Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Mathura Meenakshi

Mathura Meenakshi is one of the Ashtadasa peethas. Madurai, has the history of over 2500 years and is the oldest city in Tamil Nadu. Meenakshi Amman temple also known as Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple is located in the city of Madurai on the Southern bank of river Vaigai. The temple is dedicated to Sundareswarar (Lord Shiva) and Meenakshi (Parvathi). It is one of the few temples in Tamil Nadu to have four entrances facing four directions.

There are 14 temple 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.


Malayadwaja Pandya, a king of Madurai , was childless for a long time. He performed a number of yagnas (sacrifices made before a sacred fire) because he wanted an heir to his throne. On one occasion, a three-year-old girl came out of the fire and Malayadwaja adopted her. But the girl had three breasts and this worried Malayadwaja. However, a divine voice assured him that the third breast would disappear as soon as she met her consort. The girl grew into a brave and beautiful princess. she won many battles, but eventually lost her heart to Lord Shiva, when she met him on the battle-field in Kailas. As soon as she saw him, her third breast disappeared and she recognized her divine consort, for the princess was none other than Shiva's wife, Parvathi. After ruling over the Pandya kingdom for a while, they settled in the Madurai temple as Meenakshi and Sundareswarar.


Madurai was originally a forest known as Kadambavanam. One day, a farmer named Dhananjaya who was passing through the forest, saw Indra (The king of the gods), worshipping a swayambhu (self created Lingam ) under kadamba tree. Dhananjaya, the farmer immediately reported this to King Kulasekara Pandya.         
The Pandiyan monarch, Kulasekara, built a Shiva temple and the streets radiated out from the temple like lotus petals. The city was henceforth known as 'Madhurapuri'. Madhurapuri grew and prospered to become the capital of the Pandiyan Kingdom. It is referred to in the Ramayana and in Kautilya's Arthasashtra. The saint-poet Thirugnanasambandar has mentioned the temple in his songs which go back to early 7th century. The Lord has been described as Aalavaai Iraivan in his songs.

Unfortunately, in the year 1310, the temple was almost completely destroyed following the invasion by Malik Kafur and no sculptural element of the ancient temple remain today.

The temple in its present form was constructed in the 1600s. The initiative to rebuild the structure was taken by first Nayak King of Madurai, Viswanatha Nayak (1559-1600 A.D.). The restoration was carried out under the supervision of Ariyanatha Mudaliar, the Prime Minister of the Nayak Dynasty and the founder of the Poligar System. King Thirumalai Nayak (circa 1623-1659) played an important role in the temple's construction. He built various complexes inside and outside the temple and he built Vasantha Mandapa to celebrate Vasanthotsavam. Kilikoottu Mandapam and the corridors of Teppakulam were built by Rani Mangammal. Meenakshi Nayakar Mandapam was built by Rani Meenakshi.


             The temple is the geographic and ritual center of the ancient city of Madurai and one of the largest temple complexes in Tamil Nadu. The temple complex is divided into a number of concentric quadrangular enclosures contained by high masonary walls. It is one of the few temples in Tamil Nadu to have four entrances facing four directions. Vishwantha Nayaka allegedly redesigned the city of Madurai in accordance with the principles laid down by shilpa shastras. The city was laid out in the shape of square with a series of concentric streets culminating from the temple. These squares continue to retain their traditional names, Aadi, Chittirai, Avani-moola and Masi streets, corresponding to Tamil month names. Ancient Tamil classics mention that the temple was the center of the city and the streets happened to be radiating out like lotus and its petals.

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. Next to this hall is the Meenakshi Nayaka Mandapa, a spacious columned hall used for shops and stores. This hall has a votive lamp-holder with 1,008 lamps, which are lit on festive occasions and present a spectacular sight. The sculptures on the pillars here relate some of Lord Shiva's Thiruvilayadals (miracles) and also the story of  Meenakshi's birthi

Festivals at Madurai Meenakshi Temple

In this popular temple festivals are celebrated thoughout the year. Some of the most popular festivals of the temple are Chitra festival, Avanimoola festival, Masi Mandala festival, Thepporstovam, and Navarathri cultural festival.

  • Chithirai - Chithirai Brahamostavam / Arulmigu Thirukkalyanam
  • Vaikasi - Vasantham Festival
  • Aani - Unjal Festival
  • Aadi - Aadi / Mulai Kottu Festival
  • Aavani - Aavani Moolam Festival / Puttukku Mansumantha Leela Festival
  • Purattasi - Navarathri festival
  • Ayppasi - Kolattam Festival
  • Karthikai - Kolattam Festival
  • Margali - Thiruvathirai / Arudhra Dharsan Festival and Thiruvembavai and Thiruppavai Festival
  • Thai - Major portion of utsavam performed in Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple. Thepporstovam in Mariyamman temple theppam
  • Masi - Mandala utsavam for 48 days
  • Panguni - Summer Vasantham Festival


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