|Madurai, situated in southern Tamil Nadu, is
a district with its headquarters in Madurai city, on the banks
of Vaigai river. Madurai is the second largest city in Tamil
Nadu. It is more than 2,500 year old and is an important cultural
and commercial centre, Madurai, once the seat of Tamil learning
and still the place where Tamil Language is spoken in its purest
form, is an ancient city planned in the shape of a lotus. Madurai
is synonymous with the Sri Meenakshi Temple, dedicated to Sir
Meenakshi, the consort of Lord Shiva. The temple complex, the
main attraction at Madurai, is one of the biggest in India.
The five gopurams that surround the temple are know for stucco
work, and the 48.8 metre high southern gopuram is the tallest.
Legend has it that when the last Tamil Sangam (Academy) met
here, literary works were thrown into the temple tank. Those
that floated were deemed to be outstanding literature, It is
believed that the Kadasma tree under which Lord Shiva meditated
was the only one that covered this area, Exquisite sculptures
are to be found throughout the complex.
The hall of thousand pillars is a museum of icons, photographs
and illustrations. Apart from being a very sacred spot for
the Hindus, the Meenakshi temple is one of the country's most
important tourist landmarks. According to the legend, Madurai
is the actual site where the wedding between Shiva and his
consort Meenakshi took place. The soaring and exquisitely
carved gopurams or towers, seen over and over again as the
Cosmic Personae, enclose this temple dedicated to the wife
of Shiva. The south gateway contains the twin temples of Shiva
and Meenakshi and is about nine storeys high (150 feet). The
highly dense statuary of the south Indian temple is an evidence
of how evolved Dravidian art was at that time. The gigantic
temple complex, the colossal statues exploring the range of
human emotions, everything here is a larger-than-life exposition
of the splendor of Indian art. The grandeur of the Meenakshi
temple has not diminished for the past two thousand years.
This sprawling and awe-inspiring temple complex is not only
a marvel of architecture but also a veritable treasure trove
of Indian culture and civilization. It is also one of the
largest temple complexes in India.
The history of Tamil Nadu dates back to the time, the Dravidians
had moved south, following the advent of Aryans in the north.
Historically, South India consisted of four main Dravidian
Kingdoms, the Pallavas, the Cholas, the Pandyas (who ruled
over what is now Tamil Nadu) and the Chalukyas. The Muslim
invasion of the South in the 14th century, caused a retaliatory
reaction from the Hindus, who rallied to build a strong new
kingdom, with its capital at Vijaynagar. On independence,
the Madras province, as the south was known then, was divided
on a linguistic basis into states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and
Andhra Pradesh. A mutual exchange of certain areas between
Kerala and Tamil Nadu (Malabar and Kasargod to Kerala; Shencotta
and Kanyakumari from Kerala) was undertaken according to the
State Reorganization Act, following which Madras adopted a
new name, Tamil Nadu.