Meenakshi Amman Temple is a historic Tamil Hindu temple located on the southern bank of the Vaigai River in the temple city , Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India. It is dedicated to Parvati, known as Meenakshi, and her consort, Shiva, here named Sundareswarar. The temple forms the heart and lifeline of the 2,500-year-old city of Madurai. It is said that the temple was originally built in the 6th century BC by survivors of the Kumari Kandam. The original temple was built by Kulasekara Pandya, but the entire credit for making the temple as splendid as it is today goes to the Nayaks. The Nayaks ruled Madurai from the 16th to the 18th century and left a majestic imprint of their rule in the Meenakshi – Sundareswarar Temple.
There are 12 temple gateway towers(Gopurams). The outer towers are the landmarks of Madurai. They are:
East Tower (Nine Storeys). Height 161’3″. This Gopura has 1011 sudhai figures
South Tower (Nine Storeys). Height 170’6″. This Tower has 1511 sudhai figures
West Tower (Nine Storeys). Height 163’3″. This Tower has 1124 sudhai figures
North Tower (Nine Storeys). Height 160’6″. This Tower has lesser figures of sudhai than other outer towers
Worshipping Arulmighu Meenakshi Amman at first had been the manner of prayer traditionally.
Devotees should enter the temple through East Gopuram, pass along Ashtasakthi Mandapam, Meenakshi Nayakar Mandapam and Mudali Mandapam, take a bath in the Golden Lotus pond and wear clean clothes. Foremost, they must worship the Viboothi Vinayakar on the south of the sacred pond. From the southern bank, devotees could worship the golden pinnacles of Swamy and Amman temples. They can see the 64 miracles of Lord Shiva on the walls surrounding the pond.
After worshipping Sithi Vinayakar, Kumaran and other deities in the parrot cage mandapam, must go round the altar at the Amman Sannidhi, and then enter the sanctum through the main entrance. Men and women should stand in separate rows and worship the deity. Devotees should meditate the five holy alphabets, recite the sacred names of the Lord, sing divine songs and go round the shrine..
Under the auspices of the Temple administration, a girls higher secondary school called Arulmighu Meenakshi Sundareswarar Girls Higher Secondary School is being run near Teppakulam, Madurai.
While going round the first corridor, Airavatha Vinayakar on the south east, Valla Vinayakar on the south west, Nirutha Ganapathy and Muthukumaraswamy and Chandikeswarar on the northwest must be worshipped. While going round the second corridor, the devotees could see a statue of Thirumalai Naicker in the east, kolu mandapam and Koodalkumarar sannidhi in the west.After worshipping Kumarar, the devotees should proceed to the second corridor of Swamy shrine. It is the normal practice toseek the permission of Nandiam Perumal to grant permission to enter the temple.
After that the Anukgnai Vinayakar and the Nandi at the main entrance to the Swamy temple. After that the devotees should proceed along the six pillared pedestal and worship Chandrasekarar and other deities and the Natarajar who danced changing his legs at the Velliyambalam and then worship the Lord at the sanctum. While going round the first corridor of the Swamy temple, Vandhiyammai, Sivalingam, Sun, Kalaimagal, the Saints, Somaskander, various Lingams, Pitchadanar, Kasiviswanathar, Ellam Valla Siddhar, Durgai Amman, Kadamba tree, Kanagasabai Natarajar, Chandikeswarar, Atcharalingam, Mahalakshmi, Rathnasabai Natarajar, Vanniyum well, Lingam and Bhairavar should be worshipped in that order before coming out.
On the north of the main entrance is the shrine of Arulmighu Palani Andavar. Having worshipped the deities including Sadayappar between the Nandhi Mandapam and coming round the hundred pillar hall, Agni Veeraputhirar, Ahora Veerapathirar, Ooothuva Thandava Moorthy and Badrakali, devotees should proceed to the Thirugnanasambandar mandapam and there offer worship to the four deities, Mangayarkarasiyar, Kulachirayar and Nedumaranayar and then after paying obeisance to the flag pole, they should sit down for a while. Later the idols of Hanumar, Krishnar and other deities on the pillars at the back and then enter the middle way and leave through Amman Sannidhi.
Devotees proceeding the temple should bathe and wear Saiva symbols such as holy ash, Uthiraksham, and carry with them coconut, fruits, incense and other items of offering to the extent possible. It is the practice to meditate the holy scriptures, and recite the saced names of the deities while in the sacred premises.
On the first day of every Tamil month, special prayers with abhishekarm are offered at the shrine of Sangam poets on the second corridor of the Swami Sannidhi. Special prayers are also conducted on the birth star days of the temple Adiyars and 63 Saints.
Ashta Shakthi Mandapam
A visitor who enters the temple through the eastern gateway, first enters this Mandapam(Hall). It was built by Thirumalai Nayakar’s wives Rudrapathi Ammal and Tholimamai. In this hall food was once distributed to the devotees who came from far off places. The sculptures on the pillars here relate some of Lord Shiva’s Thiruvilayadals (miracles) and also the story of Meenakshi’s birth and her life as the princess of Madurai.
Meenakshi Nayakkar Mandapam
This big hall is adjacent to Ashta Shakthi Mandapam, consisting of 110 pillars carrying the figures of a peculiar animal with a lion’s body , and an elephant’s head called Yalli.
Potramaraikulam (golden lotus tank)
This temple tank is an ancient tank where devotees take bath in the holy water. The area around this tank was the meeting place of the Tamil Sangam – the ancient academy of poets. The history of the sangam goes back to the days when gods dallied with men. 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 Oonjal (swing) Mandapam and Killikoontu (parrot cage) Mandapam are on the western side of the tank. 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 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 notes.
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 Pudhu Mandapam.
1 Thiruvanandal pooja 05 : 00 AM – 06 : 00 AM
2 Vizha pooja 06:30 AM – 07 : 15 AM
3 Kalasandhi pooja 06:30 AM – 07 : 15 AM
4 Thrukalasandhi pooja 10:30 AM – 11:15 AM
5 Uchikkala Pooja (Noon Pooja) 10:30 AM – 11:15 AM
6 Maalai pooja 04:30 AM – 05:15 AM
7 Ardhajama Pooja (Night Pooja) 07 : 30 PM – 08 : 15 PM
8 Palliarai pooja 09 : 30 PM – 10 : 00 PM