The Meenakshi Temple is one of the most significant and revered temples in Tamil Nadu, India.
Top Image Credit எஸ்ஸார், CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Table of Contents
- Where is the Meenakshi Amman Temple?
- Special Features in the temple
- East Gopuram
- South Gopuram
- West Gopuram
- North Gopuram
- Ashta Shakthi Mandapam Gopuram
- Kilikoondu Mandapam Gopuram
- Ashta Bhuja Gopuram
- Sundareswarar Shrine Gopuram
- Meenakshi Nayakkar Mandapam Gopuram
- Pudu Mandapam Gopuram
- Vasantha Mandapam Gopuram
- Oonjal Mandapam Gopuram
- Kilikoondu Mandapam Vayil Gopuram
- Shenbaga Vimanam Gopuram
Where is the Meenakshi Amman Temple?
The Meenakshi Amman (Amman – Mother) It is located in the city of Madurai, and is dedicated to Goddess Meenakshi, an incarnation of Parvati, and her consort Lord Sundareswarar, who is an incarnation of Lord Shiva. The temple is also known as the Meenakshi-Sundareswarar Temple, and is considered one of the finest examples of Tamilian architecture.
Madurai, the city where the temple is located, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with a history dating back to the 3rd century BCE.
The Meenakshi Temple was built in the 17th century by the Nayak dynasty, who ruled over Madurai at that time. The temple complex covers an area of about 15 acres and is made up of four main entrances or gopurams, which are adorned with intricate carvings and sculptures. The main gopuram is over 50 meters tall, making it one of the tallest temple towers in India.
The main deity of the Meenakshi Temple is Goddess Meenakshi, who is considered the presiding deity of Madurai. She is depicted with four arms, holding a lotus, a parrot, a bow, and a scepter. Lord Sundareswarar, her consort, is depicted with one arm holding a trident and the other in a gesture of blessing.
The Meenakshi Temple is renowned for its Tamilian architectural style, characterized by towering gopurams, intricate carvings, and colorful paintings.
The temple’s pillars, ceilings, and walls are adorned with elaborate sculptures depicting scenes from Hindu mythology and daily life. The temple is also famous for its golden lotus tank, which is believed to be the place where Lord Shiva performed his cosmic dance.
Special Features in the temple
A gopuram is a monumental tower, usually ornately decorated, that is a prominent feature of the entrances to many Hindu temples in South India. These towers are typically made of stone or brick, and rise to several stories, with each story featuring intricate carvings and sculptures depicting scenes from Hindu mythology.
In South Indian temple architecture, the gopuram is an essential element and serves as the gateway to the temple’s inner sanctum. It is believed that the gopuram acts as a symbolic boundary between the physical world and the spiritual realm, and that crossing the threshold of the gopuram is equivalent to entering a sacred space.
The Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu has 14 gopurams or towers, with the four tallest ones located at the entrances on the four cardinal directions. Each of these gopurams has a unique name and significance, which are as follows:
This is the main entrance to the temple and is known as the “Indra Vimanam” as it is believed to be the abode of the Hindu god Indra.
This entrance is known as the “Sundara Pandya Vimanam” named after the Pandya king who is said to have built the gopuram.
This entrance is called the “Velli Vayil Vimanam” which means “Silver Courtyard Tower.” It is said to have been covered in silver plates in ancient times.
This entrance is known as the “Kadaka Vimanam” named after the sage Kadamba who is believed to have built it.
The remaining 10 gopurams are smaller and are located within the temple complex. Each of these gopurams also has a unique name and significance, which are as follows:
Ashta Shakthi Mandapam Gopuram
This gopuram leads to the Ashta Shakthi Mandapam, which is a hall dedicated to the goddess Meenakshi’s eight forms.
Kilikoondu Mandapam Gopuram
This gopuram leads to the Kilikoondu Mandapam, which is a hall where the temple elephant is housed.
Ashta Bhuja Gopuram
This gopuram leads to a shrine dedicated to the eight-armed goddess Durga.
Sundareswarar Shrine Gopuram
This gopuram leads to the shrine of the temple’s presiding deity, Lord Sundareswarar.
Meenakshi Nayakkar Mandapam Gopuram
This gopuram leads to a hall used for religious and cultural performances.
Pudu Mandapam Gopuram
This gopuram leads to a hall used for temple processions.
Vasantha Mandapam Gopuram
This gopuram leads to a hall that is used during the spring festival of Vasanthotsavam.
Oonjal Mandapam Gopuram
This gopuram leads to a hall where the deities are placed on swings during festivals.
Kilikoondu Mandapam Vayil Gopuram
This gopuram leads to the courtyard where the temple elephant is bathed.
Shenbaga Vimanam Gopuram
This gopuram leads to a shrine dedicated to the god Vishnu.
Mandapas, are pillared halls or pavilions found in Hindu temples. These halls are used for religious and cultural events such as music, dance, and recitals, and also serve as spaces for devotees to gather and meditate.
The Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, has several mantapas within its complex, each with its own unique name and significance. Some of the mantapas in the temple are:
Ashta Shakthi Mandapam
This is a hall dedicated to the eight forms of the goddess Meenakshi, and is located in the eastern part of the temple complex. It is also known as the “Hall of Eight Shakthis” and is used for various cultural and religious events.
This is a pillared hall located near the temple tank, and is used for storing the temple chariots and the temple elephant.
Meenakshi Nayakar Mandapam
This is a hall located on the northern side of the temple complex and is used for various events such as music concerts and dance performances.
This is a pavilion located in the southwest corner of the temple complex and is used during temple festivals. It is also called the “Swing Pavilion” and is where the deities are placed on swings.
This is a hall located near the eastern entrance of the temple, and is used for various events during temple festivals.
This is a hall located on the northern side of the temple complex, and is used during the spring festival of Vasanthotsavam.
Raja Gopuram Mandapam
This is a hall located in the tallest gopuram of the temple, and is used for various events during temple festivals.
Interesting facts about the Meenakshi Temple and the surrounding area include:
- The temple has 14 gopurams, with the tallest one being the southern tower, which is 170 feet tall.
- The temple complex has several shrines and halls, including the 1000-pillar hall, which is renowned for its intricate carvings and sculptures.
- The temple is a popular pilgrimage site, with thousands of devotees visiting every day.
- The temple also hosts several festivals throughout the year, including the Meenakshi Thirukalyanam, which celebrates the marriage of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswarar.
- Madurai, the city where the temple is located, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with a history dating back to the 3rd century BCE.
- The city has been an important center of trade and culture for centuries and is known for its rich heritage, including its music, dance, and cuisine.
- Madurai is also known for its street food, including the famous Madurai Jigarthanda, a refreshing drink made with milk, almond gum, and nannari syrup, and the delicious Madurai idli, which is softer and fluffier than the typical South Indian idli.
- Madurai is also home to several other important temples, including the Koodal Azhagar Temple, the Pazhamudhir Solai Temple, and the Thiruparankundram Murugan Temple, all of which are worth visiting.