A spiritual odyssey through South India (Part 3 – Madurai: The most magnificent temple of them all!!!!)
Madurai, is the third largest city, in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Located on the River Vaigai, Madurai has been a major settlement for two millennia and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
Madurai’s recorded history goes back to the 3rd century BC and the city is mentioned by Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador to India and Kautilya, the minister of the Mauryan Emperor Chandragupta Maurya. It is happens to be one of India’s most prominent Hindu pilgrimage centres and therefore, an important destination on the South India spiritual tour.
Madurai is around 242 kms from Kanyakumari and can be reached by road or rail. We took an early morning express train to Madurai from Nagercoil (which is the nearest railhead from Kanyakumari) and it took us 6 hours journey to reach this temple town.
The city is most famous for Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple or Meenakshi Amman Temple and is popularly called as Temple city. The temple is a magnificent structure in the middle of the city and the whole city itself has grown around this temple.
The Meenakshi Amman Temple is dedicated to Parvati who is known as Meenakshi and her consort, Shivanamed here as Sundareswarar(beautiful deity). The temple forms the heart and lifeline of the 2500 year old city of Madurai.
The complex houses 14 gopurams (gateway towers) ranging from 45-50m in height, the tallest being the southern tower, 51.9 metres (170 ft) high, and two golden sculptured vimana(shrine) over sanctum of the main deities. The temple is a significant symbol for the Tamil people, and has been mentioned since antiquity in Tamil literature, though the present structure is built during 1623 to 1655 CE.
It took us 3 hours to go around all the temple complex, visiting various deities, shrines, decorated corridors and sculptures.
It is one of the few temples which allowed photography inside the premises and I had a wonderful time clicking pics here!!
The city also has some other attractions such as:-
Kazimar Big Mosque and Maqbara – Kazimar mosque (masjid) was the first Muslim place of worship in the city. It was constructed under the supervision of Kazi Syed Tajuddin, who is believed to be a descendant of the prophet Muhammed, who came from Oman and received the piece of land from the then Pandya ruler King Ku (lasekara) Pandiyan during the 13th century.
Thiruparankundram Murugan temple – The 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”).
Goripalayam Dargah – This area is called as Goripalayam because the Graves of the two saints of Islam and rulers of Madurai Hazrat Sulthan Alauddin Badusha (Radiyallah) and Hazrat Sulthan Shamsuddin Badhusha (Radiyallah) are located here.
Koodal Azhagar Koil - A Vishnu temple in the city center, Koodal Azhagar is unusual in having Navagraham, which normally are found only in Shivan temples.
A day spent in this ancient temple city was enriching experience in our rich Indian history and now it was time for our next destination – Rameshwaram!!