Meenakshi Temple Madurai
Sri Meenakshi Temple, Madurai, is the masterpiece of Indian architecture, is one of the largest and most ancient temples in India. The crowning glory of Madurai, The Indians Proudly call it as a Marvelous Cup in Indian Architecture.The enormous temple is dedicated to Shiva, popular here as Sundareshvara and his Ardhangini Parvati or Meenakshi. The original temple 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 century and left a majestic imprint of their rule in the Meenakshi – Sundaresvara Temple. The temple complex is within a high-walled enclosure, at the core of which are the two sanctums for Meenakshi and Sundareshvara, surrounded by a number of smaller shrines and grand pillared halls. Especially impressive are the 12 Gopuras. Their soaring towers rise from solid granite bases, and are covered with stucco figures of deities, mythical animals and monsters painted in vivid colors.
There are 12 temple towers (Gopurams). The outer towers are the landmarks of Madurai. They are:
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 deities.
The pictures of deities on tower are repaired, repainted and ritually decorated every 12 years.
Meenakshi Nayakkar 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 Thousand Pillar Mandapam
It is the ‘wonder of the palace’. Actually the number of pillars counts to 985 beautifully decorated columns. Each pillar is sculptured and is a monument of the Dravidian 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. There are so many other smaller and bigger mandapams in the temple.
Just outside this mandapam, towards the west, are the Musical Pillars. Each pillar when stuck produces a different musical sounds. The kalyana mandapam, to the south of the pillared hall, in which the marriage of Shiva and Parvati is celebrated every year during the Chitirai Festival in middle of April.
Scholars from abroad have spoken thus,
Madurai, ‘It is in Madurai that one discovers the heart and soul of the Indian faith, thought systems and culture – dating back over several centuries. The mysticism that surrounds India takes on a real meaning in Madurai’.