Meenakshi Amman Temple
Meenakshi Amman Temple of Madurai is also known as the Meenakshi-Sundareswarar Temple, is one of the oldest and most important temples in India. Located in the city of Madurai, Tamilnadu. This temple has a mythological and historical significance. It is believed that Lord Shiva took the form of Sundareswarar (beautiful) and married Parvati (Meenakshi) at the present location of the temple.
Meenakshi Amman Temple is famous for its stunning architecture, the Meenakshi Temple has been nominated as one of the Wonders of the World, but has not been included in the list of ‘Seven Wonders of the World’. However, this temple is definitely one of the ‘Wonders of India’. It is one of the major attractions of South India and attracts thousands of devotees daily.
During the ‘Thiru Kalyanam Festival’ which held 10 days in a year, this temple attracts more than one million devotees. Despite being visited by a large number of people every day.
History of Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai
Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple is a historically rich temple that offers blessings of Lord and Goddess Meenakshi to the devotees. The Meenakshi Amman Temple was built by Kulasekara Pandya during the reign of Pandya. According to historical finds, the construction of this temple dates back to the early A.D. Found up. The temple has references to the songs of the great Hindu saint Thirugnana sambandar who lived in the 7th century. It is said during the Islamic conquest in 12th Century; the temple was destroyed to some extent. However, it was later reconstructed to its current Structure by Thirumalai Nayak (1623-55 AD).
Architecture of Sri Meenakshi Sundareshwara Temple, Madurai
The temple covers an area of 14 acres in the heart of Madurai City. The temple is surrounded by huge walls which were built in response to the invasions. The whole system, when viewed from above, represents a zone. The mandala is a structure structured according to symmetrical and logic rules. Various temples have been built within the temple premises. Apart from the two main temples dedicated to Sundareswarar and Meenakshi Amman, this temple also has Lord Shiva temple and also temples dedicated to various deities like Lord Ganesha, Lord Murugan, Lakshmi, Saraswati and Rukmini.
The temple also has a sacred pool called ‘Por Thamarai Kulam’ / ‘pool with golden lotus’. The structure of a golden lotus is placed in the middle of the pond. It is said that Lord Shiva blessed this pond and declared that no sea creatures could grow in it. The temple has four main entrances (towers/gopuram’s) which are identical to each other. Apart from the four ‘towers’, there are several ‘towers’ in the temple which serve as the entrances to many temples. The temple has a total of 14 high Gopuram/enttrance. Each of them is a multi-storey structure and displays thousands of myths and sculptures.
The main Gopuram’s of the Meenakshi Amman temple are listed below:
Kadaga Gopuram – This Tower elevated entrance leads to the main temple entrance where Meenakshi Devi resides. by Tumpichi Nayakkar during the 16th century mid. This gopuram has five floors.
Sundareswarar Shrine Gopuram – This is the three storeyed gopuram which was built by Kulasekara Pandyan, This gateway serves as the entrance of Sundareswarar Shrine and the central portion of the Goddess Meenakshi Shrine.
Chitra Gopuram – Built by Maravarman Sundara Pandian II(1238-1251)., The tower is named for paintings and reliefs depicting the secular and religious themes of Hindu culture.
Nadukkattu Gopuram – Also known as the ‘Intermediate Tower’, this entrance leads to the Lord Ganesha Shrine. The entrance is placed between the two main shrines.
Mottai Gopuram ( “bald” gateway) – This ‘gopuram’ has had no roof structure for nearly three centuries, is simpler and has fewer stucco images than other major entrances, giving it a relatively bald look and local name.
Nayaka Gopuram – Visvappa Nayakkar built the Nayaka gopuram in the second prakaram around 1530, This Gopuram is remarkably similar to another entrance called the ‘Balahai Tower’.
Ayiram Kaal Mandapam – Built by Ariyanatha Mudaliar in 1569, this hall houses 1000 pillars, The sculptures and statues on each pillar are unique and magnificent. It is amazing that such intricate sculptures and statues were made hundreds of years ago. So art and taste. In the center of this hall is a statue of Natarajar. This is an example of the wonders of Indian architecture.
Kilikoondu Mandapam (“bird cage corridor”) – The walkway around sanctum of Meenakshi is called Kilikoondu Mandapam. This place was once used to have green parrots trained to pronounce Lord Meenakshi’s name. There are two large cages full of screeching green parrots.
The Ashta Shakthi Mandapam (“Hall of eight goddesses”) This is the first hall at the entrance of the Meenakshi Gopuram near the East Tower. Ashta refers to the eight and Shakti refers to deities – there are idols of eight deities in the hall. From this hall you can see the outside Gopurams.
Nayaka Mandapam – ‘Nayaka Mandapam’ was built by Chinnappa Nayakkar in 1526 with 100 pillars in the north-eastern part of the second courtyard. Here in Lord Nadaraja statue, instead of the left foot here he stands beautifully balanced on his right leg.