The geography of Madurai comprises of its location, altitude and area. This religious city falls within its namesake district, Madurai, and also acts as the district headquarters. The city of Madurai is situated on the banks of the river Vaigai. It is located between 9.93 North Longitude and 78.12 East Latitude and lies at an altitude of 330 feet or 101 meters above sea level. This religious town of Tamil Nadu stretches over an area of 22.6 square kilometres. Famous for the Meenakshi temple, the city of Madurai is bordered by three hills. These hills are known as the Yanaimalai which mean an elephant, Nagamalai meaning snake and Pasumalai meaning cow.
Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple
It would be no exaggeration to state that Madurai is a true representation of the cultural ethos of India, and of the grandeur of Indian art. Central to this standing is the sprawling Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple. The plurality of faiths centred around the Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple, the splendour of its festival traditions (as in the enactment of the Tiruvilayadal Puranam), and its association with the Golden age of Tamil literature - the Sangam period, all contribute to the temple's popularity. In addition, the temple has a wealth of sculpture which attracts many visitors. The literature of the pre Christian Sangam period speaks of Madurai. The devotional hymns of the Nayanmars venerate Somasundarar - or Aalavaayan, of Madurai. The Haalaasya Mahatmyam or the Tiruvilayadal Puranam speak of the various legends associated with Shiva, which still form a part of the festival traditions of this temple. In 2009 the temple complex was recognised as one of the 8th wonders of India.
Here ' Vishnu ' presides as Meenakshi's brother ' Azhgar '. During the Chithirai festival in April/May, when the celestial marriage of Meenakshi to Sundareswarar is celebrated, Azhagar travels to Madurai. A gold processional icon called the Sundararajar is carried by devotees in procession from Azhagar Kovil to Madurai for wedding rituals. Palamudhirsolai, one of the six abodes of Lord Subramanya is on the same hill, about 4 kms higher. A natural spring called Nuburagangai where pilgrims stop to bathe is located here. Azhagar Kovil is located 21 kms. Northwest of Madurai; it is a Vishnu Temple on a picturesque wooded hill.
Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam
Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam is situated at Madurai that is about 5 kms from the Meenakshi Amman Temple. There is a huge tank and in the middle is situated a Vinayakar temple. There is a temple located with the tank. The water supply for the tank is from the Vaigai River. Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam in Madurai is famous for float festival. One of the most picturesque is the Float Festival or ' Teppothsavam'. On that day, the idols of Goddess Meenakshi and her consort Lord Sundareswarar are taken in grand procession to the big lake called Teppakulam, and drawn round and round a shrine built in the middle of the small island in the center of the lake, seated on a decorated float called Teppa.
Thiruparankundram is one of the abodes of Lord Subramanya. It is situated 8 kms south of Madurai. The six abodes of the deity are known as `Arupadai Veedu`. This is a cave temple. This temple is known from the Sangam times. One of the Sangam poets Nakkiran has sung a long poem about this temple called Thirumurugatrupadai. Thiruparankundram temple has become a symbol of the religious harmony as of the people of Madurai. The important characteristic of this temple of Thiruparankundram is that Siva is holding the flag of Rishaba in his hand while dancing. It is a rare sculpture and cannot be found elsewhere. There is another group of sculptures separated by wall. These are with Nandi standing in bull-head and human-body form beside some sages. Another interesting fact about the Thiruparankundram temple is the presence of subsidiary cave shrines excavated in the rock, with idols arranged so orderly like a military session. These small cave shrines can be approached through narrow dark passages. It is quite difficult to find similar group of cave shrines elsewhere.
Rani Mangamma's palace has been renewed and converted to Gandhi museum. The museum displays information about Mahatma Gandhi, and most importantly it showcases the original blood-stained garment of Gandhi when he was assassinated by Nathuram Godse. The other piece of the garment is kept at the Gandhi Museum in Delhi. This museum is one of the 5 museums in India (others in Mumbai, Barrackpore, Sabarmati and Patna) known as Gandhi Sanghralayas. No entry fee for museum visitors. Gandhi Memorial Museum at Madurai has been built and organized by Gandhi Smarak Nidhi. It is accepted as a building probably constructed by the Nayak Queen Rani Mangammal, as evidenced by a letter written to her in 1700AD. It was in the year that the palace with about 13 acres of land was gifted by the Tamilnadu state Government, to the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi for the purpose of housing Gandhi Memorial Museum.
Thirumalai Nayak Palace
Thirumalai Nayak Palace is a 17th century palace was built by King Thirumalai Nayak, one of the Madurai Nayak rulers in 1636 AD in the city of Madurai, India. This Palace was built with the help of an Italian Architect and is a classic fusion of Dravidian, Islamic and European styles.Tirumalai Nayak's Palace at Madurai was considered to be one of the wonders of the South. Thirumalai Palace was declared as a national monument and is now under the protection of the Tamil Nadu Archaeological Department. The time for the visit to the palace is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the payment of the entrance fee. The palace is well equipped to perform Light & Sound shows depicting the story of Silapathigaram both in Tamil and English languages. The Palace is located in the eastern side of the city, around 1.2 km South East of the Meenakshi Amman Temple in the city of Madurai. Madurai being a popular tourist center is well connected by railways and has daily flights to Mumbai and Chennai.