The Meenakshi Temple complex is literally a city – one of the largest of its kind in India and undoubtedly one of the oldest too. The temple was almost completely destroyed in the year 1310 following the invasion of the Islamic conqueror Malikkapur.As kings who were followers of Islam were noted for their intolerance towards other religions, the invaders destroyed most of the ancient sculptures of the temple. The Lord has been described as Alavai Iraivan in his songs.The temple was restored to its pristine glory in the late 14th century when the Hindu Kings came back to power in Madurai.This can also be termed as a new beginning of a new era in the history of the temple, when it was almost rebuilt. The King Thirumalai Naicker played an important role in the construction of the new form of the temple according to records. The Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple is now under the administration of the HR and CE department of Tamil Nadu.
Lord Siva in his incarnation as Sundareswarar and his fish-eyed spouse, Meenakshi, are enshrined in this twin temple. There are five massive gateways enclosing these two shrines. Even a casual visitor is fascinated by the many paintings and sculptures. A striking feature of the temple is the astonishing structure know as “Ayiramkaal Mandapam” or the Hall of Thousand Pillars and each pillar features high, ornate, bold sculptures that look life like. View from any angle these pillars appear to be in a straight line, an architectural masterpiece indeed In the outermost corridors are situated the matchless musical pillars carved out of stones. When it is tapped, each pillar produces different musical note.
Timings : The temple is usually open between 0500hrs and 1230hrs and again between 1600 hrs and 21.30 hrs.
How To Go
- By Air: Madurai Airport is located at Avaniyapuram, about 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) from the city. It offers domestic flights to select cities in India. The airport has international flights and services to Colombo, Dubai and Singapore. The carriers operating from the airport are Air India, Air India Express, Jet Airways, SpiceJet, Indigo and Srilankan Airlines.
- By Train: Madurai Junction is the major railway station serving the District. Madurai has direct trains connecting other major cities and towns across India including New Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta and Chennai.
- By Road: Madurai District is well connected with the National Highways NH 7, NH 45B, NH 208 and NH 49 passing through Madurai. The state highways passing through the city are SH-33, SH-72, SH-72A, SH-73 and SH-73A which connect various parts of Madurai district.
Interesting facts about the historical Meenakshi Temple
- It’s also one of India’s most visited temples, and is a must-visit spot in South India.
- Also known as Aayiram Kaal Mandapam, the Hall of Thousand Pillars is a spectacular architectural piece that is said to have been built out of a single rock. One gets to witness numerous ancient paintings if you visit the temple’s museum, which is the only part of the temple that is accessible to visitors of all beliefs.
- When here, you will get to witness 12 lofty gopurams, out of which four major ones have been placed in four directions, whereas there are four inner gopurams that serve as the entrance to the shrine.
- There is a pond in Meenakshi Temple that is known as Porthamarai Kulam or ‘The Golden Lotus Pond’. The reason why this pond is special and is one-of-a-kind is the fact that the lotus which grows here features a hue of gold.
- This temple goes through a periodic restoration after every 12 years! This process is carried out as a ritual, when the sculptures of deities are repaired and repainted.
- Another interesting feature of this colourful temple is the presence of around 33000 sculptures in it. However, it’s especially famed for its vast sculpture of the Nataraja, which has been built on a silver altar.
- The principal deity of this temple is Meenakshi, a form of Goddess Parvati, which has been carved in emerald hued stone. The idol has three breasts, as it is believed that Goddess Meenakshi was born with three breasts and was blessed with it which would supposedly vanish once she meets the right man of her life.