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Tamil Nadu- Madurai:
Thousands of temples with lofty towers dot the skyline of the southernmost state of Tamilnadu in India. These temples are torchbearers of the glorious heritage of the Tamil speaking region. Madurai is called the `Athens of the East' because of the way myth meets life here. Legends of warrior princesses, the gods falling in love and divine promises abound. Originally called Madhurapuram because honey (madhu) is said to have dripped off the locks of Shiva here, Madurai is now the second largest city in Tamil Nadu. is now among the most important pilgrimages for Hindus.

History Revisited:
The original temple was built by Kulasekara Pandya, but the entire credit for making the temple as splendid as it is today goes to the Nayaks. The Nayaks ruled Madurai from the 16th to the 18th century and left a majestic imprint of their rule in the Meenakshi - Sundareswarar Temple.

Gandhi Museum:
The Old palace is dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi.

Alagarkoil and Pazhamudhirsolai:
This is located 21 Kms away from Madurai city. A Vishnu temple on a picturesque wooded hill and Pazhamudhirsolai is one of the six abodes of Lord Subramanya and this on the same hill about 4 Kms above Azhagarkoil.

The Grand Architecture- Meenakshi Temple:
The grand gopurams of the Meenakshi Sundareshwar Temple tower over the city at the heart of which they stand. The temple complex covers 6 hectares right in the middle of the city and is flush with visitors from all over, each and every day. The temple is dedicated to Shiva and Meenakshi, an earthly incarnation of his wife Parvati, who was born to the childless ruler after many a prayer.

The towers that loom overhead are famous for detailed carvings of the gods and goddesses, mythological figures and running depictions of legendary tales. The huge southern gopuram has over 1500 sculptures! The Temple Museum is at the 'thousand- pillared hall' where each of the 985 pillars are carved in great detail. 5 km east of the temple is the Mariamman Teppakulum tank where the annual Float Festival is held in January. The Shiva Meenakshi idols are taken out of the temples and float on decorated rafts for several days before returning.

Entry into the sanctum sanctorum of the Shiva temple is restricted to Hindus, and in the Meenakshi temple to Hindu women.

The Chitirai Festival in April/May sees the idols being taken around on their chariots in celebration of the divine marriage. The zestful thumping of drums or nadaswarams accompanies the procession.

Plan Your Trip :
The Meenakshi temple and the others can be covered in a span of 3-4 days. The Chittirai Festival is held in April/May, so it might be wise if you are keen on seeing it, to time your visit accordingly.

Climate :
Madurai is warm most of the year with maximum temperatures varying from 37°C in summer to 29°C in winter. Minimum temperatures in winter hardly ever fall below 20°C. Rainfall is frequent.

Best Time to Visit:
While it is true that the cooler months between November and February are far more pleasant, Madurai can be visited almost anytime through the year - just skip the summer.

Travel Connectivity:
» By Air : Madurai is connected by air with Mumbai and Chennai. Madurai airport is 10-km away from the city.

» By Rail : Madurai has direct rail connections to Bangalore, Coimbatore, Kollam, Chennai, Rameshwaram, Thanjavur, Tiruchirappalli, Tirunelveli, Tirupathi and Tuticorin.

» By Road : There are excellent roads connecting Madurai to all parts of South India. Madurai city has 5 Major Bus Stands- Periyar Bus Stand, Anna Bus Stand, Palanganatham Bus Stand, Arapalayam Bus Stand, Mattuthavani Bus Stand. From Madurai town buses, suburban buses, taxis, auto rickshaws and cycle rickshaws are available to reach the temple.
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