Shri Meenakshi amman temple is the basis for the shape and significance of Madurai city
Madurai city is in the lotus form with Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple at its centre. As per Puranas, a merchant named Dhananjayan found the Sivalingam under a Kadamba tree and informed it to the king, Kulasekara Pandiyan. Then the king built a temple around the lingam and a lotus shaped city around this temple. On the day of naming ceremony of this city, divine nectar (madhuram) showered over this city as blessings from the head of Lord Shiva. So it is called as Madhurapuri, later changed into Madurai.
Madurai city has streets around this temple which are named after tamil months. They are
• Adi veedhi (within the temple)
• Chitrai veedhi
• Avani Moola veedhi
• Masi Veedhi
• Veli veedhi
The processional deities of Lord Sundareswarar and Goddess Meenakshi come in procession around these streets during various festivals.
• Madurai is the Shyamala Peedam among the 64 Sakthi Peedams.
• It is the place where Goddess Parvathi came as Meenakshi, the daughter of Malayadwaja Pandiyan and ruled over it.
• It is only here where Lord Shiva performed his famous 64 Thiruvilaiyadals (divine plays).
• Velliambalam, which is one among the five ambalams of Lord Shiva is here.
• It is also known as Alavai, since the place where the temple was to be built had been depicted by the Alakala snake, lining that place with its body.
• It is also called as Nanmada koodal or Koodal maanagar, since four clouds jointly saved the city from heavy rain as per the order of Lord Shiva.
• Nowadays Madurai is well connected to all major cities of India by road, rail and air.
• Madurai Meenakshi amman temple attracts a large number of tourists and pilgrims everyday.
Goddess Meenakshi and God Sundareswarar
The main deities in this temple are Goddess Meenakshi and God Sundareswarar. Once upon a time, a Pandya king named Malayathdwajan performed a yagam for attaining a child, as he had no lineage. From the yaga fire, a three-years old girl with three breasts came and sat on the lap of Kanchanamalai, the wife of the king. That child was an incarnation of Goddess Parvathi. A divine voice from the sky said that the third breast would disappear at the time when that girl had the sight of the bridegroom she had to marry. The king and queen brought up that child as their daughter with the name Thadathagai. The princess was highly talented in all types of arts. She became the queen after her father and ruled over the kingdom. She conquered the earth and also devalogam. When she entered Kailasam (the abode of Lord Shiva) and saw the Lord, her third breast disappeared. Realising that he would be her bridegroom, she returned with shyness. Later Lord Shiva came as Sundareswarar and married Thadathagai (Meenakshi) at Madurai. The divine couple ruled over the city for its fortune.
Other names of Sri Meenakshi are
• Thadathagai Piratti
Other names of Sri Sundareswarar are
Sri Meenakshi amman and Sri Sundareswarar are in separate shrines. Amman Sannadhi is situated to the right of Swami Sannadhi. In this temple, preference is given to Goddess Meenakshi. The devotees first worship Amman and then worship Swami. All poojas are performed first to Amman and then only to Swami.
From East chitrai street, we can enter the Amman Sannadhi through the Ashtasakthi Mandapam, where the history of Goddess Meenakshi is depicted in colourful paintings. Before entering the shrine of Sri Meenakshi amman, we can see the Portamarai kulami.e. golden lotus pond, in which a golden lotus is floating. It is said that Thiruvalluvar premiered Thirukkural at the banks of this pond. On the southernside wall of this pond, all the 1330 kurals are engraved. In the southwest corner of the pond, Viboothi (sacred ash) Vinayagar is found.
On the way to the Amman shrine, we can see
• Unjal Mandapam
• a replica of the whole temple in a glass case
• Siddhi vinayagar shrine.
Arukal Peedam is the place where the coronation ceremony of Sri Meenakshi amman takes place during Chitrai festival. Also in this place Kumaraguruparar composed the famous Meenakshi amman Pillaitamizh. In the sanctum sanctorum, we can worship Goddess Meenakshi in standing posture with a parrot in her right hand.
In the first enclosure around the sanctum sanctorum of Amman, we can see
• scenes of Meenakshi amman pillaitamizh, depicted on the walls.
• Eratai Vinayagar
In the second enclosure
•Kolu Mandapam, where the famous Navarathiri festival is being celebrated
•Uppu Vinayagar shrine
•Koodal Kumarar shrine
Like Amman Sannadhi, here also Arukal Peedam is found, in which the coronation ceremony of Sri Sundareswarar takes place in the tamil month of Avani (Aug/Sep). In the bottom of this Peedam, the symbols for 108 types of dances are found.
When we enter into the shrine, we can see Lord Natarajar with Goddess Sivakami at Velliambalam, one among the five ambalams of Lord Shiva. In Velliambalam, Lord Natarajar is in the posture of raising his right leg instead of left leg. At first, here also Lord Natarajar was in the dance posture with his left leg raised, as generally found in all Shiva temples. A Pandya king named Rajasekaran worried about the pain that Lord would suffer by standing in the right leg for all the time. He requested the Lord to dance by changing his leg posture and the Lord did so. That is why even today, Lord Natarajar here is dancing by raising his right leg. It is said that in Madurai Lord Shiva performed three types of Natanam (dance) namely
• Paramanantha Natanam
• Kal mariya Natanam
• Oorthuva Natanam.
In the sanctum sanctorum, we can worship Lord Sundareswarar, in the form of Lingam. This Lingam is a Swyambhu one i.e appeared itself and not made by anyone. A Spadiga lingam is also in the sanctum sanctorum.
In the first enclosure around the sanctum sanctorum of Sri Sundareswarar,
• 63 Nayanmars
• Depictions of 64 Thiruvilaiyadals performed by Lord Shiva at Madurai.
• the processional deities of Sri Meenakshi and Sri Sundareswarar.
• Jwaradevar and Jwaralingam (people worship here to get rid of fever)
• Siddhar shrine (people worship by making floral roof)
• Durga (People worship by adorning goddess with sandal paste)
• Kadamba tree (stala viruksham)
In the second enclosure of Swami Sannadhi, the following shrines are found.
• Mukkurini Vinayagar Shrine
Among the many Vinayagar idols in this temple, Mukkurini Vinayagar idol is the largest one. This idol was found at the time of digging Vandiyoor Mariamman Teppakulam and enshrined here by Thirumalai Naickar. On Vinayagar Chathurthi day, a very big Kozhukattai is prepared from 21 litres (Mukkurini) of rice and offered to this Vinayagar.
• Parasakthi shrine
• Shrine for Sangapulavars
• 100 pillar hall
• Natarajar Shrine
• Anugnai Vinayagar
• Kambathadi Mandapam
• Agni Veerabadrar and Agora Veerebadrar
Some other importance of this temple
• The temple is situated in the vast area of 15 acres of land.
• There are 12 Gopurams, which were built by various persons in during various periods.
• On the way from the East Gopuram to Swami Sannadhi, a very big Nandi idol is situated facing the Swami Sannadhi.
• Thousand Pillar hall is situated besides this Nandi. The art and sculptures in this hall is marvellous.
• The roofs of the sanctum snactorum of both Amman and Swami are gold plated.
• Musical pillars, which produce musical sounds when tapped are in this temple.
• A very beautiful architectural Mandapam called as Pudhumandapam, is situated outside the temple, opposite to the Swami Sannadhi. This was built by Thirumalai Naickar as Vasantha Mandapam to fill water on two sides so as to bring coolness during the summer season for the deities.
• Muneeswarar shrine is at the entrance of North Gopuram.
• Shrines of Karupanaswamy and Madurai veeran are near the entrance of Swami Sannadhi.
• Nowadays battery cars are being operated in the Chitrai streets for the benefits of the devotees.
Festivals of this temple
Various festivals are being conducted all over the year, the details are given below.
Chitrai festival (April/May) is the very famous Tamilnadu festival, which is conducted for 12 days. The processional deities of Sri Meenakshi and Sri Sundareswarar come in procession in various Vahanams, during these days in Masi streets. On the 8th day, the coronation ceremony of Sri Meenakshi amman and on the 9th day, Thikvijayam take place. On the 10th day is Sri Meenakshi-Sundareswarar Thirukalyanam (celestial wedding), which is the highlight of this festival. In the night, Swami comes in White elephant Vahana and Amman in floral palanquin. On the 11th day, Car festival takes place, during which Swami and Amman come is separate cars.
• Vaikasi Vasantham festival(May/Jun) - 10 days festival in Pudhumandapam.
• Aani Unjal festival (Jun/Jul) for 10 days.
• Adi Mulaikottu festival (Jul/Aug) for 10 days conducted in Adi veedhi.
• Avani Moolam festival (Aug/Sep) during which the coronation ceremony of Sri Sundareswarar takes place. Also this festival is for celebrating the Thiruvilaiyadals of Lord Shiva.
• Navarathiri (Sep/Oct) festival is for 10 days. During these days, Amman is decorated in various alangarams.
• Kolattam festival for 10days, Pavithrotsavam for 5 days and Skanda shasthi are conducted during the tamil month of Aypasi(Oct/Nov).
• Thirukarthigai festival (Nov/Dec).
• During the tamil month of Margazhi (Dec/Jan), Ennaikappu festival and Ashtami Chaaparam are conducted.
• Theppam(float)festival is conducted on Thaipoosam (full moon day in the tamil month of Thai) in Vandiyoor Mariamman Teppakulam (Jan/feb).
• Panguni Uthiram festival for 10 days (Feb/Mar).
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