Meenakshi Temple Madurai, Tamil Nadu, Deities, Worship timings, History, Gopurams, Paintings, Festivals, Significance, Temple Structure, Temple Towers, Free Marriage Scheme, Halls & Sculptures, Museum, Accommodation complete detail updated.
About Meenakshi Temple
Location: Madurai, Tamil Nadu
Built By: Kulashekarar Pandyan
Architectural Style: Dravidian
Dedicated To: Meenakshi (Goddess Parvati) and Sundareswarar (Lord Shiva)
Major Festival: Tirukalyanam Festival / Chithirai Thiruvizha
According to legend, the sacred Suyambulingam discovered by the king of Gods indira at Kadambavanam, was later enshrined by him in Madurai. The fact that the Lord is seen on the vehicle of Indira in this temple is said to be proof for this. Many historical evidences of the temple have been found dating back from early A.D. The temple was almost completely destroyed in the year 1310 following the invasion of the Islamic conqueror Malikkapur.As kings who were followers of Islam were noted for their intolerance towards other religions, the invaders destroyed most of the ancient sculptures of the temple.
Thirugnanasambandar the Hindu Saint has mentioned the temple in his songs which go back to early 7th century. The Lord has been described as Alavai Iraivan in his songs.The temple was restored to its pristine glory in the late 14th century when the Hindu Kings came back to power in Madurai.This can also be termed as a new beginning of a new era in the history of the temple, when it was almost rebuilt. The King Thirumalai Naicker played an important role in the construction of the new form of the temple according to records. The Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple is now under the administration of the HR and CE department of Tamil Nadu.
The presiding Lord of this sacred shrine was in the times of yore known as Chockanathar, and Chockalinga Perumal.
Now the deity is known as Sundareswarar, Meenakshi Sundarar, Somasundarar, Kalyana Sundarar, Shanbaga Sundarar, Attavai Shevagan, Chockalingam, Adiyarku Nallan, Adhiraveesi, Vilayaduvan, Abhideka Chockar, Azhagiya Chockar, Kadambavana Chockar, Puzhugu Neidhu Chockar, Kadambavaneswarar, Karpoora Chockar, Madureswarar, Irayanar, Peralavayar and other names.
Procedure for Worship
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.
Daily Pooja Schedules
*Below mentioned time subject to change on Festival days
05 : 00 AM – 06 : 00 AM
06:30 AM – 07 : 15 AM
06:30 AM – 07 : 15 AM
10:30 AM – 11:15 AM
|Uchikkala Pooja (Noon Pooja)||
10:30 AM – 11:15 AM
04:30 PM – 05:15 PM
|Ardhajama Pooja (Night Pooja)||
07 : 30 PM – 08 : 15 PM
09 : 30 PM – 10 : 00 PM
According to a legend, Meenakshi emerged out of a ‘Yajna’ (sacred fire) as a three-year-old girl. The ‘Yajna’ was performed by a king named Malayadwaja Pandya along with his wife Kanchanamalai. Since the royal couple had no child, the King offered his prayers to Lord Shiva, requesting him to grant them a son. But to their dismay, a triple-breasted girl emerged from the sacred fire. When Malayadwaja and his wife expressed their concern over the girl’s abnormal appearance, a divine voice ordered them not to fret over the girl’s physical appearance. They were also informed that the girl’s third breast will disappear as soon as she meets her future husband. The relieved King named her Meenakshi and in due course crowned her as his successor.
Meenakshi ruled over the ancient city of Madurai and also went on to capture the neighboring kingdoms. Legend has it that she even captured Indralok, the abode of Lord Indra, and was on her way to capture Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva, as well. When Shiva appeared before her, Meenakshi’s third breast disappeared and she knew that she had met her better half. Shiva and Meenakshi returned to Madurai where their wedding took place. It is said that the wedding was attended by all the gods and goddesses. Since Parvati herself had assumed the form of Meenakshi, Lord Vishnu, Parvati’s brother, handed her over to Lord Shiva. Even today, the wedding ceremony is celebrated every year as ‘Chithirai Thiruvizha’ which is also known as ‘Tirukalyanam’ (the grand wedding).
The temple which has five entrances, covers an area 847 feet (254.1 meters) long and 792 feet (237.6 meters) wide in the North South direction, the circumference of the Adi Veedhi which is the path within the great walls is 830 feet (249 meters) on the east west and , measuring 730 feet (219 meters) from North South direction.
If the devotees bathe in the waters of this pond of Golden Lotus on Amavasya (new moon) day, the first day of the month, days of eclipse and other auspicious days and worship the Lord, they will be blessed with all their aspirations for success.
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
According to legend, the sacred Suyambulingam discovered by the king of Gods indira at Kadambavanam, was later enshrined by him in Madurai. The fact that the Lord is seen on the vehicle of Indira in this temple is said to be proof for this.
Many historical evidences of the temple have been found dating back from early A.D. The temple was almost completely destroyed in the year 1310 following the invasion of the Islamic conqueror Malikkapur.As kings who were followers of Islam were noted for their intolerance towards other religions, the invaders destroyed most of the ancient sculptures of the temple.
Thirugnanasambandar the Hindu Saint has mentioned the temple in his songs which go back to early 7th century. The Lord has been described as Alavai Iraivan in his songs.The temple was restored to its pristine glory in the late 14th century when the Hindu Kings came back to power in Madurai.This can also be termed as a new beginning of a new era in the history of the temple, when it was almost rebuilt. The King Thirumalai Naicker played an important role in the construction of the new form of the temple according to records.
The Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple is now under the administration of the HR and CE department of Tamil Nadu.
Free Marriage Scheme
Free weddings are performed at this temple for the benefit of indigent Adi Dravidars, Adivasis and backward classes. Under this scheme the couple undergoing free weddings are gifted new clothes, Thirumangalyam and other presentation at a cost of Rs.3,000. 20 guests are also fed at temple’s cost. On 17.2.2002, grand free weddings were coducted for 70 couples. On that day, the temple also bore the cost of the wedding of 72 couples in Chennai. So far 175 couples have benefitted from this scheme of free weddings.
Those availing this benefit should be of marriageable age and unmarried. Necessary documents should be brought from Village Administrative Officers and submitted at the office. Application forms for assistance under this scheme are available at the office of the temple. Further details could be obtained from the temple office.
The major ‘gopurams’ of the temple are-
Kadaka Gopuram – This towering gateway leads to the main shrine that houses Goddess Meenakshi. The gateway was rebuilt by Tumpichi Nayakkar during the mid-16th century. The ‘gopuram’ has five storeys.
Sundareswarar Shrine Gopuram – This is the oldest ‘gopuram’ of the temple and was built by Kulasekara Pandya. The ‘gopuram’ serves as a gateway to the Sundareswarar (Lord Shiva) shrine.
Chitra Gopuram – Built by Maravarman Sundara Pandyan II, the gopuram depicts the religious and secular essence of Hinduism.
Nadukkattu Gopuram – Also called as the ‘Idaikattu Gopuram,’ this gateway leads to the Ganesha shrine. The gateway is placed right in between the two main shrines.
Mottai Gopuram – This ‘gopuram’ has fewer stucco images when compared to the other gateways. Interestingly, ‘Mottai gopuram’ had no roof for nearly three centuries.
Nayaka Gopuram – This ‘gopuram’ was built by Visvappa Nayakkar around 1530. The ‘gopuram’ is astonishingly similar to another gateway called ‘Palahai Gopuram.’
The temple also has numerous pillared halls called ‘Mandapams.’ These halls were built by various kings and emperors and they serve as resting places for pilgrims and devotees. Some of the most important ‘mandapams’ are given below:
Ayirakkal Mandapam – It literally translates to ‘hall with thousand pillars.’ The hall, which was built by Ariyanatha Mudaliar, is a true spectacle as it is supported by 985 pillars. Each and every pillar is sculpted magnificently and has images of Yali, a mythological creature.
Kilikoondu Mandapam – This ‘mandapam’ was originally built to house hundreds of parrots. The parrots that were kept there in cages were trained to say ‘Meenakshi’. The hall, which is next to the Meenakshi shrine, has sculptures of characters from Mahabharata.
Ashta Shakthi Mandapam – This hall houses the sculptures of eight goddesses. Built by two queens, the hall is placed in between the main ‘gopuram’ and the gateway that leads to the Meenakshi shrine.
Nayaka Mandapam – ‘Nayaka Mandapam’ was built by Chinnappa Nayakkar. The hall is supported by 100 pillars and houses a Nataraja statue.
Halls & Sculptures
This mandapam which is the eastern entrance of the Amman Sannithi is said to have been constructed by the queens Uruthirapathiammal and Tholiammal (1623-1659) who were the wives of Thirumalainaicker. The eight forms of Goddess Sakthi the consort of Lord Shiva, Kaumari, Rowthiri, Vaishnavi, Mahalakshmi, Yangnarubini, Shyamala, Maheswari and Manonmani have been sculptured into the pillars of the mandapam individually. There are drawings depicting the life of Meenakshi Amman on the roof of the mandapam. There are statues of Vallaba Vinayagar and Murugan at the entrance of this mandapam.
Meenakshi Naicker Mandapam
This mandapam which is seen next to the Ashta Sakthi mandapam was constructed by Meenakshi Naicker belonging to the Naicker clan in the year 1708. There are sculptures depicting Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Shiva who took the form of a hunter and huntress to rid a Brahmin of his sin. The twelve Sun signs of zodiac have been depicted in a square shape structure on top of the mandapam. This mandapam is 160 feet in length and has pillars that have been arranged in six rows.
Muthupillai Mandapam or Iruttumandapam
It was constructed by Kadanthai Mudaliar in 1613. There are statues of Pitchanar, Munivars or saints of the Tharukavanam and wives of the saints. Mythology has it that Lord Shiva took the form of Pitchanar to preach to the Munivars of Tharukavanam. The statues of Munivar, Mohini and Kadanthai Mudaliar are seen at the southern side of the mandapam.
Since 1966, the thousand pillars hall is also doubling as the museum of the temple. Among those items of artistic elegance and cultural excellence are:
- Paintings explaining the quintesscence of the ancient arts of archtecture, sculpture, painting, music, dance and other forms of aesthetic importance.
- Antique panchaloka (five metal) idols.
- Collection of rare photographs.
- Rare antique items.
- Articles of Saiva and Vaishnava religions.
- Antique coins.
- Carvings in tusks and antique items.
- Paintings from the Nayakka period depicting the 64 miracles performed by Lord Sokkanathar.
- This mandapam is now being renovated and modernised using latest techniques.
- The saying that one needs thousand eyes to view the hall of thousand pillars is not without truth.
- Swamy Sannidhi(sanctum sanctrom) – Dhakshinamoorthy,Lingothpavar,Durga Mandapams:
- On the walls of the sanctum sanctorum of the Lord are the Dhakshinamoorthy Mandam with a pinnacle, the Lingothpavar mandapam has sculptures of Maal and Ayan unable to find the feet and crown of the Lord and the Durga mandapam. These mandapams were built by Kambavarayar.
The celestial wedding hall
The sacred wedding hall to the south of Veeravasantharayar mandapam was built by Vijayaranga Sokkanatha Nayakkar (1706 – 1732). His sculpture is etched on a pillar. The ceiling of the sacred wedding hall are covered with teak planks with exquisite art work. The 64 miracles of Lord Sivaperuman have also been painted on the dome of the mandapam. There are also paintings depicting the twin worlds and fourteen worlds.
Earlier the celestial wedding of the Lord and Goddess used to be solemnized in this mandapam. Now the wedding takes place at the new wedding hall where the North Aadi street and West Aadi street meet. After the wedding, the Lord and Goddess would proceed to the old wedding hall to bless the devotees.
A scene from the wedding of the celestial couple form the backdrop of the wedding dais in the mandapam. Sculptures of the Meenakshi and Sokkanathar are found at Kambathadi mandapam and new mandapam.. Paintings of the celestial weddings adorn the walls of entrance to Amman Sannidhi and the western wall of the parrot cage mandapam.
The golden chariot of the temple is kept in this mandapam. During the festivals the Lord and Godess would be taken out in procession from this mandapam. The golden chariot procession also starts from this mandapam.
Mangayarkarasi mandapam and sculpture
This mandapam is situated opposite the old wedding hall. In view of the kumbabishekam. this mandapam was renovated according to the present style between 1960-63. This mandapam houses statues of Arikesari, Maravarman, his consort Mangayarkarasiyar, Minister Kulachirayar and Thirugnanasambar in poses worshipping Lord Sivaperuman.
Situated opposite the old wedding hall, this mandapam was built in 1795 by Marudhappa Servaikarar.
Situated near the Servaikarar mandapam, this mandapam was built by Muthuramayyar. One of the pillars in this mandapam bears the statue of Muthramayyar. Kasiviswanathar and Visalakshi Amman shrines are situated in this mandapam. In a pillar opposite there is a statue of Sarabeswarar. It is in the mandapam opposite this hall, that the sacred task of Annadhan is distributed everyday. About 250 persons are fed free every day.
Nagara mandapam situated opposite the Amman sanctum in East Chitra street was built in the year 1635 by Achuthar
The drawings depicting incidents of the Thiruvilayadal or miraculous dramas of Lord Shiva belong to the Naicker period. There are paintings depicting the 64 miracles of Lord Shiva, all which were enacted in Madurai. These aesthetic drawings can be seen on the northern wall facing the Pottamarai kulam of tank of the golden lotus. These drawings are at present being given a facelift by using natural dyes at a cost of Rs 26.25 lakhs.
Many paintings which have been damaged due to neglect are now being kept in the museum in the 1000 pillar hall or mandapam of the temple.
Thiruezhukootrikkai drawings: Drawing explaining the meaning of the songs sung by Nakkeerar have been drawn in the shape of a charriot in the Petchiakkal mandapam.
Panchakkasabhai drawings Panchakkasabhai drawings: Drawings showing the five sabhas or Panchaga sabhas of Tamil Nadu can be seen opposite to the Velliammbala Nadarajar Sannithi. The art belongs to Rani Mangammal period. These drawings can be seen on the roof of the Palaya unjal mandapam (old swing hall) in the eastern side of the unjalmandapam. These drawings depict Queen Mangammal and her court watching the Meenakshi Thirukalyanam or celestial wedding. The drawings of the six abodes of Lord Muruga can be seen at the entrance of the New glass unjal mandapam. The drawings of the Meenakshi Thirukalayanam and Pattabishekam in the entrance of the Amman Sannithi have also been touched.
Diagramatic representation of heaven and earth: There are drawings depicting earth and heaven on both sides of the wedding stage in the old Kalyana mandapam. The Kalyana mandapam also has drawings of 64 Thiruvilayadal and other celestial incidents.
Since Meenakshi is the main deity of the temple, the temple signifies the importance of woman in a Tamil Hindu family. The temple also portrays the cordial relationship between Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism. The Sundareswarar shrine is known as one fifth of ‘Pancha Sabhai’ (five courts) where Lord Shiva is believed to have performed the cosmic dance. Worship mainly involves rituals and processions. One of the rituals involves placing an image of Sundareswarar inside a palanquin which is then moved to the shrine of Meenakshi. The palanquin is taken into the shrine every night and is brought back to the shrine of Sundareswarar every morning. The devotees usually worship Meenakshi before offering their prayers to Sundareswarar.
Apart from the main festival, which is basically the wedding ceremony of the deities, a number of other festivals are celebrated in the temple. Some of these include ‘Vasantham festival,’ ‘Unjal festival,’ ‘Mulai-Kottu festival,’ ‘Arudhra Dharsan festival,’ ‘Thai utsavam,’ ‘Kolattam festival,’ etc. Each of these festivals has its own significance and is celebrated during various months throughout the year. The temple also celebrates ‘Navarathri festival.’ During ‘Navarathri’ the temple displays colorful dolls which are collectively called ‘gollu.’ ‘Gollu’ often convey stories from mythological scenes.
Advance Booking Not Available, Current Booking only available
Arulmigu Meenakshi Sundareswarar Templel Lodges – Madurai :
The Temple has Three lodging facilities for pilgrims.
15, West Chithirai Street,
Opp. to West Tower,
Madurai 625 001.
Phone : +91 – 0452-2345503
2.Sundareswarar Illam (Lodge) ,
15,West Chithirai Street,
Opp. to West Tower,Madurai 625 001.
Phone : +91 – 0452-2345503
3. Bakthargal Thangum Viduthi,
Madurai 625 010.
Phone : +91 –0452-2609868