Madurai (Tamil Nadu)

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 Madurai is the administrative headquarters of Madurai District in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is the third largest city and the second largest municipal corporation in Tamil Nadu. Located on the banks of River Vaigai, Madurai has been a major settlement for two millennia and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited citiesin the world. The capital of the Pandyan kingdom was initially Korkai, around 600 BCE,and was later moved to Koodal (now Madurai) during the reign of Nedunj Cheliyan I.

Madurai is famous for its temples, the most prominent of which is Meenakshi Amman Temple, built by Pandyan and Madurai Nayak kings in the Dravidian style of architecture. It is also one of India's most noted Hindu pilgrimage centres. The city is closely associted with Tamil language as all the 3 primary congregation of Tamil scholars, the Tamil Sangam (3rd century BC to 3rd century CE), were held at Madurai.Madurai is also called by different names like "City of Jasmine" (Malligai maanagar), "Temple City" (Koil maanagar), "City that never sleeps" (Thoonga nagaram) and "City of four junctions" (Naanmada koodal). Madurai's recorded history goes back to the 3rd century BC and the city is mentioned by Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador to India and Kautilya, the minister of the Mauryan Emperor Chandragupta Maurya.

The city was the principal administrative and cultural centre of the Pandyan dynasty which ruled over the southern parts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala till the first half of the 14th century AD. In about 1311, the Pandyan dynasty was overthrown by the Delhi Sultanate which established the province of Ma'bar which later became independent as the Ma'bar Sultanate. When the Ma'bar Sultanate began to decline in the latter years of the 14th century, Madurai was absorbed into the Vijayanagar Empire. The viceroys of the Vijayanagar Empire established the Madurai Nayak kingdom and ruled as independent kings from 1559 to 1736. After a brief period of occupation by Chanda Sahib and the Carnatic kingdom, Madurai was annexed by the British East India Company in 1801.

Madurai is administered by a municipal corporation established in 1971 as per the Municipal Corporation Act. The city covers an area of 147.99 km and had a population of 1,561,000 in 2011. Madurai is well -connected by road, rail and air. Madurai has a long and well recorded history. As early as the 3rd century BC, Megasthenes visited, the city being referred to as "Methora" in his accounts. The city is also mentioned in Kautilya's Arthashastra. Madurai has been described as the seat of the Pandyan Dynasty in Sangam literature ..

The city is also described extensively in the 2nd-century CE epic Silapathikaram. The city was home to the third and last Tamil Sangam (between 300 BCE and 200 CE). Madurai finds mention in the works of Roman historians Pliny the Younger and Ptolemy and those of the Greek geographer Strabo. It is also mentioned in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. Coin of Jalaluddin Ahsan Khan, first ruler of the Sultanate of Madurai, 1335–1339 CE After the Sangam age, most of present day Tamil Nadu, including Madurai, came under the rule of the Kalabhras dynasty, who were ousted by the Pandyas around 550 CE. The Pandyas were in their turn removed from power by the Chola dynasty during the early 9th century.

The city remained under control of the Cholas until the early 13th century, when the second Pandyan empire was established with Madurai as its capital. After the death of the last Pandyan ruler, Kulasekara Pandian, Madurai came under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate. The Madurai Sultanate, then seceded from Delhi and functioned as an independent kingdom till its destruction by the Vijayanagar Empire in 1378. Madurai became independent from Vijayanagar in 1559 under the Nayaks. Nayak rule ended in 1736 and Madurai changed hands several times between Chanda Sahib, Arcot Nawab and Muhammed Yusuf Khan (Marudhanayagam) in the middle of the 18th century. In 1801 the British East India Company took direct control of Madurai and brought it under the Madras Presidency. In 1837, the city was expanded to accommodate the growing population by demolishing the fortifications around the temple.This was done on the orders of the then collector John Blackburn. The moat was drained and the debris was used to construct the new streets - Veli, Marat and Perumaal Mesthiri streets.The city was constituted as a municipality in 1866. Madurai played a role in the Indian independence movement. It was there that Gandhi made the decision to switch to wearing a loin cloth after seeing agricultural laborers wearing it. The independence movement in Madurai was led by leaders such as N. M. R. Subbaraman and Mohammad Ismail Sahib.

Madurai is built around the Meenakshi Amman Temple, which acted as the geographic and ritual center of the ancient city of Madurai. The city is divided into a number of concentric quadrangular streets around the temple. Vishwanatha Nayak , the first Madurai Nayak king, redesigned the city of Madurai in accordance with the principles laid down by Shilpa Shastras(Sanskrit: silpa sastra, also anglicized as silpa sastra meaning rules of architecture) relevant to urban planning. These squares continue to retain their traditional names, Aadi, Chittirai, Avani-moola and Masi streets, corresponding to Tamil month names and also correspond to the festivals associated. The temple prakarams(outer precincts of a temple) and streets accommodate an elobrate festival calendar in which dramatic processions circumabulate the shrines at varying distances from the centre. The vehicles used in processions are progressively more massive the further they travel from the centre.Ancient Tamil classics mention that the temple was the center of the city and the streets happened to be radiating out like lotus and its petals. The temple along with the city faces East, the direction of the rising Sun.The cities axes were aligned with the four quarters of the compass, and the four gateways of the temple give access to it.The wealthy and ritually purest were places in streets close to the temple, while the poorest were placed in the fringe streets.]With the advent of British rule during the 19th century,

Madurai became the headquarters of the large colonial political complex and an industrial town - with the urbanisation, the social heirarchial classes became unitary..The modern day expansion of the city seems drastic. The Suburban areas like Thirunagar, Andaneri, Iravathanallur, Perungudi are getting development.Most of the cities growth happens to the Northern bank of river vaigai whereas the old city is limited to the southern side of vaigai. Meenakshi Amman Temple is a historic Hindu temple located in the south side of river Vaiga in the temple city in Madurai and is one of the most prominent landmarks of the city. It is dedicated to Parvati who is known as Meenakshi and her consort, Shiva named here as Sundareswarar. The temple forms the heart and lifeline of the 2500 year old city of Madurai. The complex houses 14 gopurams (gateway towers) ranging from 45-50m in height, the tallest being the southern tower, 51.9 metres (170 ft) high,and two golden sculptured vimana (shrine) over sanctum of the main deities.

The temple is a significant symbol for the Tamil people, and has been mentioned since antiquity in Tamil literature, though the present structure is built during 1623 to 1655 The temple attracts 15,000 visitors a day, around 25,000 during Fridays. There is an estimated 33,000 sculptures in the temple and it was in the list of top 30 nominees of the "New Seven Wonders of the World". Kazimar Big Mosque, Madurai Kazimar Big Mosque is the first Muslim place of worship in the city It was constructed under the supervision of Kazi Syed Tajuddin, who is believed to be a descendant of the prophet Muhammed,who came from Oman and received the piece of land of the Pandya ruler King Ku(lasekara) Pandiyan during the 13th century.It is claimed to be the oldest Islamic monument The descendants of Kazi Syed Thajuddin, the Kazi of the sultans, are known as the Huqdars (Share holders). They have managed the mosque since his time and have lived in the locality of Kazimar Street for more than 700 years. They are known as Syeds and among them are appointed Kazis to the Government of Tamil Nadu till today. The dargah of Madurai Hazrats called as Madurai Maqbara is located inside the mosque. Koodal Azhagar Temple is a Vishnu temple located in the city center and is unusual in having idols of Navagraham (nine planet deities), which are found only in Shiva temples. Thiruparankundram is a hill 8 km away from Madurai, where the Hindu god Murugan is believed to have married Deivanai. The temple is the first among the six holy abodes of Murugan (Arupadai Veedu, literally "Six Battle Camps") and one of the most visited tourist spot in Madurai.The temple has a wide range of Hindu gods carved on the wallsPazhamudircholai, one of the other six abodes, is located atop the Solaimalai hill Dargah at the top of Thiruparankundram hills.

A Dargah is located at the top of the Thiruparankundram 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 during the early 13th century, is found. The Urus festival of Hazrat Sulthan Sikandar Badusha Shaheed is commemorated on 17th night of the Islamic month of Rajab every Hijri year Alagar Koyil is a celebrated Vishnu temple 21 km North East of Madurai situated on the foothills of Solaimalai. The deity, Azhagar, is believed to be the brother of Meenakshi, the presiding deity at the Meenakshi temple. The festival calendar of these two temples overlap during the Meenakshi Thirukalyanam festival. Goripalayam Mosque is located i

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