The Meenakshi Amman temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and his consort, Goddess Parvati. The temple forms the heart and lifeline of the 2500 year old city of Madurai. The complex houses 14 magnificent Gopurams or towers including two golden Gopurams for the main deities.
The Complex is in around 45 acres ( 180,000 m2 ) and the temple is a massive structure measuring 254 by 237 meters. The temple is surrounded by 12 towers, the tallest of which the famous Southern tower, rises to over 170 ft ( 52m ) high.
The Thousand Pillared Hall was built by Ariyanatha Mudaliar in 1569. Each pillar is carved and is a monument of the Dravidian sculpture. There is a Temple Art Museum in the hall where icons, photographs,drawings and other exhibits of the 1200 years old history are displayed.
Just outside this mandapam,are the Musical Pillars. Each pillar, when struck, produces a different musical note. The kalyana mandate, to the south of the pillared hall, is where the marriage of Shiva and Parvati is celebrated every year during the Chithirai Festival in mid-April.
The Palace was built in 1636 by Thirumalai Nayakar. A classic example of Indo-Saracenic style, the piece de resistance of this mahal is its carved dome. it was built without the support of girders or rafters.
The stucco work on the domes and arches are remarkable. The gigantic pillars and structures represents the amazing architectural mastery of Nayak Kings. There are around 248 pillars of each 58 feet tall and 5 feet in diameter.
The furniture and utensils used by the kings have been exhibited inside the palace. There is a Sound & Light show enacting the Silappathikaram in both Tamil and English.
A Walking tour of the old city
Starting at the nayakar mahal, the trail leads you through the streets of the old city filled with shops selling spices, herbs, traditional medicine and brass antiques. Reaching the elephant road we turn our eyes skyward to behold the massive pillars that served as elephant tether posts. The narrow road is noisy and filled with activity, the people barely realizing that their work alongside history.