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Home > travel > In Awe of Temple city – Madurai

In Awe of Temple city – Madurai

My first visit to Madurai left me in awe of this temple city.   Although, Chennai is the capital city of Tamil Nadu, Madurai claims to be its soul.  It is one of the oldest cities in India, a metropolis that traded with ancient Rome and was a great capital long before Chennai was even dreamt of.

With a single day I wanted to see as much as I could of this beautiful city.   After a vegetarian breakfast in Vasantham, I set out with my friendly driver.  The first stop was Meenakshi Amman temple.

The existing temple was mostly built during the 17th-century reign of Tirumalai Nayak, but its origins go back 2000 years to when Madurai was a Pandyan capital. The four streets surrounding the temple are pedestrian-only. Temple dress codes and security are airport-strict: no shoulders or legs (of either gender) may be exposed, and no bags or cameras are allowed inside.

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Before or after entering the temple, look around the  Pudhu Mandapa. The main temple entrance is through the eastern (oldest). First, on the right, you’ll come to the Thousand Pillared Hall, now housing the fascinating Temple Art Museum. Moving on into the temple, you’ll reach a Nandi shrine surrounded by more beautifully carved columns. Ahead is the main Shiva shrine, flanked on each side by massive and further ahead to the left in a separate enclosure is the main Meenakshi shrine, both off limits to non-Hindus. Anyone can however wander round the  Golden Lotus Tank,  where a small pavilion jutting out at the western end has ceiling murals depicting Sundareswarar and Meenakshi’s marriage. Leave the temple via a hall of flower sellers and the arch-ceilinged  Ashta Shakti Mandapa– lined with relief carvings of the goddess’ eight attributes and displaying the loveliest of all the temple’s elaborately painted ceilings, this is actually the temple entrance for most worshippers.
My next stop was the Thirumalai Nayak Palace.
What Madurai’s Meenakshi Amman Temple is to Nayak religious architecture, Tirumalai Nayak’s crumbling palace is to the secular. It’s said to be only a quarter of its original size, but its massive scale and hybrid Dravidian-Islamic style still testify to the lofty aspirations of its creator. From the east-side entrance, a large courtyard surrounded by tall, thick columns topped with fancy stucco work leads to the grand throne chamber with its 25m-high dome; two stone-carved horses frame the steps up.

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Mahatma Gandhi museum was the next stop of my tour – Housed in a 17th-century Nayak queen’s palace, this impressive museum contains a moving, comprehensive account of Gandhi’s life and India’s struggle for independence from 1757 to 1947; the English-language displays spare no detail about British rule. They include the blood-stained dhoti that Gandhi was wearing when he was assassinated in Delhi in 1948; it was here in Madurai, in 1921, that he first took up wearing the dhoti as a sign of native pride.

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There was also the Alagar Kovil which is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
Alagar is a village in Madurai.  The history and living of the village is centered around Kallazhagar Temple. Constructed in the Dravidian style of Architecture, the temple is glorified in the Divya Prabandha, the early medieval Tamil canon of the Azhwar saints from the 6th–9th centuries AD. It is one of the 108 Divyadesam dedicated to Vishnu, who is worshipped as Kallazhagar and his consort Lakshmi as Thirumamagal. The temple in enclosed in a rectangular enclosure with huge granite walls. The central shrine houses the image of the presiding deity, Sundarabahu Perumal in standing posture. The images of Sridevi and Bhudevi are also housed in the sanctum. There two life size images of Narasimha of Vishnu. One of them is shown holding the demon Hiranya and other slaying him.

 

Thirupurankundram Murugan temple was the last stop of my tour –
The temple is built in rock-cut architecture and believed to have been built by the Pandyas during the 6th century. According to the legend it is where Murugan slayed the demon  Surapadman and married Deivayanai, the divine daughter of the king of heaven, Indra, and he is said to have worshipped Shiva here as Parangirinathar. The temple is located 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) from Madurai. In the main shrine, apart from Muruga, deities of Shiva, Vishnu, Vinayaka and Durga are housed. The temple follows Shaivite tradition of worship. Six daily rituals and three yearly festivals are held at the temple, of which the Kantha Sashti festival during the Tamil month of Aippasi (October – November) being the most prominent. The temple is maintained and administered by the Hindu Religious and Endowment Board of the Government of Tamil Nadu.

 

Madurai was all the more beautiful because of its humble and down-to-earth people.

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