Madurai or "the city of nectar"
is the oldest and second largest city of
Tamil Nadu. This city is located on Vaigai
River and was the capital of Pandyan rulers.
The Pandyan king,Kulasekhara had built a
gorgeous temple around which he created
a lotus shaped city. It has been a center
of learning and pilgrimage,for centuries.
Legend has it that the divine nectar falling
from Lord Shiva's locks gave the city its
name - 'Madhurapuri',now known as "Madurai".
The Sri Meenakshi Sundareswara temple and
originated together. The structures that
are standing today date mostly from the
twelfth to the eighteenth century. They
occupy a vast space,258-m by 241m. There
are the two main shrines,no less than twelve
Gopuras,a pool and innumerable Mandapas.
At every turn there is superb sculpture,magnificent
The Meenakshi temple complex is one of the
largest and certainly one of the most ancient.
According to legend Madurai is the actual
site where the wedding between Shiva and
Meenakshi took place. The gigantic temple
complex,the statues exploring the entire
range of human emotions,everything here
is larger than life. The soaring and exquisitely
carved towers enclose the temple dedicated
to Meenakashi. The south gateway contains
the twin temples of Shiva and Meenakshi
and is about nine storeys high.
Once Dhananjaya,a merchant of Manavur,where
the Pandyas had arrived after the second
deluge in Kumari Kandam,having been overtaken
by nightfall in Kadamba forest,spent the
night in the Indra Vimana. When next morning
he woke up,he was surprised to see signs
of worship. Thinking that it must be the
work of the Devas,he told the Pandya,Kulasekhara,in
Manavur,of this. Meanwhile Lord Shiva had
instructed Pandya in a dream to build a
temple and a city at the spot Dhananjaya
would indicate. Kulasekhara did so. Thus
originated the temple and city.
In the 14th century an invasion by Malik
Kafur damaged the temple. In the same century
Madurai was under Muslim rule for nearly
fifty years. The temple authorities closed
the sanctum,covered up the Linga,and set
up another in the Ardhamandapa. When the
city was liberated,the sanctum was opened,and,tradition
says the flower garlands and the sandalwood
paste placed on the Linga were as fresh
as on the first day,and two oil lamps were
Inside Meenakshi temple
Ashta Sakthi Mandapa: This Mandapa
is a convention in this temple,different
from that followed in others,that the devotee
offers worship first to Goddess Meenakshi.
Therefore,while there are four other entrances
into the temple,under huge Gopuras in the
four cardinal directions,it is customary
to enter not through any of them but through
a Mandapa,with no tower above it. This entrance
leads directly to the shrine of the Goddess.
This Mandapa is an impressive structure,with
a hemispherical ceiling. It is 14m long
and 5.5m wide. There are bas-reliefs all
over the place. Over the entrance one of
them depicts the marriage of Goddess Meenakshi
with Lord Somasundara. The Mandapa derives
its name,the "Ashta Sakthi",from
the fact it contains sculptures of the eight
Sakthis (also spelt as Shakti). Those of
the four principal Nyanmars were added during
renovation of the temple in 1960-63.
Closer View,Meenakshi temple
Meenakshi Nayakkar Mandapam: This
hall 42.9m long and 33.5m wide is adjacent
to Ashta Shakthi Mandapam. It contains 110
stone columns,each 6.7m high carrying the
figures of a peculiar animal with a lion's
body,and an elephant's head called Yalli.
Potramaraukulam (Golden Lotus Tank): This
temple tank is an ancient tank where devotees
take bath in the holy water. The corridors
around the tank are rightly called the Chitra
Mandapa,for the walls carry paintings of
the divine sports of the Lord. The area
around this tank was the meeting place of
the Tamil Sangam - the ancient academy of
poets.This academy judged the worth of any
work of literature presented before it by
throwing it into the tank. Only those that
did not sink were considered worthy of attention.
The tank is surrounded by a pillared corridor.
Steps lead down to the tank,enabling worshippers
to take bathe in it.
The Thousand Pillar Mandapam:
It is the 'wonder of the place',Actually
the number of pillars count to 985. Each
pillar is sculptured and is a monument of
the Dravidan sculpture. There is a Temple
Art Museum in this 1000 pillars hall where
you can see icons,photographs,drawings,etc.,exhibiting
the 1200 years old history. There are so
many other smaller and bigger mandapams
in the temple. Just outside this mandapam,towards
the west,are the Musical Pillars. Each pillar
when stuck,Produces a different musical
Vasantha Mandapam: This
mandapam was built by Thirumalai Nayakkar.
Vasanthosavam - the Spring festival-is celebrated
in this mandapam in Vaikasi (April/May).
Its pillars contain elaborate sculptures
of Shiva,Meenakshi,scenes from their wedding
as well as the figures of ten of the Nayak
Kings and their consorts. This is also called
Oonjal Mandapam: Two Mandapas,the
Unjal (swing) and the Kilikatti (parrot
cage),are on the western side of the tank.
On their ceilings are more paintings. The
Kiliatti Mandapa has on its walls the carvings
of the divine sports. The most ornamental
of the temple's Mandapas,it was built in
Every Friday,the golden idols of Meenakshi
and Sundareswarar are seated on the swing
in the Oonjal Mandapam and hymns are sung
as the deities gaily swing to and fro. The
parrots in the Kilikoontu Mandapam have
been trained to repeat Meenakshi's name.
But more interesting are the 28 pillars
of the mandapam which exhibit some excellent
Sculptures of figures from Hindu mythology.
Swami Sundareswarar Shrine:
Lord Sundareswarar (Shiva) the consort of
Goddess Meenakshi is to the north of Kilikoontu
Mandapam . On your way you can worship a
gigantic idol of Sri Ganesh called Mukkurini
Pillaiyar. When the king Thirumalai Nayakar
excavated a temple tank 3 km from Meenakshi
temple he unearthed this idol of Vinayaka
and erected the same here.
In the outer pragaram (corridor outside
the main shrine) there is stump of the kadamba
tree,which is said to be a part of the same
tree under which Indra worshipped Shiva
linga. Also in the outer corridor there
are the Kadambathadi Mandapam and big hall
called ' Velli Ambalam' . Here, An idol
of Nataraja (Shiva as the Lord of Dance)
is seen. This idol of Nataraja is covered
with silver leaves. Hence this hall is named
as Velli Ambalam (Silver Hall)..
The famous festivals held at Madurai,include
Teppam festival,the annual Float Festival,wherein
the images of Sri Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswara
(also spelt as Sundreshwara) are mounted
on floats,and taken to Mariamman Teppakkulam
Tank,where for several days they are pulled
back and forth across the water in the middle
of the tank,on an illuminated raft embellished
with flowers,before being taken back to
the main temple.
Meenaskhi Kalyanam, the
wedding festival of Goddess Meenakshi and
Lord Sundareshwar is celebrated for twelve
days from the second day of the lunar month
(i.e. two days after the new moon). This
is a spectacular festival celebrated in
the month of Chaitra (April-May). The festival
is characterized with royal decorated umbrellas,fans
and traditional instrumental music. Scenes
from mythology are enacted and the deities
of Lord Shiva,Goddess Shakti and Goddess
Meenakshi are taken out in a colourful procession.
Thousands of devotees from all over the
country gather in the city of Madurai on
Madurai has the typical climate of the Deccan
plateau, which remains hot and humid most
of the year. During the summer months of
April June , temperature varies between
27ºC and 40ºC, in winters (December
February), the temperature ranges between
20ºC and 30ºC. The city receives
maximum rainfall between July and October.
Best Time to Travel : Madurai
can be visited any time of the year, but
The best time to travel the city is from
October to March.
- Air: Madurai is connected
by air with Mumbai and Chennai. Madurai
airport is 10-km away from the city.
- Rail: Madurai has direct
rail connections to Bangalore, Coimbatore,
Kollam, Chennai, Rameshwaram, Thanjavur,
Tiruchirappalli, Tirunelveli, Tirupathi
- Bus: There are excellent
roads connecting Madurai to all parts
of South India. Madurai city has 5 Major
Bus Stands- Periyar Bus Stand, Anna Bus
Stand, Palanganatham Bus Stand, Arapalayam
Bus Stand, Mattuthavani Bus Stand. From
Madurai town buses, suburban buses, taxis,
auto rickshaws and cycle rickshaws are
available to reach the temple.
- Local Transport: Buses
and auto rickshaw are the major players
in local transportation. Taxis are also
there in good numbers that ferry people
inside the city walls and to other nearby
towns and cities.