» »A tour of the Meenakshi temple, Madurai

A tour of the Meenakshi temple, Madurai

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The entire town of Madurai in Tamil Nadu was built around the temple of Meenakshi which is said to have existed since the ancient times. The Meenakshi temple is among the most visited temples in the world and was also nominated in the list of 30 monuments shortlisted for the 'new seven wonders of the world'. The sheer number of devotees that visit this place every year make this one of the top and best tourist places in Tamil Nadu. It is one of the few temples in South India where the Goddess is the presiding deity instead of Lord Shiva. Native Planet brings you a guide to visit the temple and also dig into the other attractions like the famous silk sarees that make Madurai famous. Take a look.

Let's get started
  

Let's get started

Meenakshi Amman Temple (also called: Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple, Tiru-aalavaai and Meenakshi Amman Kovil) is a historic Hindu temple located in the temple city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India. It is dedicated to the goddess Meenakshi, also known as Parvati, and her consort, Shiva, named as Sundareswarar here. The temple is the lifeline of the ancient city of Madurai which is more than 2500 years old.

Pic Credit: Wiki Commons

Towering heights
  

Towering heights

The temple finds mention in ancient tamil literature but the present structure was built between 1623 and 1655. It houses 14 Gopurams (gateway towers) ranging from 45-50 m in height.

Pic Credit: Wiki Commons

Divine Meenakshi
  

Divine Meenakshi

Meenakshi was the daughter of King Malayadwaja Pandyan. She was born out of a sacrificial fire. Meenakshi had three breasts when she was born but according to a divine voice her third breast would disappear once she met her consort. The voice also asked the king to raise her as a prince. Thus, Meenakshi was trained in war and crowned ruler of the land. She won many wars till she finally met Shiva on the battlefield and recognized him as her mate.

Pic Credit: Wiki Commons

How Madurai got its name
  

How Madurai got its name

The name Madurai is given after the nectar dripping off Shiva's hair. According to legend there was once a forest in place of the city where Lord Indra was sighted worshipping a shiva lingam under a kadambam tree. This news reached the king who ordered a temple built around the lingam and a city built around the temple. The lingam is still there and even the stump of a kadambam tree.

Pic Credit: Wiki Commons

Not Shiva but Meenakshi
  

Not Shiva but Meenakshi

Unlike, other temples across South India where Shiva is the presiding deity, the presiding deity here is Meenakshi.

Pic Credit: Wiki Commons

 

Visitors to the 'new wonder' of the world
  

Visitors to the 'new wonder' of the world

The temple attracts 15000 visitors everyday, around 25000 on Fridays. It was one of the nominees for 'New Seven Wonders of the World'. The annual 10-day Meenakshi Tirukalyanam festival, celebrated during April and May, attracts 1 million visitors.

Pic Credit: Wiki Commons

 

The Golden tank
  

The Golden tank

The Pottramarai Kulam or golden lotus tank with a gold-plated lotus on it used to meeting place of Sangam poets from more than 1500 years ago. Now, it is a place for pilgrims and tourists to rest their weary feet.

Pic Credit: Wiki Commons

Dancing Nataraja
  

Dancing Nataraja

The Dancing Nataraja in the temple museum is a specialty as it has its right leg raised instead of its left which is the norm in Nataraja statues found across other Shiva temples.

Pic Credit: Wiki Commons

Divine Wedding
  

Divine Wedding

The wedding of Meenakshi and Sundaresan is depicted across the temple and even across the city.

Pic Credit: Wiki Commons

Blessings of the Elephant God
  

Blessings of the Elephant God

Don't forget to take the blessings of the temple elephant in exchange for bananas.

Pic Credit: Wiki Commons

The 1000 pillars of faith
  

The 1000 pillars of faith

To reach the sanctum of Meenakshi , one has to go through the thousand-pillared hall (it has, in fact, only 985 pillars) and endless shops selling everything from flowers to incense sticks to brass utensils and gold ornaments.

Pujas and more Pujas
  

Pujas and more Pujas

Different pujas keep happening here throughout the day. Six singers take turns to praise the gods in the temple and every Friday evening the goddess is carried on a wooden horse through the streets around the temple.

Intricate beauty
  

Intricate beauty

Like most medieval or ancient temples, the outer walls of the temple have intricate and beautiful structures that look delicate and delightful at the same time 

Elegance and Mastery
  

Elegance and Mastery

These elegant carvings add to the beauty and the holiness of the place.

Colourful Stories
  

Colourful Stories

This mural painting was made in the 17th century and is one among the many that attracts the attention of visitors

Getting there
  

Getting there

Madurai has an airport with daily flights to Chennai and Mumbai. Innumerable buses and trains also connect you to Chennai. The Pandian Express leaves at 9.20 pm and arrives at 6.20 am.

Pic Credit: Wiki Commons

Where to Stay
  

Where to Stay

The best place to stay is near the temple itself. Many mid-range and modest accomodations are available. Most of the places nearby are safe even for late-night walking. Luxury options are also there but they are not close to the temple.

Where to Eat
  

Where to Eat

Madurai is idly land so be sure to dig into soft, succulent idlis at any time during the day. Lots of Idli sellers will be also found around the temples.

Pic Credit: Wiki Commons

What to See and Do
  

What to See and Do

Besides the Meenakshi temple here are some of the other attractions that you can check out in Madurai. Be sure to check out the Tirumala naicker palace and also enjoy a boat ride at the Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakkulam.
Markets outside the temple are great for wooden toys, straw baskets and thazhampu kunkumam (vermilion). Take a look at Palankuzhi too, (a game played with cowries on a board with 14 holes). Madurai is also famous silk sarees so be sure to pick up a few.

Pic Credit: J'ram DJ

Devotees of the Goddess
  

Devotees of the Goddess

Whatever be the time of the year, devotees throng the temple.

 

Pic Credit: Wiki Commons

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