Madurai is an energetic, ancient city on the Vaigai River in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Its skyline is dominated by the 14 colorful gopurams of Meenakshi Amman Temple. Covered in bright carvings of Hindu gods, the Dravidian-style temple is a major pilgrimage site. Millions attend the processions and ceremonies of April's Chithirai Festival celebrating Meenakshi and Lord Vishnu.
Flower vendors near Meenakshi Amman sell fragrant heaps of jasmine and marigolds used as devotional offerings. Sound and light shows dramatize the history of Thirumalai Nayak Mahal, a colonnaded 1636 palace with Dravidian and Islamic architectural features. The Gandhi Memorial Museum, in a domed 17th-century palace, documents the Indian struggle for independence. Beyond the old city lies Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam, a vast temple tank filled by the Vaigai River. Every January or February it hosts Madurai's Float Festival, in which Hindu icons are placed into the tank on ornamental rafts.