In the heart of Lotus shaped city Madurai, the elegant Meenakshi Sundereshvara Temple looks like a living deity is seated with its complete glory. This is among one of the largest temple complexes in India. Inside the temple, from her sprawling maze-like palace the Goddess Meenakshi (Parvathi) presides over the ancient city, Madurai called- the Athens of South India.
The Origin of the Meenakshi Temple- Sri Meenakshi Sundareswara temple and Madurai city originated together, why? According to the local legend Indra once he killed a demon. It was a sin as the demon was performing penance at that time so Indra could not find any relief from remorse in his own kingdom. He came down to earth. While passing through a forest of Kadamba trees in Pandyan land, he felt relieved of his burden. Then he came to know that there was a Shivalinga under a Kadamba tree and beside a lake. Indeed, it was the Linga that had helped him; he worshipped it and built a small temple around it. It is widely believed that it is the same Linga is being worshipped in the Madurai temple. The shrine is called the “Indra Vimana”. What the folklore says- This temple is a twin temple one is for Goddess Parvathi and other is of Lord Shiva (Sundereshvara). As so far the story goes, Meenakshi was the daughter of King Malayadwaja Pandya and Queen Kanchanamala born out of Yagna fire (Sacrificial rites). The princess Meenakshi grew to be a beautiful young woman of great valour who brilliantly conquered several lands and challenged the mightiest kings. Later it was revealed that the princess was an incarnation of Parvati, actually who came to earth to honour a promise given to Queen Kanchanamala in her previous life. Thus Shiva came to Madurai as Sundareshwarar to marry Meenakshi and the two ruled over the kingdom for many years before they left for their heavenly abode from the spot where now the temple stands.
Madurai: The City of Nectar- Madurai or “the city of nectar” is the oldest and second largest city of Tamil Nadu. Located on Vaigai River, Madurai once was the capital of Pandyan rulers. The Pandyan king, Kulasekhara had built a gorgeous temple around his lotus shaped city. It has been a centre of learning and pilgrimage, for centuries. Legend has it, that the divine nectar fell from the locks of Lord Shiva, gave the city its name – ‘Madhurapuri’, later known as “Madurai”.
Finest example of Dravidian Architecture- Meenakshi Temple is the most exquisite example of the Dravidian architecture. It is an excellent architecture, a master piece which is the centre of activity for the promotion of art and culture in Madurai. It is the chief attraction of the city and pilgrims gathered here in the search of spirituality and peace. The moment you enter in the campus of the temple it gives you thrilling shiver as your eyes are wide opened with the wonderful by the view stone carved sculptures of different deities on the wall of temple. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Meenakshi (Parvathi) and Lord Sundareswara (Shiva).
This gateway contains the twin temples of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswarer. Meenakshi Amman Temple can be entered from any of its five entrances. The eastern entrance is usually preferred, as it opens in front of the Meenakshi Sannadhi (shrine), the reigning deity of the twin-temple. This is the only entrance which does not have a towering gopuram. Various kings renovated the temple, leaving a distinct impression of their artistic taste. A number of complex corridors, magnificent sculptures and a heavenly abode suitable for Goddess Meenakshi, include the additions to the temple that were done by different kings. Her image is said to be carved out of a single emerald. According to mythology, the marriage of Meenakshi and Shiva actually took place in Madurai. It is still celebrated every year with great pomp and show. Meenakshi temple was originally built by the Pandayan King Kulasekarer Pandya.
But the credit for the present look of the temple goes to the Nayakas, who ruled Madurai from 16th to 18th century. The temple has huge Gopurams which can be seen from a far off distance. There are total twelve gopurams, but the tallest four stands on the outer walls, each facing one direction. Amongst the four gateways, the south one is the tallest. It is about 50 m high and you can climb on it to have an entire city view.
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