Madurai (mədŏrĪˈ) [key], city (1991 pop. 1,085,914), Tamil Nadu state, S India, on the Vaigai River. It is known as the "city of festivals and temples" and is the second largest city in Tamil Nadu. The Meenakshi temple (rebuilt 16th-17th cent.), which has 1,000 carved pillars, is especially famous. Madurai is also an educational and cultural center and a market for tea, coffee, and cardamom. Important industries are the weaving and dyeing of silk and muslin cloth. As Mathurai, the city was the capital of the Pandya kingdom (5th cent. B.C.–11th cent. A.D.). In the 14th cent. it was captured by Muslim invaders, who held it until 1378, when it became part of the Hindu Vijayanagar kingdom. From c.1550 until 1736 the city was the capital of the Nayak kingdom. The Carnatic Nawabs then gained control and in 1801 ceded it to the British (see India). The Nayak palace (17th cent.) is a notable building in Madurai.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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