This temple is the best temple in Tamil Nadu with its famous towers on all four sides and beautiful craftsmanship which attracts tourists from all over the world.
The Meenakshi Amman temple is one of the heritage sites in India which was included in the probable list of Wonders of the World taken for voting by the public. This temple is about 1500 years old and it is a huge temple complex housing two main temples, one of Lord Sundareshwarar (Siva) and his consort Meenakshi and this temple is more famously known as Meenakshi temple. She was the ruling princess of Madurai, believed to be Parvathi’s avatar. So when she was of age Lord came to earth and married her. The marriage ceremony was performed by Azhagar, Lord Vishnu and his temple is situated just 16 Kms. from Madurai called Alagarkoil.
Meenakshi temple recently had its Kumbabhishekam and it is looking clean and well cared than it was earlier. All the pillars are protected well with anti erosion chemicals and all the towers are painted in bright colours. The interior is also well lit now. The temple is built like fortress with huge walls and with 5 entrances. Each entrance has got huge tower with many sculptures, statues and statuettes on them. The main entrance to the temple is from east side one entrance for Meenakshi and other for Sundarshwarar. South, West and North sides have common entrances with tall towers. Totally there are 14 towers including the two Golden towers of the main deities which are intricately carved.
The so called Madurai city was one of the earliest planned cities in the universe with well designed roads like layers of a lotus. The road adjacent to the temple is called as the Chithirai streets and the next layer is Avani mula streets followed by Masi streets and ending with the layer of Veli streets meaning outside. All these streets are like the sides of a square ,the Veli street approximately being 2 Kilometers long and inner most Chithirai street being 200 meters. Most of the commercial establishments are housed in all the building in these streets and some residential blocks also exists some where here and there.
Both these temples of Meenakshi and Sundareshwarar are connected with a beautiful corridor. Inside the Sundareshwarar temple there is a beautiful idol of Nataraja. This is one of the Pancha sabhas of Nataraja called Velli Ambalam (the deity is adorned with silver kavacham) the other one I have visited was Nellaiappar Kovil (see my earlier post on Nellaiyappar Kovil Tirunelveli). The idol here is beautiful and around 10 foot high. Unlike the other Nataraja’s idols in a dance posture with their left leg raised the one here is having right raised which is a unique feature. It is really wonderful to watch the cosmic dance form of Lord Nataraja. It is believed that a sincere devotee requested the god to change his posture as it would be stressful to use the same leg posture always and the Lord obliged. The Siva lingam here is also beautiful.
As we come out of the Sundareshwa sannidhi we can see Dakshinamoorthy, Lingodbhavar, Durgai Amman sub shrines and Chandikeshwarar. While praying to Chandikeshwarar we have to clap our hands while praying as he is supposed to be sleeping.
When we come out of Sundarehwarar temple we can see small shrines dedicated to Danda yudhapani, Siva, and Navagrahas etc. and out side is a Nandi mandapam and the flag post in front. Nandi mandapam has beautiful carvings on all four sides.
As we face the entrance from the inside on the right side there are two huge idols of Bhadrakali and Uddhava Thandavar. Outside prakaram of the temple is the thousand pillared mandapam which is now housing a museum. Inside this mandapam there are two musical pillars which resonate with musical notes sa, re, ga, ma..... when struck with a wooden palate. There are also two musical pillars in the outer prakaram below the northen tower entrance.
In between the Meenakshi temple and Sundarashwarar temple is the shrine of Mukkurunni Pillaiyar. This idol is very huge carved out of a single rock and can be viewed from a long distance.
Opposite to Meenakshi Amman sannidhi we can find a small Nandhi and many light lamps here. The Meenakshi’s idol is beautifully carved and her diamond nose ring dazzles in the glow of the oil lamps. She is always dressed in bright silk and looks gorgeous. This temple attracts the maximum crowd and special tickets are available for people who want to have quick and close darshan. It is better to have a guide for first timers and tickets for camera are a must.
Near the Amman Kovil are the tallest and famous south tower and the Pottramarai kulam. (Golden lotus pond). Madurai is supposed to be the seat of the Tamil language and it is written in scriptures that the Pottramarai inside the huge water tank of the temple had unique powers to distinguish the original compositions. It is believed that when ever any poet came up with a new poem or any literary work the manuscripts of that composition was placed on the golden lotus. If it was an original composition the lotus would continue to float and if it was plagiarism it would sink to the bottom along with the copy. The kings who ruled Madurai while encouraging those poets who were original with gold and material gifts also punished those who tried to copy, may be they had better anti piracy techniques and effective administration for safe guarding intellectual property rights.
Outside this prakaram also there are small shrines of Vinayagar and Subramanya. We can also find many shops inside the temple complex selling trinkets and devotional books, house wares and pictures of Gods and Goddesses. This whole temple remains like a mystery to me as I am yet to explore many areas inside the temple though I have visited it many number of times.
This temple beckons me again and again and I am really looking forward to my next visit.