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The temple is designed to dissolve the boundaries between man and the divine. Not merely his abode, the temple is "God", and therefore by implication the whole universe is identified with the temple's design and actual fabric The position of the squares is in accordance with the importance attached to each of the deities, with the square in the center representating the temple deity; the outer squares cover the gods of lower rank.
Another important aspect of the design of the temple is that it is intended to lead from the temporal world to the eternal. The principal shrine should face the rising sun and so should have its entrance to the east. Movement towards the sanctuary, along the east-west axis and through a series of increasingly sacred spaces is of great importance and is reflected in the architecture. A typical temple consists of the following major elements - an entrance, often with a porch; one or more attached or detached mandapas or halls; the inner sanctum called the garbagriha, and the tower build directly above the garbagriha.
There are other important aspects of the temple which connect it to the phenomenal world - its site in relation to shade and water, its vertical elevation relating to the mountains, and the most sacred part, the garbagriha, relating to caves.
As a god can be malevolent as well as benevolent it is important that the temple site is one that will please him. The Puranas state that 'The gods always play where groves are near rivers, mountains and springs'. Sacred sites in India therefore, are usually associated with water, shade and lakes of India are often considered to be sacred and they have healing and purifying powers. Rivers such as the Ganges are thought to have descended from the heavens, perhaps the Milky Way, and their sacred water is needed in the temple tank.
The gods have always been attracted to mountains and they have great mountains for the symbolism and appearance of the temple. There was an impulse to create soaring towers that looked like mountain ranges. Mount Kailash in the Himalayas is the celestial abode of Shiva and the Kailash temple at Ellora us the architectural interpretation of this mountain. To reinforce this symbolism temples were originally painted white to make them look even more like snow covered mountains.
In India caves have always been thought of as places of great sanctity. Most of the earliest surviving Buddhist, Jain and Hindu shrines are rock cut caves. In later Hindu temples the garbagriha is designed to resemble a cave. It is small and dark and the surfaces of the walls are unadorned and massive. It is a place that encourages meditation which is possible only in solitude. Approaching the shrine is a movement from open spaces to a confined small space; from light to darkness, from a profusion of visual form and decoration to the visual simplicity of the cave. From this sanctuary the implied movement is vertical, to the symbolic mountain peak directly above the image of the god. This movement upwards is linked to the idea of enlightenment which is identified with the crowning final of the temple the shikhara.
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This is Vanadhi '.Since my native is Madurai , I dedicate my first post about "Goddess Meenakshi Amman Temple" under this Beautiful topic . A great Thanks to our Minakshi who opened a Master post thread called "Temples of India " Thank you so much.
Meenakshi Amman Temple
Areal View of the Temple Gopuras
Madurai is in south Tamilnadu a known city , but the purpose of the city's creation based on the temple called Goddess Meenakshi Amman and Sundareswara Temple .History of the Temple and the city are conjoined events . When we travel before 3500 B.C the famous Pandiyan king called Kulasekara ruled the region, south to present Madurai called Manavur. One day he received a strange recital from his guards that a merchant of Pandiyan Kingdom witnessed Lord Indra's arrival in the near by forest called Kadambavanam (Forest containing Kadam trees ).When the King enquired the suspected person ,he narrates the story as "when the dawn appears the merchant decided to relax under a kadam tree in the Kadambhavanam forest and felt asleep .During the midnight of his sleep, he is disturbed by chantings of Lord Shiv's Mantra sung by a delicate voice. When he opened his eyes, Lord Indra was worshipping a Lingam with Golden Lotus. After some time Indra disappeared from there.
The holy Tank with Golden Lotus
So after hearing this story the king was more agitated to reach the exact place where the divine incident occurred. King felt overjoyed by vision of Divine" Self appeared Lingam" and constructed a temple around it .The perfect soothsayers uttered that a Divine nectar fallen from Lord shiv matted locks is what the reason which turned in to Lingam .Thus asked him to construct a city around the temple in the shape of Lotus flower and named the city called Mathurapuri(city of nector)later changed into Madurai. When years passed Kulasekara's Son the "Mighty Malayadwaja Pandiyan" came to the throne but he is disturbed by the consistent feeling that, there is no "heir" to his kingdom to rule over .So he sought the help of wise Saints, they advised him to conduct "Putra Kamesti yagna ".Thus, when he fulfilled the Yagna a" girl "aged three came out the sacrifice fire and called him "Father". The Divine girl having three Breast marks just smiled lovely and jumped in to his lap .King and the Queen named "Kanchanamala" confused by her abnormal features worried a lot. A divine Voice from the heavens told the king "not to worry about the abnormal breast ,that will vanish when she meets her Groom".The King rejoices after hearing this and named his daughter as "Tadhathagai".(one who has Three nipples or one who burns barriers. )
Tadhathagai is none but the incarnation of Goddess Parvati itself .It is said that Queen Kanchanamala in her previous birth does penance to achieve the motherly status for parvati . Overwhelmed by her devotion, Maa Parvati accepted the request . So Queen Kanchanamala eternally enjoying the current life due to her past deeds. Tadhathagai excelled in all 64 Sastras or "AhyarKalai 64"(fields of war and science arts)in Tamil linguistics . So before her Coronation She decided to do "TigVijaya" (a" War "check to all worlds).Thus she defeated Sathyalokha (Lord Bhrama's abode),Vaikundha(Vishnuji's abode ,since "he felt meenakshi is his revered sister in human form, he accepted the defeat open heartly ") and Amaravati (Indra's city), she reached Mount Kailash (Lord shiv's abode) . She easily cornered all bhutaganas including "nandi" and entered the core area where shiv resides .Since childhood ,princess Tadhathagai acted like a tough hearted women ,who has male features in her behavior. But when the moment she met with Lord Shiv her Third breast vanished and she felt womanly shyness for the first time in her life. She realized her real form as MaaParvati and Lord shiv as her eternal companion. She cant even utter a word before him. Understanding her plea Lord Shiv volunteered himself to relax her and promised to reach Madurai to gain her hand in marriage. People of the City rejoiced ever before the crowned parents of princess "Tadhathagai". The King and the Queen arranged all requirement for her Coronation and Wedding Ceremony Together .
Wedding of Tadhathagi is the most revered celestial function of that time .So all the Devatas and Rishis of three worlds came down to Madurai for attending it.Where Princess is a beautiful maiden, who follows all luxurious customs according to her tradition.Since Lord shiv is a Simple God and who always appears in a simple way,made our princess thought full over this issue. She believes a Groom she is going to marry can't be plain and simple he needs to change his attire for me(u can see our sati's shade in her) ,so she keep on praying for that in her thoughts.On the wedding day every guest is surprised at the sight of princess who is glowing more and more with her charm and pious smile .
Even the king and queen are expressing their gratitude about their princess that how is the Groom going to match with her magnificent Beauty . But when Lord shiv with his Bhodaganas arrived at the Mandap in a different form that no one can imagine before like this ..
He seems to the most eminent masculine form among all the lords and Devatas present there.The people ,crowd ,devatas ,kings , queens and our princess even the universe mesmerized by his charming smile . A word emerge in every heart called "Sundara.." (Beautiful) .SInce he is Eshwara she called him "Sundareswara ". Princess Tadhathagai felt sorry for her childish act of pride over her appearance.
Then the Kanya dhan is done by Lord PavalavaikaniPerumal (Incarnation of Lord Vishnu means - one who have red colored lips where pavalam is a coral red gem ).when every one entered the dining hall, all the devatas ,rishis and kandarv's nagas are seated there.But our Princess felt distress ,that not even a single person from her husband side arrived there for the meal(She felt that, she conquered all the three worlds so every one there represents in her side only not from shivji side).So she complained to him about that ,She is the famous warrior princess of Madurai and what will my people may think ,about you, if no one is there in the dining hall by your name.
from the left Lord VIshnu ,Goddess Meenakshi ,Lord Sundara Pandiyan(in his new look with all jewels in his costume )
The Lord smiled within himself and called out one of his "bhudagana" named "kundodara".There he appeared with a long curl hair covering all his body followed by a pot sized stomach ,he is fearsome for a normal human sight ,yet there prevails a innocence in his face. Lord asked the princess to feed him first . Princess happily accepted and ordered every dishes to be arranged in honor of the first guest represented by Shivji.But to all her surprise, the devoted Bhudagana finished every thing with in a fraction of second ,Princess triedlessly supplied every dish she have ,but she loosed before him . Bhudagana still screamed for more water , because he already finished every thing by not even leaving a single drop of water around the palace. since there is no river bed in and around Madurai City, she surrendered to her Husband for dealing with his Bhudagana . Lord shivji assured her to pacify that storming Bhudagana. Lord took him to a hill place and Ordered him as "VAI-KAI" (ie place your hand ),when he placed his hand, a River begin to flow from there ,which is later called as "River VAIGAI of MAdurai" . Princess and the people of the Kingdom feel Blessed to have a River for their city ,and they thanked the lord whole hearty.
The King and queen arranged the coronation ceremony of Princess " Thadathagai" a day after their wedding.Princess was named as "MEENAKSHI "( Meen+atchi... Meen-means fish ,Ahtchi-rule by a constant view or sight,since her eyes are fish shaped where the fish has no habit of blinking or closing its eyes" ).Naming her as MEENAKSHI subdued that she will rule the kingdom and protect the peoples open eyed, Like a fish which always protects and hatch the eggs merely by its eye sight . It is notable that Pandiyan Kings having FIsh symbol in their flags is applied to above incident .Lord Shivji was called as "Sundareeshwara" or "Sundara Pandiyan" who shared the throne with her ,they made an agreement that, for the First six months the Kingdom was ruled by the Empress and the next six months will be ruled by Emperor the Lord him self( when he is crowned in later six months ,he is given with SENGOL(Royal identity of Pandiyans like Talwar to others) asked to perform the ShivLing Puja before that . So the Lord Worshiped himself as both as Sundara Pandiyan and as SHiva LInga . SO there became a Temple following this incident called "INMAIYIL NANMAI THARUVAR" temple. In the Garpa Graga we can see Lord Sundara PAndiyan with his Wife Meenakshi Worshiping the Linga named "INMAIYIL NANMAI THARUVAR" -means the Gods who gives boon whatever to us in the present birth itself including "Moksha" with out delay ) . Thus their Marriage celebration held for one Mandala (i.e 42 days ) and they ruled for several years .
During their rule many miracles held , there are lots of incidents which occurred are recorded in stones as scripts and sculptures till now. The divine leelas of Lord SundraPandiyan(since he is also the king of Madurai ,the people called him SundraPandiyan wowing to his beautiful appearance by adding their royal family name with it. ) are called as Thiruvilaiyadal(Thiru-sree Vilaiyadal-Plays ), 64 among that are held at Madurai itself .
When the wedding celebrations are over, Two Rishivar named "Pathanjali" and "Viyakrapathar " (one who having tiger nails Viyakra-tiger nail paather-foot ) hastily stepped out for their destination named "Chithambaram" (a city in current Cuddalore district 58 km from Pondicherry and 240km from Head Quarters Chennai. ).Knowing their intension the Lord Sundra Pandiyan questioned them .They answered that , its their habit that every morning we have a routine to have the Darshan of "Lord ponnambala Chitambaranar " the cosmic dancer of Chitambaram Temple.(In this temple Mahadev is believed to be performing Cosmic Dance Forever ,so the "mulla vigram"- Central Deity is not a Lingam but in the form of "Lord Nataraja" itself . This is the first and Last temple that Devotees can have the darshan Lord in the Form of Nataraja in Ponnamballam (one who is dancing in Golden Sabha or hall ) with his consort "Sivakami" as a central deity of temple. ) . Pleased by their devotion the Lord assured them that he will show the Cosmic dance here it self (In Madurai) in a "Velliyamballam"(Velli-Sliver Amballam-Hall ,sabha,golden sphere of light or Aton, the sun of all the suns, the first manifestation of the Divine into matter). Hence the lord performed the Cosmic dance before the Rishis and his newly wedded consort Meenakshi . Where there are Five cosmic dance halls or Shabhas in Tamilnadu which is called as Panchashabha temples . Madurai having Velliyamballam is the second in the list they are
Lord Velliyambalathar in Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple
Where the specularity of the Madurai Shabha is the Lord Velliyambalathar Appeared here in a different, form that his right leg is rosen in air ,where he stood on his left leg during his dance performance .(Usually in all Nataraja form we can notice his left leg is always rised by him Because the left part of him belongs to devi ,so he is too fond of her by carrying all the weight himself ).where in Madurai they are Subduing two reasons for this incident . The first reason is to entertain the two above mentioned Rishis by a different form of dancing ,hence he swapped his leg while dancing . The another one is something elaborate .When the later Pandiyan kings are ruling Madurai under ,their family Deity and ancestors known as Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundra Pandiyan in their Temple.Where one among the Kings named "Rajasekara Pandiyan" in his Teenage learning all 64 sastra's (Ahyarkalai 64) one by one under proper Guidance. Once he stepped to 'Nadana kalai' (Natiya Sastra ) , he felt the immense pain through out his legs every night after his lesson over. SO he wondered within himself ,that how our Lord Velliyambalathar resisting all the pain by standing in one leg for all these years . Tears fell down from his eyes, that he cant sleep the whole night thinking about Lord and leaving tears for his Lord .When the sun rises in the morning he reached the temple in all love ,to his surprise he can see that legs are swapped in the Statue. His joy has no bounds that his lord answered him by swapping his legs wow to his love over him. From that day the Velliyambalathar rested in the same position as his right leg rised in air . This is considered to be one of the "Thiruvilaiyadal"-divine leelas of Lord Sundra Pandiyan.
Back to our Empress after few years she gave birth to a male child ,named him Ugra Pandiyan (he is believed to be incarnation of Lord Skanda or Karthikeyan ). He succeeded his divine parents after his coronation ,Meenakshi Devi and Sundara Pandiyanar requested his son to give a bon- voyage to them ,since they are going to Yoga nidra form soon. Ugra Pandiyan refused first ,then knowing, who they are and his reality as human form for the purpose of people ,he allowed them to yoga nidra .Thus Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareeshwara transformed in to divine statues and the King build a huge temple around it . They became the Family deity for Pandiyans and his people there after . The Later Descendent's of Ugra Pandiyan further Elaborated the Temple complex and devoted much to their family deity . There are several leelas done by Lord and Devi during the period up to 13 th century .But for every ruling clan there comes a dark day . The Last Pandiyan Brothers Sundra PAndiyan and Veera Pandiyan Lost before Malik KAfur the War cheif of Delhi Sultan Alauddin Khilji of Khilji dynasty . The troops molested all the temple complex in and around Madurai . SO the Loyal Priest ordered people of the city to cover and close all the ways to Central shrine Of Lord Sundareeshwara with a last ritual pooja . People of the city closed the way of that room with limestone paste .
About 40 years no one entered the Shrine and people grieved more and more under the rule of Muslims. But after the Vijayanagara empire well developed from Andra Pradesh and spread over to Karnataka too ,rescued Madurai from Muslims rule. Ganga Devi is a wife of one of the Vijayanagara Empire's Cheiftians had a strange dream that depicted a Divine voice calling her to find the LInga inside the Corpse of lost temple sight . when She entered the exact place with her Husband as instructed in dream she pointed out the Holly Linga of Lord Sundareeshwara in a closed room .The epitome of this incident is that the flowers offered ,sandalwood paste and the 2 Diya's or Oil Lamps lightened 40 years ago are still fresh inside the shrine with its full aroma .People of the city and cheiftians praised Lord in all voice for the grace shown by him all these years .Some said the Statue of Meenakshi devi is also found by them too ,But according to legends she is added later by Nayak kings as a replica of older one which is lost . But what ever the Meenakshi devi statue is a Emerald stone which glows itself ,when a light is focused on it, since the Colour of Meenakshi devi is green, the Emerald is depicted to match her original colour . (it is a restricted action now)
Then Nayak kings built the huge temple complex in honor of Goddess Meenakshi devi and Lord Sundareeshwara is what now every one is visiting in Madurai.When we coming architecture the Nayaks follow unique personna in their construction with Major deity at the center and Devi right to him .Around 33,000 statues are sculptures are there in this temple. Once a Nayak king named Thirumalai Nayak arranged the sangam before Meenakshi devi's shrine where the fomous "Kumaragurupa Swamigal" (He is great saint who developed Kasi mud in Varanasi by arguing with muslim rulers there in urudu a unknown language to him with the grace of Lord Skanda .) is called for presenting songs of "Meenakshi Pilzhai Tamil" sung by him.In the middle the song recital a girl aged three came out the Holly shrine and seated herself over the lap of King who presented there.She enjoys each and every song sung by Kumaraguru Swamigal , after the completion of all songs ,she suddenly turned to king's face and took his Rathina mala (Made of Ruby) from his neck and presented it to Kumaraguru swami, Then after blessing him ,she returned to the holy devi's shrine and Disappeared there .(Hence the king and the people believes that the girl is meenakshi itself )
Ashta Sakthi Mandapa :
This Mandapa is a convention in this temple, different from that followed in others, that the devotee offers worship first to Goddess Meenakshi. Therefore, while there are four other entrances into the temple, under huge Gopuras in the four cardinal directions, it is customary to enter not through any of them but through a Mandapa, with no tower above it. This entrance leads directly to the shrine of the Goddess.
This Mandapa is an impressive structure, with a hemispherical ceiling. It is 14m long and 5.5m wide. There are bas-reliefs all over the place. Over the entrance one of them depicts the marriage of Goddess Meenakshi with Lord Somasundara. The Mandapa derives its name, the "Ashta Sakthi", from the fact it contains sculptures of the eight Sakthis (also spelt as Shakti). Those of the four principal Nyanmars were added during renovation of the temple in 1960-63.
Meenakshi Nayakkar Mandapam :
This hall 42.9m long and 33.5m wide is adjacent to Ashta Shakthi Mandapam. It contains 110 stone columns, each 6.7m high carrying the figures of a peculiar animal with a lion's body, and an elephant's head called Yalli.
Potramaraukulam (Golden Lotus Tank) :
This temple tank is an ancient tank where devotees take bath in the holy water. The corridors around the tank are rightly called the Chitra Mandapa, for the walls carry paintings of the divine sports of the Lord. The area around this tank was the meeting place of the Tamil Sangam - the ancient academy of poets.This academy judged the worth of any work of literature presented before it by throwing it into the tank. Only those that did not sink were considered worthy of attention. The tank is surrounded by a pillared corridor. Steps lead down to the tank, enabling worshippers to take bathe in it.
The Thousand Pillar Mandapam :
It is the 'wonder of the place', Actually the number of pillars count to 985. Each pillar is sculptured and is a monument of the Dravidan sculpture. There is a Temple Art Museum in this 1000 pillars hall where you can see icons, photographs, drawings, etc., exhibiting the 1200 years old history. There are so many other smaller and bigger mandapams in the temple. Just outside this mandapam, towards the west, are the Musical Pillars. Each pillar when stuck, Produces a different musical notes.
Vasantha Mandapam :
This mandapam was built by Thirumalai Nayakkar. Vasanthosavam - the Spring festival-is celebrated in this mandapam in Vaikasi (April/May). Its pillars contain elaborate sculptures of Shiva, Meenakshi, scenes from their wedding as well as the figures of ten of the Nayak Kings and their consorts. This is also called Pudhu Mandapam.
Oonjal Mandapam :
Two Mandapas, the Unjal (swing) and the Kilikatti (parrot cage), are on the western side of the tank. On their ceilings are more paintings. The Kiliatti Mandapa has on its walls the carvings of the divine sports. The most ornamental of the temple's Mandapas, it was built in 1623.
Every Friday, the golden idols of Meenakshi and Sundareswarar are seated on the swing in the Oonjal Mandapam and hymns are sung as the deities gaily swing to and fro. The parrots in the Kilikoontu Mandapam have been trained to repeat Meenakshi's name. But more interesting are the 28 pillars of the mandapam which exhibit some excellent Sculptures of figures from Hindu mythology.
Swami Sundareswarar Shrine :
Lord Sundareswarar (Shiva) the consort of Goddess Meenakshi is to the north of Kilikoontu Mandapam . On your way you can worship a gigantic idol of Sri Ganesh called Mukkurini Pillaiyar. When the king Thirumalai Nayakar excavated a temple tank 3 km from Meenakshi temple he unearthed this idol of Vinayaka and erected the same here.
In the outer pragaram (corridor outside the main shrine) there is stump of the kadamba tree, which is said to be a part of the same tree under which Indra worshipped Shiva linga. Also in the outer corridor there are the Kadambathadi Mandapam and big hall called ' Velli Ambalam' . Here, An idol of Nataraja (Shiva as the Lord of Dance) is seen. This idol of Nataraja is covered with silver leaves. Hence this hall is named as Velli Ambalam (Silver Hall)..
The famous festivals held at Madurai, include Teppam festival, the annual Float Festival, wherein the images of Sri Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswara (also spelt as Sundreshwara) are mounted on floats, and taken to Mariamman Teppakkulam Tank, where for several days they are pulled back and forth across the water in the middle of the tank, on an illuminated raft embellished with flowers, before being taken back to the main temple.
Meenaskhi Kalyanam, the wedding festival of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareshwar is celebrated for twelve days from the second day of the lunar month (i.e. two days after the new moon). This is a spectacular festival celebrated in the month of Chaitra (April-May). The festival is characterized with royal decorated umbrellas, fans and traditional instrumental music. Scenes from mythology are enacted and the deities of Lord Shiva, Goddess Priyavadai(this is the saya form of Goddess meenakshi who always accombine Lord Sundareeshwara in her absence ,it is said that when the Goddess is crowned she is always busy with her duties for her people and spent less time with him. So due to stress he called out loudly "Priya(love, darling) -vadai(dont go)" one time when she is leaving for her duty .Vowing to his wishes she leaves her Saya or shadow with him forever ,so from that time" Priyavadai" the shadow of devi got form and accombined swami forever ) and Goddess Meenakshi are taken out in a colourful procession. Thousands of devotees from all over the country gather in the city of Madurai on this occasion.This year the wedding falls on May 2nd in the city .
Official temple Website where u can watch live Thirukalyanam (Holly wedding) Of Meenakshi Sundareswarar in this link
My next post will be on Rameshwaram Pg3
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Sukhi thanks for writing about Kamakhya temple
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He will be seen on-screen with his Mahadev co-star.
And there is an interesting trivia to it..
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