After completing 34 hours of journey by Dadar – Tirunelveli Express, I finally reached Madurai (first destination on my list) at 7 AM on 11th June 2017.
Madurai, known as the Temple city of South India which is Located on the banks of River Vaigai. According to mythology, Madurai was earlier a forest called Kadambavanam. Once a farmer named Dhananjaya who was passing through the forest saw Indra(the King of Gods) worshipping a Swayambhu lingam(self-created Shiva Lingam) under a Kadamba tree. This incident was reported to King Kulasekara Pandayan. The king cleared the forest and built a splendid temple, known as the Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple around the holy Lingam. Later King built a beautiful lotus-shaped city surrounding the temple. Lord Siva appeared at the naming ceremony of this city and blessed it. The divine nectar (Madhu) from the hair of Lord Siva fell on the blessed city and so, the city came to be known as “Madhurapuri”. Madhura meaning “sweetness” in Tamil. Later this city named as Madurai.
Some people also call this city as The Athens of the East. Athens had the Greek pantheon located at an elevated plane which could be seen from anywhere in the city. Similarly, Madurai has the towers of Meenakshi Amman Temple which can be seen from anywhere in the city.
I checked in to Hotel which was nearby from the Railway station and took some rest for a couple of hours. At 10 AM I got ready for my first visit of the day i.e. Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple.
Meenakshi Amman Temple:
Meenakshi Sundareshwar Temple is dedicated to Sundareshwar (a form of Lord Shiva) and Meenakshi (a form of Goddess Parvati). According to mythology, Meenakshi was born out of the holy fire as an answer to the prayers of King Malayadwaja and his wife Kanchanamalai. She married Lord Shiva and both ruled the city of Madurai as Lord Sundareshwar and Goddess Meenakshi.
It is said that in the 14th century, the Muslim raider Malik Kafur looted the temple for its valuables. Later in the 16th century, the reconstruction of this temple according to Shilpa Shastra was managed by the Nayak ruler Vishwanatha Nayakar.
The Entire temple is built in a square shape and in an area of 45 acres in the architecture of Dravidian style. The temple has 12 Gopurams(Towers). The outer four Gopurams i.e. East tower, West tower, North tower and South tower are the highest Gopurams which are ornamented with detailed sculptures and also the entrance to the temple. The inner Gopurams are smaller as compared to outer Gopurams and serve as the entrance to the inner shrines of Sundareshwar and Meenakshi. Sundareshwar’s shrine is covered in one-fourth area of temple and Meenakshi’s shrine is one fourth of Sundareshwar’s shrine.
I entered in to temple from West Tower. There was a long queue towards South tower to get entry inside to the Meenakshi shrine. It took me two hours to get the Darshan of Goddess Meenakshi. During these hours I noticed the detailed inside architecture of the temple. This would be the best example for all the architecture students. Every pillar of the temple is carved in the shape of animals like Lion, Elephant and some are shaped of Saints and Devas. After getting darshan of Goddess Meenakshi I moved towards the Sundareshwar shrine. Sundareshwar is in the Nataraja form of lord shiva. It took me 20-25 minutes to take Darshan of Lord Sundareshwar. It was blessed feelings after coming out from Meenakshi and Sundareshwar shrine.
Thousand Pillars Hall:
After taking darshan of Meenakshi and Sundareshwar shrine I moved my feet towards the Thousand Pillars Hall(Ayiram Kaal Mandapam in Tamil) which is the largest Mandapam in Meenakshi Amman temple. This Mandapam has built with nearly 985 pillars in the 16th century by Vishwanatha Nayakar. Each pillar in this hall is beautifully carved with statues in the architecture of Dravidian style. There is a small museum area in the hall where icons, photographs, and drawings from history are showcased. At the center of this hall statue of Nataraja (a form of god Shiva) is placed.
It took me an hour to explore the beauty of this hall. It was nearly 2:30 PM when I finished my visit to Meenakshi Amman temple. It was quite hot outside, so I decided to take the refreshing taste of Jigerthanda which is famous drink in Madurai. Jigar means Heart and Thanda means Cool. I took an auto for Famous Jigarthanda shop at Anna Nagar who serves the best Jigarthanda in Madurai.
Jigarthanda basically made of milk, almond and flavored syrup which served with a scoop of ice cream and topped with some dry fruits. You can also call it south Indian version of Falooda. I ordered Special Jigarthanda of the shop. It was yummy!! feeling with chilling refreshment. People come from so far at Famous Jigarthanda Shop for having so many varieties of Jigarthanda. After having a cool feeling with Jigarthanda I took a direction towards the Thirumalai Nayak Palace.
Thirumalai Nayak Palace:
Thirumalai Nayak Palace was built in the 17th century by King Thirumalai Nayak, a Nayaka Dynasty king. This palace is at distance of 2 km from Meenakshi Amman temple. It was the living place of the king, Thirumalai Nayak. It is said that original palace was 4-5 times greater compared to existing palace. There were a royal residence, auditorium, rooms, pool, gardens and many more royal compartments. As time passed major structure of the palace got demolished. Today only large rectangular courtyard called Swarga Vilasam exists. This can be visited by tourists between 9AM-5PM. I reached there by 4:00 PM. One hour was enough for me to explore the beauty of this Palace. The palace is surrounded by giant circular pillars. The design and architecture is a combination of Dravidian and Islamic styles. I was so amazed by witnessing beautiful architecture of the palace.
Tamilnadu government organizes The sound and light show every day in this Palace at 6:45 PM in English. There is chairs arrangement at the center of this palace, from where people can enjoy this sound and light show. The show begins with the musical tribute to the king Thirumalai Nayak. These 45 minutes show displays some of the important events which took place in the life of the king. His victories over the enemies, his love for art, his devotion towards Goddess Meenakshi are described very interestingly. This show also represents some of the historical incidences of Madurai, which was little informative for me.
After a tired day, I went for a dinner at Kumar Mess who serves the best south Indian food in Madurai and which was near to my Hotel as well. After dinner, I went to my hotel and signed off for the day.
At the end of the day, I was feeling blessed for starting my South trip from the cultural capital of South India. It was a perfect start which introduced me with the purity of South Indian culture. It’s a proud for having this tradition as a part of India.
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