‘Madura, Most Celebrated City of the Kingdom of Regio Pandionis’ (Post No.2831)


Compiled by London swaminathan


Date: 22 May 2016


Post No. 2831


Time uploaded in London :–   20-37


( Thanks for the Pictures)




(for old articles go to tamilandvedas.com OR swamiindology.blogspot.com)


Excerpt from the book ‘India Revisited’ by Edwin Arnold, year 1886

“No towns of any importance are passed until the traveller arrives at Madura, one of the most celebrated cities of the ancient kingdom of the Regio Pandionis.

Madura, “the place of amenity”, according to its Sanskrit derivation, lies on the high road to Rameswaram, the sacred island of the Straits, and thus must have become very early as a famous site, full of schools, temples and palatial buidings.


One prince of the Nayak dynasty is said to have here erected or commenced 96 shrines, of which those that remain are striking examples of the religious architecture of India.


Temple of Minakshi or the Fish Eyed Parvati has nine large and small pagodas on its sides and angles. Four of them are of great height, soaring aloft in the form of sharp pyramids, covered from base to summit with stages of elaborately sculptured figures in stone, which have been minutely and ingeniously coloured, and stand forth from a ground of red – so that each gopuram looks like a mountain of bright and shifting hues, in the endless detail of which the stonished vision becomes lost. Range after range of gods, goddesses, heroes, and demons, in vivid tents, and with all their jewels and weapons dazzlingly brought out by gold and ochres, are seen mounting into  the air from the pillared basement where horses ramp and elephants twist their trunks, to the volutes at the top all blue and green and gold. Imagine four of these carved and decorated pyramidal pagodas, each equally colossal and multi coloured, with five minor ones clustering near, any one of which would singly make a town remarkable!

meenakshi 1919

The interior of this vast temple is full of picturesque courts and dimly lighted aisles, where numberless bats flit about among the lamps, and figures of the wildest fancy glimmer through the obscurity. We were not allowed – being known here only as passing travellers – to enter the very holy places of the building, and thus failed to see the “Tank of the Golden Lotuses” and the famous “Bench of Jewels”. This latter, if accounts be true, was a marvellous possession of the shrine. The candidate for election to the Synod of the college, after satisfactorily replying to his examination questions, was told to seat himself on the bench. If he were a worthy aspirant it expanded of itself from a mere knife- edge of a blue granite to  a commodious seat set with diamonds; if unworthy, the bench collapsed altogether, at the same time flinging the rejected  novice into the tank.


According to old legends, the useful institution came into disuse about the year 1028 AD, when a Pariah priest presented himself for ordination, bringing a remarkably clever Sanskrit poem. The proud ecclesiastics of Madura had grown idle and ignorant, and would have driven this humble  yet learned aspirant forth; but he was no other than the God Shiva himself in disguise,  who had come to claim admission to his own Sangha; and the Bench of Jewels expanded joyously  to accommodate the deity. The story goes that, , on beholding this condemnation of their order, the priests filled out one by one and drowned themselves respectfully in the tank of the Golden Lotuses.


Madura is a clean and well-kept city, full of many other interesting buildings and of picturesque combinations of palm grove and bazaar life which would delight an artist. In its streets may be  constantly seen, yoked ‘ekas’ and carts, those charming little  Guini bullocks, milk white and perfectly proportioned , but diminutive beyond belief. I saw one of them in the garden of Mr De Souza, at Colombo, which was a bull, as symmetrical as any short-horn sire of the Bates breed, and yet positively no bigger than a mastiff or Mount st. Bernard. I tried to buy some of these to bring home, but those offered were not of the true caste; and the man who had the better specimens encountered an evil omen on his way to my quarters. You must not do any business in India, if you meet with a one eyed person, an empty water pot, a fox, a hare, or a dead body!


Madura also produces the finest scarlet-dyed cloths in India – a distinction attributed to the virtues of the water of the River Vyga. In one of her streets is, moreover, to be seen a very simple, but a pleasing monument, recording the gratitude of the inhabitants to a former collector, Mr Black Burne.


This is a pillar of stone, of no architectural merit, but erected to perpetuate the name and virtues of the meritorious British official who transformed Madura from foetid and plague-stricken city to one which has become wholesome, aggregable, and handsome in aspect beyond most Indian towns. Every night a lamp is lighted upon his memorial, and it is only one of a thousand proofs of the benefits conferred upon India by the just and conscientious English rule, as well as of the solid appreciation felt for that rule by best minds among the natives.


meenakshi base view

“Political Mischief Mongers”

Political mischief mongers who talk at home or in India, of the discontent and ill will of her inhabitants towards the British are either ignorant or malignant. I have recently passed through hundreds of her towns and cities, and over thousands of miles of her districts – often wandering alone in crowded bazaars or solitary jungles — and have not encountered a single evil look or received one rude or unfriendly answer.  In conversation with intelligent people of all caste and classes I have found the blessings of our  strong and upright sway perfectly understood, and repaid — not, indeed, with affection, since that is asking too much from Hindu natures – but with respect, admiration, and general acquiescence. There are classes, of course, which will always remain hostile, and India is an ocean of humanity, about the various seas, gulfs and inlets of which no man can ever securely generalise. Yet I am personally convinced by observation and inquiry that the roots of our Raj – despite al drawbacks and perils – were never so deeply struck into the soil as at present, and that while we must strive more and more to develop the boundless resources of the country, and to win the hearts of her people by fearless, but wise and gradual expansion of their rights and liberties, India at large knows well that she has never received from Heaven aa richer blessing than the Pax Britannica”.


(Even scholars like Edwin Arnold justified the “just” and “conscientious” British Rule!!!)

Many of the things he has said about Madura(i) are also factually incorrect—London swaminathan.


What makes Madurai Unique in the World: Oswald J.Couldrey

temple big



Research Article: Written by London swaminathan

Date: 21 September 2015

Post No: 2178

Time uploaded in London :– 20-15

(Thanks  for the pictures) 

Please read my post “The Wonder that is Madurai Meenakshi Temple” posted by me here on 14th October 2011.

Following is excerpt from South Indian Hours by Oswald J.Couldrey, Year 1924

“Madura is a city in the far south, and very old. You will find her name recorded in Ptolemy’s Greek, MODOURA, which better represents the Tamil pronunciation than does the English form. Her ancient Pandya kings, who grew early rich upon the local pearl fisheries, and are mentioned in Asoka’s Edicts, were connected by the Greeks with King Pandion, by themselves and neighbours with the five legendary Pandavas, the heroes of the Mahabharata. Of that remote civilization there are now probably few material remains. The monuments of Madura chiefly refer to the seventeenth century Naiks, those powerful viceroys of the great Southern Hindu Empire of Vijayanagar, who rivalled and outlasted the splendour of their suzerain.

But what makes Madura almost unique among the cities of the world, wherein the past can be studied, is the fact that her antiquity generally, though having its roots far back in an almost Babylonish past, is also of the twentieth century. I speaks of no stagnation. Art and religion here were alive and growing with a vigour and direction imparted long ago. The life seen here today is sister to the life of ancient Shinar, a younger sister, and grown up in time.

The glory and potential crown of Madura is the great double temple (but they stand within the same enclosure) of Siva and Minakshi. You hear more of the goddess, the Fish-Eyed, though her husband’s lodging is larger; and I suspect that she represents an older local cult, espoused later by the religion of the Brahmins. There are in India many temples far older, many holier than this, some more cunningly designed and adorned; few larger, grander and more intricate, none more crowded, busy, eloquent of the living past. For size, you could put all the temples of Benares within the Madura precinct, and have room to spare, in extent, variety, and occupation, it resembles a city rather than a temple, and a city where you will not quickly learn your way about.

The good people of Madura, which is large and flourishing town, spend much of their time in temple, like Anglo-Indians at a club, or Greeks in their agora, and so fill the place themselves, without the help of pilgrims and sight seers, f whom, however, there is no lack. I have been to the Madura temple several times, and know well the lie of its courts and edifices; but to explain it is another matter, and I shall attempt only a general description.

The temple is, four square, like the heavenly Jerusalem, and girt with a high wall.in the middle of each side is the pylon or gopuram, but far taller than usual, and all crusted with idols; four towers that crown the city like the tiaras upon the fourfold brows of Brahma.


The great pile of the gate head is plastered thick with images, which stand se before its innumerable storied, lessening cells, like an enormous and splendid swarms of bees; all the mystic and many weaponed persons of the Siva pantheon, infinitely multiplied and repeated and reduced, and carried in rising ranks, and receding tiers, up to the horns and scrolls of the topmost roof.

There, and yonder, he appears as Nataraja, the dancer, his polyp arms spread round him like an aureole, as he weaves the mystic dance of the worlds, the universal and eternal dance of life, which is the pastime of god. Near him, with arms as many, and a whole brigade of heads, Skanda, the War God, Siva’s first born, rides upon his peacock, a fine image of the pomp and circumstance of Asian war. Nor is the figure of his brother Ganapati, round bellied, elephant faced, the people’s darling fetish, less conspicuous and frequent along the ranks of his pyramid of idols, and plastic pandemonium.

Immediately within, and all about the eastern gates of the god and goddess, there is a gloomy labyrinth of arcades and corridors, solemn indeed and lofty, but choked with shops and stalls of food and fruit and sweets, garlands, toys and various glittering knacks whose nature and use I have forgotten, save that they seemed to have little to do with the temple worship. But sculptured saints stood with joined hands among the confectionery, hoar dragons guarded the trash of the toy shops, and cheap cutlery from Birmingham.

From this imposing den of thieves we pass into the outer court, which is here confined and crowded with various porches of similar architecture, but elsewhere spreads, uneventful and empty, between the sanctuaries and outer wall. We are now directly before the temple of god; we find ourselves within the cloister of the Golden Lily Pool, which lies opposite her ancient shrine.

The pool and its colonnade, and especially the chain of porticos before Minakshi’s shrine, are always the most crowded and lively portions of the temple. The steps and water are constantly thronged with bathers and visited of housewives bearing brazen pitchers; the cloisters full of naked, sleek and shaven Brahmins, lounging, chatting, meditating, waiting to minister, for a fee, to the spiritual needs of the pilgrims. One chants a spell for a pair of rustics, which seems chiefly concerned with the business of informing God, not only of the name, parentage and present address (in a geography no longer recognisable) of the persons on whose behalf it is recited, but also of the particular point and minute of eternity, the hour and year, and aeon (he species the Kaliyuga, as we perhaps might say, the iron age) in which the service is performed and reward expected; a formula crude perhaps in some respects, but calculated to a degree not often found, I cannot help thinking, in our own liturgies, to make a simple fellow realise his own littleness, and the metaphysical mystery of the universe.

-images-city-134-Meenakshi temple

(His description continues for a few more pages; he describes Thousand Pillar Hall, Tirumalai Nayak Palace etc. and concludes with the following paragraph)

I am constrained to close upon a note of apprehension. You may buy little gods in the Madura bazaars, akin apparently to the temple sculpture, and steeped in odour of old sanctity. Too often nowadays they prove to be forgeries, new ware made rough, buried a while, dug up and kept for sale as old brass to the Americans. For these have discovered Madura before ourselves, who have lived there for a hundred years. Consequently, though there is still no city in South India, where you can to more advantage study the real religion of antiquity, there is none where you can more easily buy false god, or as some would say, gods doubly false (unless two wrongs should make a right) than in Madura, the city of Minakshi may it be long ere the dissolvent curiosity, or blasting disapproval of the West goes deeper”.

Year of Publication in London — 1924.