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Time Required : 1 - 2 hours

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Meenakshi Temple, Madurai Overview

The historic Meenakshi Amman temple is located on the southern bank of the Vaigai River, Madurai, Tamil Nadu. Built sometime between the year 1623 and 1655, the wonderful architecture of the place is renowned globally. Meenakshi Temple is primarily dedicated to Parvati, known as Meenakshi, and her spouse, Shiva. What makes this temple different from the others is the fact that both God and Goddess are worshipped together.

According to the mythology, Lord Shiva visited Madurai to marry Parvati and it has been the sacred abode of Goddess Parvati since her birth. Meenakshi temple was hence built here to commemorate the same and to pay respects to the Goddess. The most striking feature of the temple is its exquisite facade, which has highly minute details with great art pieces incorporated in the walls and pillars. Meenakshi Amman temple complex is made in accordance to the Shilpa Shastra and has 14 gateway towers or 'gopurams', golden 'vimanas', holy sanctums and shrines dedicated to the revered Goddess Meenakshi and many others. It is a major tourist attraction, with thousands of devotees visiting the shrine on a daily basis.

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Legend of the Meenakshi Temple

There are several legends that are attached to the Meenakshi Amman Temple. One such story goes that the temple was built by the king of Gods Vishnu while he was on the way to atone for his sins. As he approached the Swayambhu Lingam in Madurai, he felt his burden lifting and to commemorate the same, he built the Meenakshi Amman Temple. Another legend says that Goddess Parvati appeared as the daughter of Pandya King Malayadwaja Pandya after his many prayers to the deity. However, the girl had three breasts and it was prophesized that the third breast wouls disappear when she met her husband. The daughter of the king was named "Tadaatagai" and was the heir to the throne. She was well trained in the 64 sastras and all disciplines required for her to rule the kingdom wisely.

When the time for her marriage dawned, she waged war and conquered Brahma's Abode, Sathyaloka, Vishnu's Abode, Vaikunta, and Devas' abode Amaravati. She proceeded to attack Shiva's Abode Kailasha where she defeated Shiva's army and Nandi, Shiva's celestial bull. As soon as she came face to face with the Lord, she bowed her head and her third breast vanished immediately. This phenomenon was followed by the realization that Shiva was to be husband, after which a grand ceremony tied the two of them in holy matrimony. The pair proceeded to rule Madurai for many years.

History of the Meenakshi Temple

Meenakshi temple finds mention in a time as old as the 7th century. The very first changes to the structure of the temple were made by Nayak king of Madurai Vishwanatha Nayaka in 1560, and was expanded further under the reign of Tirumalai Nayaka (1623–55) when a number of complexes were erected in the temple. These include the Vasantha Mandapam and Kilikoondu Mandapam. The corridors of the Meenakshi Amman temple tank and Meenatchi Nayakar Mandapam were built by Rani Mangammal. Sometime around the 14th century, disputes surfaced over the succession to the Pandya throne. The chaos was exploited by Alauddin of Delhi, who invaded Madurai in 1310. His general Malik Kafur was the man behind widespread plundering of the town such that the life of the general public was rendered miserable. Fourteen towers of the Meenakshi Temple were destroyed leaving only Sundaresvara and Meenakshi intact.

Architecture of Meenakshi Amman Temple

The Meenakshi Amman temple reflects Dravidian architecture. The shrine is most famous for its towers or 'gopurams', which are visible even from a distance. Around 12 gopurams adorn the Meenakshi Temple, with the four outer ones towering to a height of over 160 feet. The temple compounds are divided into a number of square enclosures contained by high brickwork walls. It is one of the few temples in Tamil Nadu to have four entrances from four directions. The hall of this temple house around thousand pillars. Images of various Gods and Goddess are carved all the way from the main entrance to the pillars. The existent structure was built between 1623 and 1655. It has 14 gateway towers, with heights of 450m. Amongst them the tallest tower is the southern tower, towering at 170 ft. The temple complex also has a large tank or Potraamaraikkulam which holds holy waters in its confines. 

The main shrine which is dedicated to Meenakshi and Sundareswarar are surrounded by three complexes which are further protected by four minor towers. Meenakshi's shrine is located to the southwest to Sundareshwar's shrine, where the deity herself appears in the form of a black stone with hints of viridescent. Sundareshwar's shrine lies at the centre and both the deities temples' have gilded towers, which is visible from a far distance as well. A sculpture of Ganesh which is carved out of a single stone is present here as well in the Vinayakar Shrine.

The Sundareswarar temple has 5 gopurams out of which four are 5 tiered and are located on the outer walls and a single three tiered which is situated at the entrance to the inner sanctum. The sanctum is adorned with Indra Vimaanam and several manifestations of Lord Shiva. Within the Sundareswarar temple complex is a shrine to Nataraja which is Lord Shiva performing a cosmic dance of destruction.

Religious Significance of the Meenakshi Temple

Goddess Meenakshi appears in with a parrot in her right-hand at this shrine, which is generally associated with the Vaishnava azhwar saint Andal. It is believed that this shrine is one of the five locations where Shiva performed the 'Tandav' or cosmic dance of destruction, and hence, a huge statue of the Lord made out of silver is installed here. Nataraja is shown dancing with his right leg raised, which is a divergence from the more popular image where his left leg is raised.

The festival of "Meenakshi Thirukalyanam" or the divine marriage of Meenakshi is celebrated here with great fervour in April, every year. The celebrations here are a classic example of a female dominated ceremony, also called a Madurai marriage. The festivities last for a month where several events such as the Chariot Festival and Float Festival are also conducted. Celebrations of Navratri and Shivratri are also important here.

Tips For Visiting Meenakshi Amman Temple

1. Smoking, liquor and tobacco products are not allowed here
2. Since this is a place of worship, dress conservatively
3. Leave your footwear outside the temple
4. Beware of your personal belongings in the crowded areas of the temple
5. Donations can be made to the temple

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gayetri subba 11 months ago
A must place to visit if you are near my Madurai...temple is located in the heart of the city, darshan timings are from 0430 to 1230 hrs then 1630 to 2130 hrs, you are not allowed to take your shoes n mobiles n cameras which you can submit outside the temple counter after paying some minimum fee which is safe. No dress code as such. For Darshana, there are three queues... ordinary, rupees 50 and rupees 100.
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