and-white exterior with twirling spires with simple stained-glass windows and bold-orange vaulting makes it a place worth visiting in your Madurai Tamil Nadu tour.
Samanar Hill: The ancient caves found here were used by Samanar, the Jains and its carvings date back to the 1st century AD. The religious significant sculptures present a glimpse into the historical richness of southern India. It is a great place to spend considerable time in solitude amid the calmness and spiritual serenity of the hills to rejuvenate. You can trek up the hills and the view of the surrounding areas from the top of the hill is worth climbing it. Spend some beautiful moments with the flora and fauna found in the areas nearby.
Chettinad: Discover the intricate heritage of Chettinadu and other extravagant mansions built with the finest materials: Burmese teak, Indian rosewood, English steel, Italian marble, and art and sculpture from everywhere. Several palatial homes have now been converted into gorgeous heritage hotels that are some of Tamil Nadu's best.
Dindigul: Dindigul is an ancient city in the state of Tamil Nadu which is famous for the processing factories of Tannery and Textile. The ancient Rock Fort, perched on the top of the hill is the prominent attraction of this city including the famous temples in the city and the meeting point of the rivers Vaigai, Maruda, and Manjalaru. The mouth-watering Biryani among other South-Indian dishes is the famous delicacies to enjoy.
Artisans at work at Velachery Pottery Village: This village is located on the southern fringes of the city and is home to artisans that have been making clay and paper-mâché dolls using molds and painting them by hand especially for Navarathri, kolu arrangements, idols during Vinayaga Chaturthi. Women here run their production units and function in groups of 15 members which has given them confidence and also an additional source of income.
Hike uphill to Jain Temples: Trekking up the Samanar Hills will allow you to explore the areas nearby to spend some time with the flora and fauna of this place. The climb is worth the cool breeze during early mornings/late evenings. You could see the whole Madurai Town from up there and the magnificent sunset from the rocky hilltop is a lifetime experience.
Food in Madurai:
Apart from a plethora of street food options, you can visit any fine restaurant to try Madurai special non-vegetarian food as well as its vegetarian spread. Some of the things like idlis, idiyappam, the egg-rolled Koothu Parotta, the Kari Dosai, Kola Urundai (spicy meatball), prawn biryani, etc cannot be missed on. You can visit the market that is dedicated to bananas of all kinds. For all those who have a sweet tooth, try out Jigarthanda, a sweet drink essentially made of milk, ice-cream and fruit gum which you can find anywhere with a different set of ingredients by each seller.
Where to stay:
The fascinating Madurai temples with intricate architecture, the amazing delicacies and the beauty of the surroundings make this place worth visiting. To explore the city at ease, you need a serene place to stay to enjoy a relaxing vacation. So, recommending you the best.
Heritage Madurai - A perfect resort for your perfect vacation. Stay in the chic, airy rooms or the luxurious villas with their living rooms and private pools. Enjoy your mornings in an open-air coffee shop with a wonderful breakfast. This resort is close to all the nearby attractions in the city which means hassle-free traveling for you.