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Madurai
 

Madurai is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the Indian peninsula. It is an ancient and prestigious city in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, situated on the banks of the River Vaigai in Madurai district.

The city is widely known as the Temple City, and is often also referred to as City of four junctions (Koodal Maanagar), Cultural capital of Tamil Nadu (Kalaachaara thalainagar), City of Jasmine (Malligai Maanagar), Sleepless city (Thoonga Nagaram), Athens of the East and The City of Festivals (Thiruvizha nagaram). It is the third largest (was second largest from its origin till 2001) city in Tamil Nadu.

Madurai was the capital city of ancient Southern civilization. Madurai's cultural heritage goes back 2,500 years, and the city has been an important commercial center and has conducted trade as far as Rome and Greece since as early as 550 B.C.E

Tourism and Landmarks

Madurai is one of the most important tourist spots of India. The city attracts a large number of tourists from within the country and abroad. About 4,100,000 tourists visited Madurai in 2007, out of which foreigners numbered 224,000.

Meenakshi-Sundareswar Temple

Madurai's Meenakshi-Sundareswarar temple, which stands today as one of the India's greatest cultural and architectural landmarks, was originally built by the early Pandya King Kulasekara. It is also one of the greatest Shiva Temples of Tamil Nadu. The labyrinthine Meenakshi Temple, celebrating the love of the Meenakshi and her groom Sundareswarar(The Handsome Eswaran) is renown. The ancient city of Madurai was supposedly laid out in a lotus-like formation, with the temple at the center and the streets and main thoroughfares layered one after the other concentrically, outward from the center. One legend says that on the day the city was to be named, Shiva blessed the land and its people while divine nectar showered on the city from his matted locks. The city hence came to be known as Madhurapuri meaning The City of Divine Nectar. The legend is likely a late tale attempting to Sanskritise the otherwise-Dravidian derivative of Madurai. This is the place where Natarajar performed the dance raising his right leg. (Kal maariya Aadiya natarajar). Shiva was very happy with the temple construction and performed a different dance. This is the temple which is believed to be survived after Kannagi burnt the complete city. All of the towers are currently draped in scaffolding and opaque coverings obscuring the sculptures at least until the end of 2009.The sthalaviriksham is the kadambu tree,few temple in tamilnadu is having the same tree as sthalavriksham are kadambandurai, Melakadambur and kadambathur.

Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal

This palace complex was constructed in the Indo-Saracen style by Thirumalai Nayakar in 1636. It is a national monument and is now under the care of the Tamil Nadu Archaeological Department.

The original palace complex was four times bigger than the present structure. It was divided into two parts, Swarga-vilasa and Ranga-vilasa. In each of these there are royal residences, theater, shrines, apartments, armory, palanquin place, royal bandstand, quarters, pond and garden. The ceilings are decorated with large paintings showing Shaivite and Vaishnavite themes.

The portico known as Swarga Vilasam is an arcaded octagon wholly constructed of bricks and mortar without the support of a single rafter or girder. The stucco work on its domes and arches is remarkable. The gigantic pillars and structures represent architectural mastery. The courtyard and the dancing hall are central attractions for visitors. There are 248 pillars, each 58 feet tall and 5 feet in diameter. Furniture and utensils used by the kings is on exhibit inside the palace. The palace is equipped to perform "Light and Sound" shows depicting the story of "Silappathikaram", in both Tamil and English languages. The palace is in Indian films such as Bombay, Iruvar, Guru and Jodi.

Kazimar Big Mosque(Periya pallivasal) and Maqbara

This famous mosque (masjid) is located at the heart of Madurai city, within 500 metres of the Periyar (Central) bus stand and within 1 kilometre South East of the Madurai Railway Junction and 800 meters south west of the Meenakshi Temple. His Holiness Hazrat Kazi Syed Tajuddin (a descendant of Prophet Muhammad) who came from Oman during 13th century, received this land from the then Pandiya king, Ku(n) Pandiyan, and constructed the mosque which is the first Muslims' place of worship in Madurai. Madurai Maqbara, the dargah of famous Madurai Hazrats (Their Holiness Hazrat Meer Ahamad Ibrahim, Hazrat Meer Amjad Ibrahim and Hazrat Syed Abdus Salaam Ibrahim Rahmatullahi Alaihim - Descendants of Prophet Muhammad) is also located inside the mosque premises. All of Kazi Syed Thajuddheen's descendants (Huqdars - shareholders of this mosque called as Syeds) have lived in the same locality (Kazimar street) for more than 700 years, and have managed the mosque since then. Syed Tajuddin was appointed as Kazi of the sultans, and still his descendants who live at Kazimar street, Madurai, are appointed as Kazis to the Government of Tamil Nadu. All Syeds belong to the Sunni sect of Islam, its Hanafi school and most of the descendants of Kazi Syed Tajuddin are shadhilis (shazuli) who follow the Sufi order Fassiyatush Shadhiliya.

Gandhi Museum

Rani Mangamma's palace has been renewed and converted to Gandhi museum.The museum displays information about Mahatma Gandhi, and most importantly it showcases the original blood-stained garment of Gandhi when he was assassinated by Nathuram Godse. The other piece of the garment is kept at the Gandhi Museum in Delhi. This museum, is one of the 5 museums in India (others in Mumbai, Barrackpore, Sabarmati and Patna) known as Gandhi Sanghralayas. Also lot of pictures taken during the Life time of Gandhi with various leaders all around the world and also during various incidents of freedom struggle is kept. Martin Luther King Jr. visited the museum during his tour of India in 1959 and is said to have got his inspiration to launch a series of peaceful agitations against racial discrimination. No entry fee for museum visitors.

Thiruparankundram

Thiruparankundram is 7 km (4.5 miles) from the center of Madurai city. The traditional legend is that Murugan married Deivanai at Thiruparankundram Murugan Temple, which also is the first among the Six Holy Abodes of Murugan (Arupadai Veedu, literally "Six Battle Camps"). This evocative cave temple is much older and has a more sacred atmosphere than the Meenakshi temple, particularly on Fridays, when women place candles or sit around the temple floor and create kolams or rangoli patterns on the ground using coloured powders, ash and flowers as an offering to Durga.

Thiruparakundram has become a symbol of the religious harmony among the people of Madurai. An Islamic Durgah (shrine) is located at the top of the hill, where the grave of an Islamic saint Hazrat Sultan Sikandhar Badushah Shaheed Radiyallah Ta'al anhu, who came from Jeddah along with Hazrat Sulthan Syed Ibrahim Shaheed Badushah of Madinah (now in Erwadi, Ramanathapuram district) during the early 13th century, is found. Irrespective of religion, people from all parts of Tamil Nadu and from Kerala visit this durgah. People who visit the Ervadi Durgah in Ramanathapuram district are supposed to visit this durgah. Many poems have been written in praise of Hazrat Sultan Sikandhar Badhusha, by Syed Abdussalam Ibrahim Saalim Hazrat, the third in the list of Madurai Hazrats and his Maternal grandson Syed Abdus Salaam Ibrahim Saahib Hazrat and they are published in the Erwadi manaaqib. It is seen that people who come here with a wish see it answered in a very short time, and so He is also called Mustajab ad Du'aa Sikandhar Badhushah. Mustajab Ad Du'aa in Arabic means A saint whose Supplications are immediately answered by Allah. The Anniversary urus festival of Hazrat Sulthan Sikandar badusha Shaheed is commomerated on 17th Night of the Islamic Month of Rajab every Hijri year.

Goripalayam Dargah

The name Gorippalayam comes from the Persian word Gor which means Grave. This area is called as Goripalayam because the Graves of the two famous saints of Islam and rulers of Madurai Hazrat Sulthan Alauddin Badusha (Radiyallah) and Hazrat Sulthan Shamsuddin Badhusha (Radiyallah) are located here. A beautiful green coloured tomb can be seen from the A.V.Bridge madurai, which is the Gorippalayam Dargah located in the northern banks of vaigai River. It is amazing to see that, the domb which is 70 feet in diameter and 20 feet in height is made of a single block of stone which was brought from the Azhaga Hills. People from all over Tamil Nadu come here to seek blessings and go back fruitfully. The two rulers were brothers who ruled the northern part of madurai after coming from oman during 13th century to spread Islam. Hazrat Kazi Syed Tajuddin Radiyallah of Kazimar street was Govt. Kazi (Islamic Legal advisor and jury) to them. An ancient Tamil inscription, can be found planted on the outer campus of the Maqbara of the dargah campus. The information found in that inscription is, "The descendants of Sulthan Alauddin Badusha, and Sulthan Shamsuddin Badusha (called as Sultans of Delhi) purchased from the then King Koo (n) Pandiyan the land of Gorippalayam Dargah for a Feet of Gold piece and other six villages (namely Bibi Kulam, Chokkikulam, Cholikudi, Chirudoor, Kannanendal, Thiruppalai) at the rate of 14,000 Gold pieces for the maintenance of Gorippalayam Dargah. During the reign of King Veerappa nayakkar a dispute arose between the Huqdars of the Durgah and the employees of the Nayakkar Government regarding the six villages. The case was taken to King Veerappa Nayakkar, who inquired and verified the documents written by King Koo(n) Pandiyan and gave his verdict in the year 1573 A.D. as the Six villages and the Dargah land belongs to the Descendants of Sultans and it should be in their enjoyment till the existence of Sun and Moon and who violates this will be liable for the sin of slaughtering a cow in the bank of river Ganga."

This inscription is considered as one of the evidences to prove the existence of the Dargah since 13th century. The anniversary urus festival of this dargah is held on 15th night of the Islamic month of Rabi al-awwal on every hijri year.This year the festival held on 3 March.

Theppakulam

Theppakulam belongs to Vandiyur Mariyamman temple. It has become quite a picnic spot now. There is an artificial island at the centre, made of stone. It is was built sometime around 1500 A.D.

Koodal Azhagar Koil

A beautiful Vishnu temple which has Navagraham also (usually Navagraham is found only in Shivan temple). There is a hayagrivar temple close to this temple where hayagrivar (Horse/"haya"griva avataram) is the main deity. Most of the students do their regular prayer here as hayagrivar is the one who brought the epic fallen into water back to the earth. This is one of the temple found in center of city. This is located 100 mtrs north to the Kazimar Big Mosque (Periya pallivasal) and to the south of Sunnambukara street. This temple is believed to be older than the Meenakshi temple.

St. Mary’s Cathedral Church

St. Mary’s Cathedral in Madurai is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madurai. It is one of the oldest Roman Catholic churches in India and is situated 2 km South East of Madurai Railway station and 200 meters from the Thirumalai Nayak Mahal.

The city that never sleeps

Madurai is often called as Thoonga Nagaram (lit. the city that never sleeps) because of its functioning all twenty four hours of the day. A large number of the city's dining establishments, especially its tea shops small restaurants and road side hotels (called as Kai yendhi Bhavan in the local slang) remain open well past midnight.Madurai is the only city in Tamil Nadu, which has a full fledged night time public transport system. The night service public transport connects city's various bus stands - Mattuthavani, Periyar, Aarappalayam and its Railway junction to serve the moving public as madurai is the transport hub for southern Tamil Nadu. The wholesale fruit market situated at Simmakkal and the central vegetable market near the Meenakshi-Sundareswarar temple, function as offloading points for fruits and vegetables arriving from the farms around Madurai in the wee hours. The presence of lorry drivers and loadmen in the early hours of the night creates a demand for food and refreshments and hence the food shops remain open throughout the night. This is unique among the cities of Tamil Nadu, which usually shut down well before midnight. This environment has created a mindset among maduraiites to settledown late which adds fuel to its sleeplessness.

 
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    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madurai
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