SRI MEENAKSHI SUNDAREESWARAR TEMPLE
This is the most famous temple in Madurai which is a twin complex. The total in which the temple is constructed is about 6500sq. mts. The great Kulasekarapandian constructed this temple. He dedicated the temple to goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareeswarar (Siva). People believe that goddess Meenakshi was born from the Pandya clan. Lord Shiva changed his appearance as Sundareeswarar and married this beautiful princess. Later during the rule of Thirumalai nayakar, the temple was renovated and fancied by the tremendous sculptures and stone carvings. He also built the high walls around the temple. There are gateways to the Temple and eight small gateways. The gateways are made out of gorgeous granite stones and are painted with multi coloured portrayals of gods, goddess, and animals and mythical figures. There are several halls inside the temple premises.
It is in the midst of the city. The entire city is planned keeping the temple as its core like a lotus. The city is planned according to the silpa canons and the other city that has the same basis is Kanchipuram famously known as ‘Nagareshu Kanchi’ in Sanskrit. The temple is an important landmark and nucleus of the life of the city. The temple has 11 gopurams and the tallest of them is at the southern portal rising to a height of 200ft. This portionis exclusively dedicated to Goddess Meenakshi. The shrine is usually entered from Vittavasal street the entrance of which is adorned by the Ashtalakshmi (eight forms of Goddess Lakshmi) Mandapam. Scenes of Kumara Sambhava and the marriage of Goddess Meenakshi with Sundareswara are painted on the ceiling. At the entrance are the statue of subramanya and Vinayaka and on the passage is the beautiful sculpture of Siva and Meenakshi as a huntress. An exquisite brass-faced doorway gifted by the rulers of Sivaganga is the inlet to the mandapam lined with sculptures of Siva in various poses. It leads to the Pottramarai tank with arcades all around. The corridors of the tank display the 64 Leelas called Thiruvilaiyadalgal of Siva The doors in the shrine dishplay poses of Bharatha Natyam. The temple having been built in several epochs reveals different styles of architecture. There is a musical pillar near the north tower corridor which emits the seven musical notes when struck.
The thousand-pillared mandapam is a veritable of museum of Dravidian art and architecture. Goddess Saraswathi arrests our attention in Her demeanour, folds of dress and the grace with which Her figers play the instrument Veena. Thirumalai Nayak has carved the Ardhanari idol (both male and female in left and right halves) that spellbinds the onlooker. In Kambathadi Mandapam, Agni Veerabadra and Agora Veerabadra speak volumes of their valour and fiercesome look. The wedding of Meenakshi with all the important participants in the marriage is a lively sculpture each one expressing apt feelings in one’s face Siva with His Magnanimity, Meenakshi with Her coyness, Vishnu with His grace, Malayatwaja Pandya with his joy, Brahma with rapt attention in observing the rites and the others looking on without winking their eyes in gaiety. All these make one feel that he/she is a participant in the event.
Lord Nataraja dance here in a different style instead of raising His left leg up, He plays it vice versa. The dancing hall is called Velliambalam and the idol is plated with silver. People are allowed to enter the temple between 5:00 A.M and 12:30 P.M, and 4:00 P.M. and 9:30 P.M everyday.