Lord Shiva as Lord Sundareswarar
As the ancient scripts says , Lord Sundareswarar ( Lord Shiva ) meaning handsome, married his consort Meenakshi Devi ( Goddess parvati ) at Madurai – city of temples, in Tamilnadu. This temple design and layout is believed to be drawn by lord Shiva himself.
It is a historic temple, forming the lifeline of 2500 year old city – Madurai. The beauty of the temple towers can be seen aerially , which are so magnificent and stands tall for the praise of ancient architecture. Overall 14 Gopurams / temple towers are seen, including the two golden Gopurams for the main deities. All literatures have praised and sang the glories of these temple towers and the way it decorates the temple and the deities.
Goddess Parvati was born as Meenakshi, to the second Pandya King, Malayadwaja Pandya and his wife Kanchanamalai as a boon to their prayers. But this birth is different, the goddess appeared herself as a small girl from the Yagna that was performed. But everyone were shocked admist happiness, as she had three breasts. But at the same time, the heard an Oracle, that the third breast would vanish, when she meets her future husband. She was trained on all 64 shastras. She was a great warrior. She conquered all the worlds. Her parents found it difficult to find a suitable bridegroom for their victorious daughter. But Meenakshi consoled her parents, saying she will travel across the world and find the right person for her. When she came to Mount Kailash, and saw Lord Shiva, she immediately fell into shyness, and her third breast vanished. She also realized that she was an incarnation of Goddess Parvati.
The marriage was supposed to be the biggest gathering on earth, with gods, saints, rishis, and people travelling from all three worlds. The wedding lock – Thirumangalyam was specially made from the south town of Madurai. This Meenakshi Kalyanam is an important festival is celebrated in April every year.
Lord Shiva is said to have played many of his Thiruvillayadal ( Divine Plays ) in Madurai, and at this temple. The Porthamarai Kullam – Pond with a golden lotus, is a holy site for devotees, which is inside this temple. No marine animals are grown here as per the word of Lord Shiva. It is suppose to be a place for judging literature, where the poorly written works will sink and the scholastic ones are suppose to float.
Thousand Pillar Hall
Another attraction at this temple, is the 1000 carved pillars, which is of great cultural importance is maintained by the Archeological Society of India.
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 1600 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.
The temple is the geographic and ritual center of the ancient city of Madurai. The temple walls, streets and finally the city walls (ancient) were built around the temple in concentric squares. Ancient Tamil classics mention that the temple was the center of the city and the streets happened to be radiating out like the lotus and its petals. It is one of the few temples in Tamil Nadu to have four entrances facing four directions.
Temple is a massive structure measuring 254 by 237 meters. The temple is surrounded by 12 towers, the tallest of which, the famous Southern tower, rises to over 170 ft (52 m) high.
This temple is a complex of many deities. The Shiva shrine lies at the centre of the complex, suggesting that the ritual dominance of the goddess developed later. Outside the Shrine, lies huge sculpture of Ganesh carved of single stone and there is a shrine for a giant Ganesh temple, called the Mukuruny Vinayakar. This deity is believed to have been found during an excavation process to dig the temple lake.
The Meenkashi shrine is on the left of the Shiva shrine and is prayed devotees who throng each day from all parts of the world. It is believed to be in sculpted in greens stone ( emerald )
There is also a Vibuthi Pillaiyar, who is decorated or rather bathed in ashes by every devotee, a belief that he needs to be prayed in that way, for all the prayers to be answered.
It is not only a visual treat for ancient architect seekers, but a great admiration that is won by every devotee who visit this temple. It seriously raises many questions, as to how this temple was built in such a sprawling acres of land, with majestic towers in four directions, and the whole layout enfolds as lotus petals, with 1000 pillars surrounding, and with a golden pond, and the most important of all the whole city of Madurai just surrounding it. It shows the true presence of divine powers during the Pandya king rule, and the way their devotion led to such historic value and treasure. It’s a true evidence that stands tall, that Lord Shiva have given his devotees, whose greatness is still composed after thousands of years by scholars around the world.