Madurai district is second largest in population of the 32 districts of the state of Tamil Nadu, in southeastern India. The city of Madurai serves as the district headquarters. It houses the world famous Sri Meenakshi Sundareshwarar temple and is situated on the banks of the river Vaigai. Thiruparankundram is one of the major tourist place in the district. Kazimar Periya Pallivasal and Madurai Maqbara in Kazimar Street are the oldest and major Islamic symbols in Madurai city. As of 2011, the district had a population of 3,038,252 with a sex-ratio of 990 females for every 1,000 males. Aside from the city of Madurai, the larger towns are Melur, Avaniapuram, Thirumangalam and Usilampatti. It is a important hub for various film shootings.
Madurai has been inhabited since at least the 3rd century BCE.Megasthenes may have visited Madurai during the 3rd century BCE, with the city referred as “Methora” in his accounts.The view is contested by some scholars who believe “Methora” refers to the north Indian city of Mathura, as it was a large and established city in the Mauryan Empire.Madurai is also mentioned in Kautilya’s (370–283 BCE)Arthashastra.Sangam literature like Maturaikkāñci records the importance of Madurai as a capital city of the Pandyan dynasty. Madurai is mentioned in the works of Roman historians Pliny the Younger (61 – c. 112 CE), Ptolemy (c. 90 – c. CE 168), those of the Greek geographer Strabo (64/63 BCE – c. 24 CE),and also in Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.
After the Sangam age, most of present-day Tamil Nadu, including Madurai, came under the rule of the Kalabhra dynasty, which was ousted by the Pandyas around 590 CE.The Pandyas were outsted from Madurai by the Chola dynasty during the early 9th century.The city remained under the control of the Cholas until the early 13th century, when the second Pandyan empire was established with Madurai as its capital.After the death of Kulasekara Pandian (1268–1308 CE), Madurai came under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate. The Madurai Sultanate then seceded from Delhi and functioned as an independent kingdom until its gradual annexation by the Vijayanagar Empire in 1378 CE. Madurai became independent from Vijayanagar in 1559 CE under the Nayaks.Nayak rule ended in 1736 CE and Madurai was repeatedly captured several times by Chanda Sahib (1740 – 1754 CE), Arcot Nawab and Muhammed Yusuf Khan (1725 – 1764 CE) in the middle of 18th century.
In 1801, Madurai came under the direct control of the British East India Company and was annexed to the Madras Presidency. The British government made donations to the Meenakshi temple and participated in the Hindu festivals during the early part of their rule. The city evolved as a political and industrial complex through the 19th and 20th centuries to become a district headquarters of a larger Madurai district. In 1837, the fortifications around the temple were demolished by the British.The moat was drained and the debris was used to construct new streets – Veli, Marat and Perumaal Mesthiri streets.The city was constituted as a municipality in 1866 CE.The British government faced initial hiccups during the earlier period of the establishment of municipality in land ceiling and tax collection in Madurai and Dindigul districts under the direct administration of the officers of the government.The city, along with the district, was resurveyed between 1880 and 1885 CE and subsequently, five municipalities were constituted in the two districts and six taluk boards were set up for local administration.Police stations were established in Madurai city, housing the headquarters of the District Superintendent.
It was in Madurai, in 1921, that Mahatma Gandhi, pre-eminent leader of Indian nationalism in British-ruled India, first adopted the loin cloth as his mode of dress after seeing agricultural labourers wearing it.Leaders of the independence movement in Madurai included N.M.R. Subbaraman and Mohammad Ismail Sahib.The Temple Entry Authorization and Indemnity Act passed by the government of Madras Presidency under C. Rajagopalachari in 1939 removed restrictions prohibiting Shanars and Dalits from entering Hindu temples. The temple entry movement was first led in Madurai Meenakshi temple by independence activist A. Vaidyanatha Iyer in 1939.
Culture, tourism and entertainment
Madurai is popularly called Thoonga Nagaram meaning the city that never sleeps, on account of the active night life.The city attracts a large number of tourists from within the country and abroad. About 9,100,000 tourists visited Madurai in 2010, including 524,000 foreigners.Madurai is now attracting medical tourism also.The palace complex of Thirumalai Nayak Palace was constructed in the Indo-Saracenic style by Thirumalai Nayakar in 1636 CE. It is a national monument maintained by the Tamil Nadu Archaeological Department. The daily sound and light show organised by the department explains the virtues of King Thirumalai and the features of the palace.The palace of Rani Mangamma has been renovated to house one of the five Gandhi Sanghralayas (Gandhi Memorial Museum, Madurai) in the country. It includes apart of the blood-stained garment worn by Mahatma Gandhi when he was assassinated by Nathuram Godse.A visit by Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. to the museum inspired him to lead peaceful protests against discrimination. The Eco park, situated in Tallakulam, features fountains and lighting in trees using optical fibres.Rajaji children’s park, maintained by the Madurai Municipal Corporation, is situated between the Gandhi museum and the Tamukkam grounds. It has a visitor average of 5000 per day during holidays and 2000–3000 on working days. Madurai also has Theme Park, Athisayam which is situated in Paravai, Madurai – Dindugal main road. MGR Race Course Stadium is an athletic stadium which has a synthetic track and a swimming pool.Several national meets are held here.It also hosts several international and national level kabbadi championships.
The people of Madurai celebrate numerous festivals, including Meenakshi Tirukkalyanam, the Chittirai Festival and the Car Festival.The annual 10-day Meenakshi Tirukalyanam festival, also called Chittirai festival, is celebrated during April–May every year and attracts one million visitors. Legend has it that the Hindu god Vishnu, as Alagar, rode on a golden horse to Madurai to attend the celestial wedding of Meenakshi (Parvati) and Sundareswarar (Shiva). During the Cradle festival, the festive idols of Meenakshi and Sundareswarar are taken in procession to a mirror chamber and set on a rocking swing for nine days. Avanimoolam festival is celebrated during September when the 64 sacred games of Shiva, thiruvilayadal, are recited. The Thepporchavam festival, or float festival, is celebrated on the full moon day of the Tamil month Thai, which falls around January – February, to celebrate the birth anniversary of King Thirumalai Nayak. The decorated icons of Meenakshi and her consort are taken out in a procession from the Meenakshi Temple to the Mariamman Teppakulam. The icons are floated in the tank on a raft decked with flowers and flickering lamps.Jallikattu is one of the most popular historical sport in Tamil Nadu, and is a part of the Pongal festival (harvest festival) celebrated during January. The bull taming event is held in the villages surrounding Madurai, and people from the neighbouring villages throng to the open grounds to watch man and bull pitting their strength against each other. Santhanakoodu festivals in Madurai are celebrated on various days during the Islamic calendar year to commemorate Islamic saints.Madurai is consider as important hub for Indian film industry for film shootings.