The oldest temple in Madurai, the Meenakshi temple, spreads its spiritual aura over the souls of devotees. Meenakshi is an avatar of Goddess Parvati, Lord Shiva’s consort, and this shrine, which dates back over 2500 years, is considered as old as the city it provides luster to. Etched on the southern bank of River Vaigai, Meenakshi is an incarnation of Goddess Parvati, Lord Shiva’s consort.
It’s also known as Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple, and it’s where Lord Shiva (Sundareswarar) and Goddess Parvati (Meenakshi) are said to have tied the knot. This temple, which was built in the Dravidian style, was formerly regarded as one of the “Seven Wonders of the World.”
The temple priest’s procession is one of the attractions you should not miss when on a spiritual tour of Madurai. A chariot carrying a photo of Sundareswarar to Meenakshi’s shrine is used in the event. Following that, pooja is performed once the Lord’s golden feet are removed from his consort’s shrine. During this time, the Lord’s chariot is being fanned.
History of Meenakshi Temple
According to tradition, the ruler of Gods Indira discovered the sacred Suyambulingam near Kadambavanam and afterward enshrined it in Madurai. The presence of the Lord on Indira’s vehicle in this temple is said to be proof of this.
Many ancient relics of the temple have been discovered, dating back to the first century A.D. Following the invasion of the Islamic conqueror Malikkapur in 1310, the temple was nearly completely demolished. The invaders destroyed most of the temple’s antique statues, as kings who followed Islam were known for their intolerance of other religions.
The temple was restored to its former glory when the Hindu Kings gained power in Madurai in the late 14th century. Because the temple was nearly rebuilt, this can also be regarded as the start of a new era in its history. According to legend, King Thirumalai Naicker had a key role in the development of the new temple form.
The Architecture of The Meenakshi Temple
Given the fort-like walls perforated with tall towers that encircle an area of around 640000 square feet, the Madurai temple complex is impressive in and of itself. The temple is surrounded by the Aadi, Chittirai, Maasi, and Veli streets. From afar, the gopurams, or towers, for which this temple is famous, may be seen. This temple has a total of 12 gopurams, or towers, with the four outer ones reaching a height of over 160 feet.
Within the temple complex, there is a big tank known as the Potraamaraikkulam. The thousand-pillared hall within the temple complex is extremely significant; its pillars show incredible sculptural work. Upon entering the temple, the panoramic view of the temple is immediately apparent. The magnificent Potraamaraikkulam Temple tank is flanked by hallways with Tiruvilayadal Puranam murals.
Sundareswarar’s shrine situated to the southwest of Meenakshi’s temple; the northeast location being one of dominance, the temple to Sundareswarar demonstrates this superiority architecturally. The Sundareswarar temple is likewise placed to the southwest of the Koodalazhagar temple, indicating the Sundareswarar temple’s importance.
Both the Meenakshi and Sundareswarar shrines are massive temples in their own right, each with its own set of two prakarams, maha mandapam, and gold-plated vimanams. The Mukkuruni Vinayakar Temple, which houses a massive figure of Ganesha, can also be found here.
The Sundareswarar temple alone features five gopurams: four five-tiered ones on the temple’s outer walls and one three-tiered one at the inner Prakasam’s entrance. This tower is supposed to be an old building. The Indra Vimaanam is the sanctum’s crowning glory. Several depictions of Shiva’s incarnations, as found in the Tiruvilayadal Puranam, can also be seen here. The Rajata Sabha or Velliambalam is a Nataraja shrine located within the Sundareswarar temple complex.
The picture of Meenakshi is made of greenstone. A 13th-century gopuram guards the shrine’s eastern entrance. The Western entrance to the Amman temple complex is adorned with a five-tiered gopuram. There are shrines to Vinayakar and Subramanyar at each entrance along the shrine’s axis.
A massive prakaram surrounds the Shiva and Meenakshi temples, with magnificent 9 tiered gopurams in each of the four cardinal directions. The southern tower is the tallest, reaching a height of 170 feet. Within the Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple complex, there are a total of 12 gopurams, two gold-plated vimaanams, and several mandapams with carved pillars.
Facts of Meenakshi Temple
- The HR and CE department of Tamil Nadu is presently in charge of the Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple.
- Thirugnanasambandar, a Hindu saint who lived in the early seventh century, mentioned the temple in his songs.
- The greatest temple complex in South India is Meenakshi Temple. The temple complex is 6-hectares in size, making it one of India’s largest temple complexes.
- Because of its magnificent architecture and religious significance, the Meenakshi temple is one of the most well-known temples.
- Meenakshi temple receives over 15,000 visitors each day. On Fridays, the number often reaches 25,000.
- The temple earns Rs. 60 million in annual revenue from all worshipers and visitors.
- Meenakshi Temple is one of 30 sites throughout the world that have been nominated for inclusion in the New Seven Wonders of the World list.
- The presence of an estimated 33000 statues in the Meenakshi Temple is another intriguing feature.
- In Meenakshi Temple’s complex, there is a pond known as “Porthamarai Kulam” or “The Golden Lotus Pond.”
- Every 12 years, the Meenakshi temple undergoes a complete repair.
- The temple is one of the most spectacular temple constructions in South India, designed in the Dravidian South Indian style of architecture.