The Beautiful Meenakshi Temple of Madurai, India

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The Meenakshi Temple is an iconic Hindu temple found in the city of Tamil Nadu, Madurai, India. This temple is found at the heart of the 2,500 years city. Meenakshi temple was dedicated to the goddess Meenakshi a form of goddess Parvati and Sundareswar a form of Lord Shiva. Its renowned for its remarkable architecture with a nomination for the new Seven Wonders of the World. Thousands of devoted individuals come here to pay homage to their Lord. It has been a place of interest among international and Indian tourists as well as an important place for Hindu pilgrimage.

The Meenakshi has a history of thousands years and the present structure was constructed in 17th century. It was originally built in the 6th century BC by Kulasekar Pandya. However, the Kayakas receive credit for the present outlook. This is regarded as the golden period of Madurai where education, art and architecture flourished. However, the mixture of colors is a recent addition.

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The temple extends across an area of 45 acres. There are at least 12 towers which are beautifully painted and sculptured. Aayiram Kaal Mandapam, a thousand pillared wall has the most outstanding sculptures. Tallest superlative gorupam rises up to 51 meters. Each one of them is covered by stone figures of gods, goddesses, animals and demons painted in rainbow colors. The major sanctum sanctorum is believed to be more than 3500 years. Forts and other structures to the exterior are believed to be at least 1500 years old. The colossal structure of the building measures 254 by 237 meters. This is truly a marvel of architecture which makes it worth visiting.

There are many shrines inside the temple dedicated to the goddess, her lord and their son Ganesha, the elephant lord. Just before the main shrine is Potramarai Kulam a pond where devotees go around first. This pond is a said to be blessed by Lord Shiva who proclaimed that no marine life will grow in it. Tamils believe this pond can be used to evaluate all new literature. Shrines belonging to Sundareswerar and Meenakshi have gold plated towers whose tops can be seen from far. Throughout the complex are statues and sculptures of gods, battle scenes, warriors and epic characters of Mahabharata. The temple is estimated to have over 33,000 sculptures.

This temple is a center for culture and religion especially among people of Madurai. Marriage of Shiva and Parvati is observed inside the Kalyana Mandapa hall in the Hindu month of Chaitra. Other occasions like Shivrati and Navrati are celebrated here with full enthusiasm. Fridays of the Tamil months of Aadi and Thai are also commemorated here.

The history of the temple cannot be clearly described but the Tamil literature has provided a strong argument over the last two millenniums. The temple was ransacked by muslim invaders in the 14th century. It was then re-built by the prime mister of the ancient Nayak, Arya Natha Mudaliyar. More additions were made by Thirumalai. The temple itself was not vividly painted. In fact the original structure was unpainted granite. The paintings were done recently to make the temple more colorful during events and festivals. Thick layers of enamel paint and cement may have covered some original sculptures. There has been some restoration work recently. Otherwise, Meenakshi Temple is a marvel of ancient architecture worth seeing. Tourists also get to see cultural and religious events held here periodically.

Photo via flickr