1000 pillar mandapam of Madurai Meenakshi temple, Tamil Nadu! - mind-blowing architecture

1000 pillar hall Meenakshi temple, Madurai, TN.

1000 pillar hall Meenakshi temple, Madurai, TN.tripadvisor.in

More than 1500 to 2000 years old, Meenakshi temple  is a symbol of Tamil culture  and has been mentioned in the Sangam Tamil literature. 

1000 pillar hall Meenakshi temple, Madurai, TN

Among the 14 towers of the temple, big and small, the tallest of the four Gopurams facing cardinal directions being the South Tower -161 foot tall.  In the shrines dedicated to goddess Meenakshi and god Sunderesarwith the two vimanas  over the sanctum / garbhagriha are gold plated. The complex covers an area of 180,000 sq. meter. The temple attracts thousands of visitors a day. There are whooping  33,000 statues on the towers and inside this temple. 

The annual 10-day festival - Meenakshi Thirukalyanam festival, that falls during April and May, is a popular one. It attracts 1 million visitors from many parts of South Tamil Nadu.

Said to have been constructed by Kulasekara Pandyan. the temple was almost razed to the ground  in 1310 during invasion by the Delhi Sultanate army headed by Malk Kaufer, an eunuch and slave of Sultan Alauddin Khilji.  The Tughlaq dynasty of Turkic origin destroyed  much of the Thousand pillar hall and temple and left behind it  in a dilapidated state. 

Meenakshi.Amman temple, Madurai.
The present structure was rebuilt between 1623 and 1655 CE by Nayakas, who ruled Madurai from 16th to 18th century.

Among the many halls in the temple that occupies 14 acres of land in the center of the city with streets laid  in square plan within square, the most famous being 1000 pillar hall. 

The other halls are: 

 kili koondu Mandapam ("bird cage corridor") - it is the corridor around the sanctum of goddess Meenakshi.

The Kambatadi Mandapam ("Hall of temple tree") - It has  seated Nandi (sacred bull), sculpture depicting the wedding of Meenakshi. Besides various forms of God Shiva. 

The Puthu Mandapam ("new hall") - built by Tirumala Nayak contains large number of sculptures

The Ashta Shakthi Mandapam ("Hall of eight goddess") - the first hall near  East Tower  entrance. It has eight images of goddesses - different forms of Shakthi. . 

The Viravasantharaya Mandapam - a large hall with huge corridors. and is close to the kalyana mandapam where the wedding of  Shiva and Parvati is held with religious fervor every year during the Chithirai Festival in mid-April.

The Mudali Pillai Mandapam or Iruttu Mandapam (Dark hall) - It is a wide and long hall built by Muthu Pillai during 1613.

The Mangayarkarasi mandapam - It is a newly built hall across the  marriage halls named after saintly  queen, Mangayarkarasi who contributed to Saivism and Tamil language. 

Servaikarar Mandapam - It was built by Marudu brothers in 1795.

"Hall of 1000 pillars":

The Meenakshi Nayakkar Mandapam ("Hall of 1000 pillars") is an architectural wonder with  two rows of pillars carved with images of yali (mythological beast with body of lion and head of an elephant), known symbol of Nayak power. Located to the north of  flagstaff    hall in the  Sundareswarar shrine,  the Thousand Pillar Hall has only 985 (instead of 1000) carved pillars.  O the roof of the entrance there  are sculptures representing the 60 years in the Tamil calendar.

Built in Dravidian style of design in 1569 by Ariyanatha Mudaliar, prime minister and general of Viswanatha Nayak, the first Nayaka of Madurai (1559–1600), the hall is an example of architectural and engineering skills of the building designers who ingeniously blended their  artistic vision and gave life to it.

 Viswanatha Nayak, the founder of Poligar System, the quasi-feudal organization of the country was a good administrator and he divided  it into multiple palayams or small provinces in which each palayam was ruled by a palayakkarar or a petty chief. 

There is an equestrian statue of  Ariyanatha Mudaliar on one side at the entrance of the hall.  

Those ornate pillars with  carved figures of  Rati (wife of Kama), Karthikeya, Ganesha, Shiva as a wandering mendicant and yalis (mythical figures of lions) get our attention. 

The  pillars have amazingly carved sculptures of countless deities from the Hindu pantheon. Carved sculptures of Pitchadanar, Dharman, Beeman, Veerapathirar and others may be worthy of mention.  

A visitor can see a  lot of mythological stories and episodes from the past carved on these beautiful pillars in the Aayiram kaal mandapam. 

These pillars are built in such a style  that from whatever angle one looks from within, the pillars look in rows and rows. At the centre of the mandapam is the idol of Lord Natarajar.

The presence of musical stone pillars just outside this hall towards the west, is a major attraction. Each pillar, when struck, produces a different musical note.  The pillars at the beginning and end of the row are big ones  have small circular blocks. The  one at the bottom could be rolled. These pillars are called musical pillars and they produce.  musical notes when tapped. The  statue of Rathi on a swan is a musical stone as well.

In 2020 work on encasing rare wooden paintings  was carried out with meticulous care as the vandals in the past over wrote on the paintings and damaged some.This hall has over 100 years old woodn paintings of various hues, depicting the Thiruvilayadal of Lord Siva. Earlier the murals in the same place were lost so step was taken to preserve the wooden paintings.

 In the Temple Art Museum in the hall on display are idols, photographs, drawings, and other exhibits related to the history of more than  1200 years old temple that survived many wars and invasion.