Madurai, meaning Nectar city was named after drops of nectar fell on the spot from Shiva’s locks. Famed for the awe-inspiring Sri Meenakshi Temple, Madurai is often referred to as the Athens of the east, and with a history dating back more than 2500 years, Madurai was an important cultural and commercial centre even as early as 550 AD, and evidence has been found of trade with Greece and Rome from as early as the 6thC BC. In 1273, Marco Polo visited Madurai, calling it “the most noble and splendid province in the world”.
Today Madurai is a bustling, typically Tamil city where life revolves around the temple, but equally important are the sub industries of textiles, jasmine and Tamil culture.
The Temple, dedicated to Meenakshi (Parvarti, the wife of Shiva) is contemporary of some Greek and Egyptian temples, and has survived with ceremonies almost unchanged in 2½ thousand years. One of South India’s most awe-inspiring temple structures, it is a vast complex of temples, shrines, grand pillared halls and gopurams (towers) covered with brightly coloured statuary, painted every 12 years.