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Madurai

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Known as the Athens of the East, Madurai, the second largest city in Tamil Nadu is situated on the banks of the river Vaigai. An ancient city, more than 2,500 years old, Madurai is believed to have been built by the Pandyan King Kulasekara in the 6th century BC.

The city is said to have got its name from the drops of nectar (Mathuram) that fell from Shiva's locks when he came to bless its people for constructing a temple for him. Originally named Madhurapuri or the 'land of nectar', the name later got modified as Madurai. From such legendary beginnings, the actual history of Madurai emerges sometime during the 3rd century BC when it was the prosperous Pandya's then capital which had trading contacts with Greece and Rome.

Apart from a brief period when it fell to the Cholas, Madurai remained with the Pandyas until the decline of the empire. The next major rulers of Madurai were the Vijayanagara kings who won over the territory in 1371. They appointed the Nayaks as governors who, in time, became powerful in their own right. The 200 - year old reign of the Nayaks marks the golden period of Madurai when art, architecture and learning, scaled new heights. In fact, the most beautiful buildings in the city including its most famous landmark, the Meenakshi temple, are Nayak contributions.



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