Meenakshi Amman Temple

Author : Poornima PS

Meenakshi Amman Temple

Meenakshi Temple is a historic Hindu temple located on the southern bank of the Vaigai River in the temple city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India. It is dedicated to Meenakshi, a form of Parvati, and her consort, Sundareswar, a form of Shiva. Although most of the present structure was built between 1623 and 1655 CE.  In the 14th century, the Sultanate Muslim Commander Malik Kafur plundered the temple and looted it of its valuables. It was rebuilt by the Nayak ruler Vishwanatha Nayakar around the 16th century. It was Vishwanatha Nayaka who rebuilt the temple in accordance to shilpa shastra. It houses 14 gopurams (gateway towers), ranging from 45–50m in height. The tallest is the southern tower, 51.9 metres (170 ft) high, and two golden sculptured vimanas, the shrines over the garbhagrihas (sanctums) of the main deities.

The temple attracts 15,000 visitors a day, around 25,000 on Fridays, and receives an annual revenue of ₹ 60 million. There are an estimated 33,000 sculptures in the temple. The temple is the most prominent landmark and most visited tourist attraction in the city. The annual 10-day Meenakshi Tirukalyanam festival, celebrated during April and May, attracts 1 million visitors.

The marriage was supposed to be the biggest event on earth, with the whole earth gathering near Madurai. Vishnu, the brother of Meenakshi, prepared to travel from his holy abode at Vaikuntam to preside over the marriage . Due to a divine play, he was tricked by the Deva, Indra and delayed on the way. The marriage was presided over by a local god from Thirupparankundram Pavalaakanivaai Perumal, an incarnation of Vishnu.

After the marriage, the pair ruled over Madurai for a long time and then assumed divine forms as Sundareswarar and Meenakshi who are presiding deities of the temple. Following the tradition, every evening, before closing the temple, a ritual procession led by drummers and a brass ensemble carries the image of Sundareswarar to Meenakshi's bedroom to consummate the union, to be taken back to his day setting the next morning in dawn.The marriage is celebrated annually as Chithirai Thiruvizha  in Madurai. During the period of Nayakar rule in Madurai, the ruler Thirumalai Nayakar linked the Azhakar Thiruvizhaand the Meenakshi wedding ceremony.

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