This is the first time I visited Meenakshi temple in Madurai. We went to see the temple at around 11.30 am. We entered the temple through the west tower. To give you the details the temple has 4 gates know as east tower, west tower, north tower and south tower. If you enter from the east tower, Meenakshi amman (devi) shrine is near and if you enter through the south tower Lord Sundareshwar (Shiva) shrine is near. On top of Lord Sundareshwar and Goddess Meenakshi shrine there is a gold gopuram (tower).
The temple is said to be more than 2000 years old and has been built by Pandya king Kulasekara Pandya. Meenakshi temple is mentioned in Tamil literature as early as 7th century and references to it has been found as early as to 1st century. Madurai city is said to be around 2500 – 3000 years old and Meenakshi Sundareshwar temple has been at the heart of its existence. The temple stands over an area of 17 acres and the city of Madurai has been built around it. The temple had been destroyed by Malik Kafur in 1310, a general of Alauddin Khilji – the then ruler of Delhi sultanate. The reconstruction work was started by the first Nayak king of Madurai Viswanatha Nayak. The most notable contribution was made by king Thirumalai Nayak.
At the entrance of each tower, you will be frisked by plain cloth police man. Women and men have separate line. Please not carry knives, scissors, chemical items etc as such and do not wear half or medi pants. There are free shoe stand at the south, east and north towers. However, the keepers will ask for some money (you may give Rs 1 or 2). At the north tower entrance there is a small market. Shops here sells pooja and religious items. After the shops in a front of a door you will find a bronze decorated ring on which deeps (soil lamps) are lighted every evening.
I have visited Meenakshi temple three times during my visit. First time we quickly saw Sundareshwar shrine and then proceeded to Meenakshi amman shrine. You were lucky to finish it before 1 pm.
special darshan – Rs 15 per person (special queue – less waiting time)
Special direct darshan – Rs 100 per person (no need to stand in queue)
We visited again on the morning of the 4th day of our trip. However, after sometime the battery of camera was over and we had to leave. We again came back in the evening by 6 pm. This time we took a lot of time to appreciate the beauty and holy atmosphere of the temple in peace. This time we entered through the east tower and first went for dashan of Meenakshi devi. We took the special darshan for Rs 15. As you move on the queue you will see two beautiful bronze statues near to the pedestal which you will climb to see Goddess Meenakshi. While moving on the pedestal you will see a beautiful statue of Nataraj (an avatar of lord Shiva) made of silver.
At both Meenakshi devi and Sundareswar shrine only soil lamps are used in the inner shrine area. There are also deities of lord Ganesha (by name Vinayakar), Navagraha, Nandi, Bhadra kali, Hanuman etc. The temple is made up of beautifully crafted stone pillars which are painted at the top along with the ceiling. An elephant blesses people on receiving offerings typically Rs 1 or 2 coin by placing its trunk on people’s head. Near to Meenakshi devi shrine, here is Golden lotus pond. Here you find a lotus made of gold and a golden statue in the middle of the pond. The water of golden lotus pond is considered very holy and if one takes bath here on a auspicious day and then pray to Shiva (Sundareswar shrine) then his or her will be fulfilled. You can also take good pictures from this area as many of the towers can be seen from here.
Finally we visited the Meenakshi temple art museum and thousand pillar mandapam located inside the temple complex. This area is called thousand pillar mandapam as it made of a thousand pillars. Entry free for the museum is Rs 5 per person. If you have already paid camera fees it will cover the museum too. The museum has an amazing collection of old bronze statues, coins of Madurai sultanate, coins of other Madurai kings, a sample structure of Madurai temple, stone carves statues of deities like lord Ganesha, an old door and artifacts. At the center of the museum it has beautiful lined stone crafted pillar leading to a statue of Nataraj (an avatar of lord Shiva). Visit the Meenakshi temple Museum photo gallery
Temple timings: 5 am to 12.30 pm and 4 pm to 9.30 pm
However in dhannur or Chaitra month (in between December 15th to January 15th) the temple remains open from 3 am to 1 pm and 3.30 pm to 9.30 pm.
Entry is free
Camera fees: Rs 50
1. Photography is prohibited in the inner shrine area
2. Only Hindus are allowed in certain areas like the inner shrine
3. Prasad is available inside the temple complex near the Hanuman shrine. A tasty laddoo cost Rs 10. You can purchase other items too.
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Official Website: http://www.maduraimeenakshi.org/