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Tamil Nadu - Temples - Meenakshi Amman Temple - History of Meenakshi Amman Temple

Modern History of Meenakshi Amman Temple

Hindu Belief

The divine marriage where brother Vishnu hands his sister Parvati to Shiva (from left, Vishnu, Meenakshi, Shiva)
Meenakshi deity at the temple

According to Hindu legend, Shiva came down to earth in the form of Sundareswarar to marry Meenakshi, an incarnation of [Parvati]. Parvati had earlier descended to earth in the form of a small child in response to the great penance of Malayadwaja Pandya, the ruler of Madurai. After growing up to adulthood, she began ruling the city. The Lord appeared on earth and proposed to her. The marriage was supposed to be the biggest event on earth, with the whole earth gathering near Madurai. Vishnu, the brother of Meenakshi, was traveling to preside over the marriage from his holy abode at Vaikuntam. Due to a divine play, he was tricked by god [Indra] and delayed on the way. Meanwhile, the marriage was presided over by a local god [Koodal Azhaghar]. This is celebrated annually as 'Chitirai Thiruvizha' in Madurai. During the period of Nayakar rule in Madurai,in order to link the 'Azhakar Thiruvizha' and the 'Chitirai Thiruvizha' a story was added that Vishnu was angered and swore he'd never cross 'Vaigai' Later he was pacified by the other lords. Hence born the 'Azhaghar Thiruvizha'.

Modern History

The history of the original structure is not properly known, but Tamil literature speaks about the temple for the last couple of millennia. [Thirugnanasambandar], the famous Hindu saint of [Shaiva] philosophy, has mentioned this temple as early as the 7th century, and describes the Lord as Aalavai Iraivan. The temple was believed to have been sacked by the infamous Muslim invader Malik Kafur in 1310and all the ancient elements were destroyed. The initiative to rebuild the structure was taken by [Arya Natha Mudaliyar] , the Prime Minister of the first Nayak of Madurai (1559-1600 A.D.), the founder of 'Poligar System'. Then came the most valuable contributions of Thirumalai Nayak circa 1623 to 1659. He took considerable interest in erecting the Vasantha Mandapa of the temple complex.

Thousand Pillar Hall
A section of the Thousand Pillar Hall in the morning.

Thousand Pillar hall of Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple was built with the oldest Nellaiappar Temple, Tirunleveli as a model. The Aayiram Kaal Mandapam or Thousand Pillar Hall contains 985 (instead of 1000 carved pillars. It is considered culturally important and is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. The Thousand Pillared Hall was built by Ariyanatha Mudaliar in 1569[. He was the Prime Minister and General of Viswanatha Nayak of the first Nayaka of Madurai 1559-1600 A.D. He was also the founder of Poligar System, the quasi-feudal organization of the country, which was divided into multiple palayams or small provinces and each palayam was ruled by a palayakkarar or a petty chief[8]. At the entrance of the Mandapam, we can still see his statue; the majestic pose of Ariyanatha Mudaliar seated on a beautiful horse-back which flanks one side of the entrance to the temple. The statue is still periodically crowned with garlands by modern worshippers . Each pillar is carved and is a monument of the Dravidian sculpture. There is a Temple Art Museum in the hall where icons, photographs, drawings, and other exhibits of the 1200 years old history are displayed. Just outside this mandapam, towards the west, are the Musical Pillars. Each pillar, when struck, produces a different musical note. The kalyana mandapa, to the south of the pillared hall, is where the marriage of Shiva and Parvati is celebrated every year during the Chithirai Festival in mid-April.

Ashta Shakthi Mandapam

This is the first hall in the entrance of Meenakshi shrine tower near to East Tower. The hall carry the statues of eight goddesses and hence the name. At present we could find many shops selling pooja items in this hall.

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