Madurai Meenakshi Temple
Meenakshi Temple, one of the largest & most spectacular temples in India. Meenakshi Temple is the most exquisite example of the Dravidian architecture. It is a master piece and was the center of activity for the promotion of art and culture in Madurai. Meenakshi Temple is simply breathtaking, colourful with the painted carvings on the outside and the painted ceilings inside. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswarer. Meenakshi Amman Temple is located centrally in Madurai and the lotus shaped city surrounds it completely. Meenakshi temple has a thousand pillared ‘Mandapam’. These pillars are carved out of a single granite rock with each of them delicately and exquisitely carved. Among these are the musical pillars, which produce music when tapped. This hall of nearly 1000 pillars gives the entrance and the whole place is in amazing atmosphere. The blowing of the conch shells, the elephant whisks, incense, the silver palanquin and the priests make it a wonderful experience.
Meenakshi temple was originally built by Kulasekarer Pandya. But the credit for the present look of the temple goes to the Nayakas, who ruled Madurai from 16th to 18th century. The temple has huge Gopurams which can be seen from a far off distance. There are total twelve gopurams, but the tallest four stand on the outer walls, each facing one direction. Amongst the four gateways, the south one is the tallest. It is about 50 m high and can be climbed to have a view of the entire city.
This gateway contains the twin temples of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswarer. These temples are again separately surrounded by four smaller gopurams. Meenakshi Amman Temple can be entered from any of its five entrances. The eastern entrance is usually preferred, as it opens in front of the Meenakshi Sannidhi (shrine), the reigning deity of the twin-temple. This is the only entrance which does not have a towering gopuram.
Ashta Shakti Mandapam is the first attraction on this side of the temple. It was built by Thirumalai Nayakar’s wives. The pillars in the hall are carved with Lord Siva’s Tiruvilayadals (miracles) and the life story of Meenakshi, as the princess of Madurai. There are a number of other halls and towers in the temple which are worth watching for their sculptures, carvings and designs. Each one is different from the other, in one aspect or the other.
The streets of Madurai were named after months in the Tamil calendar. This sacred town of south attracts thousands of pilgrims and visitors from India as well as abroad. The city has many shops, street markets and temples, hotels and restaurants. The city of Madurai is also famed for its traditional handicrafts in bronze and brass.
How to Reach:
Madurai is connected by air with Mumbai and Chennai. Madurai airport is 10 km away from the city. Madurai has direct train connections to Bangalore, Coimbatore, Kollam, Chennai, Rameshwaram, Thanjavur, Tiruchirappalli, Tirunelveli, Tirupathi and Tuticorin. There are excellent roads connecting Madurai to all parts of South India. Madurai city has 5 Major Bus Stands Periyar Bus Stand, Anna Bus Stand, Palanganatham Bus Stand, Arapalayam Bus Stand, Mattuthavani Bus Stand. From Madurai town buses, suburban buses, taxis, auto rickshaws and cycle rickshaws are available to reach the temple.
There are a number of hotels in Madurai which can prove to be good accommodation options. Some of the good hotels in the city are Best Western Germanus Hotel, Hotel Sangam, Hotel Taj Garden Retreat and Hotel Madurai Ashok ect.