Sights to See
Sri Meenakshi-Sundareswarar Temple
Synonymous with Madurai is the Meenakshi- Sundareswarar twin temple, the pivot around which the city has evolved. A superb example of Dravidian architecture and sculpture, the temple has two sanctora, one dedicated to Shiva as Sundareswarar and the other to his consort Meenakshi. This is one of the largest temple complexes in the country. The temple grew with the contribution of each dynasty and victorious monarchs into an enormous complex extending over an area of 65,000 sq m. It was substantially expanded during the reign of Tirumalai Nayak (1623-55 AD). Of the five Gopurams (gateways) which surround the temple, the southern Gopuram is the tallest (48.8 m). On these Gopurams, painted in vivid colours, are sculpted stories from Indian mythology. Of the many pieces of culpture in the temple, the most striking is that of the divine marriage of goddess Meenakshi with Sundareswarar. The highlight of the temple is the ‘Hall of Thousand Pillars’. The hall
has 985 pillars with a number of ornate and bold sculptures. Viewed from any angle, these pillars appear to be in a straight line, an architectural marvel indeed.
In the outermost corridor is situated the matchless musical pillars carved out of stones; when tapped, they produce different musical notes. The museum of icons, photographs and illustrations in this hall is of great interest. The temple is usually open from 0500 hrs to 1230 hrs and 1600 hrs to 2130 hrs. Photography is allowed up to sanctum sanctorum.
It is housed in a 300-year-old palace dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi and contains paintings, sculptures, a section on Khadi and Village Industries and South Indian handicrafts. Timings: 1000 hrs to 1300 hrs & 1400 hrs to 1700 hrs. Open on all days.
The museum is located in the same complex as the Gandhi Museum. Timings: 0900 to 1300 hrs and 1400 to 1700 hrs. Closed on Fridays and the second Saturday of every month.
Koodal Azhagar Temple
To the west of the city lies the ancient Vaishnavite temple with beautiful sculptures. Here Vishnu is depicted in three poses, one above the other - sitting (asana), standing sthanaka) and reclining (sayana). Tel: 0452 2338542
The temple is one of the six abodes of Lord Muruga. Its innermost shrine is cut out of solid rock. Kochadai Village Deity Temple: The deity of the village temple is Ayyanar.
Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakkulam
This is a huge temple tank measuring 304.8 m, on each side with a mandapam in the centre. It is fed by water from the Vaigai River through an ingenious system of underground channels. The tank has a ‘mandapam’ at the centre enshrining Lord Ganesha. During the Float Festival (Jan- Feb), commemorating the birth of King Tirumalai Nayak, pilgrims gather here in large numbers. The temple deities are taken out in decorated floats in the tank.
Thirumalai Nayak Palace
Located 2 km from Periyar bus terminus and 1.5 km from the Meenakshi-Sundareswarar temple. This monumental palace was built in 1636 AD by the ruler by King Tirumalai Nayak, one of the leading kings of the Nayak dynasty which ruled Madurai. The building, which we see today, is the main palace where the king lived. The original palace complex was four times larger. The palace complex consisted of mainly two parts. The imposing edifice is famous for the ‘stucco work’ on its domes and impressive arches. The ‘Sorgavilasam’ (celestial pavilion) constructed entirely of brick and mortar without the support of a single
rafter or girder, is a marvel of Indo-Saracenic architectural style. There is a museum in the palace building, which has sections dealing with the history of Madurai and the art and architecture of Tamil Nadu.Entry: 0900 hrs to 1300 hrs and 1400 hrs to 1700 hrs. Tel: 0452 2338992. Entry Fee for foreigners: Rs 50; Indians: Rs 10. The sound and light show organised by Department of Tourism, Government of Tamil Nadu, in the palace depicts the story of ‘Silappathikaram’ and the life of Tirumalai Nayak.