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 birth and her life as the princess of Madurai.
The story descripted on the
stones is as follows:
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.
Meenakshi Nayakkar Mandapam
This big hall is adjacent to
Ashta Shakthi Mandapam, consisting of 110 pillars carrying the figures of
a peculiar animal with a lion's body , and an elephant's head called Yalli.
(golden lotus tank)
This temple tank is an ancient
tank where devotees take bath in the holy water. The area around this
tank was the meeting place of the
TamilSangam - the ancient
academy of poets. The history of the sangam goes back to the days when
gods dallied with men. This academy judged the worth of any work of
literature presented before it by throwing it into the tank. Only those
that did not sink were considered worthy of attention. The tank is
surrounded by a pillared corridor. Steps lead down to the tank, enabling
worshippers to take bathe in it.
The Oonjal (swing) Mandapam and
Killikoontu (parrot cage) Mandapam are on the western side of the tank.
Every Friday, the golden idols of Meenakshi and Sundareswarar are seated
on the swing in the Oonjal Mandapam and hymns are sung as the deities
gaily swing to and fro. The parrots in the Kilikoontu Mandapam have been
trained to repeat Meenakshi's name. But more interesting are the 28
pillars of the mandapam which exhibit some excellent Sculptures of
figures from Hindu mythology.
Swami Sundareswarar Shrine
Lord Sundareswarar (Shiva) the consort of Goddess Meenakshi is to the
north of Kilikoontu Mandapam . On your way you can worship a gigantic
idol of Sri Ganesh called Mukkurini Pillaiyar. When the king Thirumalai
Nayakar excavated a temple tank 3 km from Meenakshi temple he unearthed
this idol of Vinayaka and erected the same here.
In the outer pragaram (corridor outside the main shrine) there is stump
of the kadamba tree, which is said to be a part of the same tree under
which Indra worshipped Shiva linga. Also in the outer corridor there are
the Kadambathadi Mandapam and big hall called 'Velli Ambalam'. Here, an
idol of Nataraja (Shiva as the Lord of Dance) is seen. This idol of
Nataraja is covered with silver leaves. Hence this hall is named as
Velli Ambalam (Silver Hall)..
The Thousand Pillar Mandapam
It is the 'wonder of the palace'. Actually the number of pillars count
to 985 beautifully decorated columns. Each pillar is sculptured and is a
monument of the Dravidan sculpture. There is a Temple Art Museum in this
1000 pillars hall where you can see icons, photographs, drawings, etc.,
exhibiting the 1200 years old history. There are so many other smaller
and bigger mandapams in the temple.
Just outside this mandapam ,towards the west, are the Musical Pillars.
Each pillar when stuck, produces a different musical note. The kalyana
mandapa, to the south of the pillared hall, is where the marriage of
Shiva and Parvati is celebrated every year during the Chitirai Festival
in mid- April.
This mandapam was built by Thirumalai Nayakkar. Vasanthosavam - the
Spring festival-is celebrated in this mandapam in Vaikasi (April/May).
Its pillars contain elaborate sculptures of Shiva, Meenakshi, scenes
from their wedding as well as the figures of ten of the Nayak Kings and
their consorts. This is also called Pudhu Mandapam.
How to Reach There
By Air -
There are daily flights to
Madurai from Chennai, Bangalore,Tiruchi & Coimbatore. Madurai Airport is
10 Kms away from Madurai City.
By Train : Madurai is an important
railway junction of the Southern Railway and is directly connected to
Chennai and Tirunelveli. Madurai is on the
Madurai-Tiruchirappalli-Dindigul-Quilon line. The Vaigai Express, which
is a super-fast day train between Chennai Egmore and Madurai takes 7
hours for the 495kms
By Road : There are excellent roads
connecting Madurai to all parts of South India. Madurai City has 5 Major