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Madurai


Meenakshi Temple Madurai
 

Meenakshi Temple MaduraiMeenakshi 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 Chidambaram, Tiruvalankadu, Tirunelveli and Kutralam.

Meenakshi Temple MaduraiMeenakshi 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.

Legends: 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 her husband.

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.

THE TEMPLE

Meenakshi Temple MaduraiAt 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 gateways.

ASHTA SAKTHI MANDAPAM

Meenakshi Temple MaduraiThis 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 Meenakshi Temple Maduraifloated 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.

WAY TO MEENAKSHI AMMAN SANNIDHI

Meenakshi Temple MaduraiMeenakshi Temple MaduraiWalking 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.

OONJAL MANDAPAM

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

Meenakshi Temple MaduraiLord 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 kambhattadi mnadapam

KAMBAHATTADI MANDAPAM

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 century.

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 human emotions.

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 Amman Sannidhi.

Meenakshi Temple MaduraiMeenakshi Temple Madurai Meenakshi Temple Madurai
 

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?

Meenakshi Temple MaduraiFrom 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 stirrups.

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.

VASANTHA MANDAPAM

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 Mandapam.

FESTIVALS

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 calendar)

Meenakshi Temple Madurai

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.

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 days).

Month of Panguni (March):

The summer spring festival would be hosted for nine days at the Velliaymbala mandapam.


TRUE FACTS

  • 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.


USEFUL TIPS

  • 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 sanctum

  • 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

 QUICK FACTS
 
  Moolavar : Sundareswarar, Chokkanathar
  Urchavar : -
  Amman / Thayar : Mennakshi, Angayarkanni
  Thala Virutcham : Kadamba tree
  Theertham : Pottramarai, Vaigai, Kruthamalai, Teppakulam, Purathotti
  Agamam / Pooja : Karana Agamam
  Old year : 2000-3000 years old
  Historical Name : Alavai, Kudal, Nanmadakudal, Kadambavanam
  City : Madurai
  District : Madurai
  State : Tamil Nadu


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