Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal, Madurai

India is the fabled land of riches and stories, attracting travelers and traders from centuries. Madurai is one such fabled metropolis of India, which has been there silently watching over the passage of history. The city is endowed with fabulous buildings, temples, and palaces, which makes this place more beautiful. With the advent of colonialism, the colonial architecture made its presence felt in Madurai and enhanced it’s already exciting architecture.

Among these interesting buildings, this write-up would focus on Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal, in Madurai.

Introduction and a Brief Overview of Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal

The crumbling Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal in Madurai is one of the most popular landmarks of Madurai, next only to Meenakshi Amman Temple. Spread in a large area, and the palace comprises of an eastern entrance with a large courtyard enclosed by tall columns. These columns are decorated with attractive stucco figurines that lead the visitors to the lavish throne room with an elaborately decorated dome. The Natakasala (Dance Hall), located in the northwest corner of the palace, is another important building of this palace.  

Built-in 1636 AD, the palace was built by the King Tirumala Nayak, and the palace is a fine example of architecture belonging to Dravidian-Islamic style. Due to its proximity to the Meenakshi Amman Temple, the palace is frequently visited by temple goers and tourists. During the heydays of the Madurai Nayak Dynasty, the palace used to be much larger and grander in scale.

The interiors of the monument were decorated with elaborate stucco work, giving this place a new dimension. Architectural wonders comparison of more than 200 massive pillars, which holds the palace in its place, is quite stunning.      

The Madurai Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal is divided into two sections – Ranga Vilasa and Swarga Vilasa. These complexes were used as a royal residence, shrine, armory, theatre, pond, and garden.

Keynotes on Tirumala Madurai Nayak Palace

Address: Mahal Area, Panthadi 1st St, Madurai Main, Tamil Nadu 625001

Opening time: 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, 1:30 pm to 5:00 pm

Time required: 2 hours

Special attraction: Architecture and the serene landscape

Entry Fee: INR 50 (extra for the camera; both still and video)

Best time to visit: October to December

How to reach: Cabs or auto-rickshaw can be hired to reach the palace    


History of Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal, Madurai

The Nayaks ruled Madurai from 1545 AD to 1740. During their reign, the Madurai Empire witnessed a great era of prosperity and infrastructural development. According to several historical records, this palace was constructed to mark the shift of power from Tiruchi to Madurai in the 17th century. This shift in the capital was done for administrative and strategic reasons. The King Tirumala Nayak hired an Italian Architect to design and constructs the place complex.   

With time, rampant wars and civil distress damaged the beauty of this palace. Later on, in the 18th century, the existing Nayaks ruler demolished most of the remaining structures of the palace. It the expensive artifacts like precious stones, expensive wood, and wood carving was pulled down and used to construct the royal residence of the existing king.  

The Architecture of Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal

The Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal in Madurai is one of the most stunning buildings in South India. Interestingly, the union of Dravidian and Islamic style of architecture gives this palace a unique character. During its initial days, the palace complex used to be massive, however by the 18th century the monument was reduced to a fraction of its original size.

The circular pillars and the garden area surround a massive courtyard and an intricately decorated Hall for entertainment. For the construction foliated brickwork was used, while the shell lime stucco work gave the building a smoother finish. The pavilions and balconies of the palace were once covered in gold and precious jewels, giving this palace a regal look. Visitors coming to the palace should make a point to visit the palanquin palace and the garden area.   

Important Attraction

The light and sound show at Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal, Madurai is one of the biggest attractions of the palace. Hosted every evening, the lights illuminate the entire palace and the surrounding grounds. Simultaneously, an audio narration describes the rich history and culture of India and the Madurai kingdom. To make the show more engaging, the show uses different props and troupes that tickle the senses of the audiences. These shows are organized in both Tamil and English, to engage more visitors. The show timings are:

Tamil show: 8:00 PM - 8:50 PM
English show: 6:45 PM - 7:45 PM

However, these timings are subjected to change. Visitors interested in the Light and Sound Show should approach the organizers.   

What Next?

The Tirumala Nayak Mahal, Madurai is a beautiful structure that showcases the beauty and architectural marvel of the Nayak Empire. However, after an interesting trip, visitors can head towards the following destinations:

•  Meenakshi Temple

•  Gandhi Memorial Museum

•  Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam

•  Koodal Azhagar Temple

Madurai and its landmarks are one of the closest observe Indian history. The city has witnessed the passage of time and people, who came here in search of riches far beyond.

Do visit this interesting city, you will not be disappointed.

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