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Madurai Travel Guide:

Introduction
Madurai is among the oldest continuously inhabited cities 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 center 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 by population in Tamil Nadu and second largest by area.
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 BCE

History
Madurai has a very long and well recorded history. As early as the 3rd century BC, Megasthenes visited Madurai. The city is referred to as "Methora" in his accounts. The city is also mentioned in Kautilya's Arthashastra. Madurai has been described as the seat of the Pandyan Dynasty in Sangam literature (especially in Maturaikkañci). The city is also described extensively in the Second century CE epic Silapathikaram. The city was home to the third and last Tamil Sangam (between 300 BCE and 200 CE). Madurai finds mention in the works of Roman historians Pliny the Younger and Ptolemy and those of the Greek geographer Strabo. It is also mentioned in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.
Madurai in 1955
Coin of Jalaluddin Ahsan Khan, first ruler of the Sultanate of Madurai, 1335–1339 CE

After the Sangam age, most of present day Tamil Nadu (and along with it Madurai) came under Kalabhra rule. Kalabhras remained in control of Madurai till the middle of 6th century CE. Around 550 CE, Pandyas regained control of Madurai and ruled it for the next four centuries. Madurai was conquered by the Cholas during early 9th century and remained under their control till the early 13th century, when the second Pandyan empire was established with Madurai as its capital. After the death of the last Pandyan ruler Kulasekara Pandian, Madurai came under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate. The Madurai Sultanate, then seceded from Delhi and functioned as an independent kingdom till its destruction by the Vijayanagar Empire in 1378. Madurai became independent from Vijayanagar in 1559 under the Nayaks. Nayak rule ended in 1736 and Madurai changed hands several times between Chanda Sahib, Arcot Nawab and Muhammed Yusuf Khan (Marudhanayagam) in the middle of the 18th century. From 1764 to 1801 the city remained under the control of the Nawab of Arcot.

In 1801 the British East India Company took direct control of Madurai and brought it under the Madras Presidency. In 1837, the city was expanded to accommodate the growing population by demolishing the fortifications around the temple. This was done on the orders of the then collector John Blackburn. The moat was drained and the debris was used to construct the new streets - Veli, Marat and Perumaal Mesthiri streets. The city was constituted as a municipality in 1866. Madurai played a significant role in the Indian independence movement - it was at Madurai Gandhi made the decision to switch to wearing a loin cloth after seeing agricultural laborers wearing it.The independence movement in Madurai was led by leaders like N. M. R. Subbaraman, Mohammad Ismail Sahib[15] and Meer Niyamatullah Ibrahim Sahib. When India became independent in 1947 and Madras Presidency became Madras State (later Tamil Nadu), Madurai remained as its second largest city (till 2001). Post-independence, the city has expanded particularly to the north of river Vaigai by the development of new residential neighbourhoods like Anna Nagar and K. K. Nagar. In 1971 it was constituted as a Municipal Corporation. Currently Madurai remains the most important and populous city in Southern Tamil Nadu.

Geography and climate
Madurai city has an area of 52 km2, within an urban area now extending over as much as 130 km2 and it is located at 9.93°N 78.12°E It has an average elevation of 101 meters above mean sea level. The climate is dry and hot, with Northeast monsoon rains during October–December. Temperatures during summer reach a maximum of 40 and a minimum of 26.3 °C, though temperatures over 43 °C are not uncommon. Winter temperatures range between 29.6 and 18 °C. The average annual rainfall is about 85 cm. This city is surrounded by Tirumangalam, Tiruparankunram, Melur, Anaiyur, Avaniapuram Municipalities.

Architecture
Madurai is built around the Meenakshi Sundareswar Temple. Concentric rectangular streets surround the temple, symbolizing the structure of the cosmos. The entire city is laid out in the shape of a lotus. Some of these rectangular streets are named after Tamil months. The six major rectangular streets around Meenakshi temple are Chittirai, Aadi, Aavani Moola, Maasi, Maarat and Veli streets.

Language
Tamil is spoken predominantly in and around Madurai. Madurai Tamil is the standard dialect spoken. Other languages spoken are Sourashtra, Urdu and English. However the words of some of these languages have Tamil words mixed in with them.

Transport / Rail / Road / Air
Madurai is well connected all over India through Road, rail and by Air.

Rail
Madurai Junction

The Madurai Junction is one of the busiest in the country and has computerized reservation counters. Madurai division has repeatedly received the award for being the best-maintained station in the Southern Railway.The railway station code for Madurai junction is MDU. It is connected to most major Indian cities and towns.

Madurai Railway Division is the second largest revenue generating division in Tamil Nadu next only to Chennai.

As the TN's second largest City strucks daily with a single railway terminal unable to handle the heavy Passenger Crowds, Southern Railway has come-up with a plan of extension & modification of the City Junction. Works are going on in the same at fast pace.

The Railway Stations in Madurai area are :

Madurai Junction, Koodal Nagar, Samayanallur, Sholavandan, Vadipatti, East Madurai, Silaiman, Tirupuvanam, Thiruparankundram, Tirumangalam, Chekanoorani, Usilampatti etc.

Road

Madurai has several major bus stands: Madurai Integrated Bus Terminus (MIBT) at Mattuthavani (North), Palanganatham (South), Arappalayam (West), Periyar (Central) and Anna Bus stand (East). From MIBT, many buses to locations all over the south India operate round the clock. From Arapalayam bus stand, buses to places of western Tamil Nadu like Theni, Coimbatore, Tirupur, Erode, Salem operate and Periyar bus stand is where only city buses and private buses to major cities operate. Anna bus stand and Palanganatham are not in operation currently.

Apart fom city buses, three-wheeled, referred to as autos, are available for travel with in the city. MIBT has pre-paid auto counter where commuters can pay fixed auto-fare depends on destination and hire.

Madurai is connected by the following major National Highways:

NH 7 : (North-south Corridor National Highway System) Bangalore – Salem – Dindigul – Madurai – Tirunelveli – Kanyakumari
NH 45B : Trichy – Madurai – Thoothukudi
NH 49 : Madurai – Rameswaram
NH 49 Extn : Madurai – Theni – Bodi – Kochi


Bridges have been constructed across the Vaigai river to connect Madurai at various points. Flyovers have been constructed within the city to overcome traffic congestion. Four lane national highways to Chennai, Kanyakumari, Tuticorin and Bangalore make Madurai well-connected by road.

Air
Madurai airport

Madurai Airport is located at 12 kilometers from Madurai city and it offers flights to major cities in southern,western and north India. Madurai airport has handled 3 lakhs passengers between the period Jan 2009 to Oct 2009. Spice Jet, Jet Air Ways, Kingfisher Airlines, Air India operates flights from and to Madurai. Flight services to Chennai, New Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai are available at Madurai Airport. International connectivity is expected shortly. Madurai Airport's state-of- the-art well built integrated terminal of 17,560 Sq.ms is open for Traffic. Recently the finance ministry has approved unloading and loading of only export and import baggage. This is a great step as this will soon lead to start of international passenger traffic.

Healthcare
Madurai is a boon in the field of medicare for the people of South Tamil Nadu. Govt. Rajajai Hospital which is more than a century old is being extended with ultra modern facilities in the place of Erstwhile Anna bus stand.
Adding one more feather to the cap of Madurai's health care is the AIIMS hospital being constructed at Thoppur, Madurai in a proposed cost of 150 crore rupees and scheduled to be completed by September 2010.[39] In addition to Government Rajaji Hospital, many private hospitals such as Aravind Eye Hospital, Apollo Specialty Hospital, Bose Hospital, Meenakshi Mission Hospital,Vasan Eye Care and Research Center, Vadamalayan Hospital and Quality Care Hospital, make the city a destination for health care combined with heritage tourism at an affordable cost.
Aravind Eye Hospital at Anna nagar

Madurai is a home to Aravind Eye Care System founded in 1976 by Dr.Govindappa Venkataswamy. Today it is one of the finest eye hospitals in the world. Today, in addition to the hospital in Madurai, there are four other Aravind Eye Hospitals in Theni, Tirunelveli, Coimbatore, and Puducherry with a total of 3,590 beds. Aravind Eye Hospitals has gained national and international reputation for its service orientation, modern ophthalmic techniques and its community-based outreach activities which deliver quality eye care to the rural masses. 2,313,398 outpatient visits were handled and 270,444 surgeries were performed at the Aravind Eye Hospitals in 2006. Two-third of the outpatient visits and three-fourth of the surgeries were serviced to the poor, free of cost.

Apollo Specialty Hospitals, Madurai was founded in 1997. The hospital has an overall success rate of 98% and sees an average of 15,000 patients a year. A 24-hour panel of super-specialists are present at the hospital. The hospital has first Intensive Care Unit for Nephrology and first Renal Artery Angioplasty in South India. It is the No. 1 Centre in India and 5th in the world to perform Laparoscopic Renal Transplantation (Donor Nephrectomy). Shanker Dental and Craniofacial centre is the premier dental institute in the region and is very close to Anna bus stand. It is a tertiary referral centre for maxillofacial trauma and facial surgery.

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
Meenakshi Amman 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 Eswara) 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. Other important temples in madurai are Koodal Azhagar Perumal Temple, Madhana Gopala Swamy Temple, Immayilum Nanmai Taruvar Temple.Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal

Tirumalai Nayakar mahal

The Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal 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 (18 m) tall and 5 feet (1.5 m) 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.Gandhi Museum

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 Gandhi's lifetime 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 is collected from visitors and is open from 10AM to 4PM IST.Goripalayam Dargah

Gorippalayam Durgah on Urus.

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 (21 m) in diameter and 20 feet (6.1 m) 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 Ganges."

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.

Economy
Madurai district houses reputed organizations in the private sector which are engaged in the production of variety of goods such as tyres, industrial rubber products, machinery, textiles, conveyor belts, chemicals etc. Madurai is the home to TVS group.

Automobile
ll automobile majors, including General Motors, Ford, Toyota and Honda, are regular buyers of automobile components produced in the city.[50] The state government is planning to develop industrial estate in Madurai which is to come up on 2,000 acres (8.1 km2) and would focus on the manufacturing industry, especially on automobile component manufacturers.

Textile
Some of the existing textile/chemical industries are Thiagarajar Mills (P) Limited (one of the largest manufacturer and exporter of 100% Indian Cotton Yarn), Kasim Textile Mills, Sundaram Textiles Limited, Madura Coats Pvt. Ltd, Paramount Mills (P) Ltd, Weaves India (P) Ltd, First Garment Manufacturing Company (India) Pvt Ltd, Vaigai Group (chemicals, edible oils, textiles, construction), Alaya Dhoties, Sarathi Dhoties and SLM International, Saraswathi Handloom Textiles (P) Ltd and T.S.Madhavan & son for cotton sarees a leading reliable quality textile product manufactures for the past 70 years in madurai.

Electronics
TVS Interconnect Systems Ltd is a manufacturer of high end Electronic components like electronic connectors, RF (Radio frequency) connectors, cable assemblies, Fiber optic products Elevator Safety Products & other accessories for telecommunication, consumer electronics and automobile. Town hall road madurai acts as a one stop solution for all Electronic goods in madurai.

Media
City hosts several radio stations like Radio Mirchi ,Hello FM, Suryan FM and it has two major English dailies The Hindu and The New Indian Express. Tamil language morning dailies include Dina Malar, Dina Thanthi, Dina Mani and Dinakaran. The evening dailies published in Madurai are Tamil Murasu, Malai Murasu and Malai Malar.Also one of the famous network in Tamilnadu, the Sun TV Network, with SUN TV, K TV, Sun News etc., has its regional office at uththangudi, madurai. Many other channels like, Vijay TV, Raj TV, Jaya TV, SS Music etc., have their offices in Madurai for their speedy coverage of news and other programmes.