Places to Visit in MaduraiSituated on the banks of Vaigai River, Madurai is the third largest city in Tamil Nadu. Madurai is a fascinating city; interestingly it has been ceaselessly inhabited for almost 2,500 years. Madurai which was previously called Madura is famously called ‘the city that never sleeps’ and also referred as ‘Athens of the East’ as it has an important place in South India of tremendous cultural and educational values. Madurai was the capital city of the Pandyan Kingdom around 600 BC and was mentioned in the ancient Greek, Roman and Arab texts as a flourished Indian city. It is a beautiful city with various ancient structures in and around it mostly built by the Pandyans and the Madurai Nayak kings. The city homes several ancient and astonishing temples at its almost every nook and crannies and, thus, is also called ‘the temple city’ and most of them were built under the influence of Dravidian style of temple architecture.
Madurai is a very famous city which has both historical and cultural importance and houses several important sites and places for the visitors. We shall now sort out the best places to visit in Madurai.
Sree Meenakshi Amman Temple
The most important attraction of Madurai is indeed the age old Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple. The legendary temple is situated on the south bank of the River Vaigai. Unlikely many other south Indian temples where the main god is Shiva the Meenakshi temple is dedicated to the goddess Parvati, here known as Meenakshi, the consort of Shiva who is named Sundareswarar here.
The history of the temple goes far back to as early as the 7th century as the temple was mentioned in various ancient documents. It was constructed by the Pandya King Kulashekhara but then it was believed that the notorious Mulsim invader Malik Kafur looted and destroyed the temple in 1310. The present structure of the Meenakshi temple was rebuilt and refurbished during 1623-1655 AD by the Nayak King Thirumalai Nayak. The temple acquires land more than six hectares and is surrounded by ten gopurams or the gateway towers.
Visitors in Madurai just cannot afford to miss visiting the Meenakshi Temple. Read More about Meenakshi Temple
Thirumalai Nayakkar Palace
Madurai’s second best attraction is, undoubtedly, the Royal Palace of Thirumalai Nayak. Situated hardly one km away from the Meenakshi temple, the Palace was built by the great king of Madurai’s Nayak Dynasty Thirumalai Nayak in 1636 AD. The architecture of this 17th century grand palace has a wonderful blend of Islamic and Dravidian styles. During the golden phase of the Nayaka kingdom, this palace was often said to be one of the great wonders of the South. It is also believed that Thirumalai Nayak appointed an Italian architect for the designing and construction of his palace. Read More
Thiruppararkundram Muruga Temple
Located around 8 kms northwest from the main city of Madurai, the sacred Thiruppararkundram Hill has been considered the Southern Himalaya since aeon. It is the fourth pilgrimage site of god Muruga. The cave temple of Thirupparankundram is mostly famous as the pious place for Lord Muruga to be married to Devasena upon this site. It is still considered the most sacred place to get married at among the Tamil people. The temple possesses wonderful marble and wooden carvings inside it.
Gandhi Memorial MuseumGandhi Memorial Museum is another must visit site in Madurai. The city has a special bonding with the great Mahatma Gandhi. He had been to the city several times and spent days for his nationalism purposes. Interestingly, Gandhiji forwent his previous dress code and took over his identical Shawl and Loincloth dress code after a visit in the city. The museum was built in 1959 and now is one of the five Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalayas (Museum) in India. The most important memento of Gandhiji kept here is a part of his blood-stained cloth which he wore at the time of assassination in 1948. The building at which the museum was established is a palace belonged to Rani Mangammal of Nayak Dynasty of 17th century. The museum also houses a library, an open air theatre and various other buildings. Read More
Samanar Hill or the Samanar Malai complex is situated 15 kms away from Madurai city and is one of the most significant tourist spot in Madurai. In Tamil language, Samanar means Jain and Malai means Hill. This is the place where the 9th century Tamil Jain monks used to live in caves. It is indeed a proof of the Jain history in the Tamil land. Settipodavu and Pechipallam are the most famous two sculptures of these caves which contain several images and murals of the Jain Tirthankaras of that phase. An image of the last and the greatest Tirthankara Mahaveera was depicted on Settipodavu.
Pazhamudhir SolaiOne of the six significant abodes of Lord Muruga, Pazhamudhi Solai/ Pazhamudhircholai is located 16 kms north of Madurai main city. It has some beautiful heavy wooden and marble sculptures and some wonderful mural paintings in the temple. The grand design of the temple makes it rather eye-catching.
St. Mary’s Cathedral
Christianity has a long history in Indian soil which goes back to as early as in 562 BC when the early Christianity was blooming in the Roman Empire. The Jewish proselytes who arrived in South India (Cochin) were the earliest Christian in India. Historical evidences prove the way Christianity entered Indian soil is through the Southern part of the country. Tamil Nadu also homes several important ancient Christian Churches, Cathedrals etc. the Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Madurai is an important one of these. In 1841, a mini Chapel was established to Our Lady of Dolours by Fr. Garnie. And from then to the time the mini chapel got its bigger and grander shape, this Cathedral has been one of the most famous attractions of Madurai.
Click Here to Read about Churches in Madurai
Koodal Azhagar Temple
One of the most important and popular Vishnu Temple in South India is the Koodal Azhagar Temple situated at the heart of Madurai city. The temple is one of the 108 holy abodes of Lord Vishnu in India. The extraordinary wall sculptures and the typical Dravidian style of architectures are truly divine.
The beautiful city of Madurai has various other interesting places to visit. But the above mentioned places are the most important ones which cannot be missed by anyone in the city.