Madurai is one of the important cities in South India. The second largest city in Tamil Nadu, is situated on the banks of river Vaigai. As it is endowed with a rich cultural heritage and glorious traditions, Madurai is included in the group of antique cities present in India. The history of Madurai dates back to 6th century B.C. During that period, the city was the much-acclaimed capital of the Pandya kings. Back then, it functioned as an important commercial center of South India. It held sway over many small towns in the South.
Madurai is famous for its temples, monuments and ancient cultural wonders. It is even called ‘The Athens of the East’. Madurai’s Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple is one of the greatest architectural marvels of India. Built by the Pandya King, Kulasekara, and reconstructed later by Tirumalai Nayakar, the temple has patronized literature, art, music and dance ever since its inception. The entire city is built around the Meenakshi Amman temple. The city of Madurai flourished till 10th century AD after which it was captured by Cholas, the arch rivals of the Pandyas. The glory of Madurai returned when it came under the rule of the Vijayanagar kingdom and then Madurai was ruled by the Nayaks, the foremost of whom was Tirumalai Nayakar.
Madurai is firmly anchored in Tamil literature and tradition. It is home to many poets and artisans. It houses an abundance of literary wealth of both classical and modern Tamil. It was the seat of the Tamil academy in the past. The city has been a center for learning and pilgrimage for centuries. The three Tamil Sangams (academies) evolved and flourished here. The city’s ancient Tamil kings were great warriors, poets and connoisseurs of art. Tamil literature flourished because of their generosity and literary fervor.
The city is widely known as the Temple City, and is often also referred to as The City of Four Junctions (Koodal Maanagar), The Cultural Capital of Tamil Nadu (Kalaachaara Thalainagar), The City of Jasmine (Malligai Maanagar), The City That Never Sleeps (Thoonga Nagaram), Athens of the East and The City of Festivals.
Today, the vibrant city of Madurai, seethes with activity from dawn to dusk. It has an excellent transport system and offers plenty of great choices for accommodation. Hence most travellers make Madurai their base when they explore south India.