I visited the Meenakshi Amman temple of Madurai in April this year with my parents and sons. I have still not recovered from the beauty of this magnificent temple town and its surroundings. I feel, I have not yet seen it all completely and plan to revisit the temple again.
This was a plan I made for close to a year ever since I saw a post from a fellow blogger. My maternal grandfather had visited the temple in his youth and had asked my mother to visit it atleast once in her lifetime. It is incredibly beautiful. The pictures I took do absolutely no justice to the beauty of the place.
Tamil temple architecture is different from Kerala temple architecture. The layouts are similar with an outer periphery, an inner periphery and the sanctum sanctorum with the idol inside the inner periphery. Everything is laid out as per the shastras with the idols placed as per directions. Kerala temples are sombre, serious affairs with the stone walls left in its natural states, minimal decorations, quiet atmosphere inside the temple with the smell of sandalwood paste, flowers and coconuts.
But, when it comes to Tamil temples, it is all about color and vibrance. Most of the temples have gopurams or the tall towers at the entrance gates. The more famous the temple, higher the gopurams and more vivid the decorations on the gopurams. It is colors everywhere from the gopurams to the sculptures inside, to the ceilings, the floorings, the saris and traditional skirts of the devotees.
The Meenakshi Amman temple is made up of 14 gopurams ranging from 45-50 meters in height. These gopurams were built by the Nayak ruler Vishwanath Nayakar in the 16th century when he rebuilt the temple. But the temple has been in existence for over 2,500 years as per references mentioned in Tamil literature. There are an estimated 33,000 sculptures inside the temple (Source : Wikipedia). Every pillar, ever corner, steps have sculptures. There is a museum inside the temple and many artwork is just strewn around with no labelling. Do not miss the 1000 pillar mandapa made of stone pillars and so many sculptures that my mind is still boggling.
It was by chance that we had reached the temple during its annual 10 day festival called Meenakshi Tirukalyanam. Meenakshi Amman is an incarnation of Goddess Parvati. She marries Sundareshwar (Shiva incarnate) during this festival. Together, they rule over the Madurai kingdom and bring prosperity to the people.
So, when we reached there, the hotels were packed but we had our places reserved. The temple was getting decked up for the impending marriage. They put up pandals to shield against the scorching heat. It was over 40 degrees there and difficult to walk over the stone floors. But, they had put carpets for people to walk on. The interiors were decorated with lights. Every ceiling highlighted. Its famous Lotus pond were decorated with lights with props of Shiva and Parvati. All the gopurams were illuminated. We visited first in the morning and then again in the evening to look at the lights and take in the atmosphere. We also saw the palanquins of Meenakshi Amman and Sundareshwar being brought into the temple. The idols were beautiful, studded with stones. Sundareswar came on his faithfull bull Nandi. Surrounded by chants, hymns and the crowd, it was an incredible experience. It was difficult to get a picture and I decided to soak in the atmosphere and gave up on the picture.
Due to the festival, the crowd was incredible. But, everything was managed very well. We queued up for 2 hours to get a darshan. My old parents were also able to continue comfortably in the line. There were fans, places to sit and water kept at strategic locations for the people. There is no jostling and pushing as I have seen in some of the other temples.
Did I tell you, the air was filled with the fragrance of Jasmine? There was jasmine in the decorations, in the hair of all devotees as gajras, the flower sellers surrounding the temple. It was also the season for jasmine flowers and the heady scent was everywhere.
Here is the aerial view of the temple with its gopurams sourced from Wikipedia.
Some images I took of the gopurams and the festivities. This is surely not the last post on the temple.
Some images I took
The entrance to the West Tower. Here the sculptures are mostly related to the wedding of Meenakshi Amman and Sundareshwar.
More details on the West tower. Notice Sundareshwar on his favourite Nandi bull.
Vishnu is doing kanyadan for his sister Meenakshi Amman to Sundareshwar.
This was one of the Gopurams on the inside. They become smaller in height as we go closer the idol inside the temple.
More illumination inside the temple near the lotus pond.
Illumination surrounding the lotus pond. Notice the people sitting on the steps to get idea of the scale.
All ceilings were illuminated. The lights were still being put up when we visited.
South tower with more details. Here, it looks like the guests at the wedding with many sculptures of gods, godesses, saints, goblins.
‘I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words #6‘. Today’s prompt is to Feature a map and write about a place either real or virtual