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 Madurai— the city that never sleeps

Madurai represents the heart and soul of Tamil Nadu and the Tamil culture.

To the new tourist, the city seems like a big village. Madurai is the second largest city in Tamil Nadu and has a population of about one and half million. It is situated on the banks of the River Vaigai in South Tamil Nadu. It is referred to by many names—temple city, Athens of the East, city of jasmine flowers, city that never sleeps, city of four junctions, and the cultural capital of Tamil Nadu.


It is one of the oldest cities of India. It is more than 2,500 years old. Marco Polo is  said to have visited the city in 1293 A.D. Trade was conducted with Greece and Rome as far back as 550 B.C.E. Madurai’s history dates back to the Sangam period of the pre-Christian era. It was the capital of the ancient Pandava Empire. It is said that in the third century B.C   Megasthenes visited Madurai. This was then followed by regular trade exchanges with Rome and Greece.


Situated in the heart of the city is the world famous  Meenakshi Temple  which attracts both pilgrims and tourists. Madurai Meenakshi Temple The old city is built around the temple while the modern city with its many internet cafes, ice cream parlors, restaurants, textile mills, industries and vast university  campuses sprawl around   The 10-day Chitirai Festival celebrated in April/May is the most important of all the numerous festivals celebrated with great enthusiasm here. On the 10th day of the festival, the celestial wedding of Goddess Meenakshi with Lord Sundareswarar is performed with great fanfare. The entire city throbs with religious fervor as the city is visited by nearly 50,000 devotees from elsewhere. Madurai is the direct inheritor of the Tamil culture which is more than 2,500 years old. It was the seat of the Pandhya Kings of South India. Other temples are seen everywhere.

When you visit Madurai do not fail to visit Tirumalai Nayak Mahal which is just one kilometer away from the Meenakshi Temple. Tirumalai Nayak Mahal Constructed in 1636, this was the palace of Tirumalai Nayak, who was the greatest of the Nayaka rulers. It has fifteen domes and arches adorned with carvings. There are about 250 massive pillars that are fifty-eight feet in height. Do not miss seeing the Sorga Vilasam which serves as auditorium. An arcaded octagonal structure, its dome of about fifteen meters in diameter and twenty-one meters in height will make you wonder how it was constructed without any supporting girders. Also, do not miss a visit to the Ayiramkal Mandapam (hall of thousand pillars) which is also part of the Meenakshi Temple complex. Nine hundred and eight five intricately carved pillars are scattered across a vast open hall. Each pillar is a work of art with elaborate and highly ornate sculptures of ancient Indian life. When viewed from a particular angle, these pillars appear to be in a straight line—an absolute architectural marvel

When you go to Madurai you get the feeling of being transported to another era, mainly because of its quaint old world charm. However, it is also now a modern city. It is home to some of India´s oldest colleges of great repute. It has also got a very good university. Madurai is famed for the  Arvind Group of Hospitals which provide excellent, cheap eye care to people from all over India. Two-third of the outpatient visits and three-fourth of the surgeries are serviced to the poor, free of cost. Many foreigners and Indians from other parts of India come here to avail of the excellent facilities.

Madurai is noted for its export of jasmine flowers. Annually nearly 20,000 tons of jasmine flowers are exported to countries like Singapore, Thailand, Kuwait and Dubai. It is also noted for its Sungudi saris. These hand-made saris are made in the traditional tie and dye method. They are appealing and long lasting and give very good value for money. These saris are found in all shops in Madurai.You can find them in any textile shop around the Meenakshi Temple.

People wonder why the city is called the city that never sleeps. Madurai is the only city in Tamil nadu where the city buses operate even in the night. The buses are almost more than half-full always. There is always a floating population with tourists from North India and other places halting at Madurai before proceeding to Rameswaram, Kodaikanal, Coutrallam, and other places. It is perhaps the only place in Tamil Nadu where one can get something to eat and drink throughout the night.

The food available here is traditional Tamil cuisine. The tiffin, which is how the Tamil people refer to idli, dosai, vada, and sambar, is out of this world. One can get piping-hot fluffy idlis in the middle of the night at Madurai. Again,this is perhaps the only place in Tamil Nadu where the non-vegetarians can experience a wonderful culinary experience. Madurai is also known for three drinks—  paruthi pal, jil jil jigarthanda and ambatbath. Jil jil jigarthanda is a very popular drink among the locals and enjoyed by the tourists as well.

There are plenty of hotels —low-cost to luxury— in Madurai. A luxury five star hotel  “ Heritage Madurai” recently opened at Madurai. Other popular hotels are Royal Court,   Hotel GRT Regency, the Park Plaza, the Gateway Hotel (Taj Garden Retreat). Continental food is also available at all these hotels.

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