Madurai, widely known as Temple city and also as Athens of the East, is a place of great historical and cultural importance located about 450 kms from Chennai. The second largest city in Tamil Nadu, Madurai is situated on the banks of river Vaigai. Endowed with a rich cultural heritage and glorious traditions, Madurai is included in the group of antique cities in India. Madurai is presently one of the liveliest cities in South India was originally known as Kadambavanam or the “forest of Kadamba” .
Being in the heart of Tamil Nadu, Madurai has fostered an essentially Dravidian and Tamil culture. For centuries, Madurai was the centre of learning and pilgrimage. The history of Madurai dates back to 6th century B.C. During that period, the city was the much-acclaimed capital of the Pandya kings and functioned as an important commercial center of South India. 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. Madurai is closely associated with the Tamil language. It houses an abundance of literary wealth of both classical and modern Tamil. All the three primary congregations of Tamil scholars, the Third Tamil Sangams, were held in the city between 1780 BCE and the 3rd century CE under benevolent royal support.
Madurai is famous for housing one of the Meenakshi-Sundareswarar Shrine is its central glory . The temple is one of the greatest architectural marvels. Built by the Pandya King, Kulasekara, and reconstructed later by Tirumalai Nayakar, ever since its inception , the temple has patronized literature, art, music and dance. The entire city is built around the Meenakshi Amman temple. The city of Madurai flourished till 10th century AD after which it was captured by Cholas, the arch rivals of the Pandyas. The glory of Madurai returned under the rule of Vijayanagar kingdom and when Madurai was ruled by the Nayaks. The rule of Thirumalai Nayakar, is remembered as a golden era and the maker of modern Madurai.
The city is acclaimed with many acronyms as the City of Four Junctions (Koodal Maanagar), the Cultural Capital of Tamil Nadu (Kalaachaara Thalainagar), The City of Jasmine (Malligai Maanagar) and the City That Never Sleeps (Thoonga Nagaram) and The City of Festivals. Today, the vibrant city of Madurai, seethes with activity from dawn to dusk and is a modern commercial and industrial city, renowned for its weaving mills, dyeing industry and with a vast University campus. The chungadi cotton sarees are the speciality of the 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.