If Tamil Nadu is the seat of South Indian temple architecture, the Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple is its crowning glory. The temple structure with its concentric squares and high walled enclosures is a lesson for students of architecture. The temple is square shaped and a series of concentric streets with names from Tamil months surround the structure. The entire temple occupies around 45 acres, with each side having an entrance of its own. Madurai Meenakshi temple’s history is as old as the history of the city itself.
The history of Madurai dates back thousands of years- almost to 6th century B.C. It was a key commercial center for the Pandya dynasty that ruled the place. The temple is said to have been constructed somewhere around this time by Kulashekara Pandyan.
There’s a lot of myth around the temple. It is important to know more about these stories before appreciating the temple’s modern history.
Legend has it that the reigning deity Meenakshi was born out of holy fire as an answer to the prayers of King Malayadwaja and his wife Kanchanamalai. She married Lord Shiva and both ruled the city of Madurai as Lord Sundareshwar and Goddess Meenakshi. It is also believed that Lord Indra founded the temple when he found a suyambu lingam. There’s also mention about the temple in ancient Tamil literature through
It is said that Lord Vishnu, Meenakshi’s brother travelled all the way from Srivaikuntam- his abode to witness the marriage. But he couldn’t make it on time and the marriage was solemnized without his presence. Angered by this insult, he vowed never to enter Madurai and settled in nearby Azaghar Kovil. He was later convinced and to this day, his pacification is celebrated as Azhaghar Thiruvila.
Modern Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple History
It is said that the temple was plundered in the 14th century by the Muslim raider Malik Kafur who looted the temple of its valuables. Restoration was undertaken by the Nayak ruler Vishwanatha Nayakar around the 16th century. It was Vishwanatha Nayak who rebuilt the temple in accordance to shilpa shastra.
Interesting Information About the Temple:
The many mandapams or pavilions are one of the many attractions of this temple. Prominent among them are the Aaiyiram Kaal Mandapam, Ashtashakti Mandapam, Meenakshi Nayakan Mandapam, Killi Kootu Mandapam, etc. Each of these mandapams has a history of their own.
To know the temple better and understand its history, it is important that you visit the place. Sangam Hotels in Madurai is a luxury hotel situated just 4 kms from the temple, yet at a quieter part of the city.