Abodes of Ganesha
Abodes of Shakti
Abodes of Shiva
Abodes of Skanda Abodes of Surya
Abodes of Vishnu
Templenet Archives

Templenet Encyclopedia
Travel and Tourism
Festivals and Fairs
Beliefs and Legends
Glossary of Terms
About Templenet

tn.jpg (19837 bytes)
The Ultimate Source of Information on Indian Temples

Temples of Tamilnadu
Temples of Kerala
Temples of Karnataka
Temples of Andhra

Temples of Orissa
Temples of Central India
Temples of Maharashtra
Temples of Western India
Temples of the Himalayas
Temples of the Gangetic Plains
Temples of North Eastern India
Temples of Bengal

Feedback & Information:

K. Kannikeswaran
All Rights Reserved
No part of this website may be reproduced or used in any form without permission.
Tradition Meets

tn.jpg (19837 bytes)
Temples of Tamilnadu

Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple - History

Madurai is one of the oldest cities of India. Pre Christian Sangam literature originated in Madurai. The Sangam period poet Nakkeerar is associated with some of the Tiruvilayaadal episodes of Sundareswarar - that are enacted as a part of temple festival traditions even today.

Nakkeerar’s Tirumurugaatruppadai sings of the glory of Tirupparamkunram nearby.

The hymns of the Nayanmaars (Saivite Saint Poets) of the 7th century CE  and beyond are full of praises of Aalavai (Madurai). The well known Tevaram verse ‘Mantiramaavadu Neeru’ is dedicated to Sundareswarar – or Chokkar.

The Sundareswarar shrine is believed to be more ancient than the shrine to Meenakshi.

The original temple was razed to the ground by the invading armies of Malik Kafur, the general of Allauddin Khilji of the Khilji dynasty of Delhi, in early 14th century. All of the temple, along with the surrounding streets were completely brought down, with the exception of the twin shrines of Meenakshi and Sundareswara. It is believed that the shrines were spared, thanks to infighting between the invaders.

With amazing resilience the temple came back to shape. Viswanatha Nayak of the Nayak dynasty – successors to the Vijayanagar Empire, commenced the task of reconstruction in 1510 CE, sticking meticulously to the original plan of the temple. It is believed to have taken over a hundred years to complete the temple. The temple itself is a celebration of art; it is believed that over 30 million pieces of sculpture and stucco images adorn the 14 acre temple complex.

The 1000 feet by 950 feet Vandiyur Maariyamman Teppakkulam was built in mid 17th century by Tirumalai Nayakar, for the purpose of celebrating Meenakshi Teppotsavam. (This festival is celebrated today in the Tamil month of Thai).

It is believed that in recent times (of the later Nayak royalty of Madurai), the annual festival of the temple was moved from the tamil month of Maasi to the month of Chittirai. (The festival streets surrounding the temple are named after the month Maasi and not Chittirai when the festival happens).

This change in tradition apparently was carried out with socio-political motives; i.e. to time the festival to synchronize with the annual festival at the Kallazhagar Temple revered by the Kallar tribe living outside of Madurai. Even today, Kallazhagar is brought in procession to the outskirts of Madurai, a day or two after the Royal/Divine Wedding.

The popular belief associated with this trip is that Kallazhagar (Maha Vishnu) the brother of Meenakshi proceeds to Madurai to give his sister in marriage to Sundareswarar – and returns disappointed that he is late and that he has missed the ceremony. During the annual festival season in Madurai, the entire region spanning the city and the outskirts transforms into a sea of celebration of life.

Scholars from abroad have spoken thus, of Madurai, ‘It is in Madurai that one discovers the heart and soul of the Indian faith, thought systems and culture – dating back over several centuries. The mysticism that surrounds India takes on a real meaning in Madurai’.