Madurai, the cultural capital of Tamil Nadu has a number of titles to its credit such as “The Athens of East", “Sleepless City" and “The City of Temples”. Steeped into history this ancient city is one of the best places to visit in Tamil Nadu and a popular pilgrimage destination of India. Legend has it that Madurai was built after cutting down a forest zone known as Kadambavanam. On the day of naming the city, Lord Shiva emerged on the site and drops of nectar fell from his hair on the ground. Hence the city got its name derived as Madurai from the Tamil word ‘mathuram’ which means “sweetness".

Steeped in traditional Tamil culture the city of Madurai is known for its mythical, vivacious and soulful essence that will draw your attention as you enter its precincts. The city exhibits a seamless blend of the traditional and contemporary with its historical Dravidian architecture and modern skyscrapers adorning its skyline. The world famous Meenakshi Amman Temple, Idaikattur Church, The Pudhu Mandapam and The Thirumalai Nayakar Palace are the prominent historical monuments of Madurai city.

Besides, there are several other places of interest that will take you close to its rich cultural heritage. Some of the must visit places at Madurai are the Gandhi Museum, Vaigai Dam, Villacherry Pottery Village, Teppakulam tank, Madurai Kamaraj University and others. Besides, you can also ramble across the narrow lanes of the vibrant marketplaces or strike up a bargain with the vendors.

Down the years Madurai has become a cultural hub of Tamil Nadu attracting millions of tourists and history enthusiasts round the year who want to soak into its deep rooted ethos and cultural vibe. Winter (months between December-February) is the best time to visit Madurai when you can go sightseeing to the places of attraction as the climate is favourable. Also, the major Tamil festivals (Pongal, Christmas, Jallikattu etc) are held during this time which you can revel at.  Take a look at the detailed information provided below before you visit this ancient city of Tamilnadu.

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People Also Ask About Madurai

  1. What are the places to visit in Madurai?

    1. Meenakshi Amman Temple:  It is the most symbolic monument of Madurai City which stands as an emblem of Dravidian history even today. The Meenakshi Amman Temple was once considered as one of the Seven Wonders Of the World due to its massive structure donning the Dravidian architectural pattern.

    It was built in the 17th century on the southern bank of the Vaigai River. The presiding deity of the Meenakshi Temple is Meenakshi, another form of Parvati and consort of Lord Shiva. Shiva is worshipped as Lord Sundareswara in this temple. Legends have it Lord Sundareswara and Goddess Parvati tied their knot in this place. Since then the photo of the Lord is carried in a chariot up to the shrine of Goddess Meenakshi in a long procession. The splendid architecture and massive structure of the Meenakshi Amman Temple has won this monument a global acclaim.

    Timings: 9am -7pm

    Entry fee: No entry fee

    2. Gandhi Museum: Madurai holds a special place in Mahatma Gandhi’s life. It was after his visit to Madurai that Gandhi ji changed his dress code to how we see him until his last day. The museum building was built by Nayak Queen Rani around 1678. The inauguration of the museum took place in 1959. The Museum is a treasure trove of Mahatma Gandhi’s personal belongings and his accolades.

    You can see a depiction of the history of India’s freedom movement through 265 illustrations in the Special Exhibition section of the Gandhi Museum. In the ‘Hall Of Relics’ section you can find some original and replicas of The Mahatma’s personal belongings. The Open Theatre of the museum is the place where various cultural programs are conducted accommodating 8,000 spectators at a time. The museum library preserves a vast collection of books by Gandhiji.

    Timings: Everyday between 10am -1pm, 2pm -5:45pm.

    Entry fee: No entry fee

    3. Samanar Hills: Located about 15 kilometres away from the Meenakshi Amman Temple, the Samanar Malai or Samanar Hills is an ideal gateway to spend tranquil hours amid spiritual ambiance. The ancient caves of Samanar Hill located atop a hill rock complex date as early back as to 1 AD. The carvings and scriptures etched on the cave walls testify to the fact that this place was once inhabited by the Jains. A natural fountain called Pechchi Pallam originates from these hills exuding a wonderful sight to behold. From the hilltop, you can get a splendid view of Madurai city. The tranquillity of the place attracts solitude seekers for a pleasant day trip.

    Timings: Open at all times.

    Entry fees: No entry fees

    4. Vaigai Dam: The massive human-made dam on the Vaigai River is located in Andipatti near Theni district about 70 Km from Madurai. It was built in 1959 and even today serves as the lifeline of the people of Madurai and adjoining regions. The manicured garden lying next to the dam known as Little Brindavan is a popular picnic spot and weekend destination for the locals. Massive volumes of water gushing down the embankment bordered by verdant hills and lush greenery in all sides will undoubtedly catch your fancy.

    Timings: 6am -6pm

    Entry fees: No entry fee

  2. What is the best time to visit Madurai?

    Winters (October to February)
    The best time to visit Madurai is in the winter months of October to February.

    Monsoons (July and August)
    The monsoon helps bring temperatures down and those who want to see the natural landscape come alive should travel during the months of July to August.

    Summer is hot and sultry and can make exploring the city uncomfortable.

  3. What are the things to do in Madurai?

    The city of Madurai attracts you to experience its rich architectural and cultural heritage through a plethora of activities. From witnessing the local festivals to stopping by a ‘mess’ for a South Indian meal, the list goes unending. Check out for the best activities to do in your Madurai trip:

    1. Revel at the Chithirai Festival: This is the annual festival of the Meenakshi Amman Temple which marks the celestial marriage ceremony of Sundareswara (Lord Shiva) and Meenakshi (Goddess Parvati). The Chithirai Thiruvizha festival commences on the first day of Tamil New Year in the month of Chithirai and continues for the next 12 days. On the tenth day the marriage (Thirukalyanam) is re-enacted.

    On the eleventh (Ther Thiruvizha- chariot procession) and twelfth (Theppa Thiruvizha- float procession) days, grand processions of the married couple are organised. The Chithirai festival is a great opportunity to witness a traditional Tamil wedding. You can visit the temple and witness the celestial wedding as a devotee on a first come first served basis. After the wedding a grand feast is held.

    2. Savour traditional platters: Trip to Madurai is never complete if you have not tasted traditional Tamil cuisines in any of the city's messes. These roadside eateries (known as a “mess" by the locals) dish out incredible veg and non-veg platters made of local ingredients and sea fish that will surely call for the foodie in you. Thus they have spread their fame far and wide of Madurai with their ingenious recipes. Don't miss out a chance to taste Mudhal Kuzhambu (a type of fish curry named after the Tamil film Muthal Mariyadal) or Kalli Kattu Choru (chicken curry) or Poriyal (veg stir fried).

    3. Soak up the zeal of Jallikattu:  Jallikattu is an integral part of Tamilian culture which is observed as a part of Pongal celebration. This is an ancient tradition in which bulls of local breeds are set free into an unguarded arena. The purpose is for human participants to tame the bull by grabbing its hump and surviving its attempt to dislodge the human.

    Sometimes the bull has a flag tied to its horn and the man has to retrieve the flag to claim victory. Jallikattu is celebrated in the month of January and is an exhilarating sport to behold. If you have the guts you can try to tame the bull by holding its hump and hanging on to it. If you can go a certain distance in this position you win the game.

    4. Let free your shopping spree: Being the textile hub of Tamil Nadu, do not forget to take your best pick of readymade garments, sarees, handicraft items and souvenirs from the local markets. You can place your order to the weavers to get a handpicked item unique in design and texture. Some of the best shopping destinations at Madurai are Chithirai street, Vishal de Mall, Madurai Mall and Baby Textiles where you can get branded apparels, home decor and other essentials. However, for those with a bit of ethnic penchant try to look for your pick at Poompuhar, Hajeemoosa, Cottage Arts Emporium and Thangamayil Jewellery.

    5.  Go on a walking tour: It is said the best way to know a place is by exploring it on foot and the same holds true for Madurai. In a 3-4 hours’ walking tour you can visit some of the city’s famous textile industries, pavement eateries, bustling markets of the city. You will certainly come across vibrant people who are always ready to extend their hands of help to you. As you make your way through the narrow alleys of the Meenakshi Temple you will be guided to the ruins of Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal that bear the testimony of Madurai's glorious past.

    Visit the famous textile hub of Madurai where you can get to see hand woven cotton and silk fabrics. Next, make your way to the Potter’s Village where you can meet skilled potters moulding clay into beautiful dolls, vases and other showpieces. Madurai is the largest producer and supplier of best quality Jasmine to its neighbouring districts and other states. As you stride along the city lanes you will get a whiff of fresh jasmine flowers sold in the local flower market.

  4. How to reach Madurai?

    Madurai is easily accessible from different parts of the country by air and rail. It’s also connected to the southern region of India by road.

    Air: Madurai Airport is one of the points of entry by air. Flights can be booked from Chennai and a few major Indian cities. Travelers coming in from abroad will arrive at the nearest international airport, Chennai International Airport.

    Rail: Traveling by train is the preferred mode of entry for many domestic tourists. The railway station is connected to many cities in India. If you’re traveling from Chennai, it takes about 8 hours to reach Madurai.

    Road: Travelers coming in from cities in South India can take a bus to Madurai. It takes about 8 to 10 hours to get here from Chennai.

  5. Why is Madurai called Sleepless City?

    Madurai is dotingly called by the Maduraites “Thoonga Nagaram '' which means the city which never sleeps for its unique round the clock work culture. The nickname goes justifiably well with the tempo of the city’s nightlife where you cannot find even a single road without any head even at the dead of night.

    Evening dining starts in this city by only 7am and stays open till 4am. Bustling markets and shopping corners are vibrantly active round the clock with customers flocking there for their usual bargain. Also, transportation facilities remain operational here throughout night time.  

  6. What is famous in Madurai?

    Madurai also called “The Athens of the East '' by the weatern scholars has won worldwide acclaim for its rich architectural and cultural heritage. The name of the city is coined after the green goddess Meenakshi who resides in the famous Meenakshi Amman Temple of Madurai city.

    The awe inspiring temple stands as a milestone of Dravidian architecture which was built by the Nayakas. The name of this ancient city of Tamilnadu occurs in the earliest scriptures of Sangam literature. This clearly suggests that the city had its origin in the antiquated past which shares its history only with Varanasi of North India. 

    Although Madurai is best associated with the Meenakshi Temple, however, there are some more things the city fairly boasts of.

    - Madurai is a witness to the evolution of the world famous Carnatic music which dates back to the 16th century. Legendary classical singers M.S Subbulakshmi and Madurai Mani Iyer hail from this city.

    - Madurai is also known as the textile hub of South India for its premium quality batiks, silk and cotton fabric.  Streets of the city are dotted with shops selling sarees and other materials made of cotton and silk.

    - What rocks most in Madurai is a popular beverage drink “jigarthanda" (“jigar"- heart, “thanda"-cold) which soothes your heart during summer. The main ingredients of this heady concoction are badam (nuts), pisin (an edible gum extracted from almond trees), cold milk, ice cream and nannari syrup. 

  7. Which are the best places to experience local cuisine in Madurai?

    South Indian cuisine dominates in Madurai and when you’re here, you must sample as many local dishes as possible. From dosai to idli to sweets to meals served on banana leaves, you’ll never run out of food to try. Here are some of the best places to eat at –

    • Famous Jigarthanda Shop
    • Sulthan Restaurant
    • Burma Idiyappam Kadai
    • Madurai Idli Shop
    • New Shri Ram Mess
    • Amma Mess
    • Konar Mess
  8. What are the best public transport modes to commute around Madurai?

    Buses and auto rickshaws are the best ways to get around the city. Renting a car is possible but unless you have experience driving on Indian roads, it’s best avoided.

  9. Which are the best places for shopping in Madurai?

    Handlooms, silk sarees, carvings and bell metal lamps are some of the most popular things to buy in Madurai. You can get them as these favorite shopping places –

    • Poompuhar Sales Showroom
    • Cottage Arts Emporium
    • Madurai Gallery
    • Hajeemoosa
    • Rajmahal Silks
    • Khadi Emporium
    • Benzers
    • Handloom House
    • Surabhi Handicrafts
  10. Which are the famous temples in Madurai?

    The city is famed for its numerous temples, most featuring detailed Dravidian architecture with pyramid shaped towers and figures of deities. Here are some of the most noted temples in Madurai –

    • Sri Meenakshi Temple
    • Koodal Azhagar Temple
    • Pazhamudircholai
    • Meenakshi Amman Temple
    • Inmaiyil Nanmai Tharuvar Temple
    • Thirumohoor Kalamegaperumal temple
    • Thirupparamkunram Murugan Temple
    • Kallazhagar Temple
    • Vandiyur Mariamman Temple
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