“Meenakshi Amman Temple” is the most prominent landmark in Madurai and is visited by many Hindu devotees. The temple is located on the southern bank of the Vaigai river and is dedicated to Meenakshi (Godess Parvathi) and Sundareswarar (Lord Shiva). The temple is the heart of the city and the entire city has grown around the temple.

The temple is one of the busiest temples in Southern India and around 15,000 devotees visit the temple daily. The numbers could swell to around 30,000 devotees during the auspicious day of Friday and it is said that an estimated 1 Million devotees visit the temple during the 10 day “Meenakshi Tirukalyanam festival” – which is celebrated during the month of April and May every year.

The temple is the heart and soul of the city of the 2500 year old city of Madurai and is one of the significant symbol of the Tamil culture and literature. The temple epitomizes the rich culture of the Pandyan Dynasty,  which ruled the southern part of Tamil-Nadu from around 600 BC (Early Pandyan Dynasty) to the first half of 17th century. The current temple complex was designed and completed during the reign of Thirumalai Nayak (1623–55).

The temple complex has 14 gopurams (gateway towers) – 4 prominent ones in each direction. The height of these gopurams vary from around 45-50 meters and the tallest gopuram is the Southern one which measures around 52 meters or 170 feet in height. The shrines of the Meenakashi and Sundareswarar under the golden sculptured vimanas.

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Entrance to the temple through the east Gopuram.

The main entrance to the temple is through the east gate which is on the “East Chitrai Street”. During my college days, vehicles were allowed to ply on this road and I used to park my bike right next to the eastern gopuram before getting into the temple. This time around when I visited the temple, the entire East Chitrai street was a no vechicle zone.

Parking is a issue here and if you are driving to the temple, be prepared to be directed by the Traffic cops to parking locations which are pretty  far from the temple. We always prefer taking local transportation – a cab or an auto-rickshaw to avoid the hassle of finding a parking.

You will find many shops on the lanes that lead to the temple selling all sort of stuff – from clothes, utensils and essential material used in the temple.

 Worship Hours are : 5.00am to 12.30pm & 4.00pm to 10.00pm

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As you enter the temple, you will find many shops lined on both the side. They usually sell essential items that are used in the temple – flowers, garlands, camphor, incense sticks, coconut etc. These essential items are offers to the Deity during the prayers.

 

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The “Golden Lotus pond” is one the main stops inside the temple. During my childhood, people could walk down the stairs and reach the water in the pond. Now a days they have restricted the access. Once in a year, during the 10 day festival, the pond has a floating Golden Lotus, which is a key attraction during the festival

 

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You will find many people relaxing by the steps of the pond. It is considered auspicious to sit by the pool for few minutes after visiting the Godess.

 

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The pool complex after sunset. The bright lights take over and it is a very picturesque.

 

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The temple has around 33,000 sculptures. The intricate sculptures are cut out in granite stones – wonder how our ancestors were able to build such complex structures without the heavy machinery and tools that we currently use

 

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Couldn’t help take this shot as I was leaving the temple complex. This is the Southern gopuram which is the tallest of all the gopurams in the temple complex

 

I have visited this temple many a times during my college days and it holds a very special place in my heart. “Meenakshi Amman Temple” is the key attraction in Madurai and is a must visit if you are planning a trip to Madurai. You will definitely be rejuvenated, relaxed and blessed by the atmosphere in the temple complex.

 

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