Meenakshi Temple in Madurai – attracts pilgrims andalike
The Meenakshi Temple complex covers an area of 65000 sq metres. This is one of the biggest temple complexes of India. The temple is about 258 meters in length and about 241 meters in breadth. It comprises 985 pillars and 14 towers, with two towers dedicated to the main deities.
Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, which is also known as Meenakshi Amman Temple, attracts pilgrims and tourists alike. This temple is synonymous with the city of Madurai. The temple is dedicated to Shiva, known here as Sundareshwara, and his consort Parvati or Meenakshi. The temple is named after the deity Meenakshi.
According to Hindu mythology, Meenakshi was a princess who was born with three breasts, fish-shaped eyes and fishy smell. She was told by the holy men that the extra breast would disappear and her fish-like qualities would transform into beauty when she met her future husband. This happened when she met Shiva (who took the form of Lord Sundareshwara) in Madurai, her abode, and married him.
The original temple was built by Kulasekara Pandya. But the credit for making the temple as splendid as it is today goes to Nayaks who ruled Madurai from 16th to 18th century. The main credit for construction of the present structure of the temple went to Vishwaranth Nayak, who ruled the area in the 16th century. The temple has many inscriptions about the rulers of Madurai.
The temple, with 12 gateways (Gopurams), is known for its beautiful architecture. These Gopurams are 45 metres to 50 metres in height. The tallest Gopuram of the temple is the southern Gopuram. This gateway is as high as a nine-storey building.can get a bird’s eye view of the city and the other parts of the temple from the southern Gopuram. The soaring towers of the Gopurams are covered with stucco figures of deities, mythical animals and monsters painted in vivid colours.
There are four entrances (north, west, south and east) to Meenakshi Temple. One of the unfinished structures in the complex is Raya Gopuram. Had it been completed, it would have been the tallest man-made structure in this part of the world. The seven-storeyed Chitra Gopuram is the tallest and most artistically sculpted inner tower. There are 730 beautiful miniature sculptures on this tower.
Potramaraikulam is an ancient tank. The devotees use this tank for a holy bath before darshan. There are several mandapams in Meenakshi Temple complex, including Mudali Mandapam, Rani Mangammal Mandapam, Ooonjal Mandapam, Kilikoondu Mandapam, Thattu Chuttur Mandapam and Ayirankal Mandapam. There are two specimens of ingenious usical pillars?in Ayirankal Mandapam. The timings of darshan are from 5.00 in the morning to 12.30 in the afternoon and from 4.00 in the evening to 9.30 in the night.
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