With centuries old history attached to its name, the ancient city of Madurai throbs with many interesting legacies, some of them dating back to the 3rd century Sangam era. Erstwhile home to the mighty Pandyan kings, Madurai has been the political and cultural seat to several Indian dynasties. Most of the exquisite structural designs, notable arts, literary works and Tamil culture that we find in this region bears the stamp of Pandyan influence. Post Pandyan rule, the bridle of Madurai was passed into the hands of the Delhi Sultanate, the Vijayanagar Empire and the Nayaks, who contributed in shaping Madurai and conferred the city with its own unique historical standing. Amidst the power play, and rise and fall of various kingdoms, Madurai throve to become one of the important cities in Tamil Nadu. During the 18th century, the ancient city slipped into the hands of the British East India Company and remained under English supremacy until the Indian Mutiny. The consequences of the Indian Mutiny were strongly felt in this region with several political leaders taking active initiatives to campaign against the British Raj. Read the article below to know more interesting facts about Madurai's history.
Legend has it that a farmer once caught a glimpse of Lord Indra idolizing a 'lingam' in a deep forest and reported the incident to King Kulasekara Pandya. The Pandyan emperor, being as religious as he was, cleared up the entire forest and erected a Shiva temple there. It is believed that Lord Shiva graced the opening ceremony and left behind honey drops on the shrine. After this incident, the place came to be known as 'Madhurapuri,' which translates to nectar or sweetness in Tamil. Later, the place surrounding the shrine came to be known as Madurai.
During the medieval period, the Pandyan kings stamped their authority all over the land and held their supremacy until 9th century, before the Cholas usurped their power. During the Pandyan rule, Madurai was seized by the Kalabhras dynasty for a brief period before Pandyan retrieved their dominance over the land. After the fall of the Pandyan dynasty, the city of Madurai was passed into the hands of the Chola kingdom. The Cholas ruled the city until the early period of the 13th century. During their rule, the Cholas patronized art and culture in the region. By mid 13th century, the Pandyans recaptured the land and contributed significantly towards the wealth and glory of Madurai. The descendents of the Pandyan rulers brought about prosperity in the field of economics, arts and literature. The Pandyan kings supported and encouraged literary works. 'Silapathikaram' is a popular literary work of the time. Maravarman Kulasekara Pandyan I was the last Pandyan ruler who took the kingdom to great heights. The demise of Kulasekara Pandyan in 1308 CE led to a civil war over the throne. Taking advantage of Madurai's instable political rule, the Delhi Sultan Alauddin Khilji made his mind to usurp the throne of Madurai.
Muslim And Vijayanagar Rule
After Madurai yielded to the Muslim rulers, the city was plundered and ravaged several times. Much of its wealth was looted and many temples were destroyed in the process. The Delhi Sultanate seized Madurai and by the year 1323, the entire Pandyan territory fell into the hands of the Muslim rulers. However, it was not until 1371 that the Vijayanagar dynasty of Hampi annexed the city of Madurai and made it a part of its province. Since the boundaries were extremely vast, the territories were divided and placed under Nayaks, who were the appointed administrators of the land. The Nayaks had absolute say over the management of their districts. After the death of Krishna Deva Raya in 1530 AD, the Nayaks became an autonomous dynasty and ruled the place until the British captured the region.
During the Mughal period, the city did not see the dominance of any particular monarch as the town changed hands to many rulers. Madurai remained in the clutches of the Nawab of Arcot until 1801. In 1801, the British East Indian company made Madurai a part of the Madras Presidency. By 1837, the province of Madurai expanded and came to be governed by an administrative head. During the freedom struggle, Madurai took active part in revolting against the British rule. N. M. R. Subbaraman, Mohammad Ismail Sahib and Meer Niyamatullah Ibrahim Sahib were some of the popular leaders of Madurai who campaigned against the British dominance in India.
After 1947, Madurai extended its boundaries towards the north of River Vaigai. New housing localities were established and areas like Anna Nagar and K.K Nagar came into existence. In 1971, Madurai Municipal Corporation made further developments to improve the existing conditions of the city.