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meenakshi temple

The Meenakshi temple complex is dedicated to Shiva, known here as Sundareshvara and his consort Parvati or Meenakshi. The original temple was built by Kulasekara Pandya, but the entire credit for making the temple as splendid as it is today goes to the Nayaks. The Nayaks ruled Madurai from the 16th to the 18th century and left a majestic imprint of their rule in the Meenakshi - Sundareswarar Temple.

The temple complex is within a high-walled enclosure, at the core of which are the two sanctums for meenakshi and Sundareshwara, surrounded by a number of smaller shrines and grand pillared halls. Especially impressive are the 12 gopuras. Their soaring towers rise from solid granite bases, and are covered with stucco figures of dieties, mythical animals and monsters painted in vivid colours.

According to mythical lores, the presiding deity of the temple goddess Meenakshi was born of the holy yagna flames, organised by King Malaydvaja to please the supreme being and bless him with a son. The king was surprised to see a girl emerge out of the holy flames who despite being utterly beautiful in every other respect had three breasts, the unwanted one supposed to disappear when Meenakshi were to meet her future husband. Years later when Meenakshi set about on a campaign to conquer the world she was defeated by Lord Shiva's army near mount kailash. The age old prophecy was fulfilled when Meenakshi lost her unwanted breast on coming across Lord Shiva. Shiva and Meenakshi then travelled to Madurai and got married.