Madurai is one of the oldest cities of south India. It has been the centre of learning and pilgrimage for centuries. More than 2500 years old ancient city, situated on the banks of the river Vaigai Madurai is believed to have been built by the Pandyan King Kulasekara. Legend says that the divine nectar fell from Shiva's hair and gave it the name-Madhurapuri, now known as Madurai. The history of Madurai dates back to more than 3000 years when it was the capital of the Pandyan kings. In 10th century AD, Madurai was captured by the Chola emperors. It remained in their hands until the Pandyans obtained independence in 12th century, only to lose to Malik Kafur, a general in the service of the Delhi Sultanate. Malik Kafur and his dynasty was defeated by the Hindu king of Vijaynagar. After the fall of Vijaynagar in 1565, the Madurai Nayaks ruled until 1781 AD. Madhurapuri grew and prospered to become the capital of the kingdom of Pandyan. Madurai is referred to in the Ramayana, Kautilya’s Arthashastra, by Megasthenes (302 ac), Pliny (77 AD), Ptolemy (140 AD), Marco Polo (1293 AD) and Ibn Battuta (1333 AD).
After breakfast, proceed for exploring Madurai along with the tour guide. The Madurai tour guide will be introduced with you in the hotel. The sightseeing tour includes three prominent monuments – Tirumalai Nayak Mahal, Vaniyur Mariamman Teppakulam and Meenakshi Temple.
Meenakshi Temple is symbol of cultural and architectural epitome of Dravidian style of temples. Lying in the very heart of the city, Meenakshi Temple was built in pre-Christ era by the very founder of Madurai, Kulasekara Pandya. But the credit of present day grandeur goes to Vishwanatha Nayaka & Tirumalai Nayaka. During the reign of Vishwanatha Nayaka in 1560 AD, the design of the present day temple was prepared and final construction took place during the reign of Tirumalai Nayaka. Meenakshi Temple, spread over more than six hectares, has four entrances called Gopurams. Each of its 12 towers has the height of 45 to 50 meters. A perfect example of Dravidian style of temple architecture, Meenakshi Temple is characterized by highly heightened and broad ‘gopurams’( large gateways), mandapams (multi-pillared halls) and intricately and profusely sculptured inner and outer walls with images of gods, goddesses, animals and mythical figures. Visit of 1000 pillar Mandapam (hall). Each pillar got different sculpture.
Tirumalai Nayak Mahal is a historical monument. After decline of Vijayanagara Empire, the leading nobles –the Nayakas, emerged as rulers of south India, including Madurai. The city of Madurai and Nayaka dynasty flourished during 16th to 18th century. Thirumalai Nayak built this palace in 1523, which is hardly a kilometre away from Meenakshi Temple. Built in the Indo-Saracénico style, the remains of the palace constitute main entrances, ballroom and main hall. The palace was originally four times larger than it’s today. The main attraction is now sound and light show in the palace, which shows the events of the life of Thirumalai Nayak and parts of the ancient Tamil epic Silappathikaram.
Mariamman Teppakulam, an enormous temple tank, was also built by the Thirumalai Nayak in 17th. This huge tank in the eastern part of the city is said to have subterranean canals connecting it to the Vaigai River. There is a ‘mandapam’ with an idol of Vinayaka or elephant in the middle of the tank, brightly lit during the float festival at the time of full moon of the Tamil month Thai, which falls between January 15 and February 15.
After visiting monuments, primarily temples and palace, explore local market/ bazaar. If possible, do attend evening worship ceremony of the deity in a temple. Later, in the evening, return to hotel for over-night stay.