Meenakshi Temple
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MEENAKSHI TEMPLE


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 Video - In and Around Meenakshi Temple
The Madurai Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple is being one of the greatest temples of Meenakshi in India. It is well known for the sprawling landscape filled with sculptured halls, pillars and lofty towers which have lavish artwork in all forms. Madurai is even the site of the 64 Tiruvilayadalgal of Shiva and one of the 5 Pancha Sabhais of Nataraja.

Madurai, India Weather Forecast
It has Rajata (Velli) Sabhai where Lord Shiva dances with a raised right foot. It is believed that the goddess Sakthi rules the world as Meenakshi in Madurai, as Kamakshi in Kanchi and as Visalakshi in Kasi.


Significance of the temple
According to the legend of the temple, the Pandyan king, Malayathuwajan, performed a Yagna seeking the blessing of God for a child. A three year old child with three breasts appeared from the sacrificial fire causing a great anxiety at the ceremony.Then a mysterious voice informed that the third breast would disappear when she met her future husband. Even the instructions that the child be known as 'Thadathagai' and be brought up as if she was a son, were given. Subsequently, the child was brought up giving training in all aspects of royal duties befitting a prince including the art of war.

Meenakshi Temple
One day she came across a young handsome person and her third breast disappears by which she became aware that she had met her future husband. That young person was none other than Lord Sundareshwarar who had come there to take her consort as pre-ordained. The marriage ceremony started and the bride decked with all fineries was taken to the temple where she walked into the sanctum and became one with the Lord.

The most striking feature of this Meenakshi temple is the soaring gopuram or the gateway towers built above the four entrances on the four sides. It has the most popular entrance being on the east side which is in line with the shrine of Meenakshi leads to the Ashtasakthi Mandapam where the pillars are full of sculptures.

The scriptures here depict the different aspects of Goddess Meenakshi and the miracles performed by Lord Siva in Madurai. This hall leads to the Chiththirai gopuram passing through which will lead to a passageway on the eastern end of the Pottramarai kulam having a brass column in the centre. This sacred tank of the golden lotus is older than the temple itself.

Gopuram
The Gopuram is believed to be created by Lord Shiva by thrusting his shoolam into the earth to grant prosperity to all who bathe in it. The statues of Dhananjeya and Kulasekara Pandiya are carved on the pillar on the northern side of the tank. The walls have dilapidated murals, which represent the 64 legendary deeds that Shiva performed in and around Madurai. In the Oonjal mandapam on every Friday, Meenakshi and Sundareswarar are put on a swing while othuvars start singing the ancient Tamil hymns.

The Kilikkoottu mandapam is the place where parrots were used to be kept. The Ashtashakthi Mandapam has a big hall projecting outwards from the enclosure wall south of the east gopuram leading straight to the Meenakshi shrine. Eight goddesses or eight forms of Goddess Sakthi and two male donor figures are carved on the columns. The Samagam Meenakshi Naickar Mandapa which is adjacent to Ashta Shakti Mandapam has shops and stores.

The Meenakshi Niachkar was built in 1708 and this hall contains 110 stone columns, arranged in six rows, each 6.7m high carrying figures in the form of mythical beast yali. There is a doorway surrounded by a brass frame covered with oil lamps at the far end of this hall.

Ayirakkal Mandapa
The Thousand Pillared Hall or the Ayirakkal Mandapa is the largest and the most spectacular Mandapa in the temple dating back to the middle of 16th century. The large deity of Nataraja or the dancing Siva is located at the far end of the hall and an idol of Lord Sabapati at the centre.

The sculptures of Lord Shiva destroying an asura, four armed goddess riding a bird and sculptures of Pichadanar, Dharman, Beeman, Rathi and Veerpathirar, carvings of Agni, Manmadan, Purushamirukam, Arjunan and Mohini, yalis and Hunter, as well as that of two Dwarapalakars, statues of Thiripurandhakar, Nirutha Ganapathy, Lord Muruga on peacock, Nagaraja, and Saraswathy are situated. There is a wheel, representing 60 years in the Tamil calendar on the roof of the entrance. The art museum established in this hall in 1966 has exhibits of temple art and architecture, fine brass, five metal and stone images, friezes and photos, religious icons, antique coins, etc.

Special features of the Temple

Gopura
The Gopuras or the Pyramidal gates have an enormous height of more than 50m. The entrance to the Meenakshi temple complex are indicated by towering gateways at the four cardinal points, while lesser gopuras lead to the sanctums of the main deities.

Stucco Work
After every 12 years, the figures of deities on the tower are reconditioned, repainted and ritually reconsecrated in and around the temple.

Ashta Shakthi Mandapam
Ashta Shakthi Mandapam
The devotees who enter the temple through the eastern gateway, have to first enter the Ashta Shakti Mandapam (Hall). It was built by Thirumalai Nayakar's wives Rudrapathi Ammal and Tholiammai. Next to this hall is the Meenakshi Nayaka Mandapa, a spacious columned hall used for shops and stores. This hall has a dedicated lamp-holder with 1,008 lamps, which are lit and decorated on festive occasions. The sculptures on the pillars tell us about some of the miracles of Lord Shiva and also the story of Meenakshi's birth and her life as the princess of Madurai.

Meenakshi Nayakkar Mandapam
Adjacent to the Ashta Shakthi Mandapam, this big hall consists of 110 pillars carrying the figures of a queer animal with a lion's body and an elephant's head called Yalli.

Potramaraikulam (Golden Lotus Tank):
The Potramaraikulam temple tank is an ancient tank where devotees take bath in the holy water. It is believed that the area around this tank was the meeting place of the TamilSangam - the ancient academy of poets. The tank is encircled by a pillared corridor. There are steps that lead down to the tank, enabling worshippers to take bathe in it.

Oonjal Mandapam
The Oonjal (swing) Mandapam and Killikoontu (parrot cage) Mandapam are situated on the western side of the tank. The golden idols of Meenakshi and Sundareswarar are seated on the swing in the Oonjal Madapam every Friday and hymns are sung as the deities swing to and fro. There many parrots in the Kilikoontu Mandapam who have been trained to repeat Goddess Meenakshi's name. The 28 pillars of the Mandapam are the most interesting parts, exhibiting some excellent sculptures of figures from Hindu mythology.

Swami Sundareswarar Shrine
The Shrine of Lord Sundareswarar (Shiva) the consort of Goddess Meenakshi is to the north of Kilikoontu Mandapam. There is a gigantic idol of Sri Ganesh called Mukkurini Pillaiyar on the way. There's a stump of a Kadamba tree, in the outer pragaram (corridor outside the main shrine), which is said to be a part of the same tree under which Indra worshiped Shiva linga. There is also Kadambathadi Mandapam in the outer corridor and big hall called 'Velli Ambalam'. There is also an idol of Nataraja (Shiva as the Lord of Dance), covered with silver leaves. Thus this hall is named as Velli Ambalam (Silver Hall).

The Thousand Pillar Mandapam
Thousand Pillar Mandapam
The thousand pillar mandapam is regarded as the 'wonder of the palace'. There are around 985 beautifully decorated columns. Each pillar is beautifully sculptured and presents the glory of the Dravidan sculpture.

This hall also houses a Temple Art Museum, where you can see icons, photographs, drawings, etc., exhibiting the 1200 years old history. Other than this mandapam there many smaller and bigger mandapams in the temple.

Vasantha Mandapam
Vasantha Mandapam
Built by Thirumalai Nayakkar, the mandapam is the venue of the Vasanthosavam - the spring festival, celebrated in Vaikasi (April/May). The pillars present at the mandapam has elaborate sculptures of Lord Shiva, and Goddess Meenakshi. There are scenes from their wedding as well as the figures of ten of the Nayak Kings and their consorts. The Vasantha Mandapam is also called Pudhu Mandapam.

Time to Visit
The Temple could be visited from the Timings: 5 AM - 12:30 PM and 4 PM - 9:30 PM and the best time to Visit Meenaskhi temple is from the month of October to March.

Transport Facilities to the Temple
Madurai has daily flights from Chennai and four times a week from Bangalore. It is an important railway junction on the Southern Railway network.

It is connected, through Chennai, to major centers in India. It is also connected to the major towns and cities in Tamil Nadu by bus. Nearby tourist places to Meenakshi Temple

Dindigul

Kodaikanal

Madurai
Meenakshi Temple

How to reach the Temple
  1. Through Airways -the city of Madurai is connected by air with Mumbai and Chennai. Madurai airport is 10-km away from the city.
  2. Through Railways- the city of Madurai has direct rail connections to Bangalore, Coimbatore, Kollam, Chennai, Rameshwaram, Thanjavur, Tiruchirappalli, Tirunelveli, Tirupathi and Tuticorin.
  3. Through Roadways - There are excellent roads connecting Madurai to all parts of South India. Madurai city has 5 Major Bus Stands- Periyar Bus Stand, Anna Bus Stand, Palanganatham Bus Stand, Arapalayam Bus Stand, and Mattuthavani Bus Stand. From Madurai town buses, suburban buses, taxis, auto rickshaws and cycle rickshaws are available to reach the temple.