MADURAI


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                                              PART  ONE

“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
— Samuel Johnson

                                                  Samuel Johnson, the great lexicographer, declared that   if a man is tired of London, he is tired of life. A similar sentiment is echoed in a Malayalam aphorism–” Madurai Kanathavan Kazhutha”–one who has not seen Madurai is an ass !. Madurai means “Meenakshi”–Let us begin with the fascinating legend.

                                                 “ Meenakshi” is an avatar of Parvati – the consort of Shiva. She is also one of the Hindu female deities to have a major temple devoted to her. The name “Meenakshi” means fish eyed and is derived from the words “mīna” meaning fish and “akṣhi” meaning eyes.  Meenakshi is the principal deity of the temple and not Sundareswarar — this is unlike most Shiva temples in South India where Shiva is the principal deity.

The Story of Meenakshi
                                                According to legend, in order to answer the prayers of the second Pandya King Malayadwaja Pandya and his wife Kanchanamalai, Parvati appeared out of the holy fire of the Putra Kameshti Yagna  performed by the King. According to another legend, the Goddess herself gave a boon to Kanchanamalai in one of her previous births that she would have the privilege of mothering the Goddess. The girl who came out of the holy fire had three breasts. A voice from the heavens told the King not to worry about the abnormality and added that the third breast would vanish as soon as the girl meets her future husband. The happy king named the girl “Tadaatagai” and being the heir to the throne, Tadaatagai was brought up like a boy and trained carefully in all the 64 sastras and  the fields of science. As the time came for Tadaatagai’s coronation, she had to wage war on the three worlds across eight directions. After conquering Brahma’s Abode, Sathyaloka, Vishnu’s Abode, Vaikunta, and Devas’ abode Amaravati, she advanced to Shiva’s Abode Kailasa. She very easily defeated the bhoota ganas and Nandi, the celestial bull of Shiva, and headed to attack and conquer Shiva. The moment she looked at Shiva, she was unable to fight and bowed her head down due to shyness; the third breast vanished immediately. Tadaatagai realized that Shiva was her destined husband. She also realized that she was the incarnation of Parvati. Both Shiva and Tadaatagai returned to Madurai and the King arranged the coronation ceremony of his daughter, followed by her marriage with Shiva.
                                                               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. After the marriage, the pair ruled over Madurai for a long time and then assumed divine forms as Sundareswarar and Meenakshi —the presiding deities of the Meenakshi  temple. Following the tradition, every evening, before closing the temple, a ritual procession lead by drummers and a brass ensemble carries the image of Sundareswarar to Meenakshi’s bedroom to consummate the union, to be taken back 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 festival of Azhakar Thiruvizha and the Meenakshi wedding ceremony.
                                                                              The Meenakshi temple is believed to be founded by Indra  while he was on a pilgrimage to cure the effects of his misdeeds. He felt his burden taken off nearing the swayambu lingam , a representation of Shiva used for worship in temples of Madurai. He ascribed this miracle to the lingam and constructed the temple and enshrined the lingam there. Indra worshipped Shiva, who caused golden lotuses to appear in the near-by pool. 

                                                                                 Tamil literature waxes eloquent about the temple for the last couple of millennia. Thirugnanasambandar, the famous Hindu saint of Saiva philosophy, mentioned this temple as early as the 7th century, and described the deity as Aalavai Iraivan. The temple was believed to be sacked by the infamous Muslim invader Malik Kafur in 1310 and all the ancient elements were destroyed. The initiative to rebuild the structure was taken by first Nayak King of Madurai, Viswanatha Nayak (1559–1600) under the supervision of Ariyanatha Mudaliar, the prime minister of the Nayak Dynasty. The original design by Vishwanatha Nayak in 1560 was substantially expanded to the current structure during the reign of Thirumalai  Nayak. He took considerable interest in erecting many complexes inside the temple. His major contributions are the Vasantha Mandapam for celebrating vasanthorsavam (spring festival) and Kilikoondu Mandapam (corridor of parrots). The corridors of the temple tank and Meenakshi Nayakar Mandapam were built by Rani Mangammal.
                                                                                   The temple is the geographic and ritual center of the ancient city of Madurai and one of the largest temple complexes in Tamil Nadu. The temple complex is divided into a number of concentric quadrangular enclosures contained by high masonry walls. It is one of the few temples in Tamil Nadu to have four entrances facing four directions. Perhaps the two most famous legends of Madurai are those of Kannagi and Meenakshi. According to the sthala purana–“Thiruvilayadal Puranam” written by Paranjothi Munivar in the 16th century Meenakshi and Shiva ruled for a long time in the form of mortals.

The Story of Kannagi

                                                                             The Madurai we know today is not the Madurai of ancient times, for it is said that the entire city was once destroyed in an all-consuming fire. The story behind that fire is told in the 5,270-lined epic poem ” Silappadikaram ”  written by a Jain monk by the name of Ilango Adigal in the 5th century. According to him, it is a story about the importance for Kings following dharma, the glory of a chaste woman and the effects of past-life karma. A woman with one breast sat down under a tree and performed austerities, without food or water, till she died. The villagers worshipped Kannagi as the Goddess of chastity and her story inspired the King who asked his brother to immortalise it in poetry for posterity.

                                                                               Kovalan, the son of a wealthy merchant in Kaverippattinam, married Kannagi, the lovely daughter of another merchant. For some time they lived together happily, until, at a festival at the royal court, Kovalan met the dancer Madhavi and fell in love with her. He bought her favours and in his infatuation forgot Kannagi and his home.
                                                                                     Gradually he spent all his wealth on the dancer. At last he was penniless, and returned repentantly to his uncomplaining wife. Their only fortune was a precious pair of anklets, which she gave to him willingly. With these as their capital they decided to go to the great city of Madurai, where Kovalan hoped to recoup his fortunes by trade.
                                                                                        On their arrival in Madurai, they found shelter in a cottage, and Kovalan went to the market to sell one of Kannagi’s anklets. But the queen of Nedunjeliyan, the King of the Pandyas, had just been robbed of a similar anklet by a wicked court jeweller. The jeweller happened to see Kovalan with Kannagi’s anklet, and immediately seized it and informed the King. Guards were sent to apprehend Kovalan, who was then killed on the king’s orders. When the news was brought to Kannagi, she went out into the town, with her eyes ablaze with anger, carrying the remaining anklet in her hand as proof of her husband’s innocence. The city caught ablaze from the fire in her eyes.
                                                                                       At last the patron Goddess of the city Meenakshi interceded with Kannagi, and she agreed to withdraw her curse, and the fire abated. Weak with loss of blood from her self-amputated breast, Kannagi struggled to a hill outside the city, where after a few days she died, and was reunited with Kovalan in Heaven. Meanwhile the news of her death spread throughout the Tamil Land. She was deified, temples were raised and festivals held in her honour, and she became the patron goddess of wifely loyalty and chastity.
PPR
21-07–2013
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            TWO  PICTURES OF THE MADURAI  MEENAKSHI TEMPLE

                                                


Regards,

P.P.Ramachandran

102, Crystal Enclave
St.Anthony’s Road
Kalina, Santacruz(E)

Mumbai, 400 055

Ph: 022 26663448
Mob: 98215 59848
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Madurai Meenakshi Temple


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Hi,
Madurai, also known as the Temple City of South India, is the second largest city in Tamil Nadu.  Situated on the banks of the river Vaigi, this city is tantamount with the Meenakshi Sundareswarar twin Temple.  This gigantic temple complex is dedicated to Shiva, known here as Sundareshwara and his consort Parvati who is known here as Meenakshi.  This temple is the focal point around which the city of Madurai has developed over 2500 years.
Good Day!
Madurai, also known as the Temple City of South India, is the second largest city in Tamil Nadu.  Situated on the banks of the river Vaigi, this city is tantamount with the Meenakshi Sundareswarar twin Temple.  This gigantic temple complex is dedicated to Shiva, known here as Sundareshwara and his consort Parvati who is known here as Meenakshi.  This temple is the focal point around which the city of Madurai has developed over 2500 years.
The sprawling temple complex is one of the oldest and largest of its kind in our country and is almost like a city unto itself. It covers an area of over 65,000 square meters. Even though the temple was originally built by the Pandya King, Kulasekaran, the temple has grown due to the contribution of each dynasty and victorious monarchs. The Temple, as we see it today was built by Tiurmalai Nayakar who ruled Madurai from the 16th to the 18th century.
madurai temple
madhurai temple at night
close-up of the temple
The Temple itself is set within a high-walled enclosure at the centre of which are the two shrines for Meenakshi and Sundareshwara. There are four massive gateways enclosing there two shrines which are surrounded by a number of smaller shrines and majestic pillared halls. The complex also contains 14 impressive gopurams (gateway towers) which range from 45-50 m in height. The towers have solid granite bases and are covered with stucco figures of deities, mythical animals and monsters painted in bright colors. There is not a single visitor who is not overwhelmed by the vast number of paintings and sculptures. About 33,000 sculptures can be found in the temple complex.
side view of the temple
colourful sculptures on the pillars
The most stunning feature of this temple is the magnificent Hall of Thousand Pillars or “Ayiramkaal Mandapam”. It is an architectural marvel wherein each pillar features high, elaborate and bold sculptures that look life like. What’s more, these pillars appear to be in a straight line when viewed from any angle. The beautiful musical pillars are located in the outermost corridors and are carved out of stone. When tapped, each pillar produces a different musical note.
thousand pillar hall
madurai temple 2
The temple is one of utmost importance for the Tamil people, which can be seen by the number of visitors it attracts. Around 15,000 people visit this temple daily with it increasing to 25,000 on Fridays. It was even in the list of Top 30 nominees of the “New Seven Wonders of the World” and gets annual revenue of sixty million INR.
madurai temple day time
Madurai Temple walkway
Opening Hours: 05:00-12:30pm and 4:00-9:30pm

 

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