Meenakshi Temple – Poetry in Stone!
Even though the world only included the mesmerizing Meenakshi temple only as an entrant among the top 30 monuments for the ‘New Seven Wonders of the World’ list, India has gone ahead and included this architectural wonder as one of the ‘Seven Wonders of India’. This is a historically protected monument in the temple city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu and the most famous monument in southern India. The temple forms the heart of the 2500-year-old city and there are strict instructions laid out that no building constructed within the city shall be taller than the temple ‘gopurams’ (gateways), such that the gopurams should dominate the skyline in this ancient city. The streets around the temple are laid out as squares within squares, thus keeping the temple as its heart.
It’s nestled on the southern banks of the Vaigai River and is dedicated to the Goddess Parvati known as Meenakshi here and her consort Shiva named as Sundareswarar. It’s one of the rare temples where a Goddess is a presiding deity. The temple is believed to have been built in 6th century BC by the Kumari Kandam. But what we see today are the remnants of its glory, after having been brutally plundered by the Moslem Sultanate regime and subsequent reconstruction by the Nayak dynastic head, Vishwanathan Nayakar in the 16nth century. A lot of its awesome sculptures and valuable jewels went missing during the Muslim Commander Malik Kafurs’ time and never been recovered.
The temple occupies an area of 14 acres with 12 gopurams serving as entry gateways in the walled temple compound. There are four main Raja gopurams with the southern gopuram being the tallest at a height of about 52m. Bulbous finials rest atop the gopurams which are decorated with numerous colorful beautifully carved stucco sculptures depicting various gods, demi-gods and legends. A climb up to the top of the southern gopuram provides you with stunning views that leave you breathless and marvelling at the engineering skills of our forefathers!
There is a sacred pond within the temple that was believed to have golden lotus floating in it; currently, nothing grows in it, no animal life as promised by Lord Shiva to a stork according to legend! Another point of marvel is the amazing 1000- pillar mandapam; the five musical pillars aren’t to be missed either with each pillar producing a different musical note upon tapping – such were the admirable skills of the craftsmen in those days! It’s believed that over 33,000 sculptures can be found in this temple, even after many having been lost during the Sultanates rule.
This temple attracts about 20,000 people daily on an average, and it’s about time that you came around too!