Madurai is a city that is rich in history and is one of the few documented cities that has a living history. There are many famous local attractions in Madurai that are rich in historical significance and culture, dating back to a few thousand years. This means that any traveler to Madurai will be spoilt for choices, when it comes to visiting historical places of interest. Here are some of the local attractions in Madurai. The first and the foremost is the Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple , which forms the focal point of the city. The entire city is built on rectangular roads surrounding the temple. The temple dates back to the 5th Century BCE, although the current temple was constructed in the early 17th century.
The reigning deity is the Goddess Meenakshi, and this is one of three temples in all of India where the male consort, Lord Shiva plays a secondary role. In all the other temples, Lord Shiva is the main deity and the Goddess plays a secondary role.
There are many important festivals that are conducted throughout the year, and the most famous of them all is the Chithirai Thiruvizha , a month long festival. It falls in the first month of the Tamil calendar, called Chithirai, and begins with the celebrations of the day Lord Shiva and the Goddess Meenakshi got married. Every year, there is a grand procession, where the Lord and the Goddess are brought around the city in the grand chariot festooned with tons of flowers, called Ratha. The festival itself is called Meenakshi Thirukkalyanam. It is a feast to the eyes, equivalent to the famous Puri Jagannath Rath. Incidentally, the word Juggernaut is derived from this. Then, there is the Azhagar festival, where Azhagar, an avatar of Vishnu in this temple called Kallzhagar Temple, comes to the River Vaigai. He then embarks on a journey to the Vasantha Mandapam in the middle of the river, and it is a sight to behold when the beautifully appointed float, festooned with flowers enters the waters, accompanied by traditional music and the chanting of mantras.
Almost every grand temple in India has a car festival and a theppam/lake festival. In
Madurai, it is for maintaining peace between the Shivaites and the Vaishnavaites that these two
were brought into a single calendar month, with the first fifteen days devoted to the Meenakshi Amman temple and the
fifteen to the Kallzhagar Temple.
Elephants play a very important role in Hindu temples and participate in many of the temple rituals and
The elephant in the Meenakshi temple is called Parvathy and the one in the Azhagar temple is called Padmavathy Thayar. Other famous attractions in Madurai are the Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal and the Gandhi Museum, where historical relics and artefacts from a few centuries before Christ, and unearthed through the ages are displayed. Both are a must-see if you ever visit Madurai. The Tamil month of Chithirai falls in the months ofApril & May, from 14th April to 15th approximately. The dates may vary by a day or two at times. So, for an unforgettable sight, plan your visit in the latter half of April. Come prepared for the scorching sun, as May is the hottest month of the year, with temperatures crossing the 103 mark regularly.