1.1 Meenakshi Amman Temple
1.2 Other temples
1.3 Other sites
Meenakshi Amman Temple
By far the most common reason for visiting the city is the Meenakshi Amman Temple, also called the "Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple", dedicated to the goddess Meenakshi (considered a form of Parvati) with a sanctum for her consort, Sundareshwarar (or Siva). The Sundereshwar shrine is the larger and older of the two temple complexes. The complex is a splendid example of the south Indian Dravida architectural idiom. Four immense gopurams or temple towers crown the gateways at each cardinal direction, easily visible from a distance. Each tower is encrusted with more than a thousand brilliantly painted sculptures depicting an assortment of mythological and auspicious themes. It is traditional to enter through the south gopuram and, unusually, worship the Goddess before her consort. Inside the shelter for shoe-storage, offering baskets of coconuts, bananas and incense are available in addition to images of the Goddess for home altars. Many pilgrims – particularly the men in black or orange sarongs who are devotees of the god Ayyappan – circumambulate the main temple itself in the prakara or space between the outer wall and main temple. In addition, snake shrines and an assortment of offices and classrooms of religious foundations are found here.
Within the temple, devotees line up for darshan or viewing of the deities. Non-Hindus are not permitted into the inner sancta of Meenakshi or Sundareshwarar; anyone who looks suspicious will be pulled out of line by attendants. However, there is an abundance of sculpture and painting accessible to all. In addition, the steps of the Pottramaraikulam or Golden Lotus Pond is open to all and is a common meeting place for inhabitants of the city, in addition to pilgrims and tourists. In ancient times, the sangam or assembly of poets was said to gather at this pool to judge the merits of new compositions, often by throwing the manuscripts into the pool itself. Those that sank were inferior while those that floated were worthy of praise and propagation.
There are many shops within the east gate, selling everything from plastic toys to bronze images of the Goddess. Be sure to bargain hard.
You can buy the special tickets at the counter (each ₹50) to get a special darshan, which is cuts short the line by at least a half. Do buy these tickets if you can see the queue after getting inside. After the first entrance there is another entrance and after that the entrance to the inner sanctum and after that the inner sanctum itself. You will not be able to see it but the line would be 2 hours long if you are in the general queue.
The temple is usually open 05:00–12:30 and 16:00–22:00.
To catch a glimpse of the beautiful night view of the temple and the city, one could try any of the rooftop restaurants at West Perumal Maistry Street, near the Railway Station. Don't miss the traditional snacks served fresh and attractively presented by street vendors around the temple after sunset.
Warning: Many guides, many of whom are or claim to be tailors, will offer to take you to vantage points outside the temple to get a better view. You will be lured into shops that have a very hard sell. Mobile phones and cameras are not allowed inside temple effective from Feb 2018. You can use temple lockers but keeping valuables at your hotel is recommended.
Koodal Alagar Temple. Important Vaishnav Temple magnificent, has three stairs of the lord posture. Sitting posture of the lord (Main moola deity), one level up is a standing posture of the lord, and the 3rd level up is the lying down posture of the lord. The temple is a spectacular one. It is in the heart of the city, one of the Divya Desams (108). Worshipped by "Alwars - Vasihnav Saints". Worth to see and worship.
Thiruparankundram. One of the important old Temple dedicated to Lord Muruga - Karthikeya on a hillock approximately 8 km from the city. First Arupadai Veedu. References to this ancient temple are available in scriptures from 6th century AD (Paripadal). The temple interior is a huge rectangular chamber carved out of the hill, with side chambers housing various deities of Hindu religion approached via narrow passages. The Thiruparankundram temple is accessible via road from Madurai and has a railway station 1 km away. Most express trains do not stop there though.
Alagar Temple. Another Vaishnav temple Alagar Koil, 20 km away from the city located in the nearby hills. At the top of the hill is a natural stream from where the water is carried fresh daily by the temple priest for the Lord. Famous for Chittrai Festival (First Tamil month, 9 April-May) - Summer Festival. The Lord is considered the brother of Meenakshi (Lordes Paravathi) given in wedding with Sundareshwar (Lord Shiva).
Pazhamudhir Solai. Near to Alagar Koil, important temple for Lord Karthikeya on the hills, of course inside of Solai - jungle. One of the six important temple for Lord Muruga - Karthikeya. This is a very large and beautiful temple. You can take an auto rickshaw from the Meenakshi temple to visit this temple for a charge of around ₹100 (2007). Regular bus service is offered by the Transport Corporation. There is an utsavam of the deity on a golden chariot at 19:00.
Thirumalai Nayak Palace, East Market St (less than 2 km south east of the Sri Meenakshi Temple). The remains of the palace of the 17th-century ruler Thirumalai Nayak who contributed extensively to the Meenakshi Temple. Only a small portion of the original structure which was four times as larger remains. There were originally two parts – Swargavilasa heavenly pavilion, meant for the King's harem and housing the darbar court, and the ranka vilasa, which was for the servants. Entrance to the roof is prohibited until the renovation work being carried out by the Archaeological Department is conpleted. There is a sound and light show in the evening (both English & Tamil version of the show). There is also a museum, which houses not only the original portraits of Thirumalai naicker, but also unearthed stine carvings of the 17th century, along with many sculptures of Hindu gods like Brahma, Nataraja, Saraswati of the period. There is one rare painting on one of the pillars, which the Archaeological Department claim to have unearthed from one of the pillars. There is a painting hidden in every pillar, apparently. The other portion of the palace, Rankavilasam was demolished by Thirumalai Nayak's grandson. However, a small structure still remains known as "Ten pillars" or "Pathu Thoon" in Tamil. Sadly, these ten pillars of timeless beauty in Thirumalai Nayak are now surrounded by shops and residential houses. Also, irresponsible scribbling and name etching by tourists have spoiled the beauty of the pillars and monuments at the palace. Adjacent restroom is in shambles. ₹50 for foreigners and ₹10 for Indians.
Thirupparankundram. An Islamic Durgah (shrine) is at the top of the hill, where the grave of an Islamic saint Hazrat Sultan Sikandhar Badushah shaheed Radiyallah Ta'al anhu, who came from Jeddah along with Hazrat Sulthan Syed Ibrahim Shaheed Badushah of Madinah (now in Erwadi, Ramanathapuram district) during the early 13th century, is found. Irrespective of religion, people from all parts of Tamil Nadu and from Kerala visit this durgah. People who visit the Ervadi Durgah in Ramanathapuram district are supposed to visit this durgah. Many poems were written in praise of Hazrat Sultan Sikandhar Badhusha, by Syed Abdussalam Ibrahim Saalim Hazrat, the third in the list of Madurai Hazrats and his Maternal grandson Syed Abdus Salaam Ibrahim Saahib Hazrat. It is seen that people who come here with a wish see it answered in a very short time, and so He is also called Mustajab ad Du'aa Sikandhar Badhushah. Mustajab Ad Du'aa in Arabic means A saint whose Supplications are immediately answered by Allah. The Anniversary urus festival of Hazrat Sulthan Sikandar badusha Shaheed is commemorated on 17th Night of the Islamic Month of Rajab every Hijri year
Gandhi Museum (North side of the river in the palace of Rani Mangammal). 10:00-13:00 and 14:00-18:00. This museum houses Gandhi's bloodstained dhoti and little else by way of artifacts. Those interested in the freedom struggle, though, will be interested in the extensive library housed here. The portrayal of freedom struggle is very inspiring and Indian tourists particularly students should consider visiting this place. Tamil speakers and long-term visitors may be interested in the classes and workshops offered in subjects as diverse as t'ai chi and local herbs. There is also a khadi bhavan (store selling village and handloom products) and bookstore, with (mostly Tamil) books on spiritual and natural health topics. Also located on the campus of the museum is a government museum (across from the library). free.
Kazimar Big Mosque and Maqbara. This traditional mosque (masjid) is at the heart of Madurai city, within 500 m of the Periyar (Central) bus stand and within 1 km south east of the Madurai Railway Junction. Hazrat Kazi Syed Tajuddin, who came from Oman during 13th century, received this land from the then Panidiya king, Koo(n) Pandiyan, and constructed the mosque which is the first Muslims' place of worship in Madurai. Maqbara the dargah of famous Madurai Hazrats (Hazrat Meer Ahamad Ibrahim, Hazrat Meer Amjad Ibrahim and Hazrat Syed Abdus Salaam Ibrahim Rahmatullahi Alaihim) is also located inside the mosque premises. All of Kazi Syed Thajuddheen's descendants (Huqdars - shareholders of this mosque called as Syeds) have lived in the same locality (Kazimar street) for more than 700 years, and have managed the mosque since then. Syed Tajuddin was appointed as Kazi of the sultans, and still his descendants who live at Kazimar street, Madurai, are appointed as Kazis to the Government of Tamil Nadu. All Syeds belong to the Sunni sect of Islam and belong to Hanafi school of Islam. Most of the descendants of Kazi Syed Tajuddin are Khadiris and shadhilis and follow the Sufi order At-Thariqathu Khadiriya [dead link]Fassiyatush Shadhiliya.
Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam. A temple built in the middle of a man-made pond. Mariamman Teppakulam Famous for its float festival (teppa tiruvila) conducted during the Thai Poosam (falls in the second half of January). Popular story is that the spot was excavated for its soil to be used for building 17th-century king Tirumala Nayakkar's palace. The king had ordered excavated spot to be converted into a 16-acre lake fed from Vaigai river through under ground channels. The river has water only during North-East Monsoon season (Oct-Nov) and hence the lake has water from Nov to Feb.
Gorippalayam Dargah. The name Gorippalayam comes from the Persian word Gor which means Grave. This area is called as Goripalayam because the Graves of the two famous saints of Islam and rulers of Madurai Hazrat Sulthan Alauddin Badusha (Radiyallah) and Hazrat Sulthan Shamsuddin Badhusha (Radiyallah) are located here. A beautiful green coloured tomb can be seen from the A.V. Bridge Madurai, which is the Gorippalayam Dargah in the northern banks of Vaigai River. It is amazing to see that the dome, which is 70 feet in diameter and 20 feet in height, is made of a single block of stone which was brought from the Azhaga Hills. People from all over Tamil Nadu come here to seek blessings and go back fruitfully. The two rulers were brothers who ruled the northern part of madurai after coming from Oman during 13th century to spread Islam. Hazrat Kazi Syed Tajuddin Radiyallah of Kazimar street was Govt. Kazi (Islamic Legal advisor and jury) to them. An ancient Tamil inscription, can be found planted on the outer campus of the Maqbara of the dargah campus. The information found in that inscription is,
"The descendants of Sulthan Alauddin Badusha, and Sulthan Shamsuddin Badusha (called as Sultans of Delhi) purchased from the then King Koo(n) Pandiyan the land of Gorippalayam Dargah for a Feet of Gold piece and other six villages (namely Bibi Kulam, Chokkikulam, Cholikudi, Chirudoor, Kannanendal, Thiruppalai) at the rate of 14,000 Gold pieces for the maintenance of Gorippalayam Dargah. During the reign of King Veerappa nayakkar a dispute arose between the Huqdars of the Durgah and the employees of the Nayakkar Government regarding the six villages. The case was taken to King Veerappa Nayakkar, who inquired and verified the documents written by King Koo(n) Pandiyan and gave his verdict in the year 1573 A.D. as the Six villages and the Dargah land belongs to the Descendants of Sultans and it should be in their enjoyment till the existence of Sun and Moon and who violates this will be liable for the sin of slaughtering a cow in the bank of river Ganga."
This inscription is considered as one of the evidences to prove the existence of the Dargah since 13th century. The anniversary urus festival of this dargah is held on 15th night of the Islamic month of Rabi al-awwal on every hijri year.