Madurai temple attractions and divine experiences

Posted On December 14, 2011 

If you go to Tamil Nadu, don’t forget to visit the most amazing temple here – the Meenakshi temple in Madurai. With the presiding deity as Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Shiva, this is one of the most fascinating temples in South India. Kulaskeara Pandya built the original temple but it is to the Nayaks that the entire credit of having built a landmark temple goes. The Nayaks were rulers who ruled Madurai from the 16th to the 18th century. They left their influence on this land and got this temple constructed.

There is a wall enclosure around the temple and there are two sanctums for the Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareshwara. There are innumerable small shrines and also halls with pillars. There are 12 gopuras or towers here. These towers rise up and have solid bases made of granite. There are deities, mythical animals and monsters that have been painted in a myriad of colours.

Meenakshi temple in Madurai

The temple towers on the east side have around 1011 sudhai figures. The temple towers on the southern side have around 1511 sudhai figures. The western tower has 1124 and the northern tower doesn’t have so many figures.

The unique feature of the temple are these gopuras. There is a pyramid shaped gate which reaches a height of more than 50m. The towers on the entrances and on all sides indicate the four cardinal points. The smaller entrances indicate the sanctum of the main gods.

Madurai temple is especially famous for the stucco work that can be seen on the towers. These stucco work has been existing for a long time. They are always maintained well by repairing, repainting and reconsecrating them every 12 years.

Then there is the Astha Shakti Mandapam. Anyone who comes into the temple from the eastern gate would first enter the Mandapam or the hall. This was built by Rudrapathi Ammal and Tholimalai the wives of Thirumalai Nayakar. It is said that food once used to be given in this hall to all those who came from far off places.

Astha Shakti Mandapam

There is a Meenakshi Nayakar Mandapa next to this hall where there are many columns. This was a place where there used to be shops and stores. There is a votive lamp holder here with around 1008 lamps which are lit during festivals and other functions. This is a great sight and the tourist who comes here is sure to get enthralled and zapped by this ambience. There are sculptures all around the place depicting the story of Meenakshi’ birth, the miracles of Lord Shiva, and the life of Goddess Meenakshi here as a princess.

Legend has it that Malyadwaja Pandya was a Madurai king and had no children. Many yagnas and sacrifices later, a girl with three breasts was born. A divine voice told him that the third breast would disappear when she meets her consort. The girl grew up, and fell in love with Lord Shiva and lost her third breast. They got married and ruled in Madurai for many years as Sundareshwara and Meenakshi. Meenakshi is believed to be actually Goddess Parvati.

The Meenakshi Nayakar Mandapam with 110 pillars and the Potramaraikulam tank where devotees take a bath, the Vasantha Mandapam and the 1000 pillar hall are the other attractions here. You also have the Oonjal Mandapam which is a place where the idols are seated every Friday.

Potramaraikulam tank

With a unique vibration and a charm hard to resist, Madurai is a must see.

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