Madurai Travel Diaries

Madurai Travel Diaries – Murugan Idli Shop with Jigarthanda, Madurai Meenakshi Temple, Alagar Kovil, Pazhamudircholai,Thiruparankundram & Nayakkar Palace

This was the last leg of our journey & having spent a lot of time travelling, both of us were kind of tired & needed this part of our journey to go slow & allow us to take a break that we planned for.

We reached Madurai via Tirunelveli (private vehicle takes about 3 hours max) in the afternoon just in time for lunch. So after lunch followed by a really long siesta (well we were extremely exhausted & my husband insists on not keeping an alarm during vacations), we made our first visit to Pudumandapam (It’s a market that starts past 1 pm & goes on up to max 10 pm at night). It is in the vicinity of the temple itself that is completely a shoppers delight.

I had heard that Madurai is extremely famous for its textiles & utensils especially brass, iron, copper & stone too but little did I know that I would be just lost in that beautiful market for 3 hours. I was ogling at everything, managed to buy few brass vessels for the blog but had to ditch the iron & stone ones due to baggage restrictions. I only wished my return journey had been via train. Huh!!

After being completely dejected of not being able to buy a stone mortar & pestle & the stone chutney grinder, only thing that could cheer me up was food & yes, Jigarthanda!! Madurai’ famous Jigarthanda at the famous Murugan Idli Shop in Madurai.

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The hotel is just 10 mins walking distance from the temple & the Pudumandapam market place (bang opposite to Pothy’s showroom).

I chose the Ghee podi onion Uttapam (which is basically clarified butter along with gunpowder aka spiced lentil powder smeared over an onion uttapam). Now the onion uttapam here is unique as they use Madras onions instead of regular onions as the topping. 4 different types of chutneys (unlimited) along with sambar is served. Chutneys are extremely delicious (we were served coconut, tomato garlic, mint coconut, brinjal). My husband, being an eternal lover of idlis & wadas, had his share of them followed by masala dosa &  masala wada. We had to wash all this down with a cooling glass of Jigarthanda which is topped with icecream.

Murugan Idli offers a variety of dishes but their idlis are class apart, one of a kind, extremely soft. The place is always crowded but the service is quick. Food is hot & chutneys are unlimited. What more does one want? In the Madurai Branch, they don’t have an AC room nor decent washrooms. The branches in Chennai, however are well equipped in that sense.

The next day, we visited the famous Madurai Meenakshi Temple. For people who haven’t visited this temple, please note that no bags are allowed to be carried inside. There is a strong ban on plastic bags so carry a small purse. Mobile is allowed but no camera.

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The temple is huge & I suggest you plan your visit around 9 am or so as it takes some time for the darshan queue & then you can start your tour by 10 am or so before the temple closes around 12.30. Since the temple has UNESCO status, the temple is maintained well & the surroundings kept clean. Yes, I love temples & its architecture but what I completely cannot stand is unclean surroundings & the people who are responsible are us. You shouldn’t eat inside the temple premises & if you do, please pick up the food that’s dropped by you on the floor, clean the place & most importantly teach your kids to do the same too. South India has the best temples with intricate carvings & beautiful architecture but sadly it’s not being preserved.

So, post darshan we went to the museum that’s inside the temple premises. It houses all the artefacts of the temple that are centuries old. Some brass idols that have been revived by UNESCO & displayed beautifully in glass boxes. The carvings on wood, old doors of the temple that are made with wood & carved beautifully. For people who are interested in architecture, this place is great, else it can get boring.

Temple History:

According to legend, the sacred Suyambulingam discovered by the king of Gods indira at Kadambavanam, was later enshrined by him in Madurai. The fact that the Lord is seen on the vehicle of Indira in this temple is said to be proof for this.

Many historical evidences of the temple have been found dating back from early A.D. The temple was almost completely destroyed in the year 1310 following the invasion of the Islamic conqueror Malikkapur. As kings who were followers of Islam were noted for their intolerance towards other religions, the invaders destroyed most of the ancient sculptures of the temple.

Thirugnanasambandar the Hindu Saint has mentioned the temple in his songs which go back to early 7th century. The Lord has been described as Alavai Iraivan in his songs. The temple was restored to its pristine glory in the late 14th century when the Hindu Kings came back to power in Madurai.This can also be termed as a new beginning of a new era in the history of the temple, when it was almost rebuilt. The King Thirumalai Naicker played an important role in the construction of the new form of the temple according to records.

Now the deity is known as Sundareswarar, Meenakshi Sundarar, Somasundarar, Kalyana Sundarar, Shanbaga Sundarar, Attavai Shevagan, Chockalingam, Adiyarku Nallan, Adhiraveesi, Vilayaduvan, Abhideka Chockar, Azhagiya Chockar, Kadambavana Chockar, Puzhugu Neidhu Chockar, Kadambavaneswarar, Karpoora Chockar, Madureswarar, Irayanar, Peralavayar and other names.

Post lunch in the evening we planned our visit to Alagar Kovil (Vishnu Temple).

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Read some details about the temple below (from the website)

In Alagar hills lord “Thirumal” is located in the name of “Alagar” and so it is called Alagar hills. This Vaishnavite temple has the unique reputation of the lord’s revelation to the Pandya king Malayathuaja Pandian and Dharma Devashai. The episodes of Alvars have added to the honour of the temple. One hundred and twenty three vaisnavite hymns describe the glory of the temple. Even in the epic Silappathikaram of the classical epic age, the greatness of the temple is beautifully described. No less than Six Alvars, namely, Perialvar, Thirumangaiyalvar, Boothathalvar, Andal, Peyalvar, Nammalvar, have Sung the glory of the shrine. The golden canopy to the dome of temple was done in the 13th Century A.D. by the devoted king Sundara Pandian. Many such sacred dedicatory pieces of artistic additions were added by the king Thirumalai Naickar. A holy spring known as Noopurangangai is perennially sprouting up at the top of the hillock.

Since the presiding deity is of the temple is Alagar (the beautiful), the temple is called Alagar Kovil . This is an important Vishnu temple, about 18 km northeast of Madurai , at Alagar Hill . This is one of the most ancient temples in India and round the temple are ruins of an ancient fortified town. The recently renovated gopurams of this temple look resplendent. The Mahabharata a says that this temple was visited by both Yudhisthira and Arjuna . It is said that Karudalwaar , the chief disciple of Ramanuja , regained his eyesight by worshipping the deity here. Don’t miss the 2,000 years old Sudarsana-chakra in this temple.

After the darshan here & some photography, we proceeded towards Pazhamudircholai (One of the 6 abodes of Lord Murugan) which is very close to Alagar Kovil.

Pazhamudircholai Murugan Temple is a Hindu temple, located approximately 25 kms from Madurai. Atop a hill covered with dense forests. One of the six important abodes (Arupadaiveedu) of Lord Muruga, it is close to the Vishnu temple of Azhagar Kovil. It is said that the Azhagar Kovil was the actual temple for the main deity of the temple, and the deity was later shifted or relocated to Pazhamudircholai during Thirumalai Nayak’s rule in Madurai.

Among the Arupadaiveedu, Pazhamudircholai is the last. Lord Muruga at Pazhamudircholai is praised in several works of old Tamil literature such as the Silappathikaram, the Ettuthokai and the Pattupattu.

The great Tamil poet and saint Avvaiyar was tested by Lord Muruga here. In an episode of Divine Play with Avvaiyar, one of the most famous devotees of Lord Muruga, the Lord enacted the following drama. One day Avvaiyar became tired while traveling under the hot sun and sought refuge under the shadow of a fruit tree, hungry and thirsty, when a boy who sitting on the tree asked her whether she wanted fruits from the tree. When Avvaiyar told him that she did, the boy asked Avvaiyar whether she wanted roasted fruits or unroasted fruits. Avvaiyar who was a famous Tamil poet and incredibly knowledgeable litterateur scoffed silently at the very thought of the existence of a “roasted fruit” and decided that the boy didn’t have knowledge even about a fruit. However, tired as she was, she decided that she didn’t want to argue with the boy and asked him to pick unroasted fruits for her, which the boy then proceeded to do. Several fruits fell out of the tree and Avvaiyar picked them up,blowing on them to remove the sand. Smiling, the boy asked Avvaiyar if she was blowing on his “roasted fruits” to cool them down.

Avvaiyar was astonished as to how a small village cowboy could have played such an intelligent drama. Blowing on the fruit to remove the sand was indeed poetically comparable to an attempt to cool “roasted fruits”. Humbled by the immense poetic knowledge and clever wordplay of the boy, Avvaiyar begged the boy to reveal his true identity, unable to reconcile herself with the fact that a simple cowherd could have such profound thoughts. The boy then disappeared and in his place, Lord Muruga appeared. Avvaiyar, stunned to find herself in Divine Company, bowed in obeisance and realising the infinite nature of knowledge, prayed to Lord Muruga to bless her and continue bestowing his Infinite Grace on her to aid her virtually endless quest for knowledge.

PS – Keep your belongings safely locked in the car including your footwear. There is plenty of monkey menace around the temple.

Day 3 was rest & relaxation in the first half. In the second half we started our journey for Nayakkar  Palace (Originally this was not in our agenda or list of places to visit but the light & sound show was strongly recommended by our Hotel Manager). It starts somewhere around 6.15 pm & show is for half hour. The show is in English with few words / Explanation in Tamil but seriously we got bored in the first 15 minutes as the lights were poor & so was the sound. The palace is beautiful (again under UNESCO) so they have maintained it pretty well. You will see them in the pictures below.

I would recommend a short tour before proceeding further but definitely not the light & sound show which is utter waste of time.

About the Palace –

Thirumalai Nayak Palace is a 17th-century palace erected in 1636 AD by King Thirumalai Nayak, a king of Madurai’s Nayaka dynasty who ruled Madurai from 1623–59, in the city of Madurai, India. This Palace is a classic fusion of Dravidian and Rajput styles. The building, which can be seen today, was the main Palace, in which the king lived. The original Palace Complex was four times bigger than the present structure. In its heyday, Tirumalai Nayak Palace at Madurai was considered to be one of the wonders of the South. This palace is situated 2 km south east of the Meenakshi Amman Temple.

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Having skipped the show midway, we decided to ditch the car & take an auto instead to Tirupparankunram Murugan Temple (again one of the six abodes of Lord Murugan)

About the temple –

Tirupparankunram Murugan Temple is a Hindu temple and one of the Six Abodes of Murugan, located at Tirupparankunram. The temple is built in rock-cut architecture and believed to have been built by the Pandyas during the 6th century. According to the legend it is where Murugan slayed the demon Surapadman and married Deivayanai, the divine daughter of the king of heaven, Indra, and he is said to have worshipped Shiva here as Parangirinathar.

Thiruparamkundram finds mention in Kanda Puranam detailing the slaying of Surapadman by Muruga. As per Hindu legend, Surapadman, a demon king, once obtained boons from Shiva on account of severe penance. He started ruling the 1008 worlds on account of the power attained. He married Padumakomalai and had several sons. Viramkendiram became his capital, a city created in the seas and he started troubling the Devas. He imprisoned Indra’s (the king of celestial deities) and also desired his wife Indrani. Indra sought the help of Muruga. Muruga sent his messenger Viravakutevar to the demon, but he was unmoved.

A severe battle was fought in Thiruparamkundram where Muruga killed all the sond of the demon except Iraniyan. Surapadman hid under the sea and Muruga split him into two pieces, which went on the become the divine vehicles, peacock and rooster. The day when Muruga slayed Surapadman is celebrated as Skanda Sashti festival in all the Murugan temples.

Indra, the king of Devas was impressed and he married Deivayanai, his divine daughter to Muruga at Thiruparamkundram. Muruga is believed to have worshipped Shiva here as Parangirinathar. Kanthar Anoobothi, a treatise of the divine marriage records that Muruga asked all the divine angels and gods who attended the marriage to fly back to heaven in their own vehicles in Mano veham (speed of thought).

Finally Narayan finished his 6 abodes darshan with this temple & I finished my 4th. I am yet to visit Swami Malai & Palani temples. Shall hopefully do that in the coming years.

The next morning we left for Mumbai. The trip was excellent but it came to an end after one week which we thoroughly enjoyed & was memorable.

Vidya Narayan

PS – About the temple & Places are details from Wikipedia & Temple website suitably edited by me.

Pics Courtesy – Vidya & Narayan Neelakantan

 

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