Madurai is a city in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is known to be one of the most ancient cities in the Indian subcontinent. It is located on the banks of a river called Vaigai.
Madurai is also known to be the cultural capital of Tamil Nadu state, and has a large number of ancient temples (mostly Hindu temples) and monuments.
Madurai is a city with rich heritage, and has many historical and religious attractions, and also offers gastronomical experiences and other sorts of entertainment.
The city is highly famous for its historical and religious (mostly relating to Hinduism) landmarks, and other things such as:
- Jigarthanda (translating to “cooling the heart”, it is a summer drink made of milk, almond gum, sarsaparilla root syrup, and ice-cream).
- Jallikattu (a traditional event that originated in this city, in which a bull(local breed) is released into a crowd of people, and people (mostly men) attempt to grab the large hump on the bull's back with their arms and try to stop it without hurting it, while the bull attempts to escape).
Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple – Whenever Madurai is talked about, the first thing that comes to people’s mind is Meenakshi Amman temple here – a Hindu temple dedicated to goddess Meenakshi Amman. It is the city’s most popular landmark – and also one of India’s most ancient and popular temples.
- Aayiram Kaal Mandapam – Translated to “Hall of Thousand Pillars” – it is as the name suggests, a hall/fort that has thousand pillars, built in 1569 AD (a monument from the Pandian era/dynasty).
- Thirumalai Nayagar Mahal – A 17th century palace/durbar hall with majestic pillars; this Mahal (hall) belonged to by King Tirumala Nayaka, a king of Nayaka dynasty under whose rule Madurai was during the time, and was built in 1636 AD.
- St. Mary’s Cathedral – Also called the Church of Our Lady of Dolours, this is a cathedral in Madurai that was constructed in 1841 by the New Madurai Mission (originated from Portuguese colonization of Goa).
Other ancient and popular temples in Madurai, that are a must-visit include:
- Koodal Azhagar Temple
- Kallazhagar Temple
- Azhagar Kovil Temple
- Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakkulam
- Narasingam Yoga Narasimha Perumal Temple
- Sri Mavoottru Velappar Temple
- Tirupparam Kunram Murugan Temple
Madurai has notably 2 major museums which preserve its history and significant elements:
- Gandhi Memorial Museum – This is actually a historic palace (Tamukkam Palace) which belongs to the Nayak Dynasty Rani Mangammal, which was founded around 1670 and later converted into a museum. It contains articles that belonged to mahatma Gandhi and his memories, including old pictures, a letter written by Mahatma Gandhi to Adolf Hitler and a blood-stained part of cloth which Mahatma Gandhi was using at the time of his assassination.
- Government Museum – This museum was founded in 1981 during the 5th World Tamil Conference, and has a fine collection of Chinese Ceramics, Microlithic and Neolithic Tools, and antiques relating to religious heritage; and also conducts regular educational Programs and training camps for students.
PARKS & GARDENS
- Rajaji Park – A famous public park in the city that has walking trails, play elements for kids, small eateries, and lots of trees, bushes and birds. It is one of the favourite spots for youngsters and elders alike for spending a few hours of leisure, relaxation close to nature or physical activity.
- Madurai Corporation Eco Park – As the name suggests, it is an ecological park - that has a variety of trees and plants. The park has beautiful tree-topped lawns, playgrounds, statues and a pond for boating activities; and also, many rides and games for kids.
- Walkers Club – A popular members-only club and park area that is maintained by the users and club members. Apart from walking and jogging areas, it has a dedicated play area for kids, and shuttle courts and gyms for men and women.
Madurai has many shopping spots like street bazaars, commercial shops and all-inclusive malls, from where you can buy souvenirs and things like handicraft jewelry, bangles, silk and cotton sarees and trendy clothes and accessories. Some popular shopping spots in the city to explore are:
- Puthu Mandapam – A 17th-century pillared entrance hall turned into a shopping/retail spot; It is mainly a clothes shopping spot which is filled with cloth stores and stalls with tailors, who stitch your clothes then and there, according to your preference, choices and measurements and give the completed clothing pieces within an hour or two.
Apart from clothes, Pudhu Mandapam also has aluminium and bronze metal shops that sell crafted articles of these metals, which can be used as home decoration pieces (items like vases, figurines and other artefacts) or for Puja/prayer and religious occasions (items like lamps, idols of gods, etc).
- Avani Moola Street – A place to shop for authentic and beautiful handicraft artefacts from local dealers.
- Masi Street – A street bazaar filled with shops selling trendy clothes and quirky, fancy accessories (including jewellery, shoes, bags, etc).
- Chithirai Street – A popular shopping street in Madurai; and a favorite shopping hub of the locals for everything from clothes and accessories to electronics, décor items and foods.
- Rajmahal Silks – Silk sarees and clothes are popular all over Tamil Nadu; and Madurai being its cultural capital also has its own specialities when it comes to silk. Rajmahal Silks is one of the most popular spots for silk shopping in Madurai, especially for women’s clothing (Sarees, dress material, etc).
Madurai has some good malls too, though not too many. These are also great places to spend a day and fulfil shopping and entertainment needs with friends/family:
- Madurai Mart – A high-end mall (one of the biggest in the city) with top brand stores, multi-cuisine food courts and entertainment centres.
- Vishaal De Mall – A very popular mall – the largest in Madurai; it has multiple cinemas, shops, theme parks and restaurants.
- Milan’em Shopping Mall – Another popular mall in the city, with a collection of numerous stores of branded clothes, footwear, accessories and jewellery; and also, entertainment centres like water games for kids and food court with various restaurants serving multiple cuisines – both national and international.
Madurai has a great culinary identity as Tamil Nadu’s food capital. It has a wonderful cuisine that is influenced by local styles and tastes as well as neighbouring regions like Chettinad and Sri Lanka and even some North Indian regions such as Gujarat. Some popular dishes from Madurai’s cuisine include:
- Kari Dosai – A crepe made with rice and white lentil batter, topped with spicy mutton keema (finely chopped mutton curry).
- Chukkumalli Coffee – A spicy coffee that has ground coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black pepper, dry ginger, and palm jaggery or jaggery; is also considered great cure for people having a cold or sore throat.
- Idli – (steamed rice and white lentil cakes) or Madhurai Idli, as it is popularly known, is most-popular when it is eaten at Murugan Idli shop in Madurai. The idlis here are said to be very spongy and taste heavenly, often served with up to 4 kinds of chutneys and a sambar.
- Jigarthanda – A summer drink made of milk, almond gum, sarsaparilla root syrup, and ice-cream.
- Kalkandu Sadam – translates to “Sugar candy crystals rice” A sweet dish, in which rice is cooked with milk instead of water and dry fruits fried in ghee are added to rice, and finally later Kalkandu (sugar candy crystals) and saffron are added to the dish and cooked until the candy melts.
- Kola Urundai – Spicy and flavorful mutton balls.
- Rava Appam – Fried balls made of refined flour, semolina (Rava/Sooji), and coconut. Enjoyed as an evening snack along with tea or coffee.
- Keerai Vadai – A fried snack, made of Mulmurungai leaves (a variety of edible leaves of a plant called “Mulmurungai”, which is found across Madurai and Tamil Nadu), urad dal, cumin powder, and pepper powder. It is said to have good medicinal and nutritional value.
- Vazhiyal – A dish made with eggs, onion, pepper, and mutton gravy.
- Paruthi Paal – A sweet dish made out of extract from cotton seeds and coconut milk, sweetened with palm jaggery. This is a staple during summers in Madurai, and can be bought from street vendors across the city.
Madurai is famous for its vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian food scene, and the restaurants here offer both these cuisines in many varieties and specialties. Some popular restaurants and eateries in Madhurai which offer incredible food and gastronomical experience are:
- Murugan Idli Shop – Known for its spongy melt-in-the-mouth idlis and generous servings of flavorful chutneys.
- Chandran Mess – A family restaurant, known for their signature Kola Urundai made from scratch, with spices ground traditionally with stone pestles.
- Sri Nagalakshmi Annex – Known for its tomato rice, Kalkandu saadham.
- Famous Jigarthanda – A shop known for its all-time favourite Jigarthanda drink, served with fresh, hand-churned ice cream.
- Amma Mess – A popular restaurant (said to have been frequented by Tamil movie celebrities) famous for Meen Kuzhambu (fish sambar/gravy) and bone marrow omelette (an omelette made with eggs, onions, green chillies, the gravy from any seafood curry and the star ingredient – mutton bone marrow); and some delicious vegetarian dishes too.
Madurai has many incredible hotels for a comfortable stay. These come under affordable, luxurious and there are great options in both ranges. The city has resorts and high-end hotels for a luxurious stay, and also many affordable as well as low-budget hotels and inns in the central area from where most popular attractions of the city are easily accessible, or a bit farther away from the central temples area in the city. The location and hotel can be chosen according to convenience and budget from the many options that are available.
Some of the best hotels to stay at in Madurai are:
- JC Residency Madurai
- Heritage Madurai
- The Gateway Hotel Pasumalai Madurai
- La Vivanta Hotel
- Regency Madurai by GRT Hotels
- Fortune Pandiyan Hotel
- Hotel Germanus
- Ashok Bhavan
- Mani’s residency
- Coral Shelters
- Kala Bairav Grand Annex
- Hotel Supreme
- Avea Accommodation
- Tycoon resort
- The Aakash Villa – Xenia
- Kadambavanam resort
- Hotel Jungle Stay resort
Although Madurai doesn’t have a very vibrant nightlife, it has some decent pubs that offer a great environment for people who are looking for something fun to do in the late hours.
Some interesting pubs and bars to check out in Madurai are:
- Sangam Bar (dance floor, live music and great cocktails)
- Ecstasy Bar (popular bar with great drinks, where many local as well as visiting youngsters like to wind up and relax)
- Cloud Seven (a bar inside Germanus Hotel in Madurai)
- Harvey’s Lounge Bar (a bar that also has a snooker board and book corner with a good collection of books)
- Impala Bar
- Festival Bar
- Sky High Bar
Madurai, being a temple city with a population dominated by Hindus, celebrates many Hindu temple festivals, and has a generally festive atmosphere. Some of the popular festivals celebrated in Madurai are:
- Chithirai Festival – Also known as Chithirai Thiruvizha, Meenakshi Kalyanam or Meenakshi Thirukalyanam, this is an annual Tamil Hindu celebration in the city of Madurai, done during the month of April. It is a significant festival that includes various cultural, religious and agricultural events.
- Vasantham Festival - A popular spring festival which is held at the Meenakshi Temple at Madurai for ten days to worship Hindu gods Lord Sundareswara and Meenakshi Amman, and on the last day offerings of milk and mango are made to the deities.
- Navaratri Festival – A 9- day festival that is celebrated all over India by Hindus; Madurai’s people celebrate this festival in their own way, and the city, particularly temples are gorgeously decorated and filled with festive vigour. On the 10th day, called Dussehra the festival culminates in a pompous celebration by worshipping goddess Durga (in Madurai people worship Meenakshi Amman).
- Kolattam (Karthigai)
- Maasi Mandala Utsavam
- Madurai city STD Code – 0581 (to be used before dialling numbers from a device that is not locally registered)
- Police Control room – 100
- Fire emergency – 101
- Accident helpline (Medical emergencies) – 108
- Child Helpline – 1098
- Women Helpline - 1090
Tamil is the most spoken language in Madurai. But, languages like English is spoken as well.
- What's your name? - Unga péranna?
- My name is - En péru
- Where are you from? - Nienga engirundhu varrienga?
- Congratulations! - Paaraattukkal
- Good night and sweet dreams! - Nalla thoungunga!
- What Is This? - Idhu enna?