Madurai Travel Guide
Places to visit
places to visit
Madurai is one of the most important tourist spot of India. The city attracts a large number of tourists from within the country and abroad. About 4,100,000 tourists visited Madurai in 2007, out of which foreigners numbered 224,000.
Madurai's Meenakshi-Sundareswarar temple, which stands today as one of the India's greatest cultural and architectural landmarks, was originally built by the early Pandya King Kulasekara. It is also one of the greatest Shiva Temples of Tamilnadu. The labyrinthine Meenakshi Temple, celebrating the love of the Meenakshi goddess and her groom Sundareswarar(the Handsome God) is of world renown. The ancient city of Madurai was supposedly laid out in a lotus-like formation, with the temple at the center and the streets and main thoroughfares layered one after the other concentrically, outward from the center. One legend says that on the day the city was to be named, Lord Shiva blessed the land and its people while divine nectar showered on the city from his matted locks. The city hence came to be known as Madhurapuri meaning The City of Divine Nectar. The legend is likely a late tale attempting to Sanskritise the otherwise-Dravidian derivative of Madurai. This is the place where Lord Natarajar performed the dance raising his right leg. (Kal maariya Aadiya natarajar). Lord shiva was very happy with the temple construction and performed a different dance. This is the temple which is believed to be survived after Kannagi burnt the complete city. All of the towers are currently draped in scaffolding and opaque coverings obscuring the sculptures at least until the end of 2009.
 Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal
Thirumalai Naicker Mahal
This palace complex was constructed in the Indo-Saracen style by Thirumalai Nayakar in 1636. It is a national monument and is now under the care of the Tamil Nadu Archaeological Department.
The original palace complex was four times bigger than the present structure. It was divided into two parts, Swarga-vilasa and Ranga-vilasa. In each of these there are royal residences, theater, shrines, apartments, armory, palanquin place, royal bandstand, quarters, pond and garden. The ceilings are decorated with large paintings showing Shaivite and Vaishnavite themes.
The portico known as Swarga Vilasam is an arcaded octagon wholly constructed of bricks and mortar without the support of a single rafter or girder. The stucco work on its domes and arches is remarkable. The gigantic pillars and structures represent architectural mastery. The courtyard and the dancing hall are central attractions for visitors. There are 248 pillars, each 58 feet tall and 5 feet in diameter. Furniture and utensils used by the kings is on exhibit inside the palace. The palace is equipped to perform "Light and Sound" shows depicting the story of "Silappathikaram", in both Tamil and English languages. The palace is in Indian films such as Bombay, Iruvar, Guru and Jodi.
Kazimar Big Mosque(Periya pallivasal) and Maqbara
This famous mosque (masjid) is located at the heart of Madurai city, within 500 metres of the Periyar (Central) bus stand and within 1 kilometre South East of the Madurai Railway Junction and 800 meters south west of the Meenakshi Temple. His Holiness Hazrat Kazi Syed Tajuddin (a descendant of Prophet Muhammad) who came from Oman during 13th century, received this land from the then Panidiya king, Ku(n) Pandiyan, and constructed the mosque which is the first Muslims' place of worship in Madurai. Madurai Maqbara, the dargah of famous Madurai Hazrats (Their Holiness Hazrat Meer Ahamad Ibrahim, Hazrat Meer Amjad Ibrahim and Hazrat Syed Abdus Salaam Ibrahim Rahmatullahi Alaihim - Descendants of Prophet Muhammad) is also located inside the mosque premises. All of Kazi Syed Thajuddheen's descendants (Huqdars - shareholders of this mosque called as Syeds) have lived in the same locality (Kazimar street) for more than 700 years, and have managed the mosque since then. Syed Tajuddin was appointed as Kazi of the sultans, and still his descendants who live at Kazimar street, Madurai, are appointed as Kazis to the Government of Tamil Nadu. All Syeds belong to the Sunni sect of Islam, its Hanafi school and most of the descendants of Kazi Syed Tajuddin are shadhilis (shazuli) who follow the Sufi order Fassiyatush Shadhiliya.
 Gandhi Museum
Rani Mangamma's palace has been renewed and converted to Gandhi museum.The museum displays information about Mahatma Gandhi, and most importantly it showcases the original blood-stained garment of Gandhi when he was assassinated by Nathuram Godse. The other piece of the garment is kept at the Gandhi Museum in Delhi. This museum, is one of the 5 museums in India (others in Mumbai, Barrackpore, Sabarmati and Patna) known as Gandhi Sanghralayas. Also lot of pictures taken during the Life time of Gandhi with various leaders all around the world and also during various incidents of freedom struggle is kept. Martin Luther King Jr. visited the museum during his tour of India in 1959 and is said to have got his inspiration to launch a series of peaceful agitations against racial discrimination. No entry fee for museum visitors.
Thiruparankundram is 8 km (5.0 mi) from the Madurai city center. Thiruparakundram temple has become a symbol of the religious harmony as of the people of Madurai. An Islamic Durgah (shrine) is located at the top of the hill, where the grave of an Islamic saint Hazrat Sultan Sikandhar Badushah Shaheed Radiyallah Ta'al anhu, who came from Jeddah along with Hazrat Sulthan Syed Ibrahim Shaheed Badushah of Madinah (now in Erwadi, Ramanathapuram district) during the early 13th century, is found. Irrespective of religion, people from all parts of Tamil Nadu and from Kerala visit this durgah. People who visit the Ervadi Durgah in Ramanathapuram district are supposed to visit this durgah. Many poems have been written in praise of Hazrat Sultan Sikandhar Badhusha, by Syed Abdussalam Ibrahim Saalim Hazrat, the third in the list of Madurai Hazrats and his Maternal grandson Syed Abdus Salaam Ibrahim Saahib Hazrat and they are published in the Erwadi manaaqib. It is seen that people who come here with a wish see it answered in a very short time, and so He is also called Mustajab ad Du'aa Sikandhar Badhushah. Mustajab Ad Du'aa in Arabic means A saint whose Supplications are immediately answered by Allah. The Anniversary urus festival of Hazrat Sulthan Sikandar badusha Shaheed is commomerated on 17th Night of the islamic Month of Rajab every Hijri year.
The traditional legend is that Lord Murugan married Deivanai at Thiruparankundram Murugan Temple, which also is the first among the Six Holy Abodes of Murugan (Arupadai Veedu, literally "Six Battle Camps"). This evocative cave temple is much older and has a more sacred atmosphere than the Meenakshi temple, particularly on Fridays, when women place candles or sit around the temple floor and create kolams or rangoli patterns on the ground using coloured powders, ash and flowers as an offering to goddess Durga.
The name Gorippalayam comes from the Persian word Gor which means Grave. This area is called as Goripalayam because the Graves of the two famous saints of Islam and rulers of Madurai Hazrat Sulthan Alauddin Badusha (Radiyallah) and Hazrat Sulthan Shamsuddin Badhusha (Radiyallah) are located here. A beautiful green coloured tomb can be seen from the A.V.Bridge madurai, which is the Gorippalayam Dargah located in the northern banks of vaigai River. It is amazing to see that, the domb which is 70 feet in diameter and 20 feet in height is made of a single block of stone which was brought from the Azhaga Hills. People from all over Tamil Nadu come here to seek blessings and go back fruitfully. The two rulers were brothers who ruled the northern part of madurai after coming from oman during 13th century to spread Islam. Hazrat Kazi Syed Tajuddin Radiyallah of Kazimar street was Govt. Kazi (Islamic Legal advisor and jury) to them. An ancient Tamil inscription, can be found planted on the outer campus of the Maqbara of the dargah campus. The information found in that inscription is,
"The descendants of Sulthan Alauddin Badusha, and Sulthan Shamsuddin Badusha (called as Sultans of Delhi) purchased from the then King Koo(n) Pandiyan the land of Gorippalayam Dargah for a Feet of Gold piece and other six villages (namely Bibi Kulam, Chokkikulam, Cholikudi, Chirudoor, Kannanendal, Thiruppalai) at the rate of 14,000 Gold pieces for the maintenance of Gorippalayam Dargah. During the reign of King Veerappa nayakkar a dispute arose between the Huqdars of the Durgah and the employees of the Nayakkar Government regarding the six villages. The case was taken to King Veerappa Nayakkar, who inquired and verified the documents written by King Koo(n) Pandiyan and gave his verdict in the year 1573 A.D. as the Six villages and the Dargah land belongs to the Descendants of Sultans and it should be in their enjoyment till the existence of Sun and Moon and who violates this will be liable for the sin of slaughtering a cow in the bank of river Ganga."
This inscription is considered as one of the evidences to prove the existence of the Dargah since 13th century. The anniversary urus festival of this dargah is held on 15th night of the Islamic month of Rabi al-awwal on every hijri year.
Koodal Azhagar Koil
A beautiful Vishnu temple which has Navagraham also (usually Navagraham is found only in Shivan temple). There is a hayagrivar temple close to this temple where hayagrivar (Horse/"haya"griva avataram) is the main deity. Most of the students do their regular prayer here as hayagrivar is the one who brought the epic fallen into water back to the earth. This is one of the temple found in center of city. This is located 100 mtrs north to the Kazimar Big Mosque (Periya pallivasal) and to the south of Sunnambukara street. This temple is belived to be older than the Meenakshi temple.
Near by this temple another Siva temple is located and the temple is called the Nanmai Tharuvar temple. The legend has it that this temple was build by Shiva himself when he was the king of Madurai. Still you can find a full grandie statue of Shiva along with Meenakshi worship Linga in the Karuvari of the temple. Another notable Vishnu temple found near the Kodal Azhagar temple is the Madhana Gopalan Temple which is a temple dedicated to lord Krishna.
St. Mary’s Cathedral Church
St. Mary’s Cathedral in Madurai is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madurai. It is one of the oldest Roman Catholic churches in India and is situated 2 km South East of Madurai Railway station and 200 meters from the Thirumalai Nayak Mahal.
get there and around
get there and around
Madurai is well connected all over India through Road, rail and by Air.
The railway station is one of the busiest in the country and has computerized reservation counters. Madurai division has repeatedly received the award for being the best-maintained station in the Southern Railway. The railway station code for Madurai junction is MDU. It is connected to most major Indian cities and towns.
Madurai Railway Division is the second largest revenue yielding division in Tamilnadu next only to Chennai.
As the TN's second largest City strucks daily with a single railway terminal unable to handle the heavy Passenger Crowds, Southern Railway has come-up with a plan of extension & modification of the City Junction. Works are going on in the same at fast pace.
Railways also planned to divide the passenger traffic at City Junction by creating one more state-of-art Railway terminal at North Madurai Koodal Nagar. The Project cost is more than Rs.100 Crores and the Works are going on for the same,now.
The Stations in Madurai railway are :
Madurai City Railway Junction Koodal Nagar Samayanallur Vadipatti East Madurai Tirupuvanam Tiruparankundram Tirumangalam Chekanoorani Usilampatti etc.
Madurai has several major bus stands: Madurai Integrated Bus Terminus (MIBT) at Maattuthavani (North), Palanganatham (South), Arappalayam (West), Periyar (Central) and Anna Bus stand (East). From MIBT, many buses to locations all over the south India operate round the clock. From Arapalayam bus stand, buses to places of western Tamil Nadu like Theni, Coimbatore, Tirupur, Erode, Salem operate and Periyar bus stand is where only city buses and private buses to major cities operate. Anna bus stand and Palanganatham are not in operation currently.
Apart fom city buses, three-wheeled, black and yellow auto-rickshaws, referred to as autos, are available for travel with in the city. MIBT has pre-paid auto counter where commuters can pay fixed auto-fare depends on destination and hire.
Madurai is connected by the following major National Highways:
* NH 7 : (North-south Corridor Expressway) Bangalore – Salem – Dindigul – Madurai – Tirunelveli – Kanyakumari
* NH 45B : Trichy – Madurai – Thoothukudi
* NH 49 : Madurai – Rameswaram
* NH 49 Extn: Madurai – Theni – Bodi – Cochin
Bridges have been constructed across the Vaigai river to connect Madurai at various points. Flyovers have been constructed within the city to overcome traffic congestion. Four lane express highways to Chennai, Kanyakumari, Tuticorin and Bangalore make Madurai well-connected by road.
Madurai Airport is 11 kilometers from the Madurai railway station, and it offers flights to major cities in southern and western India. Paramount Airways, Jet Air Ways, Kingfisher Airlines, Air India operates flights from and to Madurai. Flight services to Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai are available at Madurai airport.
Madurai Airport is under a major expansion now with a state-of-art new Terminal of 17,560 Sq.ms space which is the second largest terminal in Tamilnadu next only to Chennai.
With a Good Domestic Network, New Low-Cost airlines like Air Dravida, Star Aviation,TransIndia Airlines etc proposed to Connect Madurai in new Domestic routes..
The terminal is all set to come for operation by Second Quarters of 2010..Many Foreign airlines approached AAI to start international services from Madurai.So,When the new terminal is open, many new international flights are expected to take-off from Madurai.
Madurai airport has handled 3 lacks passengers between the period Jan 2009 to Oct 2009
Madurai Airport is promising a Good-Future with the report of Pricewater CooperHouse Ltd.s research survey that It will become one of the busiest airports in South India once the international flights are allowed..It also added that the airport has a Golden chance for Heavy Cargo Traffic by the year 2012.
Madurai flourished till 10th century AD when it was captured by Cholas, the arch rivals of the Pandyas. The glory of Madurai returned in a diminished form in the earlier part of this millennium as it later came under the rule of the Vijayanagar kingdom and Madurai was ruled by the Nayak Emperors, the foremost of whom was Tirumalai Nayakar
Madurai has history dating all the way back to the Sangam period of the pre-Christian era. It was the seat of power of the ancient Pandyan empire of Tamilakam. The Sangam period poet Nakkeerar is associated with some of the Tiruvilayaadal episodes of Sundareswarar - that are enacted as a part of temple festival traditions even today. As early as the 3rd century BC, Megasthanes visited Madurai. Later many people from Rome and Greece visited Madurai and established trade with the Pandya kings.
In legend, the original town of Madurai, traditionally called ThenMadurai or Madurai of South was destroyed by a tsunami in ancient Kumari Kandam. The new city was home to the last Tamil Sangam in the early part of last Century. The great national poet Subramanya Bharathi worked as a Tamil language pandit / teacher in Sethupathy High School during the early 20th century. There is a village town in the neighbouring district of Dindigul called Vada Madurai, and another in the neighbouring district of Sivagangai called Manamadurai.