Madurai is a vibrant city based on the banks of the Vaigai river and is well-known today for the Meenakshi Amman temple whose 14 colorful gopurams dominate its skyline. This Dravidian-style temple is covered with enticing carvings of Hindu Gods and is a major pilgrimage site as well as a tourist hotspot.
It’s one of the oldest cities in India that also holds the soul of the state of Tamil Nadu; it is steeped in enchanting history, ancient architecture, arts and culture – a perfect blend to grasp the hearts and minds of anyone! The tourist footfalls to this medieval city are high and the hospitality industry has grown accordingly to accommodate the traveler. Numerous hotels, including the Sangam group of hotels have set up a branch here to pamper the discerning tourist.
An important mythological story about the famous poet Nakkeerar is based in this city. According to legend, Nakkeerar was born into a family of chank-cutters sometimes during the 9nth century AD. His devotion to Lord Shiva and Murugan is legendary and is depicted in the ‘Thiruvilaiyadal Puranam’; this mythical story is enacted out during the Meenakshi Sundareswarer temple festival celebrations in Madurai, where thousands come to witness the festivities.
According to Tiruvilaiyadal Puranam, an incidence was described where the Pandiyan king had a doubt whether the fragrant smell of a women’s hair was natural, or was due to flowers. He was so captured by this thought that he announced a reward of 1000 gold coins for anyone who could clear his doubts!
On hearing this, a poor poet by name of Tharumi prayed to Lord Shiva for inspiration to get this reward. Lord Shiva is supposed to have given him a poem in response; when this poem was recited in court, the poet Nakkeerar objected to the poem and said women’s hair only smelled when it was adorned with flowers.
Tharumi got upset that Nakkeerar dared to find fault with Lord Shiva’s poem and again called out to Lord Shiva. The lord then appeared in the king’s court and challenged Nakkeerar, but Nakkeerar stuck to his opinion and was undaunted. Lord Shiva then got angry and opened his third eye to reveal his identity to Nakkeerar, but the poet still stuck to his statement. But since he couldn’t bear the scorching heat from the Lord’s third eye, the poet jumped into the cool waters of the cool Golden Lotus Tank.
Upon fervent requests from fellow poets, Lord Shiva forgave him and made him a student of the Tamil sage, Agasthiar.