by Saras Chelladurai Posted on 905 views 0 comments

The City

Madurai is one of the ancient cities of South India with a glorious history. It is famous for its world acclaimed Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple. The city of Madurai has been constructed in the form of a lotus and is built around the temple. It is situated on the banks of the river Vaigai. Madurai is now one of the oldest and continuously inhabited cities in the world. It is one of the busiest commercial centers in South Tamil Nadu. This sacred city of south India attracts thousands of pilgrims and visitors from India and abroad throughout the year..

The Legend

Legend says, Madurai was once called forest KADAMBAVANAM. Once a merchant named Dhananjaya who was passing through the forest, saw INDRAN – the king of Gods, worshiping a SWAYAMBHULINGAM under a kadamba tree in the forest. This was reported immediately to the king KULASHEKARA PANDYAN. Kulashekara cleared the forest and built a magnificent Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple around the sacred LINGAM and he built a lotus shaped city around the temple. On the naming ceremony of the city, Lord Shiva appeared magnificently to bless the city. The divine nectar (madhu) from the matted locks of Shiva fell on the blessed city. So, then the city was named “Madhurapuri”. Madurai has reference in the great Indian epics – Ramayana , Kautilyas and Arthasastra.

As early as the 302BC, Megasthanes visited Madurai. Great travel-historians like Pliny (77AD) and Ptolemy (140AD) have made reference to Madurai in their travelogues. Marcopolo visited Madurai in 1293AD followed by Ibn Batuta in 1333AD. Later many people from Rome and Greece visited Madurai and established trade with the Pandya kings.

Here is a minute video of Pandyan Kingdom

During the 10 century AD, Madurai was captured by Cholas. The Cholas ruled Madurai from 920 AD till the beginning of the 13th century. In 1223 AD Pandyas regained their kingdom and once again become prosperous. Pandian Kings patronised Tamil language in a great way. During their period, many master-pieces were created. “Silapathikaram”, the great epic in Tamil was written based on the story of Kannagi who burnt Madurai as a result of the injustice caused to her husband Kovalan. In April 1311, Malik Kafur, the general of Alauddin Khilji who was then the ruler of Delhi, reached Madurai and raided and robbed the city for precious stones, jewels, and other rare treasures. This led to the subsequent raids by other Muslim Sultans. In 1323, the Pandya kingdom including Madurai became a province of the Delhi empire, under the Tughlaks.

The Nayaks

The 1371, the Vijayanagar dynasty of Hampi captured Madurai and Madurai became part of the Vijayanagar empire. Kings of this dynasty were in habit of leaving the captured land to governors called Nayaks. This was done for the efficient management of their empire. The Nayaks paid fixed amount annually to the Vijayanagar empire. After the death of Krishna Deva Raya (King of Vijayanagar empire) in 1530 AD, the Nayaks became independent and ruled the territories under their control. Among Nayaks, Thirumalai Nayak (1623-1659) was very popular, even now he is popular among people, since, it was he who contributed to the creation of many magnificent structures in and around Madurai. The Raja Gopuram of the Meenakshi Amman Temple, The Pudu Mandapam and The Thirumalai Nayakar’s Palace are living monuments to his artistic fervor.

The British

Madurai started slipping into the hands of the British’s East India Company. In 1781, British appointed their representatives to look after Madurai. George Procter was the first collector of Madurai.

Now after Indian independence, Madurai is one of the major districts of Tamilnadu State. Madurai is surrounded by several mountains. It is famous for Jasmine Flowers. Jasmine flowers are transported to various other cities of India from Madurai. Kodaikanal is the beautiful hill resort situated near Madurai. The city is surrounded by three small prominent hills which are called the Anaimalai, Pasumalai and Nagamalai named after their resemblance to an Elephant, a Cow and a Snake respectively.

Madurai is closely associated with the Tamil language, and the third Tamil Sangam, a major congregation of Tamil scholars said to have been held in the city. The recorded history of the city goes back to the 3rd century BCE, being mentioned by Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador to the Maurya empire, and Kautilya, a minister of the Mauryan emperor Chandragupta Maurya. Signs of human settlements and Roman trade links dating back to 300BC are evident from excavations by Archeological Surveys. The city is believed to be of significant antiquity and has been ruled, at different times, by the Pandyas, Cholas, Madurai Sultanate, Vijayanagar Empire, Madurai Nayaks, Carnatic kingdom, and the British.

Historical EVENTS Look-up of Madurai
Source : “A study of street names of Madurai City”, by Mr. D Devaraj, P.G.Asst. Pasumalai Higher Secondary School, Madurai

3rd century BC
Greek ambassidor Megasthanes visited Madurai and made outstanding remarks about Madurai
27 BC
Pandya kings constructed Romans neighborhood in Madurai with the relationship of roman emperor – Augustus Ceaser
140 AD
Ptolemy called Madurai as “Mediterranean Emporium of the South”
2nd Century AD
Kadaichangam ended in Madurai
3rd Century AD
Pandya kings established Tamil Sangam in Madurai
3rd  to 6th Century AD
Madurai was under the rule of Kalar-Pirar
470 AD
Vasindranandhi (Samana Periyar) established Dhravidar Sangam
7th Century AD
Thirugnana Sambandar did Tamil literary work in Madurai
9th Century AD
Manikkavasagar did Tamil literary work in Madurai
575 to1310 AD
Pandya Kings took back the rule of Madurai.
1268 to 1310 AD
Venice traveller Marco-polo visited Madurai during this reign of Maravarman Kulasekaran
1311  AD
Malik Kapoor and Kushrukan captured Madurai
1328  AD
Madurai became the part of Muhamad-bin Tuklak empire
1330  AD
Jallaudin Hansha was appointed as Madurai’s first collector
1377  AD
Delhi sultan’s rule came to an end
14th Century AD
Vijayanagar emperor Hariharar appointed a new collector for Madurai
1529 to 1564 AD
Visuvanatha Nayakar ruled Madurai
1623 to 1659 AD
Thirumalai Nayakar ruled Madurai
1645 AD
Vandiyoor Teppakulam was built by Thirumalai Nayakar
1689 to 1706 AD
Rani Mangammal ruled Madurai
1707 to 1736 AD
Namaha Nayakar ruled Madurai under the kingdom of Krishna Deverayar.
17th Century AD
Robert-de Nobili did Tamil literary work in Madurai
1736 AD
Arcot Navab captured Madurai
1759 to 1764 AD
Khan Sahib ruled Madurai
1790 AD
British’s East India company took over Madurai
1790 AD
Madurai got a new English collector Alexander Macliot
1840 AD
Collector Black Burne demolished the fort and the moth around old Madurai and expanded the city.
1851 AD
Dr. R.Graul, Director of Evangelical Lutheran Mission in Lepsic stated that “Madurai is the Athens of the east”
1857 AD
English rule started officially
1869 AD
Central Jail was built in Madurai
1873 AD
District Court was built in Madurai
1875 AD
Railway transportation system was introduced in Madurai
1914 AD
Underground sewage system was constructed in Madurai
1947 AD
English rule came to an end


Saras Chelladurai

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