The consecrated temple town Madurai--reputably known for the nectar that flowed from the hair of Lord Shiva in the form of blessing for Madurai is renowned for grand edifice-Meenakshi Temple that has become the mark of honor for Madurai city. Undoubtedly the labyrinthine Meenakshi Temple—celebrating the love of Goddess Meenakshi and her companion, Lord Sundareshwar, an avatar of Lord Shiva. The term Meenakshi means the “fish-eyed Goddess” and Sundareshwar means “the beautiful Lord”. Every year thousands of devotes visit the temple, the renowned structure has been nominated for the new Seven Wonders of the World.
History Of Meenakshi Temple
The grand Meenakshi temple was framed in 12th century during the time of Chadayavarman Sundara Pandyan. The magnificent 9 storey edifice was constructed between 13th-16th centuries. According to a legendary myth it is believed that Lord Sundareshwar came on earth to marry Goddess Meenakshi. The grand marriage took place and it was imagined that it was the biggest occasion on the earth. The marriage ceremony took place at Madurai. According to another legend, it is assumed that Shivalinga was found by Lord Indra, who constructed the initial shrine that was known as “Indra Vimana”
The temple was almost damaged by Muslim invader Malik Kafur and in the same century, Madurai was dominated by Muslim rulers for almost fifty years. According to records, King Thirumalai Naicker played a significant role in the construction of new form of shrine. The damaged shrine was rebuilt by first Nayak of Madurai. Later on, Thirumalai Naicker made added contributions to the formation and embellishment of Meenakshi Temple.
Architecture And Framework
Meenakshi temple is an excellent example of Dravidian style of architecture. The complex of temple is unique and breathtaking in its own way. Sprawled over an area of 640000 sq feet in the center of city, the fascinating place of worship is popular for its intricate artwork. The 12 gopurams of temple are richly bedecked and sculptured. The tallest gopuram reaches to an extent of 170 feet. The enormous formation of heavenly place has got the dimensions of 237 by 254 meters. It is assumed that the prime sanctum of temple is more than 3500 years old. The shrine consists of 14 towers, 985 pillars, with two grand towers committed to the presiding deities.
Special Features Of Meenakshi Temple
Ashtha Sakthi Mandapa : This Mandapa (hall) is an assemblage in this shrine, devotees who enter in Meenakshi temple by eastern doorway, have to first come into Ashta Shakti Mandapan. The huge hall has got its name “Astha Shakti”, from the fact it comprises of eight Shaktis. The grand mandapam was constructed by Thirumalai Nayakar’s wives Tholiammai and Rudrapathi Ammal. There are other four entryways to get inside the shrine, under enormous Gopuras in four key directions. This mandapa has a hemispherical ceiling and has a breathtaking structure. The whole place is sprinkled with bas-reliefs. One of the bas reliefs portrays the story of marriage ceremony of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareshwar.
Ashtha Sakthi Mandapa :The Golden Lily Tank The historic and beautiful Golden Lily Tank is a perfect place to capture the beauty of Meenakshi temple. The architectural marvel is positioned at northern corridor that shows the direct path to get inside the temple. The tank also has corridor that is known as “Chitra Mandapa”, which carries the beautiful images of heavenly sports of the Lord, as mentioned in “Tiruvilayadal Puranam”.
The Golden Lily Tank :The historic and beautiful Golden Lily Tank is a perfect place to capture the beauty of Meenakshi temple. The architectural marvel is positioned at northern corridor that shows the direct path to get inside the temple. The tank also has corridor that is known as “Chitra Mandapa”, which carries the beautiful images of heavenly sports of the Lord, as mentioned in “Tiruvilayadal Puranam”.
Meenakshi Nayakkar Mandapam : Meenakshi Nayakkar Mandapam is a large hall that is 33.5 m wide and 42.9 m long. It comprises of 110 columns that are made up with stone, each 6.7 m high. It was structured by Vijayanagar minister Chokkanatha in year 1707. This Mandapam is also recognized for ‘Tiruvatchi ‘, which is a lamp placed at this section of the shrine. The hall is also popular for its artifacts and fine carvings.
Potramarai Kulam : Potramarai Kulam is a sacred pond located in the temple. Before stepping inside the main shrine, devotees go take round of the pond. It is assumed that Lord Shiva blessed the pond and said that no marine life would flourish in the pond. The pond is believed to be an evaluator for assessing the value of a new literature.
The Thousand Pillar Mandapam : It is the largest Mandapam in the temple and you can call it the “wonder of the place”. This was constructed by Ariyanatha Mudaliyar in 1569. The Mandapam consists of 985 pillars, the statue of Chira Sabha of Lord Natarajar are placed at the centre. The huge hall also houses a Temple Art Museum, where one can see drawings, photographs, icons etc, displaying the 1200 years old history.
Mudai Pillai Mandapa : The Mudai Pillai Mandapa is 7.6 metre wide and 183 metre long. It follows the Chitra Gopura and added in year 1613. The walls of the mandapa carry Puranic pictures.
Vasantha Mandapam : This mandapan was framed by Thirumalai Nayakkar and also named as Pudhu Mandapam. The festival of Vasanthotsavam is celebrated with enthusiasms in this Mandapam during the months of April-May. The pillars of Mandapam incorporate convoluted figures of Lord Shiva and Goddess Meenakshi from their wedding and also contain statues of ten of the Nayak kings and their wives.
The Unjal and Kilikatti Mandapam : Two Mandapas, the Unjal and Kilikatti stand at a distant location from the main temple. The ceilings of both the Mandapams are richly decked with beautiful paintings. The golden statues of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareshwar are settled on a swing in Unjal Mandapam. The Kilikatti Mandapam has 28 pillars that portray some outstanding statues of figures from Hindu folklore.
Swami Sundareshwar Shrine : The shrine of Swami Sundareshwar, the partner of Goddess Meenakshi is positioned at the north of Kilikatti Mandapam. There is an enormous statue of Sri Ganesh called Mukkurini Pillaiyar on the way to temple. In the outer prakaram, there is a base of Kadamba tree that is assumed to be a part of same tree under which Lord Indra used to worship Shivalinga. Devotees can also see a beautiful statue of Nataraja covered with silver leaves in the outer corridor of shrine.
Festival : Meenakshi Thirukalayanam is the most prominent festival celebrated in Meenakshi temple with full enthusiasm and zest. Every year, the devotees celebrate this yearly solemnization of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareshwar in the month of April. Chariot Procession of God and Goddess are some of the best features of this grand carnival. Moreover this, festivals like Teppam, Shivratri and Navratri are also celebrated with full fervor.
Meenakshi Temple In A Quick Glance
- Also known as- Meenakshi Amman Temple
- Location- Madurai, Tamilnadu
- Devoted to- Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareshwar
- Best time to visit- November to March
- Significance- One of the sanctified abodes of Goddess Parvati
- Weather- Summer 26°C to 41°C, Winter 18°C to 32°C
- Timings- 5:00 am to 12:30 pm, 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm
How To Reach Madurai?
By Air : Madurai is finely connected with Chennai and Mumbai. Madurai airport is 10 km away from the city that connects Madurai from other parts.
By Rail : Madurai has direct railway service to major cities like Chennai, Kollam, Coimbatore, Bangalore and Tiruchirappalli.
By Road : There are excellent roads that link Madurai to other parts of South India. Madurai also has bus stops, from where one can take buses to reach the temple. Meenakshi temple is one of the largest temples in India and the shrine is renowned for its marvelous architecture and remains of the interesting and rich past that is preserved here for many years.