Meenakshi Amman Temple is a historic Hindu temple located on the southern bank of the Vaigai River in the temple city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India.
It is dedicated to Parvati, known as Meenakshi, and her consort, Shiva, here named Sundareswarar.
Ancient mythology has it that Lord Shiva came down in the form of Sundareswarar to marry Meenakshi, anincarnation of Goddess Parvati, who descended to earth in answer to the penance of Malayadwaja Pandya, the king of Madurai.
It is is a wonderful mix of legends, myths and some brilliant architectural techniques.
The Meenakshi temple complex is one of the largest of its kind in India and undoubtedly one of the oldest.
The historic Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple forms the heart and lifeline of the 2500 year old city of Madurai.
Thirugnanasambandar, the famous Hindu saint mentions this temple as early as the 7th century.
This temple was also mentioned in ancient Tamil literature was destroyed by the infamous Muslim invader Malik Kafur in 1310 and rebuilt later by Madurai’s great ruler Thirumalai Nayak during the period 1623 to 1655.
This temple displays the splendid architecture having 12 gopurams (towers) ranging from 45 to 52 meters (147 to 170 feet) in height, paintings and sculptures all over, huge Mandapams.
There are an estimated 33,000 sculptures in the temple. The massive Nataraja sculpture is enclosed in a huge silver altar and hence called Velli Ambalam.
The Thousand Pillar Hall (Aayiram Kaal Mandapam) contains nearly 1000 carved pillars (985 to be exact) symbolizing the great Dravidian sculpture.Each pillar is unique. Some of these pillars astonishingly produce different melodious musical notes when struck.
A Porthamarai Kulam or the Golden Lotus Pond inside this temple is a holy site; the lotus growing here has a golden color.
The entire temple occupies around 45 acres, with each side having an entrance of its own.
Amongst the four gateways, the south one is the tallest. It is about 52 meters (170 feet) high and can be climbedto have a view of the entire city.
This gateway contains the twin temples of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswarer. These temples are again separately surrounded by 4 smaller gopurams.
Both the Meenakshi and Sundareswarar shrines have gold plated Vimanam (tower over sanctum).
Various kings renovated the temple, leaving a distinct impression of their artistic taste.
Just recently, this temple won the coveted place of honor as one of the Seven Wonders of India for its architectural importance.
Currently it is an important pilgrimage site and a commercial centre. The significance from the tourism angleis evident from the fact that 15 to 25 thousand visitors come here everyday.
Sri Meenakshi temple is also famous for Meenakshi Tirukalyanam festival, which is an annual festival, celebrated for 10 days and enjoyed by almost 1 million visitors.