¤ The Most Celebrated Temple in Madurai
The Meenakshi temple complex at Madurai is a city temple. It has
eminent and exquisitely carved towers enveloping the temple, dedicated
to Goddess Meenakashi in Madurai. Considered as the south gateway, the
Meenakshi temple consists of the twin temples of God Shiva and Goddess
Meenakshi, each one as high as about nine storeys.
The exact time of temple's origin is not confirmed but the structures
that are standing today date mostly from the 12th to the 18th century.
The present temple standing today was built in the 17th century A.D.
by th Nayak rulers. The temple is superb example of sculpture and
Meenakshi temple has majestic stonewalls and towers rising out of the
swarming streets of the city center. The image of Goddess Meenakshi is
said to be carved out of a single emerald. This exotic temple was
renovated by various kings, adding coiled corridors and
larger-than-life sculptures. According to the legend of this temple
the marriage of the goddess Meenakshi to Shiva actually took place in
Madurai and is still celebrated every summer with great enthusiasm and
¤ Special Features of the Temple
The Temple Towers or The
Gopurams Major Circuits
The temple has 12 temple towers also known as the Gopurams. The outer
towers of the temple work as landmarks of Madurai.
The Gopuras or the Pyramidal gates have an enormous height of more
than 50m. The entrance to the temple complex is indicated by towering
gateways at the four cardinal points, while lesser gopuras lead to the
sanctums of the main deities.
After every 12 years, the figures of deities on the tower are
reconditioned, repainted and ritually reconsecrated.
Ashta Shakthi Mandapam
To enter the temple through the eastern gateway, one has to first
enter the Asta Shakti Mandapam (Hall). Built by Thirumalai Nayakar's
wives Rudrapathi Ammal and Tholimamai. Next to this hall is the
Meenakshi Nayaka Mandapa, a spacious columned hall used for shops and
stores. This hall has a dedicated lamp-holder with 1,008 lamps, which
are lit and decorated on festive occasions. The sculptures on the
pillars tell us about some of the miracles of Lord Shiva and also the
story of Meenakshi's birth and her life as the princess of Madurai.
Meenakshi Nayakkar Mandapam
Adjacent to the Ashta Shakthi Mandapam, this big hall consists of 110
pillars carrying the figures of a queer animal with a lion's body and
an elephant's head called Yalli.
Potramaraikulam (Golden Lotus Tank)
The Potramaraikulam temple tank is an ancient tank where devotees
take bath in the holy water. It is believed that the area around this
tank was the meeting place of the TamilSangam - the ancient academy of
poets. The tank is encircled by a pillared corridor. There are steps
that lead down to the tank, enabling worshippers to take bathe in it.
Oonjal (swing) Mandapam and Killikoontu (parrot cage) Mandapam are
situated on the western side of the tank. The golden idols of
Meenakshi and Sundareswarar are seated on the swing in the Oonjal
Madapam every Friday and hymns are sung as the deities swing to and
fro. There many parrots in the Kilikoontu Mandapam who have been
trained to repeat Goddess Meenakshi's name. The 28 pillars of the
Mandapam are the most interesting parts, exhibiting some excellent
Sculptures of figures from Hindu mythology.
Swami Sundareswarar Shrine
The Shrine of Lord Sundareswarar (Shiva) the consort of Goddess
Meenakshi is to the north of Kilikoontu Mandapam . There's a gigantic
idol of Sri Ganesh called Mukkurini Pillaiyar on the way. There's a
stump of a Kadamba tree, in the outer pragaram (corridor outside the
main shrine), which is said to be a part of the same tree under which
Indra worshiped Shiva linga. There's also Kadambathadi Mandapam in the
outer corridor and big hall called 'Velli Ambalam'. There's also an
idol of Nataraja (Shiva as the Lord of Dance), covered with silver
leaves. Thus this hall is named as Velli Ambalam (Silver Hall).
The Thousand Pillar Mandapam
The thousand pillar mandapam is regared as the 'wonder of the
palace'. There are around 985 beautifully decorated columns. Each
pillar is beautifully sculptured and presents the glory of the
Dravidan sculpture. This hall also houses a Temple Art Museum, where
you can see icons, photographs, drawings, etc., exhibiting the 1200
years old history. Other than this mandapam there many smaller and
bigger mandapams in the temple.
Built by Thirumalai Nayakkar, the mandapam is the venue of the
Vasanthosavam - the Spring festival, celebrated in Vaikasi
(April/May). The pillars present at the mandapam has elaborate
sculptures of Lord Shiva, Goddess Meenakshi. There are scenes from
their wedding as well as the figures of ten of the Nayak Kings and
their consorts. The Vasantha Mandapam is also called Pudhu Mandapam.