Temples In Madurai: The Perfect Fusion Of Art And Divinity
Located on the banks of the holy River Vaigai, the town of Madurai in Tamil Nadu owes its popularity to an assemblage of ancient temples and shrines that truly showcase its spiritual wealth and past glory. The religious sites in Madurai attract several visitors to this historical city every year from all over the country who are intrigued by its brilliant architecture and divine charm. Being a religiously significant city, It is frequented by travelers for sightseeing and tourist attractions in Madhurai. The place is famed for housing the magnificent Meenakshi Amman Temple, which is one the most prominent religious sanctuaries among all Hindu shrines. There are several other places of religious importance in Madurai, which are not as popular as the Meenakshi Temple but they are still worth a visit. If you are planning to visit Madurai on a spiritual tour, you will be greeted with affluence of age-old temples, religious shrines, historical sites, and cultural centers that reflect the city’s rich cultural heritage and are manifestations of the great sculptural and architectural skills of its people. Read on to figure out the top religious sites in Madurai to enrich your spiritual experience and to find out what makes each of them interesting, and why you shouldn’t miss them on a trip to this Southern gem of India.
Top 7 Temples To Visit In Madurai
- Meenakshi Temple
- Koodal Azhagar Temple
- Azhagar Kovil Temple
- Tirupparam Kunram Murugan Temple
- Vandiyur Mariamman Temple
- Narasingam Yoga Narasimha Perumal Temple
- Sri Mavoottru Velappar Temple
1. Meenakshi Temple
Meenakshi Temple is one of the most famous Hindu temples in Madurai dedicated to Goddess Parvati, known as Meenakshi, and her spouse, Lord Shiva. Flanked by the southern bank of the Vaigai River, the temple continues to be one of the most sacred and outstanding places of pilgrimage for Hindus providing visitors with an altogether different and unmatched peace of mind and composure. The temple showcases sculptural artistry and sophistication that takes a cue from the Dravidian style of architectural design. The temple also hosts many religious festivals and celebrations every year that are celebrated with great fervour and devotion. You can always find traditional Hindu marriages taking place inside the premises. Several people have been bound in the marital bonds in front of God in this temple. The annual ten-day Meenakshi Tirukalyanam Festival, celebrated during the months of April and May, draws over 1 million devotees.
The temple complex is spread over a massive 45 acres of land and is circumscribed by 14 towers, the tallest of which, the famous Southern Tower, rises to over 170-feet high and was built in 1559. The temple houses an estimated 33,000 sculptures along with several shrines, corridors, and pillars that are adorned with wonderful artwork. The sculptures on the wall depict the mythological stories including Shiva and Parvati’s marriage scenes.
Address: East Chitrai Street, Venmani Road, Sellur, Madurai
Timings: 5:00 AM to 12:30 PM and 4:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Best time to visit: Chitra, Avanimoola, and Masi Mandala festival and Navaratri
2. Koodal Azhagar Temple
Located at a distance of about 2 kilometers to the west of the city, the Koodal Azhagar Temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and features three altars in which Lord Vishnu resides in three different postures – sitting, standing, and reclining. This ancient temple reflects the true cultural heritage of the land in keeping with the tradition of the land. Built-in Dravidian craftsmanship, this temple attracts pilgrims, archaeologists, and history buffs alike.
This temple is believed to be older than the Meenakshi Temple and is one of the prominent religious sites in Madurai. The temple possesses wonderful architecture and artwork and has a corridor around the main shrine, which has rustic color paintings on the walls depicting different gods and goddesses. The vimana over the sanctum has beautiful sculptures that are wonderfully carved. The other impressive features of the temple include the ornamental windows that are spectacularly carved and reflective of the exceptional skills of the stonemasons.
Address: Near Periyar Bus Stand, Madurai
Timings: 6:00 AM to 12:00 PM and 4:00 PM to 9:00PM
Best time to visit: The 10 days float festival (month of Masi on Star Makham)
3. Azhagar Kovil Temple
Azhagar Kovil, also called Thirumaliruncholai Temple, is located 21 kilometres away from the city centre and continues to be one of the most celebrated temples around Madurai. The temple worships Lord Vishnu and has beautiful large gopurams and pillared mandapams like most other South Indian temples of the region. The main tower entrance houses the holy shrine of Karupana Swami, which is permanently closed and opens for one day in a year. The statue of the lord is composed entirely of stone and is a splendid masterpiece created from Kallalgar. Apart from that, several other statues in different postures of the Lord are enshrined within the temple complex, which also features spectacular halls and other facilities to perform different rituals with sacred mantras in the holy environ.
Address: A.Valayapatti, Madurai
Timings: 6:00 AM to 12:30 PM and 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Best time to visit: Chitra Festival on Purnima or full moon day in April and May.
4. Tirupparam Kunram Murugan Temple
This colossal temple dates back to the 6-century and has been mentioned in holy ancient epics. The temple is dedicated to Lord Murugan also known as Kartikeya who is the Hindu God of War and the son of Lord Shiva. It is believed that Murugan married Deivayani, the daughter of the King of Heaven, Indra, at this very spot. The main shrine has the idol of Murugan along with those of Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu, Lord Vinayaka, and Goddess Durga. Carved out of rock, this sacrosanct place was built during the Pandyan reign while the life-sized sculptures in the mandapams of this temple were built during the Nayakar rule. Besides, the place is also good for capturing hues of colors of the hilly terrain and is also known as the southern Himalayas of India. The sanctum sanctorum is constructed by combining nine minerals called Navabashana and has the statue of Lord Murugan carved in his standing posture. An interesting feature of this temple is that the Gods Shiva and Vishnu face each other in the main shrine, which is a rare scene in ancient Hindu temples in India. Outside the temple, there is a beautiful pond where, according to temple tradition, the fishes are served with salt and rice flakes by the devotees.
Address: Thirupparamkunram Murugan Temple, Madurai
Timings: 5:30AM to 12:30 PM and 4:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Best time to visit: Brahmotsavam, Skanda Shasti, Kartikai Festival, Vaikasi Vikasam, and Vaikuntha Ekadashi.
5. Vandiyur Mariamman Temple
Vandiyur Mariamman Temple is an ancient temple with a legacy of 2000 years and is dedicated to the Hindu Goddess of Rain, Mariamman. The temple is one of the famous religious sites in Madurai and beautifully sits on the banks of Vaigai River and has its own huge water pond.Built in the honour of Lord Vigneshwara, this divine temple is situated about 5 kilometres from the Meenakshi Temple. It is believed that the idol of the temple emerged from the bottom of the tank, while it was dug in the olden times. Since then the tank continued to gain its popularity and the temple too was constructed in its memory. In the middle of the pond is housed a Maiya Mandapam that has the Vinayakar temple and garden, dedicated to Lord Ganesh. Several different kinds of festivals are celebrated in the temple and all rituals are done with great pomp and pleasure including the grand float festival of Thaipusam, which is celebrated at a grand scale over a span of ten days. The renowned Float Festival, celebrated in the Tamil month of Thai in January and is organized on a full moon night, called Thaipusam. On this occasion, the temple is beautifully lit-up and its glittering shadow makes the pond shine equally well. The idols of the main deities of Meenakshi Amman Temple along with Lord Sundareshwarar and Goddess Meenakshi are called from the respective temples and are made to float on the calm waters of the pond.
Address: Thirupparamkunram Murugan Temple, Madurai
Timings: 5:30AM to 12:30 PM and 4:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Best time to visit: Mariamman Teppakulam or Float Festival in January
6. Narasingam Yoga Narasimha Perumal Temple
Narasingam Yoga Narasimha Perumal Temple is located 11 kilometres away from Madurai and is dedicated to Yoga Narasimha Perumal. The cave temple is built atop the Yanaimalai Hills and the presiding idol is carved out of the hill itself. The temple is a fine specimen of the cave sculpturing of the Pandya Dynasty. It is said that Lord Siva was prone to Brahma Hathi Dosha as he plucked one of the five heads of Lord Brahma. In order to get rid of the sin, he visited this temple worshipped Lord Narasimha and took a dip in the holy Chakra theertham or the adjoining Lotus pond. Yoga Narasimhar features a lion face, and the Goddess Lakshmi in his heart, and worshippers appease him by offering lemon, sandalwood or chandan, tulsi leaves, coconut, lotus, and ghee deepam.
Address: Narasingam, Madurai
Timings: 6:30AM to 12:00 PM and 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Best time to visit: Gajendra Moksha Festival
7. Sri Mavoottru Velappar Temple
Velappar Temple is located amidst dense forests and mountains and to reach the temple, one has to climb a series of 300 steps. The presiding deity here is Lord Murugan. The temple has a perennial stream on the side, which comes out as a natural spring from among the roots of a bunch of mango trees, which cascades down into a pond. It is believed that a bath in this spring and eating food cooked with this water can cure the most difficult of diseases.
Legend has it that the Varushanadu Hills, which come under the ambit of the Kandamanur region, was populated only by local tribal people called Paliyars. Apart from collecting the forest products, their mainstay was to collect roots of a creeper called Valli Kizhangu, which served as their staple food. Once when a Paliyar had started cutting the creeper’s root, it did not end but went on endlessly and at the end of the root, the paliyar discovered the present day idol of Velappar or Murugan. When the local landlord heard the story, he made special arrangements for constructing proper steps to reach the hill top and also established a small temple to honour Murugan along with Vinayakar and Sapthamatha. And even today, people from the Paliyar community are given the first right of worship in this temple.
Address: Mavoottru Velappar Temple, Varusanadu Hills, Mavoottru Road, Madurai
Timings: 6:30AM to 12:00 PM and 3:30 PM to 6:00 PM
Best time to visit: Thai and Adi amavasya days in July and August
These famous temples in Madurai have become a shining example of the cultural heritage and diversity of the South group of temples and embody some of the finest architectural creations fostered over a period of thousands of years by historic dynasties. The rich history of these incredibly divine Madurai temples transports you back to the history and legends of the ancient times and is motivating enough for anyone to go out explore them. From the architectural perfection, unique rituals, and divine aura to the historical relevance of the temples, these religious sites in Madurai are worth visiting and exploring.
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