MADURAI – Legend says that once Lord Shiva appeared in the dream of King Kulasekhara Pandya. The King was amazed to see drops of nectar or madhu falling down on the Earth from Lord Shiva's matted hair. The "madhu" was so sweet that the place where it fell came to be known as Madhurapuri, which in course of time became "Madurai." Madurai is also called the Athens of the East. It is a place of great historical and cultural importance. It is the oldest city in Tamil Nadu and lies on the banks of the River Vaigai.
Madurai is famous for its temples, monuments and ancient cultural wonders. The city is widely known as the Temple City, and is often also referred to as The City of Four Junctions (Koodal Maanagar), The Cultural Capital of Tamil Nadu (Kalaachaara Thalainagar), The City of Jasmine (Malligai Maanagar), The City That Never Sleeps (Thoonga Nagaram), and The City of Festivals.
Evening ceremony at Meenakshi Temple
Evening visit the Meenakshi Temple to attend the evening ceremony known as 'Bedtime of the God'. A colourful procession, in which the image of Shiva is carried accompanied by musicians, temple singers and priests from his shrine. Enroute Shiva visits the other deities before entering Parvati's (Meenakshi) temple to sleep with her for the night. This ceremony is worth witnessing.
This temple is nearly 2000 years old placed in the heart of the old town-a splendid example of Dravidian architecture. The present temple was designed in 1560 by Vishwanatha Nayak and subsequently built during the reign of Tirumalai Nayak. There are four entrances to the temple with an area of six hectares. Each of its 12 towers has the height of 45 to 50 meters. The Potrama Raikulam or the Golden Lotus Tank is the place where the Tamil literacy society, called Sangam used to meet to decide the merits of the work presented to them. The temple museum has 985 richly carved pillars and each one surpasses the other in beauty.
(It remains closed from 1200 hrs till 1530 hrs).
Tirumalai Nayak Mahal
The palace (or Mahal) was built by Thirumalai Naicker, the greatest of Nayakkar kings of Madurai. The Nayaks ruled Madurai from 1545 till 1740, after the Pandya kings. The palace is the place where Thirumalai Naicker lived and held his court. The palace complex area was originally four times bigger than it is now, consisting of two portions – Swarga vilasa and Ranga vilasa. There were also other portions like the palace shrine, harem, theater, royal band stand, armory and other structures which were used to accommodate palanquins, royal chariots, relatives, servants, guests and other regal paraphernalia.
Vaniyur Mariamman Teppakulam
Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam is the pond located near to Vandiyur Mariamman Temple and situated at a distance of about 2 km from the Meenakshi Amman Temple. Literally, Teppakulam means temple pond mainly used for devotional festivals. The tank is connected to Vaigai River through an ingenious system of underground Channels. It has total of 12 long stairs (steps) made of granite on all four sides. The temple as well as the stairs was built by the King Thirumalai Nayak. In the centre of the tank there is a Mandapam called Maiya Mandapam (Central Mandapam) with Vinayakar temple and garden.