Incomplete Roya Gopura (tower), Madurai Meenakshi temple

Unfinished Roya Gopuram, Madurai, pinrest. com

Above image: The photograph of the unfinished Raya Gopura (Tower) of the Meenakshi temple, Madurai in Tamil  Nadu, is part of a collection entitled 'Photographic Views in Madurai ' (Madras, 1858) and was taken by Linnaeus Tripe in 1858. This rare photo shows the incomplete Main tower (Roya Gopuram) on the east side of the Meenakshi temple  with Pudu (new) Mandabam and East Gopuram visible in the backdrop. East of the temple........................

 Tirumala Nayak (A.D. 1623 to 1659) of Madurai Nayak Dynasty had a plan to build a huge tower. Though the construction of the  new tower  had begun in earnest, for reasons beyond comprehension,  the work was not completed and left out in the very early phases. The amazing features are the four tall monolith towers that rise to a height of 50 feet from the ground level. That how the four  tall pillars were   erected in alignment  at the right upper level is a riddle. They are  the only pillars  half-constructed on the Meenakshi Temple premises. It is on the west side of the main shrine.

Madurai Meenakshi temple, incomplete  Roya Gopuram

The unfinished tower is  at the western corner of Yanakal street and the entrance is facing Yezhukadal street. It measures 59 meter in length  and 38 meters  in width. The remnants we are seeing here were  built in AD 1654 by Thirumala Nayak  with view to enhancing the beauty of Meenakshi temple, one of the finest temples dedicated to Shiva in India.  The gopura is a wonderful representation of the architectural finesse of the Nayak period. His brother Nayak king Muthiyaly along with Thirumala Nayak gave due importance to temple building in the  Nayak kingdom and the Nayak rulers of Madurai, Thanjavur and other places made vast contribution to Hindu temple architecture in Tamil Nadu. They built or made additions to the Vishnu as well as Shiva temples.   Had the Nayak ruler completed this  Roya gopura, perhaps it would have been the tallest one in Tamil Nadu.

The gargantuan base of the unfinished Raya gopuram., Madurai

The Meenakshi temple in Madurai is dedicated to Shiva and his consort Meenakshi (meaning fish-eyed), a form of Parvati. The temple rectangular in plan  covers 6 hectares and consists of 11 huge towers and 4 entrance gopurams adorned with divinities and others. Inside this enclosure there are huge mandapas (halls) supported by massive ornate stone pillars, tanks, shrines and the two shrines of God Shiva and Goddess Meenakshi.

Madurai Meenakshi temple, entrance. Roya Gopuram.

Above image: Photo of the unfinished Raya Gopuram in the Meenakshi Sundareshvara Temple of Madurai, taken by Nicholas and Company in the 1870s.  The temple  towers are extremely elaborate and completely covered with figures of divinities, celestial beings, monster masks and animals, nice paintings, etc. The entrance to the Roaya Gopura is very tall and the doorjambs are elaborately carved with scroll work.................................

Any  visitor to the unfinished Roya Gopura will be wonder-struck by  the tall, huge base  with its ornate thoranas, elegant carvings, sculptures of dancing damsels, lion-based pilasters and niches. There is a well-carved stone sculpture of Thirumalai Nayak, the ruler of Madurai who  was instrumental for the temple's expansion and regular maintenance. When Thirumalai Naicker started the construction,  the 217-foot tall tower of  Thiruvannamalai temple, Thiruvannamalai,TN was the tallest one and the ruler wanted to build the tower in Madurai taller than this one. At present,  the 236-foot tall Srirangam Ranganathar temple is the tallest one in Tamil Nadu, followed by Thanjavur Brigadishwar temple (big temple) and Sri Villiputhur Andal temple in Virudhunagar district.