Madurai - Architecture

Architecture

Madurai is built around the Meenakshi Amman Temple, which acted as the geographic and ritual center of the ancient city of Madurai. The city is divided into a number of concentric quadrangular streets around the temple. Vishwanatha Nayak (1159–64 CE), the first Madurai Nayak king, redesigned the city in accordance with the principles laid down by Shilpa Shastras (Sanskrit: śilpa śāstra, also anglicized as silpa sastra meaning rules of architecture) relevant to urban planning. These squares continue to retain their traditional names, Aadi, Chittirai, Avani-moola and Masi streets, corresponding to the Tamil month names and also to the festivals associated. The temple prakarams (outer precincts of a temple) and streets accommodate an elobrate festival calendar in which dramatic processions circumabulate the shrines at varying distances from the centre. The vehicles used in processions are progressively more massive the further they travel from the centre. Ancient Tamil classics record the temple as the center of the city and the streets appeared like lotus and its petals. The temple along with the city faces East, the direction of the rising Sun. The city's axes were aligned with the four quarters of the compass, and the four gateways of the temple provided access to it. The wealthy and higher echelons of the society were placed in streets close to the temple, while the poorest were placed in the fringe streets. With the advent of British rule during the 19th century, Madurai became the headquarters of a large colonial political complex and an industrial town – with the urbanisation, the social hierarchical classes became unitary.

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