Madurai

Madurai is the oldest inhabited city in the Indian peninsula[3]. It is referred to with names like Koodal Maanagar, Thoongaa Nagar (Sleepless City), Malligai Maanagar (City of Jasmine) and Athens of the East.Madurai is one of the most important Hindu pilgrimage sites of India. The city attracts a large number of pilgrims and tourists from within the country and abroad. About 4,100,000 tourists visited Madurai in 2007, out of which foreigners numbered 224,000.

Attractions:

Madurai Meenakshi Temple: This 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 si also one of the greatest Shiva Temples of Tamilnadu. The labyrinthine Meenakshi Temple, celebrating the love of the Meenakshi goddess and her groom Sundareswarar(the Handsome God) is of world renown[3]. 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.

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 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.

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. [48] 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 [49].No entry fee for museum visitors.

Thiruparankundram Murugan Temple:Thiruparankundram is about 8 km or 5 miles from the Madurai city center.Thiruparakundram temple has become a symbol of the religious harmony as of the people of Madurai. The traditional legend is that Lord Murugan married Deivanai at Thiruparankundram Murugan Temple, which also is the first among the Six Holy Abodes of Murugan.

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