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a city in southern India, on the Vaigai River, in the state of Tamil Nadu. Population, 548,300 (1971). Railroad junction. It is an important commercial center and one of India’s most important centers for the production of textiles (cotton and silk). Cottage industries include the manufacture of fabrics, brass working, and wood carving (artistic furnishings).
Madurai was mentioned in the second century as the capital of the Pandyan Kingdom. Between 1334 and 1371 it was the capital of the Pandyan Sultanate. Madurai subsequently became an administrative center of the Vijayanagar empire. From 1565 to 1737 it was the capital of the Vijayanagar state.
Madurai is the site of the large temple complex of Siva (12th-17th centuries), with the hall of a thousand pillars (Mandapam, c. 1560), fortress walls with exquisitely carved gopurams (tower gates), a sacred pool (Tank of Golden Lotus) surrounded by a colonnade and gallery with murals, the Meenakshi Temple, and other structures. The palace of Tirumala Nayak (17th century; portico, 1866) is located 1 km outside of Madurai.