Madurai is one of the most sacred Hindu pilgrimage sites in all of India. At the heart of its fame is the Sri Meenakshi Temple complex, a 17th century Dravidian structure covered wall-to-wall in multi-coloured images of gods, goddesses, creatures and mythical figures. It has two sanctorum; one dedicated to Lord Shiva and the other to Meenakshi, his wife.
Meenakshi in Sanskrit means ‘one who has eyes like a fish’ and it is believed that, simply by looking on her devotees, the goddess makes all their wishes reality. One of the older Southern cities, Madurai has been a centre of learning for centuries and was the location for the ancient Tamil Sangam, the literary session that produced the first epic, Silappathikaram.
It is also known for having some of the best Jasmine harvest in India, which leaves the streets heavy with the sweet scent of the delicate pinky white blooms. For the rest of the year, daily life is somewhat less pleasant smelling yet very animated as cows, rickshaws, businessmen and devout pilgrims mill in the streets.
The town has been a textile centre for centuries. It was here that Mahatma Gandhi made his decision to wear nothing but khadi (homespun cloth). Tailor shops abound with the finest cotton fabric and Batiks for sale. Also available are the graceful Sungundi Sarees that are extremely popular among Indian women.
The combination of holiness and handspun fabrics create the texture and ambiance of Madurai.
Being under the gaze of the goddess Meenakshi | Watching deities float by on felicitated boats at the Teppam Float Festival in January/February | Putting the Gods to bed at the Sri Meenakshi temple
− An estimated 33 million carvings are found in the Sri Meenakshi temple
− Fridays at Sri Meenakshi are busier as they are held sacred to the Goddess