Meenakshi Temple
India, Madurai

This temple is one of the most magnificent in India. An extensive temple ensemble is located in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, approximately 520 kilometers from Madras. Meenakshi means fish eye. It is said that the princess really had big fish eyes, and besides, she smelled of fish - but only until she met Sundareshvara, the “sovereign of beauty”. The princess was born into the world with three breasts. A variety of holy men were asked for advice. They predicted that the third breast would disappear that day when the princess met her future husband. This is what happened when Meenakshi met the god Shiva. Eight days later, she became engaged to Madurai with a god who appeared before her under the name Sundareрешvara. This story is told to explain how the construction of the Hindu temple complex began. The shrines associated with Meenakshi and Sundaresh-Vara are kept here, and therefore this place is still one of the most important for pilgrimage in India. The territory of the complex covers an area of 258 X 223 meters. There are nine gopur (huge gate towers with many sculptures), which reach 50 meters in height. Four of them rise on the outer walls of the temple complex, the others inside it. Four buildings belong to the era of the ruler Tirumal Nayyak (from 1623 to 1659), the sanctuary is probably from the XII century, and the unusually beautiful Thousand-Column Hall - to the middle of the XVI century. They say that here you cannot find two similar columns. Studying the sculptures that stand on the ledges of the columns would take many months: among them - men and women, gods, goddesses and musicians. There is a museum in the hall now, and this somewhat reduces the overall impression of the atmosphere of the room. Today it has remained a place of pilgrimage, thousands of people flock here. Raya Gate, the largest entrance gate. Visitors and merchants who open their shops here and sell all kinds of gizmos - from tiny figures of Shiva to spices - are an integral part of these places and their colorful decorations.
The temple is attractive for pilgrims, day and night. There are often organized processions, accompanied by musicians, and holidays. The huge pond at the palace (the pond of Golden Lily) supplies pilgrims with water for ritual ablutions. A straight steep staircase leads to it. A colonnade is built and painted around. Here are witnessed 64 miracles that Shiva performed in Madurai. The wealth of columns, corridors, halls and shrines decorated with figures may seem excessive to some visitors. But the construction of the palace is subject to certain requirements, which is always noticeable in Indian temple buildings. The main axis of the temple and sanctuary of Sundareshvara is directed from east to west. Inside the temple there is a special puja passage leading around the sanctuary, which allows you to go around it clockwise. On special holidays, the image of God in a golden cart is transported around the temple. An elephant is harnessed to the cart - in honor of the elephant-like god Ganesha. The figure of this god is also often found in the temple. From the high tower of the south gate, a beautiful view of the eternally flowing, rich in colors and sounds of music opens the life of Meenakshi Temple. In the temple, often organized holiday celebrations, accompanied by musicians. Every year, in January-February, the Teppam festival is celebrated in Madurai - a "rafting festival" that always attracts many pilgrims. Images of Shiva-Sundareshvara and three-breasted Meenakshi are taken out of the temple and transported on rafts along the artificial lake Mariamman-Teppakkulam. Behind them on rafts and boats floats the whole festive procession. On one of the islands in the middle of the lake stands a temple built at the same time as the Meenakshi Temple.

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