Madurai Meenakshi Temple
Meenakshi Temple : This famous temple is located in the holy city of Madurai. This temple complex is one of the largest in india which is over area of 6 hectares. it is dedicated to
lord shiva (in the form of Sundareswarar or Beautiful Lord) & his consort goddess parvati (in the form of Meenakshi).
This temple complex has 12 magnificent gopurams or gateways that are elaborately sculptured and painted which ranges in height from 45 mts to 50 mts tall.
Other places to visit
There are 12 temple towers(Gopurams). The outer towers are the landmarks of Madurai.
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.
Pyramidal gates(gopuras) rise to a height of more than 50m. These towering gateways indicate the entrance to the temple complex at the four cardinal points, while lesser gopuras lead to the sanctums of the main dieties.
Ashta Shakthi Mandapam
This mandapam can easily reached from the eastern gateway. It was built by Thirumalai Nayakar's wives Rudrapathi Ammal and Tholimamai. This Mandapa is an impressive structure, with a hemispherical ceiling. It is 14 mts long and 5.5 mts wide. There are bas-reliefs all over the place. Over the entrance one of them depicts the marriage of Goddess Meenakshi with Lord Somasundara. The Mandapa derives its name, the "Ashta Sakthi", from the fact it contains sculptures of the eight Sakthis (also spelt as Shakti). Those of the four principal Nyanmars were added during renovation of the temple in 1960-63.
In this hall food was once distributed to the devotees who came from far off places. Next to this hall is the Meenakshi Nayaka Mandapa, a spacious columned hall used for shops and stores. This hall has a votive lamp-holder with 1,008 lamps, which are lit on festive occasions and presents a spectacular sight. The sculptures on the pillars here relate some of Lord Shiva's Thiruvilayadals (miracles) and also the story of Meenakshi's birth and her life as the princess of Madurai.
Meenakshi Naicker Mandapam
This big hall is adjacent to Ashta Shakthi Mandapam, consisting of 110 pillars carrying the figures of a peculiar animal with a lion's body , and an elephant's head called Yalli. The twelve Sun signs of zodiac have been depicted in a square shape structure on top of the mandapam. This mandapam is 160 feet in length and has pillars that have been arranged in six rows.
Potramaraikulam (golden lotus tank)
This temple tank is an ancient tank where devotees take bath in the holy water. The area around this tank was the meeting place of the TamilSangam - the ancient academy of poets. The history of the sangam goes back to the days when gods dallied with men. This academy judged the worth of any work of literature presented before it by throwing it into the tank. Only those that did not sink were considered worthy of attention. The tank is surrounded by a pillared corridor. Steps lead down to the tank, enabling worshippers to take bathe in it.
The Oonjal (swing) Mandapam and Killikoontu (parrot cage) Mandapam are on the western side of the tank was constructed by Chettiyappa Naicker in 1563. Every Friday, the golden idols of Meenakshi and Sundareswarar are seated on the swing in the Oonjal Mandapam and hymns are sung as the deities gaily swing to and fro. The parrots in the Kilikoontu Mandapam have been trained to repeat Meenakshi's name. But more interesting are the 28 pillars of the mandapam which exhibit some excellent Sculptures of figures from Hindu mythology.
The Thousand Pillar Mandapam (Ayiramkal mandapam):
This is largest mandapam in the holy temple complex, this mandapam is situated near Veeravasantharayar Mandapam to the north. This was built by Ariyanatha Mudaliyar, minister and commander of Viswanatha Naicker in the year 1569. Actually the number of pillars count to 985 beautifully decorated columns. Each pillar is sculptured and is a monument of the Dravidan sculpture. There is a Temple Art Museum in this 1000 pillars hall where you can see icons, photographs, drawings, etc., exhibiting the 1200 years old history. At the centre of the mandapam is the idol of Chira Sabha of Lord Natarajar. At the roof of the entrance are sculptures representing the 60 years in the Tamil calendar.
Just outside this mandapam ,towards the west, are the Musical Pillars. Each pillar when stuck, produces a different musical note. The kalyana mandapa, to the south of the pillared hall, is where the marriage of Shiva and Parvati is celebrated every year during the Chitirai Festival in mid- April.
Nagara Mandapam :
Nagara mandapam situated opposite to Amman sanctum in East Chitra street was built in the year 1635 by Achutharayan, minister of Rani Mangammal. This mandapam was built for the purpose of sounding the `Nagara' drum toannounce important events and festivals to the devotees. Even though many shops are situated in the premises, the practice of beating the Nagara drum continues.
How to Reach Madurai Meenakshi Temple :
By Air : Madurai has an airport which is connect amajor cities in india. Madurai airport is 10 Km away from the city.
By Rail : Madurai has direct rail connections to cities like Bangalore, Kollam, Coimbatore, Chennai, Thanjavur, Rameshwaram, Tirunelveli, Tiruchirappalli, Tirupathi and Tuticorin.
By Road : Madurai is well connected by road to all parts of South India.
TAMILNADU TOURISM DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
West veli street,
0452-2337471 to 75
Alagar koil road,
0452-2537461 to 66.