Meenakshi Temple Image Gallery
Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple or Meenakshi Amman Temple or Tiru-alavai is an historic Hindu temple located in the holy city of Madurai in India. It is dedicated to Parvati who is known as Meenakshi and her consort, Shiva named here as Sundareswarar (beautiful deity). The temple forms the heart and lifeline of the 2500 year old city of Madurai. There is an estimated 33,000 sculptures in the temple and it was in the list of top 30 nominees of the "New Seven Wonders of the World". The annual 10 day Meenakshi Tirukalyanam festival celebrated during April–May attracts 1 million visitor.
The Meenakshi Temple is a significant symbol for the Tamil people, The complex houses 14 gopurams(gateway towers) ranging from 45-50m in height, the tallest being the souther tower, 51.9 metres (170 ft) high and two golden sculptured vimana(shrine) over sanctum of the main deities. The temple is a significant symbol for the Tamil people, and has been mentioned since antiquity in Tamil literature, though the present structure is built during 1623 to 1655. The temple attracts 15,000 visitors a day, around 25,000 during Fridays and gets an annual revenue of sixty million INR.
The enormous temple complex is dedicated to Shiva, known here as Sundareshvara and his consort Parvati or Meenakshi. The original temple was built by Kulasekara Pandya, but the entire credit for making the temple as splendid as it is today goes to the Nayaks. The Nayaks ruled Madurai from the 16th to the 18th century and left a majestic imprint of their rule in the Meenakshi - Sundareswarar Temple. The temple complex is within a high-walled enclosure, at the core of which are the two sanctums for meenakshi and Sundareshwara, surrounded by a number of smaller shrines and grand pillared halls.
Meenkashi is an Avatar of the Hindu Goddess, Parvati - the consort of Shiva. She is also one of the few Hindu female deities to have a major temple devoted to her. The name Mīnachchi (meaning fish eyed) is derived from the words mīna (meaning fish) and akṣi (meaning eyes). Meenakshi(the lady goddess) is the principal deity of the temple, but not Sundareswarar - this is unlike most Shiva temples in South India where Shiva is the principal deity. According to another legend, the goddess herself gave a boon to Kanchanamalai in one of her previous births that she would have the privilege of mothering the goddess.
Especially impressive are the 12 gopuras. Their soaring towers rise from solid granite bases, and are covered with stucco figures of dieties, mythical animals and monsters painted in vivid colours. There are 12 temple towers(Gopurams). The outer towers are the landmarks of Madurai. They are East Tower (Nine Storeys). Height 161'3". This Gopura has 1011 sudhai figures. South Tower (Nine Storeys). Height 170'6". This Tower has 1511 sudhai figures. West Tower (Nine Storeys). Height 163'3". This Tower has 1124 sudhai figures. North Tower (Nine Storeys). Height 160'6". This Tower has lesser figures of sudhai than other outer towers.
The Meenakshi temple is believed to be founded by Indra(king of Devas, celestial deities) while he was on a pilgrimage to cure his misdeeds. He felt his burden taken off nearing the swayambu lingam(self formed lingam, a representation of Shiva used for worship in temples) of Madurai. The temple was believed to be sacked by the infamous Muslim invader Malik Kafur in 1310 and all the ancient elements were destroyed. The initiative to rebuild the structure was taken by first Nayak king of Madurai, Viswanatha Nayak (1559–1600) under the supervision of Ariyanatha Mudaliar, the prime minister of the Nayak Dynasty and the founder of the Poligar System.
Golden Lotus Pond. The sacred temple tank Porthamarai Kulam ("Pond with the golden lotus"), is 165 ft (50 m) by 120 ft (37 m) in size. According to legend, Shiva promised a stork that no fish or other marine life would grow here and thus no marine animals are found in the lake.In the Tamil legends, the lake is supposed to judge the worth of a new piece of literature. Authors place their works here and the poorly written works are supposed to sink and the scholastic ones are supposed to float, Tirukkural by Tiruvalluvar was one such work.
Meenakshi temple 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. A visitor who enters the temple through the eastern gateway, first enters this Mandapam(Hall). It was built by Thirumalai Nayakar's wives Rudrapathi Ammal and Tholimamai. In this hall food was once distributed to the devotees who came from far off places. Next to this hall is the Meenakshi Nayaka Mandapa, a spacious columned hall used for shops and stores.
The thousand pillar mandapam. The "Aayiram Kaal Mandapam" or Thousand Pillar Hall contains 985 carved pillars. The hall was built by Ariyanatha Mudaliar in 1569 and it is a structure where the engineering skill and artistic vision are blended. Ariyanatha Mudaliar was the prime minister and general of Viswanatha Nayak, the first Nayaka of Madurai (1559–1600). Each pillar is sculptured and is a monument of the Dravidan sculpture. There is a Temple Art Museum in this 1000 pillars hall where you can see icons, photographs, drawings, etc., exhibiting the 1200 years old history. There are so many other smaller and bigger mandapams in the temple.
The Meenakshi temple has 12 temple towers also known as the Gopurams. Pyramidal gates(gopuras) rise to a height of more than 50m. These towering gateways indicate the entrance to the temple complex at the four cardinal points, while lesser gopuras lead to the sanctums of the main dieties. There are close to 50 priests in the temple who perform the pooja(rituals) during festivals and on a daily basis. Like other Shiva temples of Tamil Nadu, the priests belong to Shivaite to the Adishaivas, a Brahmin sub-caste.
The most important festival associated with the temple is the "Meenakshi Thirukalyanam" (The divine marriage of Meenakshi) that is celebrated in April every year. Major Hindu festivals like Navrathri and Shivrathri are celebrated in the temple.
Pillars in Meenakshi Temple. Each pillar in the hall is a carved monument of the Dravidian sculpture. There is a Temple Art Museum in the hall where icons, photographs, drawings, and other exhibits of the 1200 years old history of the temple is displayed. Just outside this hall, towards the west, are the Musical Pillars. Each pillar, when struck, produces a different musical note.