9 BEST Places to Visit in Madurai

Madurai is one of the best places to visit in Tamil Nadu. It is the cultural capital of Tamil Nadu. Madurai is intently connected with the Tamil language, and the third Tamil Sangam, a prime fold of Tamil intellectuals said to have been held in the city. Madurai is fondly called as Thoonga nagaram meaning the city which never sleeps.

History of Madurai dates back at least 2000 years ago. It was believed to be ruled by Meenakshi - Sundareswarar throughout the year with Meenakshi for 4 months and Sundareswarar for the rest 8 months. The city is believed to be of remarkable antiquity and has been ruled at different times by the Carnatic Sultanate, Madurai Nayaks, Vijayanagara Empire and Madurai Sultanate.

Madurai is a city steeped in antiquity and is an important industrial and educational center in South Tamil Nadu. The city is referred to by several names, including Madurai, Koodal, Thirualavai, Malligai Mahanagar etc. Welcoming tourists and pilgrims, Madurai city remains an immensely popular on a national and international level. Tourists from various parts of the country and world come to Madurai and enjoy the historical architecture.

Madurai is famous for being the cultural capital of Tamil Nadu and is one of the best cities to visit in India. Famous for its magnificent temples, you can witness the beautifully crafted and designed temples and their beautifully constructed gopurams. This is one of the oldest cities in India and attracts tourists from all over the world.

Various touristic locations are also there such as Alagar Koyil, Palarmuthir Solai, Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal, Gandhi Museum etc. Madurai is said to be a city of festivals. Almost everyday of the year has one festival or the other. Madurai is well known for jasmine flowers. Alanganallur, near Madurai, is famous for the Jallikattu. The rich heritage of this city urges visitors to add this place to their itineraries.

Meenakshi Amman TempleMeenakshi Amman Temple

Here are some of the best places to visit in Madurai:

1. Meenakshi Temple

Madurai is always counted to be a popular pilgrimage center. Madurai is believed to be the place where Shiva performed his 64 Thiruvilayadal. The city has several famous temples, with the Meenakshi Temple being the most popular. Meenakshi Amman temple of Madurai is one of the most famous temples of South India.

The main charm of this city is Meenakshi Amman Temple and is believed to be a Budhan Parihara sthalam. Meenakshi Amman Temple and Mandapam are some of the important tourist places in Madurai. Unlike other temples, the prime deity here is Meenakshi amman and the idol is made out of emerald stone. The diamond nose ring of Meenakshi amman is beautiful.

There are four main gateways to enter this temple: North, South, East and West. In all these, the southern door is the highest, which is about 170 feet in length. There are 12 huge Gopurams in this temple, of which the Gopuram of the South Gate is the highest.

All these gorgeous gopurams have been beautifully painted. There are 985 columns and 14 towers in the temple. There is also a holy lake in this temple, which is about 175 feet long and 120 feet wide. It is said that the golden lotus was erected in this holy tank for the worship of Indra. This lake is called agni tirtham. All devotees take bath in this lake before worshiping.

2. Alagar Kovil

Azhagar Kovil is located 20km north of Madurai is known for the Kallazhagar Temple and Pazhamudhir Cholai Murugan Temple. Kallazhagar is worshipped as the brother of Meenakshi amman. Chithirai Thiruvizha is a 10 day long festival that happens in Madurai. A big festival in Madurai is called Chithirai Thiruvizha. Chithirai thiruvizha celebrated during the full moon day of April-May makes the entire city colorful.

One of the most important and colourful festivals of Tamil Nadu, this festival is celebrated during summer time. Kallazhagar decorated on a golden horse visits Madurai to give salvation to a saint who is in the form of a frog in Vaigai river. This festival attracts millions across entire South India. In Thiruvannamalai, people take a 14 km walk around the holy Annamalai mountain.

For 10 days, Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple organises various events like Sundareswarar Meenakshi Amman Kalyanam and on the last day an event called - Kallazhagar Aatril Irangum Vizha. To see this, people from various parts of Tamil Nadu join the event. At that time, along with Kallazhagar (Vishnu), many people take a holy dip in Vaigai river and people splash water on each other and its a play cum divine event.

3. Gandhi Memorial Museum

The Gandhi Memorial Museum lays a glance into the life and work of the great man. It celebrates his fight against invulnerability and the countless nonresistant movements he organized and led for swaraj-self-governance-from the British rule. The museum is housed in Rani Mangammal Palace and arranges activities like yoga classes, pranayama and meditation classes.

4. Kazimar Big Mosque

Madurai Maqbara, the Dargahs of Madurai Hazrats, the successor of Prophet Muhammad, is the core of the Kazimar Periya Pallivasal.

5. Thiruparankundram

Thiruparankundram is a suburb in Madurai district just 9 kilometres from Madurai city center. Thiruparankundram Murugan Temple, made in rock-cut construction, is believed to have been built by the Pandyas and is one of the six abodes of Murugan. Madurai appeals to everyone with its culture and is a must visit place to see the charm of life rambling through the various corners.

6. Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal

Besides several historical statues that portray the past era and cultural legacy, the famous palace, namely Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal and others, are landmarks of global reputation. Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal was erected by King Tirumalai who had appointed an Italian architect for the construction of it. Here a light and sound show takes place everyday at 6:45 pm.

7. Samanar Malai

There are many windmills along the road to Madurai. These windmills make the path very beautiful. A road from the highway goes inside Madurai and on the side of it, one road goes towards the Samanar Hills. It is also called Samanar Malai. From the entrance the stairs goes to the top of the hill. Jain sculptures on the hill are made by cutting the mountain.

8. St. Mary's Cathedral

People from different faiths often attend the prayers at St. Mary's Cathedral church in Madurai.

9. Pudhu Mandapam

Your visit to Madurai will remain incomplete if you don't visit the Puthu Mandapam shopping area, situated just near the famous Meenakshi Temple. This shopping complex is home to the rows of tailors and stalls that sell a wide range of fabric, jewelry, fashion, accessories, handicrafts, scarves and artwork. Foreigners visit this market to buy clothes which they take back home as souvenirs. So shopping is one of the exciting things to do in Madurai.

Madurai is not only the city of temples but also a perfect place for delicious food! The city of Madurai is famous for its several south Indian food ventures from the rich south Indian cuisine. If you walk into the streets of Madurai even after midnight, you will still be able to find the tastiest of foods. Roadside shops are very famous in Madurai and everyone can get good food at an economical cost. Anywhere in Tamilnadu one could find relishing Idli-Sambar and Madurai has the best of the idlis and it is soft!

If you are a food lover and want to taste south Indian food in town, you should consider the renowned Murugan Idli shop. Idli is a south Indian snack which is a steamed version of Urad Dal and rice fermented dough. Sambhar is made of pulses. Taste Kothu Parotta anywhere at Madurai, you'll find your stomach asking for more! Parotta stalls are a part and parcel of Madurai. Mutton kola urundai are meat balls that are more than perfect for your lunch. Also, do try the Aiyira Meen Kolambu along with the roasted Nei Meen variety. Also, the prawn biryani is a must to eat dish.

Jigarthanda, a typical cold drink, is one of the prominent drinks from Madurai. Madurai Jigarthanda is the best of the best dessert one can ever taste which goes without saying. Famous Jigarthanda has become a household name in the city. Jigarthanda is a combination of pure milk ice cream and other ingredients without any chemicals. You can also taste the Ilaneer sarbath and Rosemilk at Periyar Bus Stand.

A glass of Jil Jil Jigarthanda, the Madurai special cool drink, can cool your entire system from head to toe after a hot day and energise you. The preparation involves mixing chilled milk, sugar, homemade ice cream and basundi with badam pisin and nannari syrup. Some say it came with the Mughals, while others say the Muslim settlers from Hyderabad brought it.

Kalyan Panja