The Culture City of Madurai

By: Douglas Scott

This metropolitan city is also known as the city of temples. Madurai is a city of tradition and culture in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is near the Vaigai River which is a strategic location for the rulers of the Pandyas Dynasty.

In recent years Madurai has growen to a huge city of over a million people. Many of these people have arrived from the rural villages. The best way to get around the city is either cycle rickshaw or auto rickshaw.

The city is famous for its temples, especially the celebrated Meenakshi Temple. It is also a well-known producer of some of the finest textiles in India and some of the best harvests of jasmine flowers.

There is not much to do at night in this city. However, you can visit Meenakshi temple in the evening and see the towers illuminated. The palace hosts light and sound show explaining the history of the palace and Madurai.

There are several roof top restaurants on W. Perumal Maithy Road and Town Hall Road where you can sit back and view the temples as you dip into steaming sambar.

The centre of Madurai is crammed with street market, shops, restaurants and small industries. The streets are busy with pilgrims, business-people, rickshaws and bullock carts. Prithu Mandapam Market is a famous market here.

The city is renowned for handloom textiles mostly sari. There are plenty of private shops and cooperative society owned shops offering variety of handlooms. Tamil is commonly spoken in Madurai. Hindi is also spoken so the tourists can communicate in Hindi with the local people.

There are said to be millions of statues in all the temples of this complex. But the real excitement is just seeing all the people and other creatures, from Brahmin priests to cows to pilgrims to people washing in the temple tank, to children getting their ears ritually pierced, to couples getting married.

The grand gopurams of the Meenakshi Sundareshwar Temple towers over the city at the heart of which they stand. The temple complex covers 6 hectares right in the middle of the city. The towers that loom over head are famous for detailed carvings of the gods and goddesses, mythological figures and running depictions of legendary tales. The huge southern gopuram has over 1500 sculptures.

The Chittarai festival, conducted over 10 days, is one of the most splendid religious pageants and it is celebrated in the months of April to May.

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