One of South India’s great temple towns, Madurai is famous for the celebrated and inspiring Meenakshi Temple. Situated on the banks of river Vaigai, Madurai has a rich cultural heritage passed on from the great Tamil era more than 2500 years old, and is a fantastically animated city, packed with business types, rickshaw riders, beggars, pilgrims and bullock carts. Madurai was an important cultural and commercial centre even as early as 550 AD. It was the capital city for the great Pandya kings, and is firmly anchored in Tamil literature and traditions. It is home to many poets and artisans, and houses a glorious literary wealth of classical and modern Tamil.
Our sample tours visiting Madurai
This truly impressive landmark temple is dedicated to Shiva, known here as Sundareshvara and his consort Parvati or Meenakshi. Especially impressive are the 12 gopuras. Their soaring towers rise from solid granite bases, and are covered with stucco figures of deities, mythical animals and monsters painted in vivid colours. Visitors who at first are disorientated by the maze of shrines, often find themselves drawn back to experience it all times of the day.
Thirumalai Nayak Palace
This breathtaking palace was built in 1636 by King Thirumalai Nayak, and was originally a staggering four times bigger. Today, only the spacious rectangular courtyard and a few adjoining buildings survive, their awesome scale evoking the grandeur of a vanished era. Visitors will be amazed at the many fascinating sculptures and paintings in this shrine, the intricately painted ceilings, the granite carved pillars, and the stunning Golden Lotus Tank.
Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam and the floating festival
Mariamman Teppakulam is a huge 16-acre water tank situated at about 5 km distance from the Meenakshi Amman Temple. Situated in the region of Vandiyur, the tank has a Vinayaka temple at the center, which can be accessed only by water. This festival marks the birthday of King Thirumalai Nayak, and is a colourful, energentic and vibrant occasion which attracts fascinated spectators. On the day of the festival, the idols of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswarar are carried in grand procession around the tank in a beautifully decorated flat, whilst a spectacular firework display plays out. The time of the festival (Jan/Feb) is said to be the most auspicious time of year to get married.
Shopping and markets
Old Madurai is saturated with textile and tailor shops, producing local goods at good value. Many souvenir shops allow visitor on roofs for great city views, with the hope you buy their goods. Southern Indian crafts can be purchased here, selling oil lamps, sculptures, cloth, shirts amongst other gifts. Don’t miss out on seeing the purpose built wooden fruit and veg market, giving an insight into Madurai life and its rich history and culture. The flower market here is a spectacle of colour fragrance and life.