Krishna Devaraya was the King of Vijayanagar, he sent
one general Nagama Naick to Madurai to control the internal
confusion in the Madurai regional politics. Nagama Naick
controled the waring groups and restored peace, but declared
himself as an independant ruler. This act provoked the
King Krishna Devaraya and he sent Viswanatha Naick, the
son of the revolutionary Nagama, to arrest and produce
his father in the royal court. Viswanatha fulfilled the
order of the King, but justified his father's act and
explained the real condition of the region. King, being
convinced by the explanation of Viswanatha, released his
father and crowned Viswanatha as the ruler of Madurai
as a reward to his loyalty. Thus the Madurai Naick Principality
was established about 1530 A.D.
This Palace was built in 1636 by King Thirumalai Nayak
with the help of an Italian Architect. The building we
see today was the main Palace where the King lived. The
original Palace Complex was four times bigger than the
present structure. This palace consisted mainly of two
parts, namely Swargavilasa and Rangavilasa.
In these two parts, there are royal residence, theatre,
shrine, apartments, armoury, palanquin place, royal bandstand,
quarters, pond and garden. King Thirumalai Nayak celebrated
festivals like Sceptre festival, Navarathri, Chithirai
festival, Masi festival and the Float festival.
conducted daily dance and music performances in the palace.
This palace was destroyed by his grandson Chokkanatha
Nayak and the valuables were transferred to other places.
During 19th century, Lord Napier, governor of Madras between
1866 and 1872 made several renovation works. Today, only
the spacious rectangular courtyard called the swarga Vilasam
and a few adjoining biuldings survive, their awesome scale
evoking the grandeur of a vanished era. The courtyard
measures 3,900 sq.m and is surrounded by massive circular
pillars. To its west lies the Throne Chamber, a vast room
with a raised, octagonal dome. This room leads to the
Dance Hall. Then the palace was utilized to house some
officials of the judiciary and district administration.
After independence, this palace was declared as a national
monument and is now under the care of the Tamilnadu Archaeological
Department. It can be visited from 9a.m to 5 p.m on payment
of the entrance fee.
The thousand pillar mandapam is supposed to have been
built by Arya Natha Mudaliyar, the Prime Minister of the
first Nayaka of Madurai (1559-1600 A.D.) and the founder
of 'Poligar System'. An equestrian statue of the Mudaliyar
flanks one side of the steps leading to the 'mandapam'.
Except the inner shrines, probably no part of the temple
is older than the 16th century. The general plan of the
sanctuary is typical of the gigantic South Indian temples
with vast quadrangular enclosures and lofty 'gopurams'
overlooking the central shrine. Round about the temple,
outside the higher wall is, a neat garden fenced with
iron railings. Even a casual visitor is fascinated by
the many paintings and sculptures in this shrine. The
ceilings are decorated with large paintings showing Shaivite
and Vaishnavite themes. There is a beautiful painting
of the marriage of Sundareswarar with Devi Meenakshi.
Another beautiful painting is that of Harihara.
In the outer corridor are the most popular musical pillars,
five in number, each composed of twenty two slender rods
carved out of a single rock of granite, which produce
the 'Saptha Swaras' when gently tapped with a wooden rod.
There is a spacious 'pushkarini' in front of the Meenakshi
shrine called the Golden Lotus Tank or 'Ponthamaraikulam'.
Beautifully paved stone steps on all the four sides are
set to reach the placid water. The great tower of the
south reflected in the Golden Lilly Tank is perhaps the
best known view of the Meenakshi Sundareshwarar temple.
According to mythology, Indra from Devaloka entered this
tank and it was filled with golden Lillies. It is said
that the tank was also used to judge the literary merit
of the manuscripts of poets and authors. When placed on
the water, the manuscripts would float supported by a
plank if its value was considered worthy otherwise it
would sink to the bottom. This testing miraculous plank
was called 'Sanga Palkki' (sanga plank) and can still
be seen in the temple museum. This tradition amply substantiates
the view that Madurai was once a centre of learning and
erudition. The Pandyan kings were great patrons of arts
and letters. One of the first monarchs of the dynasty,
Ugra Paruvaludi (128-140 A.D.) is gratefully remembered
for the patronage he extended to poet Tiruvalluvar.
In the 14th century, Madurai aroused the cupidity of Malikkafur
who invaded it and set up a Mohammadan dynasty that remained
in power for nearly fifty years, at the end of which it
was conquered by a General of the Vijayanagar Empire and
became a feudatory. The Vijayanagar Emperor, while guarding
the kingdom against the invaders, subsequently restored
it to the descendants of the Pandyan kings.
From the middle of the 16th century, right up to the eighth
decade of the 18th century. the city retained its glory
as the principal seat of the Nayakas. Although Vishwanatha
Nayaka, the first and greatest of a long line of distinguished
rulers, is credited with having laid the foundations of
a well planned and well fortified city. Tirumala Nayaka,
who ascended to throne in 1623 A.D., and ruled over Madurai
for 36 years can be said to have made the largest single
contribution towards the enhancement of the beauty and
splendour of the town by magnificent edifices and monuments.
A little away from the temple precincts in the town is
the ruins of Palace of Tirumala Nayaka constructed during
his reign (1623-1645 A.D.). It contains beautiful domes
and arches. One of the domes stands without the support
of girder -an architectural feat of everlasting wonder.
They must have been an extravagance of stucco in its heyday.
Tirumala Nayaka was undoubtedly the greatest of the Nayaka
rulers. The Nayakas of Madurai like those of Thanjavur
and gingee ruled South India as the Governors of Vijayanagar
emperors and gradually became independent rulers as the
empire began to decline and breakup, though they did not
like to call themselves as kings due probably to their
reverence to the dynasty.
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