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Halls and sculptures are one of the features of the Meenakshi Amman temple. The many mandapams of the Meenakshi Amman temple are:
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.
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.
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.
Situated opposite the old wedding hall, this mandapam was built in 1795 by Marudhappa Servaikarar.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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