MEENAKSHI AMMAN TEMPLE, MADURAI
Virtual Tour of Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai - through our website you can walk-around the Meenakshiamman temple virtually and get feel of being there in the Temple.MEENAKSHI SUNDARESHWARA TEMPLE The temple is contained within a vast rectangle of high enclosure walls entered in the middle of each side through towering of gopuras. Within the enclosure is a complex of colonnades, columned mandapas, tanks, stores, shrines and at the core, the two temples of Shiva as Sundareshwara and Devi as Meenakshi. The gopuras at Madurai are among the most elaborately adorned in southern India. They are exceptional for their elongated proportions and curved profiles which achieve a dramatic sweep upwards;that on the south reaches about 60 m(196 feet) high. As is usual with these structures the lower portions, consisting of a molded basement and pilaster-ed wall, are constructed of granite. The towers are of brick and plaster with openings and portico's at each level to admit light to the hollow chambers. They are completely covered with figures of divinities, celestial beings, monster masks, guardians and animal mounts which inhabit the diminishing storeys of the towers Above are vaulted roofs with arched ends and rows of pot finials. All of these elements are encrusted with plaster decoration and painted in vivid colors(recently restored). Visitors usually enter the temple through the porch of the eight goddesses(south of the east gateway), which projects beyond the enclosure wall. A door-way flanked by images of Ganesha and Subramanya leads into a columned mandapa used for shops, stores and stables. At the far end of this mandapa is a doorway surrounded by a brass frame covered with small oil-lamps. Another towered gateway located here is on an axis with the Meenakshi shrine further west. Continuing westwards, towards the Meenakshi shrine , the courtyard of the Pottramarai Kulam is reached. This contains the rectangular Golden Lotus tank with stepped sides; a brass lamp-column stands in the middle. The walls of the surrounding colonnade are decorated with murals representing the sixty-four miracles which Shiva is said to have performed in and around Madurai. The long firezes are notable for their vividly drawn figures and distinctive brown and ochre coloring. The ceilings are painted with large medallions On the western side of the tank, the columns of the Kulika Mandapa are finely carved of Yalis and figures of the five Pandava brothers. A doorway in the west wall of the colonnade leads to the Meenakshi shrine. This stands in its own enclosure, within which are several subsidiary shrines. The 'bed chamber' on the north is where the images of Sundareshwara is brought each night. Passing northwards out of the colonnade around the tank, another rectangular enclosure is entered. It also has towered gateways in the middle of each side, but these do not reach the heights of the outer gateways. This enclosure is almost entirely colonnaded and surrounds on four sides the innermost enclosure, which contains the temple of Sundareswara. In the middle of the east side is the Kambathadi Mandapa, a hall erected at the end of the 19th century. Columns here are carved with considerable virtuosity with images of Shiva dancing, Kali and Virabhatra; these figures have numerous limbs and elaborate jewels. East of this Mandapa(in the outer most enclosure) is the Viravasantaraya Mandapa, in which an image of Nandi is placed To the south of this is the Kalyana Mandapa, where images of Meenakshi and Sundareswara are brought at the festival that celebrates their marriage. In the north-west corner of the enclosure is the extensive Aairamkal(Thousand Pillar) Mandapa, which now serves as a museum. Fine bronzes, especially of dancing Shiva, are displayed in the central pavilion(north); there are also stone sculptures and ivory fragments. Here too is a small, possibly earlier, linga sanctuary. There are almost exactly one thousand elaborately decorated columns in this mandapa. The piers have attached colonnettes, while numerous divinities, female musicians and attendant figures are carved in full relief on to the shafts. Brackets with pendant buds project outwards from seated Yalis. Outside the complex, in front of the east gopura, is the Pudu Mandapa. This long hall has piers carved with magnificent yalis and portrait sculptures of Nayaka rulers and their ministers(middle of the central aisle). Projecting brackets are carried on the seated Yalis. Within the mandapa there is a small pavilion fashioned of polished black granite(western end).
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