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History of Madurai

History of MaduraiMadurai is one of the ancient cities situated in the banks of River Vaigai in the state of Tamil Nadu. This beautiful heritage destination was the capital city of the Pandya dynasty and it is treated as an important religious & cultural center during the ancient period. Being the third largest city, Madurai is considered to be the home for automobile, information technology, chemical and manufacturing industries. Madurai holds a very long and well recorded history that dates back to 650 BC. Moreover, the capital city of ancient Southern civilization is referred as “Koodal” (Koodal Nagar), “Thirvalavai” (Alavai) and much more.

Origin of Madurai

It is important to know that the present city of Madurai was originally a forest named Kadambavanam at the banks of Vaigai River. Few records speak about the true facts of the construction of the beautiful city. It was a fine day when a farmer named Dhananjaya was passing through the forest and he suddenly saw Lord Indra (The King of the Gods) worshiping the lingam placed under a Kadamba tree in the forest. Soon, the word cutter informed the incident to the pandian king Kulasekara Pandiyan. The pious king immediately ordered the servants to clear the forests and a temple (Meenakshi Sundaresawar Temple) was erected around the Lingam.

Rise of Meenakshi Sundaresawar Temple

Famous Temple in MaduraiWith the temple at the center, a city was planned and developed within a short period of time. Most of the people believe that the city has got a drop of honey from the hair of Lord Shiva as soon as the city was constructed. Keeping in view of this concept, the city was named as Mathuram which means sweetness in Tamil and later changed to Madurai. The Meenakshi Temple is rounded by six major rectangular streets such as Chittirai, Aavani Moola, Maarat, Aadi and Veli streets.

Rule of Pandya Kingdom

Megasthenes, the traveler and ambassador of Selucus visited the heritage city during the 3rd century BCE and he mentioned the city as “Methora” in his writings. After Megasthenes, the city was visited by Marcopolo, Ibin Batuta and other travelers from Rome and Greece. The Cholas captured the beautiful city in the 10th century AD and they ruled till the end of the 13th century. After sometime, the Pandyas came back to the power and they started to patronize the Tamil language. Madurai, one of the ancient cities ruled by the Pandya Kings is noted in the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. According to fragmentary records of the early historians, the heritage city holds great source of pearls, gemstones and spices and other products.

Madurai and Tamil

These rich products are been exported to traders of various countries such as Indonesia, China and surrounding areas of Mediterranean Sea. Moreover, the importance of the city is revealed in the Tamil epics of Silapathigaram and Manimegalai during the ancient period. Silapathigaram is based on the story of Kannagi who burnt the entire city for the injustice caused to her husband Kovalan. Malik Kafur, the general of Alauddin Khilji reached Madurai and robbed precious stones, jewels and other rare treasures of the Kingdom. Followed by the ruler of Delhi, the other Muslim Sultans came and took over the treasuries that were saved by the Pandya Kingdom.

Vijayanagar Dynasty

In 1371, the Madurai city was completely captured by the Vijayanagar dynasty and it became a part of the Vijayanagar Empire. Further, the kings of this dynasty had a practise of leaving the captured lands to the governors named Nayaks. This was mainly done to improve the management of the empire and the Nayaks pays an annual amount to the Vijayanagar Empire once in a year. After the death of Krishna Deva Raya (King of Vijayanagar Dynasty), the Nayaks have started to establish their own name and ruled Madurai under their control. Tirumalai Nayakar was one of the effective leaders who took great efforts in constructing magnificent structures in and around the city. Some of the popular living monuments of the city include the Rajagopuram of the Meenakshi Amman Temple, Pudu Mandapam, Tirumalai Nayakar’s Palace and much more.

Growth of Madurai

After the rule of Nayak Dynasty, Madurai came under the direct control of the British East India Company in the year of 1801. The British government appointed various representatives to administer the city and they offered donations to the Meenakshi Temple every year. Later, the commercial city has become the district headquarters of the larger Madurai district in Tamil Nadu. The ancient city is surrounded by seven hills including Annamalai, Pasumalai, Nagamalai and much more. Madurai people are generous and they ensure to respect their tradition and culture to a great extent.

Police stations were established in prime areas of the Madurai city with the main aim to protect the people from all kind of disasters. After India’s Independence, Madurai has become one of the major districts of Tamil Nadu. The vast district of Madurai was divided into districts namely Madurai, Theni and Dindigul. Some of the leaders of the independence movement in Madurai include N.M.R. Subbaraman, Mohammad Ismail Sahib and so on.

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