The Meenakshi temple had over 2,300 years of history behind it and even finds mention in Silappatikaram, one of the five Great Epics of Tamil literary tradition

A workshop for tourist guides was organised here on Friday by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Madurai Zone, in association with the Madurai chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).

Addressing the 40-odd tourist guides and other stakeholders from the tourism sector, L. Ambai Manivanan, an assistant professor in the Department of Tamil, Government Arts College, Melur, said that Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple, the crown jewel for tourism in Madurai, was probably the oldest temple in Tamil Nadu.

The Meenakshi temple had over 2,300 years of history behind it and even finds mention in Silappatikaram, one of the five Great Epics of Tamil literary tradition. In its initial years, the professor said that the temple was only made of sand as stone carving and construction came to Tamil Nadu only in the Seventh Century.

Some of the greatest contributions to the temple were made by King Thirumalai Nayak, widely considered as the most illustrious of the Madurai Nayak dynasty. The traditions instituted into the temple itinerary during the Nayak era continue till date.

Dr. Manivanan informed that different parts and ‘mandapams’ of the temple were constructed by various personalities whose statues could also be found in the temple besides those of characters from ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Mahabharata.’

The four corridors surrounding the Golden Lotus Tank were constructed over a period of two decades by various persons. The tank was said to be the site of many historic and mythological events that were portrayed by statues located around it.

“If these facts were brought out by the tourist guides to foreign tourists, it would greatly increase the tourist’s inflow and boost the livelihood of tourist guides,” said Dr. Manivanan. Speaking earlier, Rukumini Thiagarajan, convenor of tourism panel, CII Madurai Zone, said that India was a land of contradictions with centuries of ancient history standing besides modernity. Tourist guides have to bridge these two for foreign tourists, she added.

N. Krishnamoorthy, chairman, CII Madurai Zone; Aravind Kumar Sankar, Convenor, INTACH Madurai Chapter; Sivagurunathan, president, Tour Guides Association; and Meenakshi Ravi, a tourist guide, spoke.

Keywords: CIItourist guidesINTACH

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