Step back in time in amazing Madurai, sat on the banks of the mythic Vagai River. This South Indian city, located in the state of Tamil Nadu, is famed for its fourteen gateway towers, or gopurams, which dominate the skyline with their towering, statue-laden facades, marking the ancient entrances to the Meenakshi Temple, the center of the old city. Both the past and present stand proudly in the Madurai skyline as a fusion of ancient an modern architecture.
A holiday to Madurai offers travelers an authentic experience of South Indian culture, but if you are lucky enough to travel to Madurai during the annual Chirhirai Festival, you’ll be in for a treat! Millions of devotees descend on the city to celebrate the Hindu festival at the Meenakshi Temple. You can expect to see a sea of marigold garlands, smell delicious aromas of local food and watch the locals wearing colorful clothing in a dizzying palette of colors.
Above all else, Madurai is a city of culture, with a history which dates back over 2 millennia. The feeling of walking through the well-preserved old city and watching pilgrims perform clockwise navigations of the central mandala-shaped road, en-mass, is incomparable. Traditions and spirituality are at the forefront of everyday life here, making a tour of Madurai an eye-opening and soul-stirring experience.
Most travelers on a tour of South India visit Madurai for it’s Meenakshi Temple, home to the famous gate towers that punctuate the city’s skyline. This Hindu temple is dedicated to the gods Parvati and Shiva and sits on the south bank of the Vaigai River. As it is a major center of pilgrimage for Hindu’s around the country, it’s impossible to ignore the spiritual atmosphere of the place.
Ancient Tamil literature from the 6th-century contained mentions of Meenakshi Temple, so you can only imagine how many believers have passed through the fourteen gates to make their offerings over the centuries. Be sure to examine the beautiful temple murals, which depict mythological stories, or take the time for quiet contemplation by the sacred water tank in the center of the complex.
However you choose to enjoy your time at Meenakshi Temple, it is surely one of the most important things to see in Madurai. For something a little more contemporary, but still exquisitely beautiful, head to the Thirumalai Nayak Palace, for a look at 17th-century Indian architecture. Your imagination will run wild as you pass through the historic courtyards and colonnaded corridors of the palace, once the height of luxury during the years of the Nayaka dynasty. Another of the must-see sights in Madurai is the Gandhi Memorial Museum, one of five built around the country following the assassination of India’s most loved activist. Under the domed-roof of this white building, you can journey through the life of Gandhi and examine artifacts that tell the story of his eternal dedication to India.
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