On 24th March,2013 I travelled with my family to Chennai to meet our relatives. Southern part of India is known for its rich architectural heritage, with prominent ones being the temples which are epitomes of India’s glorious past. We planned to visit some of them. We visited the Meenakshi temple of Madurai. Madurai is the oldest city of south India and served as capital city of Pandyas. Located on the southern bank of river Vaigai, this temple is dedicated to Goddess Parvati.
The Fact File:
- It is the only temple in India where Goddess Parvati gets precedence over Lord Shiva.
- Madurai was the capital of the Pandyan rulers.
- It is believed that the Pandyan king, Kulasekhara built a temple around which he created a lotus shaped city-which came to be known as Madurai.
- Arya Natha Mudaliyar, the prime minister of the empire got the temple rebuild because it was destroyed by Malik Kafur in the year 1310. It is believed that it was built in the 17th century.
- There are 12 magnificent gateway towers or the Gopurams .
- There are 2 main Shrines, halls and the most important-Hall of Thousand Pillars.
- The spread of the temple is around 45 acres and the height of the Gopurams being 45-50 m, tallest being the southern tower which is 51.9 m high
- The annual 10 day Meenakshi Tirukalyanam (the divine marriage of Meenakshi) during the month of April attracts about 1 million people. Hindu festivals like Shivratri and Navratri are celebrated in this temple.
We all have seen Lord Siva, as Natraj; standing on his left leg. Legend is, King Arya Natha Mudaliyar requested Lord to give rest to his left leg which Lord Siva acceded. Meenakshi temple is the only temple with Natraj standing on his right leg.
The highlight of the temple is the Gopuram which had 1511 figures carved on it. Traditionally all major temples of the south have elephants which participate in religious processions. It is customary to seek blessing from the main elephant, which we did. Another highlight of the temple was the musical pillar which had thinner pillars around it which when struck with a mallet produced musical notes. We saw the idol of Natraj (dancing Shiva) and there was a huge and tall Nandi (the savaari of the Lord). There was Tibetan influence on the carvings which was very surprising for me-usually you don’t see dragons in the temples. It was explained that this was reflection of Tibetan artisans’ work on the temple.
There were many shops outside the temple selling holy books, deepams and other pooja paraphernalia and accessories.
It was nice to visit such a place where you find peace and enrich your knowledge.
*written in 2013