In this post I will talk about Sree Meenakshi Amman temple in Madurai city of Tamilnadu, India. I have recently visited the place and was left with extremely rich experience of ancient Indian Architecture and Culture. All the informations listed here is purely based on my personal experience of the city and temple. I would highly recommend the place to the people who are interested to experience the glory of ancient India. So stay tuned with me…
Apparently the name Madurai has been derived from the word ‘Madhuram’ which means sweetness in Tamil. The city Madurai, also known as Athens of East is one of the major cities in Tamilnadu. It is one of the oldest cities of India as well which is situated on the banks of Vaigai river. The city has experienced a glorious past and has constantly evolved with time. Now Madurai is one of the busiest city as well which is primarily famous for Meenakshi Temple. Apart from the temple city, it is also a cultural hotspot and very famous tourist destination, thanks to its delicious food, cuisine, architecture and shopping. Madurai is also known as the city which never sleeps. Any time you venture out, you are sure to find lots of companions.
When and how to venture in the city
Since the city is located on a flat region so it is expected to be hot and humid. Typically the temperature varies from 25 to 40 degrees in summers and 18 to 30 degrees in winters. As per the meteorological data, it has recorded a maximum temperature of 42 degrees till date. So the travel can be planned accordingly. Generally the city is hotter from March to July. Rest of the time it experiences modest weather.
Madurai is well connected via train route from anywhere in India. One can easily find trains to Madurai from all the major cities. It has well connectivity via road transport as well. Lots of government and private buses will take you to the city. It also houses a Airport which is also an option. And lastly one can also drive to the city anytime as per the convenience.
So reach to Madurai as per your convenience.
Sree Meenakshi Amman Temple
Sree Meenakshi Amman Temple also known as Meenakshi Sundareswara Temple is a very famous temple for Hindu Pilgrimage. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Parvati, who is known as Meeenakshi, and Lord Shiva, who is known as Sundareswara here. It is said that the temple was actually built in the 6th century BC by survivors of the Kumari Kandam. In the 14th century, the Mughal Muslim ruler Malik Kafur took advantage of fight between Pandyan Dynasty and destroyed the temple. Only the shrines of Meenakshi and Sundaresvara remained intact after the temple was invaded by the mughal ruler. After the return of Hindu ruling in 16th century, the temple was rebuilt by the ruler Vishwanatha Nayakar. Vishwanatha Nayak rebuilt the temple in accordance to shilpa shastra.
Since then the temple is synonymous to Madurai city and is a symbol of great Indian architecture and sculptures. Some of the major attractions of the temple is listed below:
Gopurams or Gateway Towers: The temple is surrounded by gopurams which is known as gateway towers. There are 14 gopurams in the temple out of which 4 are main entrance to the temple for people. Any of the gopuram can be used to get entry into the temple premises. All the main entrances have designated places for keeping you luggage and shoes.
Shrines: There are manly two shrines in the temple
- Sri Meenakshi Sannathi
- Sri Shiva Sannathi
It is advised that you first go to Meenakshi shrine and then to Shiva shrine.
Golden Lotus Pond: Like all other temples, Meenakshi temple also features a pond inside the temple premises. The pond has a lotus like structure which constitutes the name of the pond. It is considered to be sacred temple tank.
Hall of thousand pillars: The Meenakshi Nayakkar Mandapam or the hall of thousand pillars houses 985 pillars. The hall was built by Ariyanatha Mudaliar in 1569 and blends engineering skill and artistic vision. Since 1966, the thousand pillars hall is also doubling as the museum of the temple. This museum houses various artistic designs and antique items.
Halls and Sculptures: There are several halls or Mandapams present in the temple.
- The Kilikoondu Mandapam (bird cage corridor)
- The Kambatadi Mandapam (Hall of temple tree)
- The Puthu Mandapam (new hall)
- The Ashta Shakthi Mandapam (Hall of eight goddess)
- The Pancha Pandava Mandapam (Hall of Pandavas)
- The kalyana mandapam
- The Viravasantharaya Mandapam
- The oonjal mandapam
- The Mudali Pillai Mandapam or Iruttu Mandapam (Dark hall)
- The Mangayarkarasi mandapam
- The Servaikarar Mandapam
- The Servaikarar Mandapam
- The Nagara mandapam
- The Kolu Mandapam
That’s pretty much information about the temple. Don’t bother to remember the names and details as everything is pretty much explained in the temple. Just follow your travelling instincts and be little curious while in the temple.
Things to keep in mind
Following things should be useful to know beforehand:
- Temple opens all days 05:00 am to 12:30 pm & 04:00 pm to 10:00 pm. Meenakshi temple shrine is covered till 9.30 AM. So plan according to the timings.
- Any kind of shorts and sleeveless clothes are not allowed inside the temple. If you forget to carry your clothes then don’t worry, you will get dhotis as entrance.
- There is no particular entry gate. You can enter in the temple from any of the 4 gates.
- Every gate has a free shoes deposit counter. Gates also have luggage deposit counter and lockers at very nominal price. But its better not to carry luggage if you have options.
- Only mobile cameras are allowed at certain places in the temple at a charge of 50rs.
- Drinking water is available inside the temple. You can also carry your own bottle.
- Try to read the sign boards inside the temple and strictly follow those. They will turn out to be pretty helpful.
- Only Hindus are allowed in the innermost sanctum of the temple. So do consult with the priests there before entering if you are a non Hindu.
- Temple is fairly large and you may need to walk more, be ready for that.
- Try to come out from the same gate where you deposited the shoes. Other wise you will end up walking on the roads bare foot.
That’s pretty much cover the basic things you should remember which will be helpful.
Other places of interest in Madurai
Although Madurai is mainly famous for Meenakshi Temple but it also have other places which you might be interested in if you have time there. Just one advice, plan to go to the places by your own and don’t get trapped by autos there.
- Thirumalai Nayak Palace
- Gandhi Museum
- Mariamman Teppakulam
- Thirupparankundram Temple
- Alagar koil
The information about the places is available on official website of Madurai whose link is present at the end of the post.
Accommodation, Food and Shopping
Since Madurai is very much developed city, there is no problem of stay and food there. Lots of budget to luxury hotels are there which you can book as per your convenience. Same goes to food also. For food I will recommend Surya rooftops restaurant which is at the roof top of Hotel Supreme. The restaurant servers alcohol but is pure veg.
Also try many road side shops for local food and coffee. Madurai is also famous for shopping. All the main markets are near railway station only. You can purchase Meenakshi cotton and silk sarees from the the city. I would recommend to go to north gate of the temple to purchase as they provide good authentic items at discounted price.
With this I will end my post as it is already pretty long to read. But do keep in mind the things mentioned here. Do give a visit to the city and have a rich experience of art and architecture along with pilgrimage.
P.S. : Part of the information has been taken from the below mentioned places. You can go through the same for detailed information.
- Wikipedia page of Madurai
- Wikipedia page of Meenakshi temple
- Official temple website
- Tamilnadu government website
Due courtesy to all the information channels.