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Meenakshi Temple Halls and Sculptures

Halls and sculptures are one of the features of the Meenakshi Amman temple. The many mandapams of the Meenakshi Amman temple are:

Ashtasakthi Mandapam

This mandapam which is the eastern entrance of the Amman Sannithi  is said  to have been constructed by the queens Uruthirapathiammal and Tholiammal (1623-1659) who were the wives of  Thirumalainaicker. The eight forms of  Goddess Sakthi  the consort of Lord  Shiva,  Kaumari, Rowthiri, Vaishnavi, Mahalakshmi,  Yangnarubini, Shyamala,  Maheswari  and  Manonmani have been sculptured  into the pillars of  the mandapam individually. There  are  drawings  depicting  the life of Meenakshi Amman on the roof  of   the  mandapam. There  are statues of   Vallaba  Vinayagar  and  Murugan at the entrance  of   this mandapam.

Meenakshi  Naicker Mandapam

This mandapam  which  is seen next  to  the Ashta Sakthi  mandapam  was constructed  by Meenakshi Naicker  belonging to the Naicker clan in the year 1708. There are sculptures depicting  Goddess  Meenakshi  and  Lord Shiva  who took  the form of a hunter and huntress  to rid a Brahmin of his sin. The  twelve Sun  signs of  zodiac have been depicted in a square shape structure on top of the mandapam. This  mandapam is 160  feet  in length  and has pillars  that have been arranged in six rows.

Muthupillai Mandapam or Iruttumandapam

It was constructed by  Kadanthai Mudaliar in 1613. There  are  statues of Pitchanar,  Munivars  or saints of  the Tharukavanam and wives of the saints. Mythology has  it  that  Lord  Shiva  took  the form of  Pitchanar  to preach  to the Munivars of  Tharukavanam. The  statues  of  Munivar,  Mohini  and Kadanthai  Mudaliar  are seen  at the southern  side of the mandapam.

The Museum

Since 1966, the thousand  pillars hall is also doubling as the museum of  the temple. Among those items of  artistic elegance and cultural excellence are: Paintings explaining the quintesscence of the ancient arts of archtecture, sculpture, painting, music, dance and other forms of aesthetic importance, antique panchaloka (five metal) idols, collection of rare photographs, rare antique items, articles of Saiva and Vaishnava religions, antique coins, carvings in tusks and antique items, paintings from the Nayakka period depicting the 64 miracles performed by Lord Sokkanathar. This mandapam is now being renovated and modernised using latest techniques.  The saying that  one needs thousand eyes to view the hall of thousand pillars is not without truth.

Swamy Sannidhi (sanctum sanctrom) - Dhakshinamoorthy, Lingothpavar, Durga  Mandapams: 

On the walls of the sanctum sanctorum of the Lord are the Dhakshinamoorthy Mandam with a pinnacle, the Lingothpavar mandapam has sculptures of Maal and Ayan unable to find the feet and crown of the Lord and the Durga mandapam.  These mandapams were built by Kambavarayar.

The celestial wedding hall:

The sacred wedding hall to the south of Veeravasantharayar mandapam  was built by Vijayaranga Sokkanatha Nayakkar (1706 - 1732). His sculpture is etched on a pillar. The ceiling of  the sacred wedding hall are covered with teak  planks with exquisite art work. The 64 miracles of  Lord Sivaperuman have also been painted on the dome of the mandapam.  There are also paintings depicting the twin worlds and fourteen worlds. Earlier the celestial wedding of the Lord and Goddess used to be solemnized in this mandapam. Now the wedding takes place at the new wedding hall where the North Aadi street and West Aadi street meet. After the wedding, the Lord and Goddess would proceed to the old wedding hall to bless the devotees.A scene from the wedding  of  the celestial couple form the backdrop of the wedding dais in the mandapam. Sculptures of the Meenakshi and Sokkanathar are found at Kambathadi mandapam and new mandapam. Paintings of the celestial weddings adorn the walls of entrance to Amman Sannidhi and the western wall of the parrot cage mandapam. The golden chariot of the temple is kept  in this mandapam. During the festivals the Lord and Godess would be taken out in procession from this mandapam. The golden chariot procession also starts from this mandapam.

Mangayarkarasi mandapam and sculpture:

This mandapam  is situated opposite the old wedding hall. In view of  the kumbabishekam. this mandapam was renovated according to the present style between 1960-63. This mandapam houses statues of Arikesari, Maravarman, his consort Mangayarkarasiyar, Minister Kulachirayar and Thirugnanasambar in poses worshipping  Lord Sivaperuman.

Servaikarar Mandapam:

Situated opposite the old wedding hall, this mandapam was built in 1795 by Marudhappa Servaikarar.

Muthuramayyar mandapam:

Situated near the Servaikarar mandapam, this mandapam was built by Muthuramayyar. One of the pillars in this mandapam bears the statue of Muthramayyar. Kasiviswanathar and Visalakshi Amman shrines are situated in this mandapam.  In a pillar opposite there is a statue of Sarabeswarar.  It is in the mandapam opposite this hall, that the sacred task of Annadhan is distributed everyday. About 250 persons are fed free every day.

Nagara Mandapam

Nagara mandapam situated opposite the Amman sanctum in East Chitra street was built in the year 1635 by Achutharayan, minister of Rani Mangammal. This mandapam was built  for the purpose of sounding the Nagara drum toannounce important events and festivals to the devotees. Even though  many shops are situated in the premises, the practice of beating the Nagara drum continues.

New Mandapam:

The New Mandapam, situated opposite the East Rajagopuram was built by King Thirumalai Naicker with the work starting in 1626 and ending in 1645.  The dimensions of this mandapam known as Vasantha mandapam and Thirumalai Naickerr Choultry are: length - 333 feet (100 meters), width 105 feet (31.5 meters) and height 25 feet (7.5 meters).  On both sides of this mandapam have been carved the statues of ten famous kings of Naicker dynasty. These statues which range from King Viswantha Naicker to Thrimalai Naicker had been chiseled in a life like manner.  On the pillars surrounding the mandapam, along the first six rows on the eastern side are carved figures of  equestrian heroes, yalis, Ekapathamoorthy and that of Gajasankarar. In the adjacent inteior are sculptures of  Thadagapirattiar, her tours (dikvijayam), Lord Shiva facing her, feeding of piglets, moon, sun, tiger feeding fawns and two dwarapalakars. On the six pillars next to the western entrance to the mandapam, there are sculptures of  Thiripurasankarar, four heroes on horses, Ravana trying to lift Mount Kailash and others. In the interior of the mandapam, there are scenes of  Meenakshi celestial wedding, Indra, Bramha, Sankaranarayanan, Arthanareeswarar, Oorthandavar, Kali, feeding the granite elephant with sugarcane and other sculptures. On the pillars are 25 poses of Lord Shiva.  According to the work Thiruppani Maalai all the sculptures in the mandapam were executed by  Sumandira Moorthy Asari.  Since the sculptures were new at the time the mandapam was built, it was called Pudhu Mandapam(New Mandapam). There are interesting episodes of events that took place while the sculptures were being carved.

Theradi Mandapams(the Mandapam at the foot of chariot shed):

Theradi Mandapams are situated along the East Masi street.  During the Chitra Festival, the procession deities Meenakshi and Sundareswarar arrive at this mandapam on the day of car festival before being taken out in procession. in their chariots. The shed housing the car of Amman was built by Pappu Chettiar. Now the cars of Amman and the Lord have been renovated with modern technology.  The shed of the Lord was built in the year 1795 by Anandazhvan Ayyan.

Old Oonjal Mandapam

This  mandapam  which  was  constructed by  Thiruambala Chetti   in  1562 and is  seen  on  the  western bank of the  Pottramarai  Kulam.  It  is said  that  the God  and  Goddess  go on the  swing  in  the mandapam  at  7 p.m  every  Friday  in the ancient  days.

New Oonjal Mandapam

It  is situated opposite  to the old  Oonjal mandapam  and was constructed  by  Chettiyappa Naicker in 1563.  It was decorated  with  glass fibres  in 1985  and the roof   has  drawings  of   the six  abodes  of  Lord Muruga.  The Oonjal  utsavam  of    the    God   and  Goddess   is  conducted   here  now.

Killikoondu(parrat cage)Mandapam or Sangili Mandapam

It   is   seen  on the western side of   the Pottramarai Kulam  and was  constructed by  Abisheka Pandaram  in 1623.  Since this  mandapam  has sculptures of Yalis  or dragon like forms it  is also called  Yali mandapam.  Another  name  for it is  sangili mandapam.  There  are aesthetic  sculptures  of   the  Pandavas  and   Dharupathy and also  the drawings of  the scenes  from Thiruvilayadal. The  Sithivinayagar   shrine and Kumar shrine  of the temple are situated here.

Kolu Mandapam

This mandapam which  situated in the second  corridor  of   the  Amman  Sannithi   at  the western side.  It  was  constructed  by  Krishna Veerappa Naicker  (1564-1572).  The  Kolu (rows of idols and  toys) is kept here during  the Navarathiri festival.

Arukal mandapam

It was constructed by  Mavali Vanathiar  in 1452  and  is  situated opposite    the  Meenakshi Amman sanctum  sanctorum.  It  was  here that  the  anthology   Meenakshi Pillai Tamil  composed  by  Kumaragurubarar  was  presented  for the first time.  The Pattabishekam (crowning)  Goddess  Meenakshi takes place here during the Chittirai festival.

Velliambala Mandapam (literally silver stage hall)

This mandapam in the forecourt of the Swami Sannidhi was built by Krishna Veerappa Nayakkar (1564-1672).  The  idol of Lord Siva in the posture of dancing, changing his legs is carved here in bronze and stone.    This is one of the five sabhas (stages) in Tamil Nadu and is called  Rasatha sabha.

The mandapam of 63 saints:

This Mandapam built in 1569 by one Ariyanatha  Mudaliyar is situated in the front corridor of the Swami sannidhi in the south row.   This mandapam houses the sacred icon of Shekkizhar Swamigal and 63 Nayanmars.

Vanniyadi Nadarajar Mandapam:

This mandapam situated between the shrines of Mahalakshmi and Bairavar  to the north of the first   corridor of Swami Sannidhi and is the venue of  Rathna  Sabha of Lord Shiva.  This  was built in the year 1563 by Sellaponmanickam.

Mandapa Nayaka mandapam or The hall of hundred pillars:

This mandapam of  Lord Nataraja Divine Sabha is situated to the north Swami Sannidhi flagstaff mandapam.   This was built by Sinnappa Nayakkar in the year 1526.

Thirugnanasambandar Mandapam or Tie shrine of four Saints:

This mandapam built by Krishna Veerappa Nayakkar (1564-1572) is situated to the south of Swami Sannidhi flagstaff mandapam.   There are idols of Saints Thirugnanasambandar, Thirunavukkarasar, Sundarar, Manickavasagar and Nedumara Pandian (Koonpandian), Mangayarkarasiyar, Kulachirayar and Moorthy Nayanar.

Veera Vasantharayar Mandapam:

This Mandapam situated adjacent to the East Rajagopuram was built by Muthuveerappa Naicker in the year 1611.

The hall of thousand pillars(Ayiramkal Mandapam):

 The largest mandapam in the holy temple complex, this mandapam  is situated near Veeravasantharayar Mandapam  to the north. This was built by Ariyanatha Mudaliyar, minister and commander of Viswanatha Naicker in the year  1569.   This Mandapam has a total of 985pillars. These pillars have been so arranged  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 Chira Sabha of Lord Natarajar.  There is an idol of a hero on a horse at the entrance to the Mandapam facing south. Legend has it that this is an idol of Ariyanatha Mudaliyar who built the mandapam. But this is a sacred idol of Lord Sundareswarar who on behalf of Saint Manickavasagar converted foxes into horses.  To east of the idol of the deity on the horseback, are sculptures of Kannapar, Lord Siva destroying an asura and Pichadanar.   At the eastern entrance there are statues of  a hero on a horseback, Harichandra, gypsy man and woman with a child in arms,  woman (Chandramathi, wife of Harichandra). Carved on eight pillars next to the entrance are statues of Thiripurandhakar, Nirutha Ganapathy with an urn containing ambrosia, Lord Muruga on peacock, Nagaraja, Saraswathy, Hunter, as well as that of two Dwarapalakars.   In the area next to the entrance, there are idols of Thirumal, Arjuna in the form of a eunuch, and Draupadhi. There is also a statue of a man carrying a woman. This is said to represent the nature of Kaliyuga, depicting that man was a serf of woman. In the pillars in between there are carvings of yalis. At foot of the pillars, along the centre of the mandapam are carved sculptures of Pitchadanar, Dharman, Beeman, Rathi and  Veerpathirar while at the top are carvings of Agni, Veerapathirar, Manmadan, Purushamirukam, Arjunan and Mohini. Among these sculptures is one of Rathi seated on a Swan, which are quintessence of the art of sculpture with musical notes. The pillars at the beginning  and end of the row are big ones with small circular blocks and the one at the bottom could be rolled.  These pillars are called musical pillars and they produce musical notes when tapped. At the roof of the entrance are sculptures representing the 60 years in the Tamil calendar.

Pechchiyakkal Mandapam:

This mandapam situated opposite the sanctum of the Swamy to the east of the celestial wedding hall has 28 pillars.  This mandapam was built by Pechchiyakkal, a woman vendor of curd in 1659 and was constructed by Pittu Chokku Pandaram.

Rayar gopuram:

This gopuram is situated opposite the New Mandapam to the east. This tower which remains incomplete was  started by Thirumalai Naicker (1623-1659) in memory of Emperor Krishna Deva Rayar of Vijayanagaram empire. Therefore it is being called Rayar Gopuram.  This mandapam is 174 (52,2 meters long and 107 feet (32.1 m) wide.

The sculpture of Nandi Mandapam:

The small mandapam housing the statue of Nandi, opposite the flag post of the temple, facting the shrine was carved out of a single rock. It was built by Kambavarayar. The sculpture at the entrance to the shrine of the lord:  At the entrance to the sanctum of the Lord are two statues of Sadasiva Moorthy and Gayathri Devi  on either side. The statues of four Saiva Saints have been carved on the pillars in that area,  There are statues of two dwarapalakars measurng 12 feet in heght near these pillars.

The sculpture at the entrance to the Sanctum of the Lord:

The sanctum sanctorum of the Lord is housed in a vimanam being held high by eight elephants. Since this was constructed by Devendran, it is also called the Indra Vimanam. Of the elephants bearing the roof of the shrine, six have been carved on the outer walls while  two are on both sides of  Chockanathar, the reigning deity.     The sanctum shrine has been so planned that in addition to the eight elephants, there are also 32 lions and the minions of Lord Shiva.

The idol at the Sanctum of Amman:

On the walls of Amman sanctum are carved 32 lions and minor deities. The carvings atop the sanctum  are excellent work of sculptural excellence. Along the first corridor of the sanctum of Amman sculptures explaning the meanings of the poems of Meenakshi Pillai Tamil.

The idol of Mukkurini Vinayagar:

The seven foot high idol of Mukkurini Vinayakar on the way to Swami sannidhi from that of  the Godess is carved out of a single rock, is unique in many ways. This idol was installed by King Thirumalai Nayakkar in the year 1645. Legend has it that this idol was found when the Mariamman Teppakulam was being dug.      Thirumalai Naicker and members of his family have been caste in metal and are housed in the Thiruvatchi of this shrine.

The sculptures of Swami temple:

Near the Kambathadi mandapam of Swami Sannidhi are sculptures of orthandavar, Badrakali, Agni Veerapathirar, Akora Veerapathirar, which  are of special significance having been carved  out of a single rock.
 A tall sculpture of Lord Ganesh carved of single stone is located outside the Sundareswarer shrine in the path from Meenakshi shrine and is called the Mukuruny Vinayakar. A large measure of rice measuring 3 kurini (a measure) is shaped into a big ball of sacrifice and hence the Ganesh is called Mukuruny Vinayakar (three kurini).This deity is believed to be found during a 17th century excavation process to dig the Mariamman temple tank. Thus the temple is full of so much wonders that you need a day to look at this wonder completely. It is so marvellous and technically builds such that; all the four “gopura vaasals” look alike and you will never be able to exit the same way you entered. Early morning and late evenings are the best time to visit this striking wonder. The timings to visit this place are between 5 am to 12.30 pm, 4 pm to 9.30 pm.

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