Meenakshi Temple, also referred to as Meenakshi Amman or Minakshi-Sundareshwara Temple, is a historic Hindu temple located on the southern bank of the Vaigai River in the temple city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India. It is dedicated to Meenakshi, a form of Parvati, and her consort, Sundareswar, a form of Shiva. The temple is at the center of the ancient temple city of Madurai mentioned in the Tamil Sangam literature, with the goddess temple mentioned in 6th century CE texts.
Though the temple has historic roots, most of the present campus structure was rebuilt after the 14th century CE, further repaired, renovated and expanded in the 17th century by Thirumalai Nayak. In early 14th century, the armies of Delhi Sultanate led by Muslim Commander Malik Kafur plundered the temple, looted it of its valuables and destroyed the Madurai temple town along with many other temple towns of South India The contemporary temple is the result of rebuilding efforts started by the Vijayanagara Empire rulers who rebuilt the core and reopened the temple. In the 16th century, the temple complex was further expanded and fortified by the Nayak ruler Vishwanatha Nayakar and later others. The restored complex now houses 14 gopurams (gateway towers), ranging from 45–50m in height, with the southern gopura tallest at 51.9 metres (170 ft). The complex has numerous sculpted pillared halls such as Ayirakkal (1,000 pillar hall), Kilikoondu-mandapam, Golu-mandapam and Pudu-mandapam. Its shrines are dedicated to Hindu deities and Shaivism scholars, with the vimanas above the garbhagrihas (sanctums) of Meenakshi and Sundaresvara guilded with gold.
The temple is a major pilgrimage destination within the Shaivism tradition, dedicated to Meenakshi Devi and Shiva. However, the temple includes Vishnu in many narratives, sculptures and rituals as he is considered to be Meenakshi’s brother. This has made this temple and Madurai as the “southern Mathura”, one included in Vaishnava texts. The Meenakshi temple also includes Lakshmi, flute playing Krishna, Rukmini, Brahma, Saraswati, other Vedic and Puranic deities, as well as artwork showing narratives from major Hindu texts.
The large temple complex is the most prominent landmark in Madurai and attracts tens of thousands visitors a day.The temple attracts over a million pilgrims and visitors during the annual 10-day Meenakshi Tirukalyanam festival, celebrated with much festivities and a ratha (chariot) procession during the Tamil month of Chittirai (overlaps with April-May in Georgian calendar, Chaitra in North India). The Temple has been adjudged best ‘Swachh Iconic Place’ in India as on October 1 2017 under Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi’s Flagship Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
The Meenakshi temple is located in the heart of historic Madurai city, about a kilometer south of the Vaigai River. It is about 460 kilometres (290 mi) southwest from Chennai, the state capital. The temple complex is well connected with road network (four lane National Highway 38), near a major railway junction and an airport with daily services. The city roads radiate from the temple complex and major ring roads form a concentric pattern for the city, a structure that follows the Silpa Sastra guidelines for a city design.