Madurai Meenakshiamman Kovil
This is a twin temple. The temple in the southern side is dedicated to Sri Meenakshi the consort of lord Sundareswarar (Shiva) and the other to lord Sundareswarar. This is one of the biggest temple complexes of India. The temple is about 258 meters in length and about 241.4 meters in breadth. Of the five Gopuras (towers) that surround the 48.8 meters high southern tower is the tallest.
Madurai Meenakshiamman kovil 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 centuries and left a majestic imprint of their rule in the Meenakshi-Sundareswarar temple.the temple has many inscriptions of the rulers in the 16th century . it is very interesting to note that the nayaks are so very talented to bring into excistance such a amazing temple with all incidance carved on the great pillars.
According to Hindu mythology, Meenakshi was a princess who was born with three breasts, fish-shaped eyes and fishy smell. According to the story, after seeking advice from holy men, she was told that the extra breast would disappear when she met her future husband. She was also told that the fish-like qualities would transform into beauty. This duly happened when she met the god Shiva, whom she married 8 days later in Madurai, the husband taking on the form of Lord Sundareshwara. The Meenakshi temple in south India is named after her.
Structure Of The Temple
The temple is situated in the heart of the city. There are four entrance for the temple in the North West South and East sides of the temple.Its twelve gouprams (towers) are replete with sculpted figures of gods and goddesses. The four tallest gopurams stand on the massive outer walls of the temple, one on each side. The Southern Gopuram is the tallest in the temple and the only one that may be climbed. From atop this 50 m. (160 ft.) high gopuram, one gets a complete view of the other gopurams as well as the two vimanas (roof above the shrine).
The base of an unfinished Gopuram may still be seen to the east wing of Puthu Mandapam. Had it been completed it would have been completed it would have been the tallest man-made structure ever created in Africa, Asia or Europe
Its twelve gouprams (towers) are replete with sculpted figures of gods and goddesses. You can enter the temple through any of its five entrances, though the eastern entrance, in front of the Meenakshi Sannadhi (shrine) is generally used, as Meenakshi is the reigning deity of the twin-temple. This is the only entrance which is not surmounted by a towering gopuram. For the visitor who steps in through this entrance, Ashta Shakti Mandapam (mandapam - hall) is the first place of interest within the temple. It was built by Tirumalai Naicker's wives Rudrapathi Ammal and Tholimamai. In this hall food was once distributed to the devotees who came from far off places. The sculptures on the pillars here relate some of Lord Siva's Tiruvilayadals (miracles) and also the story of Meenakshi's birth and her life as the princess of Madurai.
To the west of the Meenakshi Nayakkar Mandapam is the seven-storeyed Chitra gopuram, the tallest and most artistically sculpted inner tower. There are nearly 730 beautiful miniature sculptures on this tower.
Stone steps lead down from the colonnade to this ancient tank, enabling devotees to bathe in its holy water. The Potramaraikulam figures in the legend connected with the origin of the Madurai shrine and is, hence, as old as the temple itself. The 40 meters by 60 meters tank in itself, is also closely associated with that legendary Tamil literary institution known as the Sangam.
In Meenakshi Amman Temple there are many mandapams
Mudali mandapam is located in the chitra gopuram which is a dark hall full of statues and sculptures. this mandapam has statues of mohini, shiva as bikshadanar, a saint of the tharuga forest, some unsual sculptures and many more.
Rani Mangammal Mandapam
In the 17th century rani mangammal of the nayak dynasty ruled madurai. She was tortured to death after 15 yrs by her ungrateful and jealous generals. The mandapam has many paintings about the events that took place during rani mangammal's pereiod. the scene of Meenakshi-Sundareswarar Thirukalyanam is painted gorgeously.Vishnu,the brother of the bride,holds her affectionately with all Gods and Goddess around the divine couple. Lord Brahma in front of the fire performs all the rituals and mantras.
In this mandapam there is a oonjal hanging in the hall where golden idols of Meenakshi and Sundareswarar brought every fridayfor a ceremonial swing. Devotional songs are sung by the priests when the Gods and Goddess play swing. They give a gorgeous appearance and offer blessings to the devotees.
As this name indicates there are caged parrots in the hall. This mandapam is towards the northwest of the Potramaraikkulam. In this hall there are 28 huge monolithic pillars with very interesting sculptures of pandavas,vali, sugreeva and the inevitable yali of which the vinayagar kings were very fond of.
Thattu Chuttur Mandapam
This mandapam is located at the junction of the north and east Adi street. Thattu chuttur mandapam is also known as 16-pillar mandapam. Here also there are paintings about the saint Manickavasagar who was in a high position during the pandyan period in 18th century.
In the Ayirankkal Mandapam are 985 pillars, each beautifully sculpted & supporting a roof of 73 meters by 76 meters. The entire gamut of emotions has been crystallized.
In stone in the images of gods, goddesses and men represented in this exuberant display of Dravidian sculpture. It is said that the large size of the many-pillared halls, mush favoured by the Nayak kings of the 16th century, necessitated the setting up of an elaborate stone-cutter’s ‘factory’ to ‘manufacture’ beams and pillars in an unending flow.
Today, the Ayirankkal Mandapam houses the Temple Art Museum, containing icons, drawings and photographs that trace the 1200 - year - old history of Indian temple architecture in the south. Much light is shed on the Hindu pantheon and related legends in this splendid museum
There are 2 specimens of ingenious ‘musical pillars’ in the Ayirankkal Mandapam. There are five such pillars in North Adi Street also, near the Mottai Gopuram. Each musical pillar has a central column surrounded by groups of slender columns chiselled from the same stone. Each of these thin pillars produce a different musical note when struck
Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple is very popular because the meenakshi amman is very powerful in hearing to the problems of the devotee. Many people from various cities come here to wash away their sins and to receive Amman's blessings. During the function times like Sivaraathiri , prathosham etc special pooja's and rituals are been performed. Annathanam is been given daily for the poor.
Recently Meenakshi Amman Kovil was incluted in the list to be selected as one of the wonders of the world. Voting was been done for many days. But unfortunately it was not been selected.It is a place full of devotion, so come forward to visit and receive ammans arul.
Timings: 5.00 a.m and 12.30 p.m. 4.00 p.m. and 9.30 p.m.