.MADURAI is the second largest city in Tamil Nadu, India. It is 300 miles south of Chennai/Madras.
Madurai Meenakshi Temple is an architectural wonder. When one climbs to the top of the South Tower to have a bird’s eye view of Madurai, one can’t but wonder about the engineering skills of our forefathers Madurai Meenakshi statue is made of a particular green colour stone called Maragatha Kal. But it is not the precious emerald. Hindus associate green colour with the planet Mercury (Bhudhan). Anyone who has got a weaker Bhudha in their horoscope come to Madurai to cure the evil effects of the planet. It is a Bhudha Kshetra. · Meenakshi is also associated with the green colour bird parrot. It is in her hand. Till recently a lot of parrots were kept in a big cage inside the temple. Now they are all freed. · The Meenakshi Sundareswarar (Lord Shiva is called the beautiful one Sundara +Eswara) temple is in the centre of the town Madurai in South India. The streets are arranged in squares within squares- a beautifully planned city keeping the temple at the heart of the city. Ancient Tamil literature compared this plan to a lotus flower
· Each street carries the name of a Tamil month. That means goddess idol will be taken through that street during that particular month. Now it has slightly changed.
· Temple occupies fourteen acres. There are twelve towers, big and small. The tallest of the four major towers (gopuram) is the south tower which is 161 foot – 52 meter high. Two of the small towers are covered with gold plates.
· Contrary to the custom followed in all the major temples of Tamil Nadu Goddess Meenakshi (meaning fish eyed) is worshipped first by the devotees in this temple. In other temples the male deity will be worshiped first. Here Arti/Deeparadhana is done to Meenakshi first.
· Meenakshi was born with three breasts. The Pandya king and the queen, who were her parents, were told that the third breast will disappear when she sees the right man. This happened when she met Lord Sundareswarar (Shiva). Even today a statue with three breasts can be seen in Pudumandapam opposite temple.
· Though Srirangam temple is the largest temple in Tamil Nadu, Madurai temple is more famous than other temples and listed as one of the world wonders. One can see 33,000 statues on the towers and inside the temple.
· Lord Shiva in Nataraja form (Dancer) changed his balancing foot for the sake of a Pandya king. This place is called Silver Temple (Velli Ambalam). Four famous Natrajas in four other temples use a different foot. In Madurai he lifts his right foot and stands on his left foot.
· Lord Shiva performed 64 miracles to save his devotees in Madurai which are known as 64 Divine Acts. So every week a festival is celebrated in the temple.
· Madurai temple is one of the 64 Sakthi kendras (centres).
There is a beautiful 1,000 pillar Hall. Now it has got 985 pillars each with a different style or statue. It will take months to study all the sculptures.
It was erected in 1685 by Ariyanatha Mudaliyar who was the chief minister in Viswanatha Nayak time. Each pillar here will tell you a story. To mention a few, there is a nomad woman (kurathi) with four of her children. Even the basket she carries looks like a real one. There are lots of mythological stories carved out on pillars. Saraswati playing the Veena is a beautiful statue. Five headed snake, Rathi, Purusha Mirugam and the mythical animal Yali are other remarkable ones. Some of the stones like Rathi on swan emit musical notes when tapped.
(There are 1,000 pillar mandaps in Madurai, Tiruvannamalai, Chidambaram, Tiruvarur, Tiruvanaikka, Tiruvarangam and Tirunelveli. If all the seven 1000 pillar mandaps are to be rebuilt today it will cost us millions of rupees. Indians must realise the value of these world wonders and keep them intact for posterity. They are engineering marvels.) · Just in front of the sanctum sanctorum of Sri Sundareswarar is the Kambathadi Mandapam. The monolith statues there are carved with very great skill. 25 forms of Lord Shiva are shown here. The statue of most famous wedding scene of Meenakshi and Sundareswara is located here. Like one enjoys Michael Angelo’s most famous Creation of Adam painting at Sistine Chapel of Vatican City where one hand reaches the other hand, minute carvings of fingers and hands of three figures-Meenakshi, Shiva and Vishnu on a monolith is really a wonder in stone
BUTTERED FOR 700 YEARS
BUTTERED FOR 700 YEARS
· Near that Kambaththadi Mandap are huge statues of Veera Bhadrar and Bhadrakali. Butter is applied by the devotees continuously for seven hundred years on this huge Kali statue. When a Muslim Fakir started building a mosque in temple land in spite of objection from the devotees, blood came out from the eyes of this Kali statue. Immediately the fakir stopped construction. Just to subdue the anger of Kali butter was thrown on her. This has been going on for centuries now.
· Goddess Meenakshi’s influence is so great even the children born in Madurai are named after her. Even the lullaby the children hear is about Meenakshi.
· Recently a poem written like a drawing (Chiththira Kavi) is discovered inside the temple. The letters are in a circle. If one starts from the middle and read it like we add up numbers in magic squares, the poem will appear in full. This type of poem is called Chiththira Kavi meaning Picture poems or Drawing Poems. It may be squares or circles or pictures of flowers or chariots --anything one could imagine.
· The biggest festival of the temple is called Chitra festivalwhich occurs in April/May every year. It attracts a million people from different parts of India. A big Chariot is pulled through the city by thousands of people. Idols from two other temples also join the God and Goddess.
· Of the 64 divine acts of Shiva a heron, a swallow, pigs, tiger and deer, an elephant, horses and foxes are involved. Shiva blesses not only human beings but also the birds and animals in Madurai.
· The temple precinct measures 850 feet by 730 feet. Though the temple was built in 12th century by Pandya kings, many of the towers date from the date of Tirumala Nayak (1623-1655). All credits go to the Nayak kings.
GOLDEN LOTUS TANK
· Inside the temple there is a tank where a Golden Lotus is floating. Thousands of years ago a merchant by name Dhananjayan saw Indra doing Puja with golden lotus flowers. In memory of this one golden lotus is floated in the tank. The lotus is the National Flower of India.
· Once the poets from the ancient Tamil (Sangam) Academy competed with one another to launch their books inside the temple. The legend is that it wouldn’t allow any unworthy poets to climb the Sangam float or board. It will throw them out. Tiruvalluvar launched his most famous Tamil bookTirukkural in the temple by boarding the Sangam float.
( WONDERS OF MEENATCHI TO BE CONTINUED..........)