Meenakshi Temple - Madurai,One of the most magnificent examples
of Dravidian architecture and sculpture, the Madurai Meenakshi
Sundareswarar temple at Madurai is surely one of the high-points
of any tour of the country. The grandeur of the Meenakshi temple has
remained undiminished for the past two thousand years. This
sprawling and awe-inspiring temple complex is not only a marvel of
architecture but also a veritable treasure trove of Indian culture
and civilization. It is also one of the largest temple complexes in
India. Madurai Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple is
one of the greatest Shiva temples in India, known for its sprawling
landscape filled with sculptural wonders; halls, pillars and lofty
towers with lavish artwork in all forms.
In terms of the richness of the
legends, the abundance of literature & the stunning architectural &
sculptural splendour, Madurai is second to none
in representing the rich cultural traditions of India. Madurai
Meenakshi Amman Temple is crowning glory of south India and
Meenakshi Amman temple is one of the most popular attractions of
Madurai in Tamilnadu. Temple is on the banks of River Vaiga in the
Temple city of Madurai, the temple is also known as Meenakshi Amman
Kovil and Meenakshi Sundereswarar Temple.
Madurai is a vibrant cultural center
speaking of the glorious traditions of the region. It is the site of
the 64 Tiruvilayadalgal of Shiva (Tiruvilayadal puranam and
Halasyamahatmiyam) and is one of the 5 Pancha Sabhais of Nataraja -
Rajata (Velli )Sabhai - where Shiva dances with a raised righ food.
The other dance halls are
Meenakshi Sundareswar Temple is dedicated to Lord Sundareswar (form
of Lord Shiva) and Meenakshi (form of Goddess Parvati). The term "Sundareswar"
suggests "the beautiful lord" and "Meenakshi" means "the fish-eyed
goddess". As per the Hindu folklore, Madurai is the same city where
Lord Sundareswar ( Shiva ) appeared to marry Goddess Meenakshi (Parvat),
Meenakshi Temple is regarded as one of the most sacred places of
Parvati, other being Kamakshi at Kanchipuram, Akilandeswari at
Thiruvanaikaval and Vishalakshi at Varanasi.
The legend associated with the Meenakshi temple is
an interesting one. It is said that an early Pandyan king and queen
aspired for a child. Goddess Parvati, who appeared as a small girl
in a ceremonial fire, granted their wish. However, the girl was
deformed and had a third breast. Lord Shiva appeared on the scene
and proclaimed that the third breast would disappear when she met
In the course of time, the small girl
became the new Pandyan ruler and was known for her military prowess.
As soon as she defeated the last of her enemies, Lord Shiva
appeared. Thrilled by her victory and the wondrous sight of the
deity, her third breast fell away. She and Lord Shiva returned to
Madurai, where they were married. From then on, they dedicated
themselves for the well being of the people of Madurai. When their
son, Murugan, ascended the throne, they went within the temple where
they took celestial forms as Goddess Meenakshi and God Sundereshwara.
At first glance the most striking
feature of the temple is the soaring 'gopuram' (gateway towers)
built above the four entrances on the four sides. The most popular
entrance is on the East Side through a towerless entrance in line
with the shrine of Meenakshi. This magnificent temple complex
sprawls over an area of 6 hectares. It also has 12 gopurams or
gateways, ranging in height from 45 to 50 m, the tallest being the
southern one. The southern gateway is beautifully proportioned and
is nine stories high. Like the other gopurams, it is also crowded
with the images of gods, goddesses, gargoyles, and gryphons. Like
the statues of classical Greece, the people who follow the ancient
Dravidian culture of South India also paint their gods in brilliant
colors. Thus, one can experience a myriad of colors atop these
This entrance leads to the 'Ashtasakthi
Mandapam' where the pillars are full of sculptures illustrating the
different aspects of Goddess Meenakshi and the miracles performed by
Lord Siva in Madurai. It was built by Thirumalai Nayakar's wives
Rudrapathi Ammal and Tholimamai.
MEENAKSHI NAYAKKAR MANDAPAM
This big hall is adjacent to Ashta
Shakthi Mandapam, consisting of 110 pillars carrying the figures of
a peculiar animal with a lion's body , and an elephant's head called
Yalli. This hall leads to the 'Ciththirai
gopuram' passing through which will take you to a passageway on the
eastern end of the 'Pottramarai kulam'.
POTRAMARAIKULAM (GOLDEN LOTUS TANK)
The Temple holy Tank of Golden Lotuses
is an ancient tank where devotees take bath. It was the meeting area
of the Tamil Sangam-the academy of Tamil poets. Any work of
literature was first thrown into this pond and its worth was
assessed based on whether it
floated or sunk. Only those that did
not sink were considered worthy of attention. The tank is surrounded
by a pillared corridor. Steps lead down to the tank, enabling
worshippers to take bathe in it.
The city of Madurai has been a seat of
Tamil culture and traditions since very ancient times. Great
scholars like, Nakkeerar, Appar and Sambandar have
celebrated its glorious culture in their songs. The temple complex
is like a huge city—one of the largest of its kind in India and
undoubtedly one of the oldest. The grandeur of the Meenakshi temple
has remained undiminished for the past two thousand years. This
sprawling and awe-inspiring temple complex is not only a marvel of
architecture but also a symbol of Indian culture and civilization in
all its glory.
MEENAKSHI AMMAN SANNIDHI
Walking around the tank in a
clock-wise direction brings into view the golden 'vimanam' of the
shrines of Meenakshi and Sundareswarar, Foremost, they must worship
the Viboothi Vinayakar on the south of the sacred pond. They can see
the 64 miracles of Lord Shiva on the walls surrounding the pond.
As you come round the tank you pass the 'Oonjal mandapam' where
every Friday Meenakshi and Sundareswarar are put on a swing while 'othuvars'
sing the ancient Tamil hymns. Passing the 'Oonjal mandapam' you
arrive at the 'Kilikkoottu mandapam' where parrots were used to be
kept and have been trained to repeat Meenakshi's name, Next is the
entrance to Meenakshi shrine and then enter the sanctum through the
main entrance. Devotees should meditate the five holy alphabets,
recite the sacred names of the Lord, sing divine songs and go round
the shrine. Worshipping Arulmighu Meenakshi Amman at first had been
the manner of prayer traditionally.
SWAMI SUNDARESWARAR SHRINE
Lord Sundareswarar (Shiva) the consort
of Goddess Meenakshi is to the north of Kilikoontu Mandapam . On
your way you can worship a gigantic idol of Sri Ganesh called
Mukkurini Pillaiyar. When the king Thirumalai Nayakar excavated a
temple tank 3 km from Meenakshi temple he unearthed this idol of
Vinayaka and erected the same here.
In the outer pragaram (corridor
outside the main shrine) there is stump of the kadamba tree, which
is said to be a part of the same tree under which Indra worshipped
Shiva linga. Also in the outer corridor there are the Kadambathadi
Mandapam and big hall called 'Velli Ambalam'. Here, An idol
of Nataraja (Shiva as the Lord of Dance) is seen. This idol of
Nataraja is covered with silver leaves. Hence this hall is named as
Velli Ambalam (Silver Hall).
While going round the first corridor
of the Swamy temple, Vandhiyammai, Sivalingam, Sun, Kalaimagal, the
Saints, Somaskander, various Lingams, Pitchadanar, Kasiviswanathar,
Ellam Valla Siddhar, Durgai Amman, Kadamba tree, Kanagasabai
Natarajar, Chandikeswarar, Atcharalingam, Mahalakshmi, Rathnasabai
Natarajar, Vanniyum well, Lingam and Bhairavar should be worshipped
in that order before coming out.
On the north of the main entrance is
the shrine of Arulmighu Palani Andavar. and which proceeds
A corridor, having lions and mythical
beasts about to prance and literally jump out of pillars and
pilasters, leads one past the sanctum sanctorum of the goddess
towards one of the most perfect halls in the temple complex, the
Kambhattadi Mandapam, which faces the sanctuary of the Lord. Older
portions of this mandapam (hall) were built around the late 15th
Natural light stripes the flagstones
and floods statues inside. One is spellbound by the exquisite
expressions on the face of Meenakshi as she weds Shiva. She looks
shy, he suitably serious.
They could be any modern-day bride and
grooms. Next to them stands Meenakshi’s brother, giving the bride
away, a look of great pride and joy on his face. The other statues
in the hall are no less important and explore the whole gamut of
Having worshipped the deities
including Sadayappar between the Nandhi Mandapam and coming round
the hundred pillar hall, Agni Veeraputhirar, Ahora Veerapathirar,
Ooothuva Thandava Moorthy and Badrakali, devotees should proceed to
the Thirugnanasambandar mandapam and there offer worship to the four
deities, Mangayarkarasiyar, Kulachirayar and Nedumaranayar and then
after paying obeisance to the flag pole, they should sit down for a
while. Later the idols of Hanumar, Krishnar and other deities on the
pillars at the back and then enter the middle way and leave through
THOUSAND - PILLERED HALL
Of the same vintage is the thousand-pillared hall, an awe-inspiring
edifice, which measures 240 feet by 250 feet. The stone pillars here
are not only decorative, some also sing, as one gently taps them.
Pillars, decorated, exuberant, bustling with life and emotions are a
trademark of Madurai. And where better to see the best of them than
at the thousand-pillared hall?
From one of its monolithic stone pillars, the figure of Rati
(consort of the god of love) emerges. The slightly elongated face is
that of a Pandya beauty, the cheeks elegantly rounded, the chin
defined by a marked protuberance under the lip. The nose is damaged,
but the lips are well shaped, with a suspicion of a lilt to the
corners. The eyes lack pupils, but they are wide open and
beautifully shaped. The eyebrows arch from mid-temple to the corner
of the eyes. She wears large earrings. Her arms, neck, waist, bosom,
and feet are encrusted with delicate jewelry that leads the eye to
the folds of her lower garments that fall in pleats and swirls over
her thighs, calf muscles, and ankles. She has long hair done in a
loose knot that seems to be unraveling itself, slowly. Her back is
arched. She sits astride a grimacing swan, her right leg hinged at
the knee and placed on the swan’s back, the left, swathed over the
elaborately carved bulge of the bird’s belly supported by decorated
Apart from these architectural wonders, the temple complex in
general and the pillared corridors in particular serve as shopping
malls, where devotees can purchase everything from plastics to false
hair, toys, vessels, cheap jewelry, imitation rose garlands,
bangles, etc. One can also buy jasmine flowers or garlands—the
flower for which Madurai is famous.
Just outside this mandapam ,towards the west, are the Musical
Pillars. Each pillar when stuck, Produces a different musical notes.
This mandapam was built by Thirumalai Nayakkar. Vasanthosavam - the
Spring festival-is celebrated in this mandapam in Vaikasi
(April/May). Its pillars contain elaborate sculptures of Shiva,
Meenakshi, scenes from their wedding as well as the figures of ten
of the Nayak Kings and their consorts. This is also called Pudhu
Festivals are celebrated in this
temple though out the year. Some of the most popular festivals of
the temple are Chitra festival, Avanimoola festival, Masi Mandala
festival, Float festival, and Navarathri cultural festival.
Month of Chithirai (April):
The Chitra festival is celebrated for
12 days during the Tamil month of Chitrai (April in the English
Month of Vaikasi (May):
The spring festival is hosted for ten days during this month.
Month of Aani (June):
Oonjal festival would be conducted for
ten days during this month. triple fruit pooja would be performed.
Abhishekam would be performed for Sivakami Amman and Arulmighu
Nadarajar on the day of Uthiram.
Month of Aadi (July):
The Aadi Mulaikottu festival is celebrated for 10 days during this
Month of Aavani (August):
The Aavani festival would be conducted
for 18 days. Six days of the festival would be devoted to Arulmighu
Chandrasekarar and the balance 12 days would be for the
Panchamoorthies. During these days the ten miracles performed by the
Lord of Madurai would be enacted by the Sivachariars.
Month of Purattasi (September):
The Navarathri festival would be
celebrated for Amman in a grand manner during this month. Amman
would appear in a separate dress and look every day and bless the
devotees at the `kolu mandapam' in Amman Sannidhi.
Month of Aipasi (October):
Kolattam festival would be conducted for six days during this month.
Month of Karthigai (November):
Deepam (lights) festival would be
conducted for ten days during this month. On the day of Karthigai
one lakh lamps would be lit in the temple. On that day a bonfire
would be lit in East Masi street,
Month of Marhazhi (December):
Oil anointing ceremony would be
conducted for nine days in this month at the New Mandapam.
Month of Thai (January):
The float festival would be conducted for 12 days during the month.
Month of Maasi (February):
The Maasi Mandala festival would be conducted for a mandalam (48
Month of Panguni (March):
The summer spring festival would be hosted for nine days at the
A shrine continuously worshipped
since 300 BCE
Temple covering an area of 17
acres, the entire Madurai city being built around it.
Present structure is believed to
have been built in 1600 AD.
The tallest temple tower is 51.9
metres (170 ft) high.
Madurai was the seat of the Tamil
Sangam (or Academy) of learning.
Concentric rectangular streets
surround the temple, symbolizing the structure of the cosmos.
Temple attracts six thousand
visitors a day and gets an annual revenue of rupees 6crores.
Attained 26th place in the list of
top nominees for the new 7Wonders of the World.
After the customary visit to
Ganesha ,it is the custom in this temple to visit the ambal (Meenakshi)
sannnidhi first before visting Sundareshwarar (Shiva)
Non-hindus are not allowed inside
Dress code is also strict in this
temple. Shorts, bermudas, night pants are prohibited
The kum kum prasadam is very
special as it is made from Thazhampoo (Pandanus odoratissimus ).
Dont forget to buy a couple of packets from one of the many
stores in the temple corridors on your way back
They charge you a fee for the
camera, but it is worth paying. However ,there are certain areas
where you are not allowed to take photos.
Visit the amazing 1000 pillared
mandap and the Temple of Art museum inside it