Madurai is a major city and cultural headquarters in the state of Tamil Nadu in India. It is the administrative headquarters of Madurai District and the 25th largest urban agglomeration in India.Madurai is the second largest city by area and third largest city by population in Tamil Nadu. Madurai Corporation is the second largest corporation in Tamil Nadu.Located on the banks of River Vaigai, Madurai has been a major settlement for two millennia and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
Madurai has been inhabited since at least the 3rd century BCE.Megasthenes may have visited Madurai during the 3rd century BCE, with the city referred as “Methora” in his accounts. The view is contested by some scholars who believe “Methora” refers to the north Indian city of Mathura, as it was a large and established city in the Mauryan Empire.Madurai is also mentioned in Kautilya’s (370–283 BCE)Arthashastra.Sangam literature like Maturaikkāñci records the importance of Madurai as a capital city of the Pandyan dynasty.Madurai is mentioned in the works of Roman historians Pliny the Younger (61 – c. 112 CE), Ptolemy (c. 90 – c. CE 168), those of the Greek geographer Strabo (64/63 BCE – c. 24 CE),and also in Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.
Madurai is built around the Meenakshi Amman Temple, which acted as the geographic and ritual centre of the ancient city of Madurai.The city is divided into a number of concentric quadrangular streets around the temple.Vishwanatha Nayak (1529–64 CE), the first Madurai Nayak king, redesigned the city in accordance with the principles laid out by Shilpa Shastras (Sanskrit: śilpa śāstra, also anglicised as silpa sastra meaning rules of architecture) related to urban planning. These squares retain their traditional names of Aadi, Chittirai, Avani-moola and Masi streets, corresponding to the Tamil month names and also to the festivals associated.The temple prakarams (outer precincts of a temple) and streets accommodate an elobrate festival calendar in which dramatic processions circumambulate the shrines at varying distances from the centre. The temple chariots used in processions are progressively larger in size based on the size of the concentric streets.
Madurai has been an academic centre of learning for Tamil culture, literature, art, music and dance for centuries.All three assemblies of the Tamil language, the Tamil Sangam were held at Madurai.Tamil poets of different epochs participated in these assemblies, and their compositions are referred to as Sangam literature.During the third Tamil sangam, the comparative merit of the poets was decided by letting the works float in the lotus tank of the temple. It was believed that a divine force would cause the work of superior merit to float on the surface, while the inferior ones would sink.
Madurai is popularly called Thoonga Nagaram meaning the city that never sleeps, on account of the active night life.The city attracts a large number of tourists from within the country and abroad. About 9,100,000 tourists visited Madurai in 2010, including 524,000 foreigners. Madurai is now attracting medical tourism also.The palace complex of Thirumalai Nayak Palace was constructed in the Indo-Saracenic style by Thirumalai Nayakar in 1636 CE. It is a national monument maintained by the Tamil Nadu Archaeological Department. The daily sound and light show organised by the department explains the virtues of King Thirumalai and the features of the palace. The palace of Rani Mangamma has been renovated to house one of the five Gandhi Sanghralayas (Gandhi Memorial Museum, Madurai) in the country. It includes apart of the blood-stained garment worn by Mahatma Gandhi when he was assassinated by Nathuram Godse.A visit by Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. to the museum inspired him to lead peaceful protests against discrimination
The people of Madurai celebrate numerous festivals, including Meenakshi Tirukkalyanam, the Chittirai Festival and the Car Festival.The annual 10-day Meenakshi Tirukalyanam festival, also called Chittirai festival, is celebrated during April–May every year and attracts one million visitors. Legend has it that the Hindu god Vishnu, as Alagar, rode on a golden horse to Madurai to attend the celestial wedding of Meenakshi (Parvati) and Sundareswarar (Shiva).