The temple city of Madurai, one of the oldest cities in India, still basks in the charms of old world glory. The grandiose architectural splendor and historic importance make it well acclaimed as “the Athens of the East”. This ancient city traces its origin way back to the Sangam period - considered as the golden age of Tamil literature. This period saw literature masterpieces being produced, dating as early as the pre Christian era and the early 1st millennium. Madurai was then the seat of Tamil Sangam or Academy of Learning.
Madurai also finds mention in the great Indian epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. The city had a flourishing trade relation with ancient Rome and Greece. Megasthanes, the Greek diplomat, visited Madurai in 3rd century BC and praised the city for its architectural grandeur. Great travel-historians like Pliny and Ptolemy have made reference to Madurai in their travelogues. Marcopolo and Ibn Batuta have also made journeys to this glorious city.
Legend interlinks the origin of the city to lord Siva. Madurai’s fame today rests on the famous temples dedicated to Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareshwar. This twin-shrine spread across six hectares is literally a city in itself, attracting tourists and pilgrims alike. This temple is the pivot around which the city of Madurai evolved. The original temple, which was erected 2000 years ago, was subsequently expanded under the patronage of different dynasties.
The temple offers a fine example of the Dravidian style of architecture. The first sight that greets a traveler on entering the city would be the four imposing, colossal gopurams or gateways enclosing the two shrines. The gopuram to the south, for instance, towers to a height of 60 meters and is covered with 1500 brightly painted gods and demons, reminiscent of the artistic fervor that prevailed in the bygone days. The thousand pillar hall, a remarkable construction inside the temple, has highly ornate, carved, life-like sculptures on each pillar. The outermost corridor of this hall has musical pillars carved out of stones, each of which producing a different musical note when tapped.
The Thirumalai Nayak Palace built in 1636, at a distance of about 1.5 Km from the Meenakshi temple, is another popular tourist attraction. Other attractions include the Thirupparankundram temple, Alagar koil, Gandhi Museum and Mariamman Teppakulam.
The airport, located at a distance of 10 Km from the city, offers daily flights to and from Tiruchirapalli, Madras and Bangalore.
Madurai is well connected to most of the major cities in the state through private and public modes of transportation.
There are train services connecting Madurai to almost all cities in the south.