Madurai Temples

Sri Meenakshi - Sundareswarar Temple
Thursday 17, Dec 2009

Sri Meenakshi Temple, the masterpiece of Indian architecture, is one of the largest and most ancient temple complexes in India. The crowning glory of Madurai, the city of nectar, it is a stupefying structure, the treasure trove of Indian culture and ethos.

Synopsis

Country India
State Tamil Nadu
Location Madurai
Known For Skyscraping gopurams
Best Time To Visit October to March/ April to May
Best Moment To Visit Dusk
Architectural Style Indian


Why to Visit

  • Included in Travel Wonders List by the Hillman Wonders.
  • Above 10,000 tourists visit the temple every day. On Fridays, the number reaches to 25,000.
  • One of the finest specimen of Indian art.

Fine Points of The Meenakshi Temple

  • Marvellous view of temple at dusk. Golden sky behind the majestic temple towers. It is idyllic!
  • Incredible level of artistic sophistication- 'the Temple hosts stupendous 33 million carvings.'
  • "Hall of a Thousand Pillars", is as great a work of structural engineering as it is of art.
  • One of the most sacred sites for Hindus.
  • Fifty metres high gopurams abundantly adorned from base to roof with flamboyant designs.
  • The Temple, as large as a dozen football fields, houses a myriad of fascinating small temples and corridors.

The Temple
Lord Sundareshvara (Shiva), the Hindu deity of cosmic dance, and his consort Meenakshi are the reigning deities of this magnificent temple. The temple is unique for it dedicates dual shrines for the God and the Goddess.

Within its huge embrace, the temple hosts several attractions. They are as follows.

Gopurams
This majestic temple complex, stretching itself over an area of six hectares, has twelve gopurams, ranging in height from 45 to 50 metres. The southern gopuram, foremost among them, is remarkable for its harmony of structure. Nine stories high, it adorned with the stone carvings of Hindu gods and goddesses, painted in brilliant colors.

Dancing Nataraja
The image of Dancing Natraj is a well-renowned piece of art. Lord Shiva, the Indian God known for his cosmic dance, is also described as Lord Nataraja. ('Nata' referes to dance and 'Raja' to the king). The figure of Natraj represents the Hindu concept that human life emanates from five basic elements which are wind, earth, fire, water and space.

Meenakshi Nayakkar Mandapam
This spacious hall is thronged by more than hundred pillars, which are carved with the images of a peculiar animal. Miracles of Lord Shiva, and the story of Meenakshi's birth and her life as the princess of Madurai, have been depicted on the pillars. The land holder in side the mandapam has thousand plus lamps, which are illuminated during festivals.

Potramariakulam
An ancient stepped reservoir surrounded by pillored corridors, it is used by devotees to take bath. Stories abound that the meetings of Tamil Sangam, the ancient congregation of Tamil poets- were held in the area around the tank. was the meeting place of the Tamil Sangam- the ancient academy of Tamil poets.

Oonjal Mandapam
Situated on the western side of the Potramariakulam tank, it is adorned by 28 pillars, which displays sculptures related to Hindu mythology.

The Thousand Pillar Mandapam
This matchless monument of the Dravidian art is adorned by 985 beautiful columns. It also houses a museum, which showcases priceless idols, drawing, photographs etc.

Vasantha Mandapam (Pudhu Mandapam)
The mandapam is famed for Vasanthosavam, the Spring festival, celebrated in Vaikasi (April-May). The pillars embellishing the mandapam depict exquisite sculptures of Lord Shiva and his consort Meenakshi.

Temple Festivals
The Temple acts as a stage for several colorful festivals. Most prominent among them are Meenakshi Kalyanam and Teppam.

Meenakshi Kalyanam

The marriage festival of Lord Sundareshwar (Shiva) and Goddess Meenakshi, the reigning deities of the Temple, Meenakshi Kalyanam is the foremost event held in the temple premises. Celebrated annually in the month of April- May, the festival is known for the grand car procession of the God and the Goddess.

Meenakshi TempleConventional instrumental music, fand and beautifully embellished umbrellas are the integral part of the festival. Scenes from mythology are enacted, deriving huge applause from thousand of devotees, who assemble to celebrate the occasion.

Teppam
Teppam festival, also known as the annual Float Festival, is a grand event when the idols of Lord Sundareswara and Goddess Meenakshi are taken for a floating trip on the Mariamman Teppakkulam Tank. For several days they sail over the waters of the tank, on an illuminated raft adorned with flowers, and then, they are taken back to the Temple.

Architecture
Superb specimen of South Indian temple architecture, the Temple hosts stupendous 33 million carvings. The temple complex is embraced by a surrounding wall, with the two sanctums for Lord Sundareshwara and Goddess Meenakshi standing in the centre.

The prime sanctums are encircled by a number of smaller shrines and grand pillared halls. The highly impressive gopurams or towers rise from solid granite bases exquisitely carved with images of gods and goddesses, depictions of legendary stories and mythological figures.

The Legend of Meenakshi
As Hindu mythology holds, Meenakshi, a princess, was born with fish-shaped eyes and fishy smell. Holy men suggested that when she would meet her future husband, her fishy smell would vanish and her fish-shaped eyes would transform into beauty.

The prediction came true when she met Lord Shiva, who was destined to be her husband. Eight days later, she married him in Madurai. Lord Shiva took the form of Lord Sundareshwara or the Lord of Beauty. From the day, the Lord and the Goddess made Madurai their residence.
Meenakshi TempleConcise History
The structure which stands today has its origins in the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries. Originally the temple was erected by Kulasekara Pandya, but the Nayaks, who governed Madurai between the 16th to the 18th century, deserve the real credit for making it. The marks of their magnificent impression are obvious in the Meenakshi Temple.

Travel Tips
Remember that it is a religious place. So maintain decorum.

How To Reach Sri Meenakshi Temple, Madurai
From the bus stand and railway station, buses, taxis, auto rickshaws and cycle rickshaws are available to reach the temple. From airport too, which lies at the distance of ten kilometres from the city, taxis and auto rickshaws are available for the site.


Temple Towers


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.

More Temples links
First        1          Last