MADURAI is the second largest city of Tamil Nadu, a southern state in India. Madurai is more than 2,500 years old and has a rich cultural heritage and history. According to legend, it was at this sacred spot that a drop of nectar (Mathuram) fell from Shiva's matted locks, thus giving its name Madurai.
Pongal or the Harvest Festival is celebrated by way of paying tribute to the Sun, Nature and cattle for helping them with a rich harvest. The 3 day festival is celebrated with great pomp and splendour. Bogi is celebrated the first day. Homes are given a fresh lick of paint and old articles are removed.
The second day is Pongal, the main festival. Sugarcanes, Pongal (a sweet variety of rice) and festoons of mango leaves mark this auspicious day. Mattu Pongal is celebrated the third day. On this day people pay tribute to the cattle for bringing in prosperity.
This Festival is celebrated in the Month of January.
Thirumalai Nayak Palace is bout 1.5 Kms from the Meenakshi temple, this palace was built in 1636 by the ruler whose name it bears. The imposing edifice is famous for the “Stuccowork” on its domes and impressive arches. Among other striking features of the palace are the massive white pillars, several of which line the corridor that runs along the courtyard. There’s daily sound and light show in English at 1845 hrs. This half an hour show extols the virtues of King Thirumalai, particularly his passion for arts, his victories in battle and his love for his subjects.
Float festival in Madurai is celebrated on the full moon night between the months of January and February. It is celebrated between mid January and mid February. On this occasion, the images of Lord Sundaresa and Goddess Meenakshi are taken out of the Meenakshi temple. The deities, decked with pearl crown and mounted on golden bull, are taken out in a huge procession. The icons of the deities are then floated in Mariamman Theppakulam in Vandiyur.
Chitrai Festival is celebrated on the Full Moon Day of the Tamil month of Chitrai i.e. in the month of April/May. The festival marks the wedding of Goddess Meenakshi to Lord Sundareswarer. A procession of a gold idol of Lord Azaghar, seated on a horse, is carried out by the devotees from Azaghar Koil to Madurai. This is done to take the Lord to Madurai for attending the wedding rituals. The festival stretches on for about 10 days and the participation of the devotees is unmatched.
During the festival the deities - Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswarar (Lord Siva) are taken in procession to a mirror chamber. For nine days they are on a swing, which rocks gently.
The festival takes place in August/September. It is basically organized to celebrate the coronation of Lord Sundareswarer. Priests narrate mythological stories of Siva through a play called 'Lila'. It includes the recitation of 64 miracles of Siva, which saved the city from adversity. The venue of the celebrations is the Sundareswarer Temple.
Navratri (Nine nights) Festival is one of the most popular festivals of Madurai. It is celebrated in the honor of Goddess Meenakshi. The Goddess is worshiped in her nine forms during the festival. Navratri Festival in Madurai is celebrated in the month of 'asvina' (according to Hindu almanac) on the first nine lunar days. According to the Tamil calendar, Navratri is held in the nine lunar days that is said to begin after the new moon in 'purattaci' (September-October). The festivities of Navratri begin with the first phase of the moon after Mahalaya Amavasya and conclude with Dussehra or Vijaya Dasami, as it is popularly called.
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