Located on the southern bank of Vaigai river is one of the oldest and most important temples in India, the Meenakshi Amman Temple. It is the most visited tourist attraction in the holy city, Madurai. Every year thousands of worshippers visit the temple from all parts of the world to pay their respects and admire the infrastructure. It is very easy to reach to the temple by road from the major cities of the state.
The Story of the Temple
This formidable Hindu temple is believed to be formed by Lord Indra and is dedicated to the Lord Sundereswaarar (Lord Shiva) and Goddess Meenakshi (Parvati).
According to legends, the temple was built in the earlier 7th century AD. It was eventually ransacked by an Islamic invader Malik Kafur in 1310. The temple was restructured by Ariyanatha Mudaliyar, the prime minister of Nayak Dynasty in the 16th-17th century. In the 18th century Rous Peter, the collector of Madurai expanded the current infrastructure.
The mentions of the two-millennia-long history of Meenakshi temple can be spotted in the literary works of Thirugnanasambandar, the famous Hindu saint of Saiva philosophy being the earliest.
The temple has a holy pond at the threshold which Potramarai Kulam which means ‘the pond with a golden lily.’ It is believed to be blessed by Lord Shiva. The deities take a dip in the pond which is supposed to be cleansing the soul.
There are 12 towers (or gopurams) which have very detailed carvings and each open to a big complex which is divided in quadruples. The central shrine of Meenakshi Amman temple and her consort Sundareswarar are surrounded by three enclosures and each of these are protected by four minor towers at the four points of the compass, the outer tower growing larger and reaching higher to the corresponding inner one. The Meenakshi shrine has the emerald-hued black stone image of Meenakshi. 
There are thousands of pillars in halls which have a very intricate carving of the different flora and fauna.
Meenakshi Thirukalyanam is the biggest festival in the city. It is regarded as the marriage day of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundereswarar and is celebrated with a great pomp and show by the entire city and over thousands of visitors. The celebrations start with the first ray of sunshine when everyone heads towards the temple and take part is a huge ceremonial worship of goddess Meenakshi.
Coconuts, fruits, and incense are offered by all the devotees and there are major singalongs of bhajans (spiritual Hindu songs).
Later there is a huge procession of when the magnificent idols of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundereswrar are brought out. It is a festival which one should experience once at least in a lifetime.
When: 26 April 2018
Interesting facts about the temple
- Meenakshi temple is nominated for the ‘New seven wonders of the world’ list.
- It has been announced as the ‘Swachh Iconic Place’ as of 1st October 2017 under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
- It has 33,000 sculptures in its complex and over thousand pillars.
The glorious structure of Meenakshi temple is a sight one cannot afford to miss. It has a mythological, historical and political significance which has now become a part of the identity of Madurai.
In-text: (Maduraimeenakshi.tnhrce.in, 2017)
Your Bibliography: Maduraimeenakshi.tnhrce.in. (2017). Official Website Of Arulmigu Meenakshi Sundareshwarar Thirukkoil – Shrines and Deites. [online] Available at: http://www.maduraimeenakshi.tnhrce.in/shrines.aspx [Accessed 13 Nov.