Meenakshi Amman Temple or Meenakshi Temple is devoted to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, also called Meenakshi. The temple is one of the most famous tourist destinations and pilgrimage sites in Madurai as well as in the country. Legends say that Lord Shiva visited the goddess, whose abode was Madurai, in order to marry her.
The temple is located in the south of river Vaigai and was constructed in 2500 AD. The present form of the temple was, however, constructed by the Nayaka rulers. The area covered by the temple complex is over 6 hectares and it has 12 gateways. The temple is famous for its marvellous architecture. The gateways of the temple are about 45–50 metres tall and have images of gods and goddesses carved on them. There are 985 pillars and 14 towers in the temple.
The Meenakshi Amman Temple Museum is located within the temple complex in the 1000-pillars hall. The museum gives travellers a glimpse of the vast Hindu religion and the 1200-year-old history of this splendid temple. The museum is also a site of knowledge about Dravidan sculpture. The temple museum exhibits several icons, paintings, photographs, etc. of Hindu deities and their stories.
The temple is open everyday between 6 am to 5.30 pm. It takes around 1 to 2 hours to look around the museum, but it is completely worth it. It is a must visit for everyone who is interested in various aspects of the Hindu religion.
The Alagar Kovil is a temple which is dedicated to the Hindu god, Lord Vishnu. The temple is located at the foothills of Solaimalai hill, which is at a distance of about 20 km from Madurai. There are three sanctuaries of decreasing size which hold the idol of the lord. The temple is famous for its delicate sculptures and carvings on stone.
There is a magnificent statue of Lord Vishnu carved in stone. There are other statues of Lord Vishnu is various positions. There is a natural stream running close to the temple from which water is offered to Lord Krishna everyday. The temple priest carries the water from the stream. It is said that Lord Vishnu lives in this temple as Goddess Meenakshi’s brother Azhagar. This temple is a must visit for tourists and pilgrims alike.
Koodal Azhagar Temple is one of the oldest temples of South India. The temple is a Vaishnava temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu and a large statue of the deity has been carved right in front of the temple. The temple is located at the heart of the city near the main bus stand. Inside the temple are idols of Lord Vishnu in sitting, standing and reclining positions. There are also wood carvings inside the temple which depict the events of Lord Rama’s coronation ceremony.
The temple also houses the idols of Navagraha or the nine planet deities, who are believed to influence everything in the universe. These idols are normally found only in Shiva temples. The temple is definitely recommended to visitors travelling to the city of Madurai.
The Gandhi Museum at Madurai is one of the five in the country and it houses several memorabilia of Gandhi including his bloodstained dhoti, which he had worn on the day of his assassination. Several popular photographs of Gandhi can also be found in the museum. The museum is an ancient palace that belonged to Queen Mangammal, who was a part of the Nayak dynasty. After Gandhi's death, the palace was converted into a museum by the Gandhi Memorial Trust.
The museum also has a bookshop which has a large collection of books on Gandhian philosophy and his life. There is also an open-air theatre within the museum which organises cultural programmes, film screenings and meetings on Gandhi.
Thirumalai Nayakkar Palace is a beautiful palace constructed in the Indo-Saracenic style by the Nayak king, Thirumalai Nayak, in the 16th century. The palace has a light and sound show which plays the life of the Thirumalai Nayakkar and Silapathikaram. Today what remains of the temple is one fourth of the original. There are about 248 pillars which are 58 feet tall. The palace ceiling has paintings depicting lives of the Lord Vishnu and Shiva.
The palace is an architectural marvel. The domes and arches of the palace have been constructed in the Stucco style of architecture. There is also a display of the various things, such as furniture and utensils, used around the house. The entrance to the palace, the dancing hall and main hall of the palace are the most beautiful pieces of work. The palace was later renovated by in 1860s-70s by the British.
Vaigai Dam is built across the river Vaigai. The dam is in the district of Theni which is located near Andipatti. Vaigai Dam is the main source of water for drinking and irrigation in Madurai and Dindigul districts. The Agricultural Research Station of Tamil Nadu has been constructed close to the dam. The institute conducts research on a wide variety of crops which includes rice, cotton, blackgram and cowpea.
Vaigai Hydroelectric Power Plant is at the dam and is a source of electricity in Tamil Nadu. The dam is surrounded by lush green trees. The dam also has a perfect boating facility. One can just go and have a relaxing time in the area.
Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam, a tank, was constructed in the year 1646. This huge tank, which was built by Thirumalai Nayak, is spread across 16 acres. The tank lies at a distance of about 5 km away towards the east of Meenakshi Temple. There is an idol of Lord Ganesh or Vinayaka at the centre of the tank. The idol is mounted on a platform.
It is believed that the tank was formed when the place was being excavated for bricks to construct the Thirumalai Nayakar Palace. Later the tank was built properly and dedicated to Lord Vinayaka. The famous Teppakulam Float Festival is celebrated every year during the months of January and February at this tank. The water of the lake is believed to come from the river Vaigai. The lake draws a great number of tourists.
Thiruparankundram is a town located in the Madurai district about 8 km away from the city of Madurai. The town is famous for its Murugan temple and the Dargah of Hazrat Sultan Sikandar Badusha Shaheed. The dargah is located atop the Thiruparankundram hills. The Murugan temple is a temple which was carved out of a hill. The hill is considered to be one of the six holy abodes of the lord.
This ancient temple was constructed in the 8th century by the Pandya kings and it houses the shrines of several gods and goddesses, such as Lord Shiva, Goddess Durga and Lord Vishnu. The significant feature of the temple is that it is located at a spot where the sun and the moon can be seen together. It is believed that Lord Murugan got married at this temple; hence, the temple is considered auspicious for marriage ceremonies.
Pazhamudircholai is a temple devoted to the Hindu god, Lord Muruga or Subramanya. The temple is located near the Alagar Koil Temple on top of the Solaimalai Hill. The temple is one of the holy abodes of Lord Subramanya. The idol of the lord is carried on a golden chariot every evening and during this time, devotees throng to the place.
A natural spring, Noopura Gangai, is located close to the temple and devotees take a dip in it. There are several sculptures and idols of the deity carved out in marble and wood inside the temple. There are several gigantic steps that lead the devotees to the temple.
Kazimar Big Mosque is located close to the Madurai Junction and Periyar bus stand. It is an old mosque which was built by Hazrat Kazi Syed Tajuddin, a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, in the 13th century. The mosque is believed to be the oldest in Madurai. The Pandya king, Kulasekara Pandya, presented him with this land when he came from Oman.
The mosque gets its name Big Mosque or Periya Pallivasal because of its size. With a capacity of 2500 people, it is one of the biggest in the area. There is also a dargah of the Madurai Hazrat located within the mosque complex. The dargah is known as Madurai Maqbara.
Tiruchuzhi, also called Tiruchuli, is a village close to Madurai. The village is a famous holy place because it is the birthplace of the saint Sri Ramana Maharshi. The saint is considered to be one of the most revered saints of the 20th century in India. An ashram dedicated to the saint known as Sri Ramana Ashram is located in the village. The village also has an ancient temple of Lord Shiva.
The place is recommended for people who seek serenity and would like to be in touch with their spiritual side.
Aruppukkottai is a town located at a distance of about 48 km from Madurai. The place is famous for its jasmine production and its wide range of temples, mosques and churches. The major attractions of this place are the Nallur Mohideen Andavar Masjid, Vazhavandhapuram Jum’ah Pallivasal, Thoukith Jamath Pallivasal, Sri Arulmigu Sokkanathar Swami Temple, Arulmigu Sri MuthuMari Amman Temple, the CSI Church, the Roman Catholic Church, among many others.
Other than being a pilgrimage centre, the town is also an important industrial town. The town also connects Madurai with many other cities. Thus, the town can be a good place to drop by on one's way to Madurai.
Shopping is Madurai can be a delightful activity. In fact, a trip to Madurai is incomplete without shopping. The city is famous for its textiles and handicrafts. The city is well known for its silk, cotton, batik and Sungundi saris. The Prithu Mandapam Market is a must visit in Madurai. Madurai has a good collection of handwoven silk and cotton fabrics.
Handicrafts, such as bell metal lamps, bronze statues, wood and stone carvings, could be a good addition to your collection of handicrafts at home. If you are going to Madurai, do not forget to hit the streets and explore the shopping options. You will sure have a happy shop till you drop experience.
Goripalayam Dargah is the largest mosque in the city. The dargah is located on the north of Vaigai river and is said to have been built by Thirumalai Nayak in the 13th century. The dargah houses two tombs of two Muslim saints named Hazrat Sultan Alauddin Badusha and Sultan Shamsuddin Badusha of Oman.
The domes are 70 feet in diameter and 20 feet tall and are built out of one single piece of stone. The inscription on the entrance of the dargah tells us about the period it belongs to. The main celebration in this mosque is the annual Urs Festival, which is celebrated in the month of Rabi' al-awwal of the Hijri calendar. During this festival devotees and tourists throng to the place.