Gopurams of Meenakshi Temple
Meenakshi Temple is enclosed with gateway towers, also known as gopurams. Among the ten gopurams of the temple, the famed southern tower is the tallest and rises to a height of 170 feet. It was constructed in 1559. The one at the eastern end is the oldest one which was constructed by Maravarman Sundara Pandyan during 1216-1238. Each of them is a multi-storeyed structure adorned with numerous stone figures of animals, demons and gods painted in vibrant colours.
Shrines of Meenakshi Temple
The main shrine of Meenakshi Temple and that of her consort Sundareswarar are enclosed by three enclosures and four minor towers at the four points of the compass protect each of them. An emerald coloured black stone image of Meenakshi is enshrined in it. Sundareswarar shrine is located at the centre of the temple complex and both the shrines have gold plated tower over sanctum called Vimanam. This golden top can be witnessed even from a great distance. Outside the Sundareswarar shrine and on the way of Meenakshi shrine, there is a tall sculpture of Lord Ganesha which is carved out of a single stone and is known as Mukuruny Vinayakar.
Temple Tank of Meenakshi Temple
The temple complex houses a sacred temple tank called Porthamarai Kulam having 165 feet and 120 feet length and breadth. Tamil legends say that the lake judges the worth of a new piece of literature. As per the beliefs, the authors place their works in the lake and the scholastic works float whereas the poorly written ones sink. There is a small portico towards the western part of the tank which houses an ancient Nayak painting depicting the marriage of Sundareswarar and Meenkashi which was attended by Rani Mangammal and Vijayaranga Chokkanatha.
Halls of Meenakshi Temple
The corridor which surrounds the sanctum of the Meenakshi is known as Kilikoondu Mandapam. Previously it was used for keeping green parrots trained to utter the name of Meenakshi. There is a Hall of temple tree called Kambatadi Mandapam having seated Nandi. The hall had carvings of various manifestations of Lord Shiva along with the marriage of Meenakshi sculpture. A number of other sculptures also adorn the hall including that of Shiva and Kali. Tirumala Nayak had constructed the Puthu Mandapam or new hall in the temple, opposite to the east gopuram, containing several sculptures. At the entrance of Meenakshi shrine, the first hall is Ashta Shakthi Mandapam or the Hall of Eight Goddess. The hall shelters statues of eight goddesses. The temple contains another large hall having huge corridors called Viravasantharaya Mandapam. Kalyana mandapam is the hall located towards the south of the previous one. This hall celebrates the marriage of Shiva and Parvati every year during Chithirai Festival. Other halls of the temple include Mudali Pillai Mandapam, Mangayarkarasi mandapam, Servaikarar Mandapam and Kolu Mandapam.
Hall of Thousand Pillars
Meenakshi Temple has a Thousand Pillar Hall which has 985 pillars and was constructed by Ariyanatha Mudaliar, the prime minister and general of the first Nayaka of Madurai named as Viswanatha Nayak, in 1569. It exhibits fine artistic vision and engineering skills. A statue of Ariyanatha Mudaliar seated on a horse-back is placed at the entrance of the hall. Each of the pillars has carvings of Dravidian sculptures. The hall also houses a Temple Art Museum with drawings, photographs, icons and other artefacts belonging to 1200 years ago. There are musical pillars outside the hall which produces musical notes when struck.
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