Madurai is one of the oldest cities of southern India. It has been a centre of learning and pilgrimage for centuries. Legend has it that the divine nectar falling from Lord Shiva's locks gave the city its name 'Madhurapuri', now known as Madurai. With a glorious history dating back to over 2,000 years when it was the capital of the Pandyan kings, Madurai still remains the cultural centre of the Tamils. It is also a flourishing commercial hub today. Many of the establishments around the temple, where the city life revolves, bustle with activity day and night. The tiffin joints around the temple serve as soft as cotton idlis and strong filter coffee at throwaway prices.
Madurai is a colourful city. To see its moods walk around the streets, sit in roadside cafes and sip decoction coffee or browse through the rows of small shops. The main city area revolves around Meenakshi Temple, with its baroque style of Dravidian architecture and the four tall gopurams (pillars) with multicoloured gods, goddesses, demons and deities.
The 1,000-pillared hall has stone figures carved on the pillars, some of which sound like metal when hit with an object. The musical pillar, although made of stone, produces sounds of different metals. Other places of interest include the Tirumalai Nayaka Temple and the Temple Art Museum.
Thirumala Nayakar palace: A magnificent structure constructed in 1636 famous for its architectural excellence. The Sorgavilasam (Celestial Pavilion) constructed entirely of brick and mortar without the support of a single rafter or girder, is a marvel of Indo-Saracen architectural style.
Gandhi Museum: Housed in the old Palace of Rani Mangammal, the Gandhi Museum depicts the highlights of the freedom struggle and contains a picture gallery of the Gandhian movement. It has the blood stained dhoti worn by Gandhi at the time of his assassination. The museum also has a gallery of relics, Khadi and village industries and south Indian handicrafts.