Madurai is Known as Athens of the East, Madurai is a place of great
historical and cultural importance. It is the oldest city in Tamil Nadu and Madurai
lies on the banks of the River Vaigai. Madurai is one of the liveliest cities in
South India it was originally known as Kadambavanam or the "forest of Kadamba" or
the Nauclea kadamba.
Legend says that Lord Shiva appeared
in the dream on the king, Kulasekhara Pandya. The king was amazed to see drops of
nectar or madhu falling down of earth from Lord Shiva's matted hair.
The "madhu" was so sweet that the place where it fell came to be known as Madhurapuri,
which in course of time became "Madurai."
Tamil and Greek documents
record its existence from the 4th century B.C. Being in the heart of Tamil Nadu,
Madurai has fostered an essentially Dravidian and Tamil culture. Famous for its
cultural and scholarly pursuits, the city had an academy consisting of critics,
poets and savants highly esteemed both by kings and commoners. It was in Madurai
that three successful conferences of Tamil scholars called sangams
flourished under benevolent royal support.
Madurai is famous for housing one
of the five traditional dance halls where Lord Siva, in his form as the Silver Hall
or the Velli Ambalam. It is situated within the Meenakshi Temple.
Madurai was the capital of the dynasty. The Meenakshi-Sundareswarar Shrine is its
central glory. The Muslims invaded Madurai in the 14th Century. Later it came under
the rule of the Nayaks, and the rule of Thirumalai Nayak, who is remembered as the
maker of modern Madurai, was an eventful one.
Madurai was known to be the centre
of learning and pilgrimage for centuries. Today, Madurai is a modern commercial
and industrial city, with a vast University campus and is renowned for its weaving
mills and dyeing industry. The chungadi cotton sarees are the speciality
of this city with its colourful tie and dye motifs. Handicrafts, brassware, bronze
items and the famous wooden toys of Madurai are some of the notable artefacts.Madurai
is 450 kms from Chennai.