India is famous for its marvelous temple city of Madurai that is situated in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. This settlement is considered the oldest continuously inhabited city in India. Madurai has become internationally famous after the building of the Meenakshi Temple. Why is this city often referred to as “the temple city”? There is a shrine on almost every street here. Besides that, the city’s territory is full of numerous cafes and restaurants. Because of this peculiarity, Madurai is also famous as the city that never sleeps. Local streets remain active and crowded both in the daytime and at night.
First settlers in the territory of modern Madurai appeared yet in the third millennia BC. Various manuscripts mentioned this settlement as the capital of the ancient kingdom of Pandya. At the beginning of the 9th century, the Chola dynasty added this Indian city to their territories. Madurai became an independent city in 1559. However, Chanda Sahib captured the settlement already in the 30s of the 18th century. After him, the nawab of the Carnatik and Muhammed Yusuf became the rulers of the city. All these leaders changed one another in just one century.
The Meenakshi Temple is considered the oldest Hindu temple complex. The shrine is dedicated to goddess Meenakshi who is immortalized in the name of the complex. The temple lies in the heart of Madurai. The beauty and unusual grandeur of the ancient temple are so striking that Madurai is often called the city of one temple although there are many other notable temples and buildings in the city. According to historical data, the shrine existed here before our age but Muslims destroyed it in 1310. When kings of India returned their power, it was decided to restore the heritage temple and make it as close as possible to the original.
The temple complex occupies an area of nearly two hundred and twenty meters in length and two hundred and sixty meters in width. The height of the Meenakshi Temple is currently fifty-two meters. Fourteen gopurams form the look of the temple complex. Gopurams are towers of a different height. Five towers are erected inside the complex, and the remaining ones stand on the perimeter. All the towers are covered with colorful sculptures of Shiva, Indian goddesses, and priests. Take a closer look and you will notice musicians, animals from ancient myths, and statues of ordinary people. There is a Shiva sanctuary inside the complex.
Would you like to see an authentic Indian palace? In Madurai, tourists can visit an incredibly beautiful place called Tirumalai Nayakar Mahal. This palace was built in the 30s of the 17th century by the order of the king who gave his own name to the palace. This is a truly grandiose and excellent example of the Dravidian and Rajput architectural styles. Initially, this was the biggest building in India. However, the complex lost some parts of it in the 18th century. Nowadays, only the main palace building - Swarga Vilasam – has survived. This was the king’s residence.
The central part of the historical building is a fantastic fusion of Indian elegance and the pompous oriental style. The royal audience hall is the most popular part of the palace. Visitors find this hall particularly stunning because twelve-meter-tall arches with huge cupolas and renowned arcaded gallery opening look nothing but impressive. A fabulously looking inner yard “welcomes” guests of the popular attraction. The palace regularly hosts interesting performances and music shows. For tourists interested in the country’s heritage, it may be particularly exciting to attend a show based on Silappathikaram, the earliest Tamil epic.
Madurai has its own, so to say, domestic airport. It serves only flights from other Indian cities. Because of this, to get to Madurai, tourists need to fly to Chennai first. The majority of flights to the temple city depart from this Indian megalopolis. After that, make another flight or get on a train to Madurai. If you choose the railway method, the journey time is roughly eight-nine hours. There are also trains to Madurai from Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Delhi. Finally, Madurai has a daily bus connection with such cities as Kerala and Karnataka.