Madurai is one of south India's oldest cities and has been a centre of learning and pilgrimage for centuries. The Shree Meenakshi temple, in the heart of the old town, is a riotously baroque example of Dravidian architecture. The city is one huge non-stop bazaar, full ofshops, street markets, temples and restaurants. Excursions include Rameshwaram, a major pilgrimage centre, in South India;Kodaikanal, a popular hill station in the region; Tanjore, the ancient capital of the Chola kings and famous for metal, copper and bronze craft and the Kanya Kumari temple.
The temple is dedicated to Meenakshi, the consort of Lord Shiva. The original temple was built by Kulasekara Pandya, but the entire credit for making the temple as splendid as it is today goes to Tirumalai Nayak who brought back glory to this magnificent structure. Located at the heart of the city, the Meenakshi-Sundareshwar temple has long been the focus of both Indian and international tourist attraction as well as one of the most important places of Hindu pilgrimage. People of the city wake up to the chant of hymns at the temple, which is the very centre of their cultural and religious life.
Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam
This is a huge temple tank about 5 km east of the Meenakshi temple. The mandapam in the centre has an idol of Vigneshwara (Vinayaka). Discovered during excavation to build the Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal, the place was believed to be sanctified and was converted into a teppakulam (tank). This enormous temple tank is fed by water brought from the Vagai through an ingenious system of underground channels. It is the site of the temple's float festival.
Thirumalai Nayak Mahal
There is no other building in Madurai, which better illustrates the architectural style of the Nayaks. The palace of Tirumalai Nayak is about 1 km away from the temple. This Indo-Saracenic building was constructed in 1523 and was originally four times as large as it is today. This palace consisted mainly of two parts, namely Swargavilasa and Rangavilasa which house the royal residence, theatre, shrine, apartments, armoury, palanquin place, royal bandstand, quarters, pond and gardens. The most remarkable part of this palace is the dome of Swarga Vilasam, which lies beyond a huge courtyard and is a magnificent example of the engineering skill of its builders, rising as it does to a height of 20m without support of any kind.
Koodal Azhagar Temple
This ancient shrine has Vishnu in sitting, standing and reclining postures one above the other.
The Gandhi Museum
The Gandhi Memorial Museum is one of the distinct places to be visited in Madurai. This museum is one of the rare living memorials of "The Father of India" and has an elaborate historical account of India's struggle for independence.