Madurai, also known as the Temple City of South India, is the second largest city in Tamil Nadu. Situated on the banks of the river Vaigi, this city is tantamount with the Meenakshi Sundareswarar twin Temple. This gigantic temple complex is dedicated to Shiva, known here as Sundareshwara and his consort Parvati who is known here as Meenakshi. This temple is the focal point around which the city of Madurai has developed over 2500 years.
The sprawling temple complex is one of the oldest and largest of its kind in our country and is almost like a city unto itself. It covers an area of over 65,000 square meters. Even though the temple was originally built by the Pandya King, Kulasekaran, the temple has grown due to the contribution of each dynasty and victorious monarchs. The Temple, as we see it today was built by Tiurmalai Nayakar who ruled Madurai from the 16th to the 18th century.
The Temple itself is set within a high-walled enclosure at the centre of which are the two shrines for Meenakshi and Sundareshwara. There are four massive gateways enclosing there two shrines which are surrounded by a number of smaller shrines and majestic pillared halls. The complex also contains 14 impressive gopurams (gateway towers) which range from 45-50 m in height. The towers have solid granite bases and are covered with stucco figures of deities, mythical animals and monsters painted in bright colors. There is not a single visitor who is not overwhelmed by the vast number of paintings and sculptures. About 33,000 sculptures can be found in the temple complex.
The most stunning feature of this temple is the magnificent Hall of Thousand Pillars or “Ayiramkaal Mandapam”. It is an architectural marvel wherein each pillar features high, elaborate and bold sculptures that look life like. What’s more, these pillars appear to be in a straight line when viewed from any angle. The beautiful musical pillars are located in the outermost corridors and are carved out of stone. When tapped, each pillar produces a different musical note.
The temple is one of utmost importance for the Tamil people, which can be seen by the number of visitors it attracts. Around 15,000 people visit this temple daily with it increasing to 25,000 on Fridays. It was even in the list of Top 30 nominees of the “New Seven Wonders of the World” and gets annual revenue of sixty million INR.