Imagine approaching a temple complex where u are greeted by soaring gateway more than 15 stories tall, covered in 1500 brightly painted sculptures of divine and demonic figures. It’s overwhelming & disorienting, but it's just a taste of what awaits the pilgrim.
Meenakshi Temple is in the town of Madurai in southern India. With its numerous towers and its warren of associated sacred spaces, it embodies the active continuation of an ancient set of religious and artistic traditions in southern India.
The earliest temple at Madurai was likely constructed in 7th century C.E., but temple complex today is largely the work of Nayak dynasty in 16th & 17th centuries. They enlarged the complex and redesigned surrounding streets in accordance with sacred tradition of Vastu Shastra.
The northeast corner of the complex is occupied by the Thousand Pillar Hall, a vast, ornate mandapa. Although there are actually only 985 pillars, the effect is impressive, with most of the stone pillars carved in high or low relief depicting gods, demons and divine animals.
The most noticeable feature of the complex is the massive towers, or gopuras, which are actually entry gates.
The tallest gopura rises to approx 170 feet and contains more than 1500 figures that are repaired and repainted every 12yrs.
The Meenakshi Temple is in many ways a microcosm of earthly & spiritual characteristics of Hindu India. It is bustling, crowded and filled with people from all walks of life. It's the physical center of the city of Madurai as well as its economic, mythical and spiritual heart.
Two principal sanctuaries sit at center of the temple complex: one dedicated to Meenakshi (who's considered a manifestation of Parvati) and another dedicated to Sundareshwara or “Beautiful Lord” (a form of Lord Shiva).
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