Madurai is one of the ancient cities in India and is about a 10 hour drive from Chennai the capital city of Tamil Nadu. Before I planned to visit the place, I went through some books that told about the history, culture and traditions of Madurai. It has more than 100 temples in and around it and Meenakshi Ammal Temple is the largest and most important among them. Many festivals are observed in the temples and outside. Some of the Madurai Festivals are Pongal, Jallikattu, Chithirai festival, Avanimoolam Festival, Festival of Cradle, Navarathri and Dance Festival.
Pongal is the harvest festival celebrated in January, which is a three day celebration in which offerings are made to the Sun, Nature and Cattle who have helped us to get a rich harvest. Jallikattu also is celebrated with Pongal, which is the taming of the bull. It is a very dangerous and exciting game in which the bulls are set free on a large ground. Men who are brave and sure of taming the bulls get on to the ground and fight with the bulls till they are tamed. Often people are seriously hurt in the act. Still it is held every year at many parts of Tamil Nadu. People from neighboring villages crowd around to see the fight and encourage the men.
Chithirai Festival is celebrated on the Tamil month of Chithirai, on the full moon day. It comes in April/May. It includes the 10 day festival of the marriage of Goddess Meenakshi with Sundareswarar and also the visit of Lord Vishnu, Alagar, to the marriage and him going back because the marriage is already over.
In the Festival of Cradle Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswarar are taken to a mirror chamber and kept on a swing for nine days, which rocks gently all the time. Avanimoolam Festival comes in September and is the coronation celebration of Lord Sundareswarar, who is also Lord Shiva. Navarathri is the festival desiccated to Goddess Meenakshi and is held for nine days.
The Dance Festival in Madurai is organized by the Tourism Department where dancers from various parts of India perform various dance forms. The best time to visit Madurai is from January to June.