Madurai (Tamil Nadu)
Next in importance to Chennai, Madurai, known as Athens of the East, with its 2500 years old history, is a place of great antiquity, historic importance and Tamil culture. History attributes the foundations of Madurai to the Pandyan kings. Kulasekhara, who flourished in the 6th century. The city improved after the 7th century and there was another golden age in the 13th century. The Pandyan splendor was extinguished by the invasion by Malik kafur in the 14th century. After seventh years of muslim rule, the Pandyan rulers re-established themselves and built the temple and tower that we see today. After the decline of Vijayanagar, the nayak dynasty becomes the supreme master of Madurai. The greatest among the Nayaks, Tirumala Nayakan added several monuments to its splendors and pomp.
Madurai,situated on the bank of the river Vaigai, has spread over a large area. The fabulous temples embellish the southern bank of the river. The many religious festival celebrated with elaborate rituals and pageantry have earned for it the name of City of Festivals.
MADURAI MEENAKSHI TEMPLE : The Meenakshi Sundareshwarar temple is situated in the old city centre and is a superb example of Dravidian architecture and sculpture. It has for long been the greatest attractions for the tourist as well as one of the most important places of pilgrimage. The temple has two shrines, one dedicated to Shiva as Sundareshwarar, and the other to his consort Meenakshi.
KOODAL AZHAGAR TEMPLE : An ancient temple of Vishnu with beautiful sculpture. One of the celebrated temple of Tamilnadu having been extolled in the hymns of the Alwars. Tirumangai Alwar addressed this deity as Koodal Kovil Konda Alagiyava. The idol of Vishnu can be seen in the three poses, sitting, standing and reclining. The chief attraction of the places is its magnificent three storeyed Ashtanga Vimana which dominates the entire complex.
VANDIYUR : On the outskirts of the city is the Mariamman Temple dedicated to the villages goddess. The huge tank at this place is called Teppakulam which has small Vinayakar temples in the centre developed as an island. The annual float festival of Meenakshi Sundareshwarar is held in this tank.
TIRUMALA NAYAKAN PALACE : Another place of interest in Madurai from the architectural point of view is the Tirumala Nayakan places, an imposing monument built in the 17th century. It is famous for the stucco works in domes are arches. This Indosaracenic building has massive white pillars. The main attraction is the Swarga Vilasam which serves as an audience hall. A part of the palace has now been converted as a museum dealing with the history of Madurai, art and architecture to Tamilnadu. The sound and light show depicts the story through the epics Silappadhikaram.
MUSEUMS : The Gandhi museum dedicated to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi is amidst a beautiful garden. It has several galleries depicting photographs, Khadi and Village industries and handicrafts. Some of the personal belongings of Gandhi are also exhibited here. The Government Museum is also located in the same garden. It has interesting sculptures of the Pandyan period, bronze figures of deities, paintings and many historical objects.Other important places worth visiting are the Madurai Kamaraj University, Agricultural college and kovalan pottai, which has the ancient burial grounds of the Sangam periods.