HISTORY OF MADURAI MEENAKSHI AMMAN TEMPLE
The Meenakshi temple is believed to be founded by Indra(king of Devas, celestial deities) while he was on a pilgrimage to cure his misdeeds. He felt his burden taken off nearing the swayambu lingam(self formed lingam, a representation of Shiva used for worship in temples)of Madurai. He ascribed this miracle to the lingam and constructed the temple and enshrined the lingam there. Indra worshipped Shiva, who caused golden lotuses to appear in the near-by pool.Tamil literature speaks about the temple for the last couple of millennia. Thirugnanasambandar, the famous Hindu saint of Saiva philosophy, mentioned this temple as early as the 7th century, and described the deity as Aalavai Iraivan. The temple was believed to be sacked by the infamous Muslim invader Malik Kafur in 1310 and all the ancient elements were destroyed.The initiative to rebuild the structure was taken by first Nayak king of Madurai, Viswanatha Nayak (1559–1600) under the supervision of Ariyanatha Mudaliar, the prime minister of the Nayak Dynasty and the founder of thePoligar System. The most valuable contributions was from king Thirumalai Nayak(1623–1659). He took considerable interest in erecting many complexes inside the temple. His major contributions are the Vasantha Mandapa for celebrating vasanthorsavam(spring festival) and Kilikoottu Mandapam(corridor of parrots). The corridors of the temple tank and Meenakshi Nayakar Mandapam were built byRani Mangammal
The temple is the geographic and ritual center of the ancient city of Madurai and one of the largest temple complexes in Tamil Nadu. The temple complex is divided into a number of concentric quadrangular enclosures contained by high masonary walls.It is one of the few temples in Tamil Nadu to have four entrances facing four directions. Designed in 1560 by Vishwanatha Nayak, the present temple was substantially built during the reign of Thirumalai Nayak(1623–55).Vishwantha Nayaka allegedly redesigned the city of Madurai in accordance with the principles laid down by Shilpa Shastras(Sanskrit: śilpa śāstra, also anglicized as silpa sastra meaning rules of architecture) relevant to urban planning. The city was laid out in the shape of square with a series of concentric streets culminating from the temple. These squares continue to retain their traditional names, Aadi, Chittirai, Avani-moola and Masi streets, corresponding to Tamil month names.Ancient Tamil classics mention that the temple was the center of the city and the streets happened to be radiating out like lotus and its petals. The temple prakarams(outer precincts of a temple) and streets accommodate an elobrate festival calendar in which dramatic processions circumabulate the shrines at varying distances from the centre. The vehicles used in processions are progressively more massive the further they travel from the centre. The complex is in around 45 acres (180,000 m2)and the temple is a massive structure measuring 254 by 237 meters.