MADURAI : The temple town of south IndiaBack

Madurai formerly Madura is among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the Indian peninsula. It is an ancient and prestigious city in the State of Tamil Nadu. It is home to the famous Meenakshi Amman Temple. It is also known as the Temple City of India because of its rich cultural and historical significance. You can find temples in almost every street in Madurai. Apart from Meenakshi Temple, the other temples worth a visit are Koodal Azhagar Koil Temple, Sri Veeraraghava Perumal temple and the Alagar Kovil Temple. The city is called "Thoongaa Nagaram", which means Sleepless City. You can find coffee/tea shops open at almost any time of day and night.

Madurai is one of the oldest cities of India and was ruled by Pandya kings over most of its history. The city is famous for is rich heritage and promoting Tamil language through "Sangams". The city has been in existence since about 4th century B.C and is mentioned in ancient texts of Greeks, Romans and Arabs.  It was the capital city of ancient Southern civilization. Madurai's cultural heritage goes back 2,500 years, and the city has been an important commercial center and has conducted trade as far as Rome and Greece since as early as 550 BCE.

Madurai is built around the Meenakshi Sundareshwar Temple. Concentric rectangular streets surround the temple, symbolizing the structure of the cosmos. The entire city is laid out in the shape of a lotus. Some of these rectangular streets are named after Tamil months. The six major rectangular streets around Meenakshi temple are Chittirai, Aadi, Aavani Moola, Maasi, Maarat and Veli streets.

Apart from this, this temple town can also satisfy the shopper in you to some extent. Madurai is largely famous for its textile industry for long. The city also has handicraft shops where people you can buy some good art pieces for your house but just be sure that you will be welcomed with people especially during weekends and festivals. Here, you can get hand-woven silks and cottons, bell-metal lamps, bronze images, wood and stone carvings. Leading shopping areas of the Madurai city of Tamil Nadu are Chithirai, Avanimoola, Puthumandapam and Thevangu Chetty Choultry. So go and enjoy a different shopping experience and don't forget to bargain. Happy shopping!

Not just all this, what is worth a visit is the Banana Market where 16 types of bananas are sold and is one-of-its-kind market. You can spot the shopkeepers unloading several dozens of banana branches and carrying them in shops. Another market that is a must-visit and also near the Meenakshi Temple is the Chithirai Street market famous for its handlooms and various kinds of handicrafts. Lastly, if you have time do visit the Prithu Mandapam Market is an old pillared hall located inside the eastern entrance of the Madurai Meenakshi Temple. It is the best place in the city for purchasing cotton fabrics. The market is full of shops dealing with handicrafts, textiles and metallurgical articles.

Speaking of food, the city has a lot to satify the foodie in you. Yes, there are no great fine dining restaurants but if you are someone who loves to eat what the locals eat, you are sure to be on food-roller-coaster ride because it is still a city where spices (masalas) are hand grounded and factory-made frowned upon. Meals like three-tier-dosai (A thick dosa, an omelette and a layer of minced mutton) is a meal you will remember for a lifetime; Kola Urundai (mutton balls); Idli; vegetarian meal on a banana leaf and Idiyappam are a must-try amongst others.



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