Madurai is one of southern India's oldest cities, and has been a centre of learning and pilgrimage for centuries. Its main attraction is the famous Shree Meenakshi Temple in the heart of the old town. Shree Meenakshi Temple : It attracts pilgrims in their thousands from all over India. Its enormous gopurams, covered with gaily coloured statues, dominate the landscape and are visible from many of the rooftops in Madurai. There are four entrances to the temple, which occupies 6 hectares. It has 12 towers, ranging in height from 45 to 50 mtrs, and 4 outer-ring 9-storey towers, the tallest of which is the 50-mtr-high southern tower. The hall has 985 columns. The museum, called the Temple Art Gallery, is worth a visit. It contains some beautiful stones and brass images. On most evenings between 6 and 7.30 pm and 9 and 10 pm temple music is played outside the Meenakshi Amman shrine-mantras, fiddle, squeez box, tabla and bells. The temple is open between 5 am and 12.30 pm and again between 4 and 10 pm. Tirumalai Nayak Palace : This Indo-Saracenic Palace is about a km from Meenakshi Temple. Today, only the entrance gate, main hall and dance hall remain. It is open daily from 9 am to 1 pm and 2 to 5 pm. There is a Son et Lumiere in English, daily at 6.30 pm, telling the history of the city with sound and coloured lights on the temple carvings. The sophistication of both the sound tracks and the lighting is surprising.



Gandhi Museum : It is housed in the old palace of the Rani Mangammal. It provides some little-known facts about the Mahatma Gandhi. The museum also has an excellent walk through History of India display with fine old photographs. The local government museum is in the same grounds. Mariamman Teppakkulam Tank : This tank is several km east of the old city. It is the site of the Teppam festival (Float Festival) in January and February, which attracts thousands of pilgrims from all over India. FESTIVALS : Teppam (Float) Festival : This very popular festival attracts pilgrims from all over India. Images of Shri Meenakshi and Lord Sundareshwara (Siva) are mounted on floats and taken to the Mariamman Teppakkulam Tank where, for several days, they are pulled back and forth across the water to the island temple in the tank's centre, before being taken back to Madurai. The annual festival occurs in January or early February. Chithirai Festival : It is held in late April-early May, celebrates the marriage of Shri Meenakshi to Lord Sudareshwara. Avanimoola Festival : In late August-early September, temple cars are drawn round the street of Madurai.



AIR The Indian Airline office (Ph.26-795) is at the northern end of West Veli St. There are daily flights to Tiruchirappalli, Madras and Bangalore.

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