Madurai is one of the oldest cities in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and also continuously inhabited cities in the world since 1st millennium BC. The city is referred by many names like Koodal, Malligai Maanagar, Naanmadakoodal, and Thirumalai. The city is also referred to as the 'Athens of the East'. The word Madurai derived from Madhura arising out of the divine nectar showered on the city by the Hindu god Shiva.
As early as 3rd century BC Megasthanes, the Greek ambassador to India visited Madurai. Signs of human settlements and Roman trade links dating back to 300 BC are evident from excavations by ASI. Madurai is also mentioned in Kautilya's Arthashastra. It is also mentioned in the works of Roman historians Pliny the younger Ptolemy, the Greek geographer Strabo and also in Periplus of the Erythraen Sea. Sangam Literature like Maduraikkanci records the importance of Madurai as capital of Pandyan dynasty.
Various kings like Pandyas, Cholas, Madurai Sultanate, Vijayanagar Empire, Madurai Nayaks, and British ruled the king. After the Sangam age, most of present-day Tamil Nadu, including Madurai, came under the rule of the Kalabhra dynasty, which was ousted by the Pandyas around 590 CE. The Pandyas were ousted from Madurai by the Chola dynasty during the early 9th century and remained under them till13th century, till the second Pandiyan empire was established. After the death of Kulasekara Pandiyan, Madurai came under the Delhi Sultanate. In 1801 Madurai came under the direct control of British East India Company and was annexed to Madras Presidency.
Madurai is famous for three things Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple, Madurai jasmine, and Madurai Sungudi saris.
During the 16th century weavers from Gujarat migrated to Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and other States, the rulers, and the people gave them a warm welcome. Migrated people came to be known as Patnulkarans (silk weavers). To weave something extraordinary for the kings, the weavers came up with the idea of ‘sungudi' pattern." Sungudi is a Sanskrit word "Sunam" meaning "round" representing circular dots which can be seen on the sarees. "The weavers derived inspiration for the dotted patterns of ‘sungudi' from the stars in the sky. And they came up with the idea of tie-and-dye method after seeing women knot their hair. Madurai Sungudi, produced in the Madurai city has been given protection under the Geographical Indications of goods act 1999 by the Government of India.
Mr. A K Ramesh from Madurai owner of Saagambari Crafts even to this day practices the traditional method of Sungudi sari making. He acquired the knowledge from his father, and along with his family has taken a lot of initiative to develop the Sungudi sari technology to meet the modern day trends.