The Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple is one of the historic Hindu temples in India located on the banks of the Vaigai River. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva. Built somewhere around 6th Century BC, the temple was plundered by Mughal Muslims in the 14th Century. It was re-built again by Nayak Rulers in the 16th Century. The Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple has numerous mentions in the Tamil literature and is a significant symbol of the Tamil people. Everyday over 15,000 people visit the temple with the numbers going up to 25,000 on Fridays. It was one among the Top 30 nominees for the ‘New Seven Wonders of the World’. The Gopura in the Meenakshi Amman Temple is a part of the Seal of Tamil Nadu Government.
The Legend behind Meenakshi Temple
The legend states that Parvati was born to the second Pandya King Malayadwaja Pandya and his wife Kanchanamalai. The young girl was named Tadaatagai and had three breasts of which one was said to disappear when she would meet her future husband. Tadaatagai was trained in all sastras and art forms. She soon waged wars in three worlds in eight directions and even defeated the army of Lord Shiva with ease. She advanced to conquer Shiva himself but was unable to move when she met him. She looked down with shyness and her third breast disappeared which gave the indication that Shiva was her future husband. The marriage was the grandest in the earth with Vishnu, the brother of Parvati presiding over the function. Later on, Shiva took the form of Sundareswarar and Tadaatagai took the form of Parvati to rule Madurai.
Inside the Temple
It takes a whole 3 to 4 hours to completely visit all places inside the temple. It is totally worth it if you can spare time for the entire visit.
The Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple is one of the few temples in the world to have four entrances facing all four directions. The temple complex is around 45 acres and has structures laid down according to the rules of architecture. The city of Madurai was designed as such that all streets culminate from the temple. The ancient literature mentions the temple to be like a lotus and the streets to be like petals emanating from it.
The temple is surrounded by gateway towers also known as gopurams. There are a total of 14 gopurams of which the tallest is the one facing the south, with an elevation of 170 feet. The gopurams are covered with stone graving of Gods, Goddesses and Demons.
The central shrines of both Meenakshi and Sundareswarar are in the middle of the temple. The area occupied by these shrines are one-fourth of the temple area. Meanwhile the shrine of Meenakshi in itself is one-fourth of the area of Sundareswarar’s shrine.
Major Festivals and Pujas
There are regular pujas held in the temple with major festivals bringing in lakhs of devotees from around the state.
On a daily basis, there are four rituals for the presiding deity in the temple. The rituals are – abhisheka (sacred bath), alangaram (decoration), neivathanam (offering) and deepa aradanai (lamp worship). The pujas are held with musical instruments like nadhaswaram (pipe instrument) and tavil (percussion instrument).
There are festivals throughout the year for both the presiding deities. The Meenakshi ennai kappu festival is held during the months of December and January with the primary theme of winning a god-like husband. The most important festival among all is the Meenakshi Thirukalyanam which celebrates the divine wedding of Meenakshi and Sundareswarar. It is held during the month of April every year.
Best time to Visit
The best time to visit Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple is between the months of January and April. If you can visit during April, you can be a part of the Meenakshi Thirukalyanam festival which attracts lakhs of devotees from around the state and country.
How to reach the temple
Madurai is the central city of Tamil Nadu with well-connected roadways, railways and airways. Buses from all parts of the state including Chennai, Coimbatore and Tirunelveli are available on a daily basis. The city is also connected via road to Bangalore, Mysore and Trivandrum. The nearest railway station to the temple is Madurai Junction which can be reached from Chennai, Rameswaram and Kanyakumari. The airport in Madurai is 12 kilometers away from city center. A taxi can be taken to the temple from the airport. All in all, the city is connected well and the Meenakshi Amman Temple can be easily reached from any part of Madurai.