Madurai is a temple town in South India and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Closely associated with the Tamil language and the third Tamil sangam (assembly of Tamil scholars and poets), said to have been held in the city. The word Madurai is derived from Madhura (sweetness) arising out of the divine nectar showered on the city by the Hindu god Shiva from his matted hair. Another theory is that Madurai is the derivative of the word Marutham, meaning cropland.
Meenakshi Amman Temple
Meenakshi temple is located on the southern bank of the river, Vaigai. There are 14 gateway Gopurams - gateway towers - in the complex, the tallest being 52 meters high and one of the largest in South India, therefore nominated as one of the seven wonders of the world. On average, the temple attracts 15,000 visitors a day with around 25,000 visitors on Fridays.
According to Hindu mythology, The Meenakshi temple is believed to have been founded by Indra (the king of Deva celestial deities). While on a pilgrimage to atone for his misdeeds, he felt his burden lifting as he neared the Swayambhu lingam in Madurai, a self-formed lingam - which is a representation of Shiva used for worship in temples. He ascribed this miracle to the Shiva lingam and constructed the temple to enshrine it. Indra worshipped Shiva who caused golden lotuses to appear in the nearby pool.
The temple is dedicated to Parvathi and her consort Shiva and is a significant symbol for the Tamil people. According to Hindu legend, Parvathi appeared out of the holy fire of the Putra Kameshti Yagna (sacrifice for childhood), in order to answer the prayers of the second Pandya king Malayadwaja Pandya and his wife Kanchanamalai. Another legend has it, that the goddess herself gave notice to Kanchanamalai in one of her previous births that she would have the privilege of mothering a goddess. The girl who came out of the holy fire had three breasts. A voice from the heavens told the king not to worry about the abnormality and added that the third breast would vanish as soon as the girl met her future husband. The happy king named the girl Tadaatagai and, as the heir to the throne, Tadaatagai was trained carefully in all the 64 sastras, the fields of science.
Potramarai Kulam (Pond with the Golden Lotus)
The name Potramarai Kulam, derived from the Tamil word Pon, refers to Gold and Tamaraikulam refers to a lotus tank. According to the Tamil legends, if an author places his work in the pond, the lake will judge the worth of it. If it is poorly written, it will sink, but if it is of scholastic worth, it will float.
Thousand Pillared Hall
The Meenakshi Nayakkar Mandapam was built by Ariyanatha Mudaliar in 1569 and blends engineering skill with artistic vision. Ariyanatha Mudaliar was the prime minister and general of Viswanatha Nayak, the first Nayaka of Madurai (1559-1600). Each pillar portraits one of the Dravidian (South Indian culture) deities. Just outside this hall towards the west, are the Musical Pillars. Each pillar, when struck, produces a different musical note.
Azhakar Kovil - Thirumaliruncholai or Azhakar temple - is a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, situated 21 km from the city of Madurai. Legend has it that sage Suthapas (Munivar), was bathing in Nupura Gangai at Azhakar Hill and did not pay heed to Durvasar Maharishi, who was passing by. The enraged Durvasar cursed Suthapas and turned him into a frog. He was later redeemed of his curse by Lord Sundararajar, also known as Kallazhakar.
|Jallikattu / Taming the bull||January|
|Pongal / Harvest Festival||begins January 14th for 3 days|
|Float Festival||mid-January and mid-February|
|Chithirai Festival||April or May on a full moon night|
|Dance Festival||November to March|
Sunny except during monsoon season, September-November