The land of Temples, Tamil Nadu has a very beautiful and ancient temple on the southern bank of the River Vaigai. Also, the city of Madurai is famous for this temple and it is none other than Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple that is also known by the names of Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple or Tiru-Aalavaai or Meenakshi Amman Kovi. The name Meenakshi has come from Goddess Parvati and Sundareswarara from Lord Shiva. Also the temple is dedicated to Parvati and Shiva.
Like many other temples in Tamil Nadu, this temple also displays the splendid architecture having 14 gopurams (towers), paintings and sculptures all over, huge Mandapams. Sri Meenakshi temple is also famous for Meenakshi Tirukalyanam festival, which is an annual festival, celebrated for 10 days and enjoyed by almost 1 million visitors. The temple itself is like a huge city which is one of its kinds in entire India. From time to time many kings from different dynasties had contributed to the construction of temple.
It is believed that King of Devas, Indra had founded this temple during his pilgrimage for forgiving his offences Also the temple has been mentioned many a times in Tamil Literature. Thirugnanasambandar, the popular Hindu saint described Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple in his songs and dated back to 7th century. In 1310 the temple was ransacked by a Muslim invader Malik Kafur, who had also destroyed its ancient structures, but these were rebuilt by Viswanatha Nayak (1559–1600) the first Nayak king of Madurai.
Sundareswarar is an incarnation of Lord Shiva and his fish eyed spouse Meenakshi who are enshrined in twin temples. Enclosing these two shrines are the four huge gateways. These impart uniqueness to the temple as these four entrances are pointed towards the four directions, which only few of the temples in Tamil Nadu have. The city of Madurai was also redesigned as per the rules of architecture (Shilpa Shastras) and constructed in a square shape with its concentric streets finishing at the temple.
Popular Attractions of Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple
The temple is built on the total area of 17 acres and the entire city being built around the temple.
The temple has 10 gopurams which are covered with stones, animal, demons and god figures in bright colors.
There is a hall in the temple that was built by Ariyanatha Mudaliar in 1569 has 985 carved pillars. The hall is known as The “Aayiram Kaal Mandapam” or Thousand Pillar Hall. In carving, the Dravidian sculpture is depicted very clearly.
Then there are amazing Musical Pillars located just outside the hall. When you tap or strike these pillar you hear different musical note.
Porthamarai Kulam is a holy temple pond which is also known by other names Adhi Theertham, Sivaganga and Uthama Theertham. There is a legend behind the pond and according to this, it was promised by Shiva that no fish or other marine life would ever grow in this pond and surprisingly till date no marine life is found in the pond. Also as per Tamil legend, the lake is believed to be the judge of new literature. Any poorly written work would sink whereas scholarly work would float in the lake.
Porthamarai Kulam is the same pond in which Golden Lotus had bloomed which was used by Indra to perform his pooja. It is believed that if devotees take a dip in the water especially on a new moon day (Amavasya), eclipse days, along with other auspicious days then they achieve great success.
Kilikoondu Mandapam or parrot cage is a corridor around sanctum of Meenakshi that was used to keep parrots.
Ancient culture, paintings, music and dances are very well shown and explained through paintings.
Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple also has the celestial wedding hall for solemnizing wedding of the Lord and Goddess.
Devotees and Tourists have to follow certain rules of the temple, which are:
- Take bath before entering the temple.
- No shorts, lunges and caps are allowed inside the temple.
- There is a strict ban on chewing betal leaves, Gutka and tobacco.
- Do not spit and smoke.
- Keep the temple clean and follow the rules of Vaidhika Dharma.