Meenakshi Amman Temple Madurai
The Meenakshi Amman Temple
of Oman, also known as the Meenakshi Sundarwara Temple, is one of the oldest and most important temples in India. The temple is located in Madurai and is of great myth and historical importance. Lord Shiva is believed to have taken the form of Sundareswarar (handsome) and married Parvati (Meenakshi) at the temple site. The Meenakshi Amman Temple, recognized for its magnificent architecture, was recognized as one of the wonders of the world, but was unable to enter the list of "Seven Wonders of the World". However, the temple is definitely one of the "wonders of India". It is also one of the main attractions of South India, where thousands of worshipers invade it daily. During the "Tirukalyanam Festival", which takes place over 10 days, the temple attracts over a million tired people. Although many people visit it every day, the temple is well preserved and has been called the "best iconic Swachh place" (the cleanest iconic place) in India.
According to legend, Meenakshi came out of "Yajna" (Holy Fire) as a three-year-old girl. "Yajna" was executed by a king named Malayadwaja Pandya with his wife Kanchannamalai. Since the royal couple had no children, the king presented his prayers to Lord Shiva, and asked him to give them a son. But to her panic, a girl with two breasts escaped from the sacred fire. When Malayawada and his wife expressed concern about the abnormal appearance of the girl, a divine voice instructed them not to be concerned about the girl's physical appearance. They were also told that the third girl's breast would disappear as soon as she met her future husband. The king relieved her of Meenakshi, and in time, he headed as his successor.
Meenakshi ruled the ancient city of Madurai and also captured the neighboring kingdoms. Legend has it that he captured Indralok, the home of Lord Indra, and was also on his way to capture Kailash, the home of Lord Shiva. When Shiva appeared before her, Meenakshi's third breast disappeared and she knew that she had met her best half. Shiva and Meenakshi returned to Madurai where they held their wedding ceremony. It is said that the wedding was attended by all gods and goddesses. Parvati also assumed the shape of Meenakshi, and Lord Vishnu, Parvati's brother, handed it over to Lord Shiva. Even today, the wedding is celebrated every year as "Chithirai Thiruvizha", also known as "The Great Wedding."
Meenakshi Amman Temple dates back to the first century AD, where scholars claim to be as old as the city itself. Kulashkarar Pandian, the king who ruled the Pandian dynasty, is said to have built the temple according to the instructions given in his dream by Lord Shiva. Some religious texts belonging to the first century to the fourth century AD speak of the temple and describe it as the central structure of the city. Texts dating back to the early sixth century describe the temple as a place where academics gather to discuss important issues. However, the temple was rebuilt as it is today throughout the sixteenth century, as it was destroyed by Muslim invaders.
During the 14th century AD, Malik Kafur, the leader of the Sultanate of Delhi, led his army to most of southern India and plundered many temples, including the famous Meenakshi Amman Temple. Valuables such as gold, silver and precious stones were brought to Delhi. Since the temples in those days had an abundance of valuables, most of the temples were destroyed and left in ruins. When the Vijayanagar Empire seized Madurai after defeating the Muslim sultanate, the temple was rebuilt and reopened. The temple was further expanded in the late 16th and early 17th centuries by Vishwanatha Nayakar, king of the Nayaka dynasty. According to the researchers, during the reconstruction of the temple, the rulers of the Nyaka dynasty followed the architectural style "Silpa Shastras". "Silpa Shastras" is a set of architectural laws found in ancient texts.
The temple was expanded again by Thirumalai Nayak, who ruled Madurai from 1623 to 1655. During his reign, several "Mandapams" (pillar rooms) were built. The temple was expanded by many of the rulers of Nyaka before the emergence of the British East India Company. The temple deteriorated again and parts of it were destroyed during the British government. In 1959, the Tamil Hindus began restoration work through fundraising and cooperation with historians and engineers. The temple was completely restored in 1995.
The temple occupies a large area in the heart of Madurai, spanning 14 acres. The temple is surrounded by huge walls that were built in response to invasions. The entire structure, which appears from above, represents the mandala. Mandala is a structure built according to the laws of symmetry and position. There are many shrines built within the temple complex. In addition to the two main shrines, dedicated to Sundareswarar and Meenakshi, the temple contains shrines dedicated to various other deities such as Ganesha and Murugan. The temple also houses the gods Lakshmi, Rokamini, and Saraswati.
The temple also contains a dedicated pond called "Porthamarai Kulam". The term "Potramarai Kulam" is a literal translation of "pond with golden lotus". The golden lotus hull is placed in the center of the pond. Lord Shiva is said to have blessed this blessing and announced that there would be no marine life there. In Tamil folklore, the pool is believed to be a resident to review the value of any new literature.
The temple contains four main gates (gopurams) that look identical to each other. In addition to the four "gopurams", the temple also houses many other "gopurams" that act as entrances to the various shrines. The temple contains a total of 14 majestic gates. Each of them is a multi-story structure and displays thousands of legendary stories and various other sculptures. The main "gopurams" of the temple are listed below:
Kadka Gopuram: This opulent entrance gate leads to the main shrine of the Meenakshi goddess. The entrance door was rebuilt by Tumpichi Nayakkar in the middle of the sixteenth century. The "gopuram" consists of five floors.
Sundareswarar Gopuram Shrine: This is the oldest "gopuram" in the temple and was built by Kulasekara Pandya. "Gopuram" serves as a gateway to the Sundareswarar shrine (Lord Shiva).Read more:- https://ngtraveller.com/
- Chitra Gopuram: Built by Maravarman Sundara Pandyan II, gopuram represents the religious and secular core of Hinduism.
- Nadukkattu Gopuram: Also called "Idaikattu Gopuram", this gate leads to the Ganesha Shrine. The entrance gate is located between the two main sanctuaries.
- Mottai Gopuram: This “gopuram” has fewer plaster images compared to other portals. It is interesting that Mutai Gopuram has had no roof for nearly three centuries.
- Nayaka Gopuram: Visvappa Nayakkar built this "gopuram" around 1530. "gopuram" is amazingly similar to another portal called "Palahai Gopuram".
The temple also contains several rooms with columns called "Mandapams". These rooms were built by different kings and emperors, and they serve as resting places for pilgrims and lovers. Here are some of the most important "mandapamates":
Airakal Mandapam: Literally translated as a "hall with a thousand pillars". The room, built by Arianaata Modaliar, is a real sight because it is backed by 985 columns. Each column is beautifully carved and contains images of nights, a mythical creature.
Kilikoondu Mandapam: This "mandapam" was originally built to house hundreds of parrots. Parrots that were kept in cages were trained to say "Meenakshi". The room next to the Meenakshi Shrine contains statues of Mahabharata figures.
Ashta Shakthi Mandapam: This room includes sculptures of eight deities. The room was built by two queens, located between the main "Gopuram" and the entrance door leading to Meenakshi Shrine.
Nayaka Mandapam - “Nayaka Mandapam” built by Chinnappa Nayakkar. The hall is supported by 100 columns and includes a statue of Nataraja.
Significance & Worship
Since Meenakshi is the chief deity of the temple, the temple indicates the importance of women in the Hindu Tamil family. The temple also depicts the friendly relationship between Shaivism, Vaishnavism, and Shaktism. Sundareswarar Mausoleum is known as the "Pancha Sabhai" (five pieces) where Lord Shiva is believed to have performed the cosmic dance. Worship mainly involves rituals and processions. One of the rituals consists of placing the Sundareswarar image inside the palanquin, which is then transferred to the Meenakshi shrine. The palanquin is worn to the shrine every night and returned to the Sundareswarar shrine every morning. Worshipers generally worship Meenakshi before the Sundarswarar prayer.
In addition to the main festival, which is basically the deity's wedding, many other festivals are held at the temple. Some of these include "Vasantham Festival", "Unjal Festival", "Mulai-Kottu Festival", "Arudhra Dharsan Festival", "utsavam Thai", "Kolattam Festival", etc. Each of these festivals has its own meaning and is celebrated for several months throughout the year. The temple also celebrates the "Navarathri Festival". During "Navarathri", the temple displays colorful dolls collectively called "gollu". Gullu often conveys legendary scenes.
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