Having spent most of my childhood in North India in the capital city, Delhi and nearby areas with frequent trips to homeland nested in Himalayas, I never imagined my first trip down south to be so mesmerizing! One of the recent places I visited was Madhurai. The name Madhurai is derived from the Sanskrit word “Madhurya” which means sweetness.
This place is synonymous with Meenakshi Amman temple situated on the banks of River Vaigai. It has a rich cultural heritage passed on from the great Tamil era more than 2500 years old. It used to be the commercial and cultural centre for the great Pandya kings.
According to the legend, the city got its name from the sweetness (Madhur) of nectar that was showered by the Hindu God Shiva from his matted hair when the city was built around this temple. The architecture of this city was built in accordance to the “Shilpa Shastras”, which are ancient texts about urban planning. The city architecture is built in the shape of lotus flower and its petals around the temple.
I was amazed to see a temple is of such grandeur and architecture for the first time in my life. As I approached the temple, I was mesmerized to see the huge entrance called “Gopuram” with intricately carved sculptures.
There are twelve Gopuras or soaring towers that rise from the granite base and are covered with figures of deites & mythical animals. These are painted in vivid colours. It was a breath taking sight to see them standing tall against the clear blue sky!
The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva known here as Sundaram and Goddess Parvati, known as Meenakshi. There are two separate sanctums inside for Meenakshi & Sundareshwarer that is surrounded by a number of shrines and a grand pillar hall which has thousand pillars. This temple is within a high enclosure which was built by the king to protect the idols from British invaders. Outside the sanctum is big pillar or Stambhas with yantras made in front of it. Devotees bow down in front of it before entering the temple.
I remember intricately carved sculptures of a mythological figure on each pillar – (with a Lion head and Bird Body called a Yalli) as I entered the Meenakshi sanctum. There were votive lamp holders on the walls and along the corridor which added to the palace like feel of the temple. Also there were spacious columned hall for shops & stores that were selling Puja Samagri / materials required for rituals and other paraphernalia like photos, small replicas of the statues, prasads, little lamps etc.
Next was the Sundareshwarer sanctum. As I walked passed along the meandering que, I saw a big, larger than life Nataraj statue on my right side covered in silver leaves, also called “Velli Ambalam” (Silver Hall) It also had statues of various priest and scenes depicted around the walls.
The reverence, faith, gratitude of people is what that struck me the most since the second I entered that holy place. This temple is the centre of the whole city which is also a gentle reminder of our higher purpose in lives. It felt so fortunate to be reminded that I am born in a country where Life revolves around divinity from time immemorial.
As I walked out of the temple feeling overwhelmed, the buzz outside
the temple caught my eyes. The fragrance of white and fresh Mogra
flowers filled my whole being, sight of fresh green and orange
coconuts, street vendors selling imitation jewellery, fruits, flowers,
toys, sacred threads in various colours – yellow, black and red,
baskets filled with Chandan and Kumkum powder, containers full of
coconut and jaggery sweets created an enticing and colouful
Walking by the lanes of Madhurai felt like a gentle reminder of the
Golden era gone by.
~~~A Page from Kannu Priya’s diary