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Madurai, formerly the seat of power for the Pandya dynasty, is one of the oldest cities in the south. It lies along the banks of the Vaigai River and, as with many Hindu cities, the frenetic centre of the city’s activity is the main temple – the mighty Meenakshi-Sundareshwarar. The temple is an important centre for Hindu pilgrimage and is covered in a profusion of brightly coloured stucco figures. Beneath, the dimly lit pillared halls are filled with pilgrims, priests and exotic fragrances. A Hindu legend tells that a few drops of nectar fell down from Shiva’s locks onto the city and this changed the name to Madurai, or ‘city of nectar’. Madurai’s other points of interest include the Gandhi Museum, which is dedicated to the life of the great Mahatma Gandhi and includes exhibits such as the dhoti he was wearing when he was assassinated.


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