Meenakshi Amman Temple
Location: Madurai, south of Madras in the state of Tamil Nadu
Significance: Parvati as Meenakshi
Also Known as: Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple
Legends believed that Goddess Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva was reborn as Meenakshi having eyes like a fish to the family of Malayadhwaja Pandyan and his wife Kanchanamala on performing the Putthrakameshthiya puja. Born with three breasts Meenakshi grew up to become a daring Queen. It was during her conquest that she met Lord Shiva when her third breast vanished. Lord Shiva called her to Madurai and married her as Sundareswar. The twin Meenakshi Amman Temple is regarded as one of the largest and the biggest temples in India. Built-in the 17th century one part of it is dedicated to Lord Shiva as Sundareswara or the Lord of beauty. The other sanctuaries is dedicated to Meenakshi, the wife of Shiva. Meenakshi is seen holding a parrot and a bouquet in her hand. The original temple created by Kulasekara Pandyan in the early years was in ruins. The present temple was reconstructed in the early 17th century by Tirumala Nayak. The temple is surrounded by Aadi, Chittiraj, and the Massi streets.
Out of a total of 12 Gopurams or high rising towers, the four tallest Gopurams are placed at the outer walls each measuring 49 meters. The temple built in Dravidian architecture has four entrances that lead to the Meenakshi Amman shrine. The Astha Shakti Mandapam can be reached from the eastern gateway. Built under the guidance of the Nayakar’s wife Rudrapathi Ammal and Tholimamal, the scenes from Meenakshi Amman’s life as a princess is depicted on the pillars.
There is a golden lotus pond called Potramarai Kulam to the left of the Meenakshi Amman shrine. In the waters of the pond, the Tamil Sangam valued the literary works by placing them on the surface of the waters. Those that come up to the surface after going down the waters are valued as great masterpieces. To the western side is located the Oonjal Mandapam housing the deities and the Killokutto Mandapam or commonly the hall of Parrots. The parrots are seen chanting the name of Meenakshi. Every week on Fridays, the Idols of Lord Shiva and Meenakshi are placed on the Swing and worshiped by chanting hymns and offering prayers.
The Deity of Lord Shiva is in the form of a Linga supported by 64 bhootaganas, 32 lions, and 8 elephants. There is a stump of the Kadamba tree placed on the outer corridor under which Indra worshiped Lord Shiva. There can also be seen a unique idol of Nataraja dancing with the right leg raised to his shoulder. The idol is generally called Veli Ambalam.
Daily Chores in the Temple
Devotees are seen offering pujas in the early morning and it goes on till the evening. The whole atmosphere is filled with oil lamps called diyas and incense sticks fragrance all over the temple premises. The sound of the bells can be heard at a great distance.
The Chithirai festival in April- May is the most important festival celebrated on behalf of the marriage of Meenakshi with Sundareswara. The two deities are seen riding on a golden bull wearing a pearl crown when brought for a procession. There is also the Vishnu procession to the bank of the Vaighal River held on the full moon day. The float festival is held for seven days in the month of January.
How to Reach
- By Air: Madurai has its own airport, located 12 km from the city center. There are daily flights to Chennai and twice-a-day flights to Mumbai.
- By Rail: Regular trains connect Madurai to Coimbatore, Chennai, Rameswaram, Kanyakumari, and other towns of South India. The Madurai Railway Station is within the city center.
- By Road: Madurai is well connected by a network of roads and road transport is available to all major towns of Tamil Nadu and surrounding areas.