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CHAPTER-I

ORIGIN AND GENESIS OF THE MADURAI


MEENAKSHI SUNDARESWARAR TEMPLE
ORIGIN AND GENESIS OF THE MADURAI MEENAKSHI
SUNDARESWARAR TEMPLE

The Meenakshi Temple which typifies Dravidian architecture was not built

in a day.27 The temple is located in an area of approximately 14 acres and the outer

walls of the temple form a rectangle, 847 feet by 792 feet.28 Immediately within

the wall are the Adi streets and running around the temple just outside the wall are

the Chithirai streets. Outside the Chithirai streets are the Avani Mula streets and

then the Masi streets, which enclosed most of the built-up area of the city until at

least the mid-eighteenth century. The outer most Veli streets run alongside the line

of the old city’s fortified walls, which were demolished in the early nineteenth

century by the British. Hence the basic grid of the city, which is still clearly

apparent, is defined by a set of concentric squares around the great temple at the

centre, whose axis of orientation lies almost east – west. The geometry of this

scheme is further emphasized by the streets aligned with the four principal

gopuras of the temple. The lofty elegant towers of these gate ways structure

punctuate the urban skyline, dominating the life of the city.

LEGENDARY ORIGIN
The Thiruppanimalai29 begins with the traditional history of the Madurai

Temple since the time it was supposed to have been founded by Devendra, the

27
R. K. Das, Temples of Tamil Nadu, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Chanpathy, Bombay, 1964, p.
489.
28
J.P.Lasrad Shenoy, Madura: The Temple City, Madurai Publications, Madurai, 1939, p.29.
29
P. Pandithurai Thevar (ed), Thiruvalavayudayar Thiruppanimalai, Tamil Sangam, Madurai,
1929.

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king of Devas. This account is traceable from the Tiruvilaiyadal Puranam, the

local Sthalapuranam, which ascribes the origin of the temple to the efforts of

Airavata, the elephant vehicle of Indra, the king of Devas. The origin of the

Madurai Temple goes back to legendary rather than historic time. According to

tradition, Indra, the king of Devas, once committed a sin when he killed a demon

by the name of Virudhran, who was then performing penance. Indra had thus

violated one of the sacred norms of battle and this mortal sin sat heavily on his

conscience. Finding no peace of mind in his own kingdom, he came down to the

earth and bathed in many holy rivers in an effort to expiate his sin. While passing

through a forest of Kadamba trees in the Pandya land, he felt relieved of his

burden. He has informed by his men that there was a Shiva Linga under a

Kadamba tree. Convinced that it was Shiva himself who had absolved him of his

sin, he worshipped the Linga and built a small temple around it.30 It is believed

that it is this Linga which is still under worship in the Madura Temple.

Dhananjayan, a merchant of Manavoor, a village seven miles east of the

present city of Madurai and where the Pandyas were living, came across this

temple while looking for a shelter on the way of his travel. He slept for a night

near the shrine. When next morning he woke up, he was astonished to see signs of

worship. Thinking that this must be the work of the Devas, he informed the matter

to the Pandyan king Kulasekaran at Manavoor. Meanwhile Lord Shiva appeared in

the Pandya’s dream and instructed him to build a temple and a city at the spot

30
Thiruppanimalai V. 1.

17
Dhananjayan would indicate. Kulasekara obeyed the order of Lord Shiva. Thus the

temple and the city of Madurai were originated.31 One can see the sculptures of

Kulasekara and Dhananjayan in the northern corridor of the Golden Lotus Tank.

In the ultimate analysis it appears that Shiva deliberately brought Indran,

Dhananjayan and Kulasekara to the spot, so that a temple and a city may be built

there. He could therefore be called the chief architect.

After the period of Kulashekara32, Malayadhwaja Pandya was ruling from

Madurai. He married the daughter of Chola celebrity, Surasena named

Kanchanamala.33 They had no issues. He and his queen Kanchanamala performed

a sacrifice for a child. Shiva caused his divine consort Parvathi herself, to step out

from the holy fire as a little girl, with three breasts. By the time the anxious couple

could recover from their surprise,a divine voice told them that the third breast

would disappear when Lord Shiva set His eyes on her. The girl was named

Thadathakai34 and she was brought up as a princess under divine instruction.

In course of time, she, succeeded her father and ruled the land. The Pandya

kingdom flourished in all spheres under the rule of the Pandya Queen Thadathakai

and she adhered to Dharma as per manu code and respected all human beings as

her own kith and kin. She was noted for her bravery and she conquered and

established her reign in all directions extensively and hoisted her flag with fish
31
Paranjothi’s Thiruvilayadal Puranam, No. 3
32
ARE 275 of 1941-42.
33
S.V.Varadarajan, IndianTemples and Festivals at a Glance, Surya and Bros, Chennai, 2007,
p.57.
34
Paranjothi’s Thiruvilayadal Puranam,No. 4.

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emblem everywhere symbolizing her supremacy. Finally, she marched on to

Mount Kailas, the abode of Lord Shiva. When she saw him her third breast

disappeared. The Lord told her to return to Madurai and promised her to marry on

the eighth day. On the appointed day with great pomp and pleasure, with Rishis

and Devas in attendance, the divine marriage was celebrated in Madurai.35 This is

a theme much beloved of Madurai artists. There is a superb sculpture of this in the

temple36. Under the name of Sundara Pandya, Lord Shiva ruled the country. After

some time crowning Lord Muruga, their son, who was named as Ugra Pandya,

Sundara Pandya and Thadathagai went into the temple and assumed divine forms

as Lord Somasundara and Devi Meenakshi respectively. The Lord however

appeared on earth time to time to perform various Thiruvilayadals(divine sports).

The temple and the city are steeped in the tradition and stories woven these

manifestations.37

EVOLUTION OF THE MADURAI TEMPLE

The early temples are said to be made of perishable materials like bamboo
38
or wood. Since stone was not used for temple building until the reign of

Pallavas, it may be assumed that the temple was made of wood at first and

subsequently it might have been made of burnt brick.39 They were simple and

35
Ibid
36
Tho.Mu. Baskara Thondaiman, Madurai Meenakshi, Kalaignan Pathipagam, Chennai, 1999,
p.15.
37
K.Thiagarajan, Op.cit, p.10.
38
Stella Kramrisch, The Hindu Temple, Delhi, 1976, p.15.
39
K.Rajayyan, History of Madurai, Madurai University Publication, Madurai, 1974, p.184.

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single-celled structure with a small verandah like mandapa in the front. The small

shrines in times were expanded by the additions of praharas enclosed in

concentric rings of larger walls. Gateways developed into monumental rectangular

pyramids with hundreds of feet of brick super structures called gopuras and their

outer surface covered up by stucco figures of Gods and other religious minor

deities.

Early Period

While the temple originated in times to which no date can be assigned, the

greater part of the temple with the exception of the innermost shrines of

Meenakshi and Sundareswarar is believed to have been built between the twelfth

and eighteenth centuries.40 The massive outer walls of the temple form a rectangle,

covering an area of about 14 acres. There is little doubt that the temple stands on

the same site as it did in the earliest Pandya times.41 It is said that it took 120 years

to complete the temple. The temple is carved with plaster figures alone number

over 33 millions. The total cost of construction is about 12 million rupees.42

The earliest literary reference to the Meenakshi templeoccurs in the

Maduraikkanchi43, a sangam work written by Mankudi Marutanar, dated to 1-2

century A.D.In the 7th century A.D Thiru Gnanasambandar, who visited the

40
Robert Sewel, List of Inscriptions and Sketch of the dynasties of Southern India,
Archaeological Survey of Southern India, Vol II, Madras, 1971, p.19.
41
P.K.Nambiar and K.C.Narayana Kurup, Census of India 1961, Vol IX, Temples of
MadrasState, Madras, 1969, p.131.
42
Ibid.
43
Maduraikkanchi, ll. 331-669

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Madurai temple, sang many hymns in praise of Lord Shiva as Alavai Iraivan and

Thiru AlavaiChokkan and His consort as Ankayarkanni and the temple wall was

referred as ‘KapaliMadil’. The present inner walls of the Lord’s Shrine bear this

name today. Gnanasambar visited the temple during the time of Maravarman

Arikesari (640 – 670 AD).44 The temple in the 7th Century AD was a single celled

santum with shrine of Alavai Iraivan and a compound wall. In the early times the

entire temple must have been confined to the area between these walls. Kumara

Kurubarar also mentions the God as Alavai Annal and the Goddess as Angayar

Kanni Ammai.45

Paripadal Thirattu, another literary work compares the Madurai city to a

lotus flower. It depicts the temple as the central part of a lotus flower (nucleus), its

petals as streets, pollens as the citizens.46 Kalladam, a 9th Century AD literature

also refers to the temple as well as the thirty Leelas (divine sports) of Lord

Shiva.47 This work is said to have been a translation of a Sanskrit work namely

‘Sarasa Machchaya’.48

44
T.V.SataShiva Pandarathar, Pantiyar Varalaru, South Indian Saiva Siddhanta Works
Publishing Society, Chennai, 1966, p.38.
45
P.Arangasami, Adhi Kumaragurubarar (Kurung Kappiam), Lalkudi, 2003, p.35.
46
P.V.Somasundaranar, Paripadal Thirattu, Thirunelveli, Thenninthiya Saivasidhantha
Noorpathipu kazhakam Ltd., Chennai, 1975, p.407.
47
T. V. Sadasiva Pandarathar, Kalladam, Senthamil, Vol IV, Madurai Tamil Sangam,
Madurai, 1916, p.113.
48
C.Santhalingam, A peep into the Meenakshi Temple, Arulmigu Meenakshi SundARE swarar
Thirukkoil Kumbabishekam Souvenir, Madurai, 2009, p.364.

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Twelth Century

Thirupanimalai, Thirupani Vivaram and Srithalam give a detailed account

of the kings and devotees who carried out the works in different parts of the

temple in different periods. The second Pandyan kings ruled Madurai from 1190

to 1313 AD.49 Pandya king Jatavarman Kulasekara50 (1190-1216 AD) built a great

temple for Lord Shiva, a Suyambulingam, once worshipped by Indra, king of

God.51 The earliest buildings in the temple which exist to this date, including a

three storied gopura at the entrance of Lord Sundareswarar Shrine and the central

portion of the Goddess Meenakshi Shrine were constructed by Kulasekara Pandya.

He is also said to have built temples to guardian deities to the North, South, East

and West of the city. These were the Ayyanar koil(temple) in the East, Vinayagar

Koil in the South, Kariamalperumal Koil in the West and Kali Koil in the North.

He also erected the parivara deities like Surya, the shrine of Natarajar and

Sandeswara and a Mahamandapam. Kulasekara Pandya was also a poet and he

composed a poem on Meenakshi named Ambikai Malai.52 Towards the later part

of his reign (1205 A. D.) Kulasekhara Pandya was defeated by Kulothunga III53

who then performed Virabhishekam and Vijayabhishekam in Madurai city54

49
Mrs.T.Thiyagarajan, Pandiyar Varalaru, Madurai Tamil Sangam Ponvizha Malar, Madurai,
1956, p.348.
50
ARE 275 of 1941-42.
51
W.Francis, Madura District Gazetteer, Cosmo Publications, New Delhi, 2000, p.35.
52
S. R. Suppiramania Kavirayar (ed), Ambikai Malai by Kulasekara Pandya, Madurai Tamil
Sangam, Madurai, 1934, p. 13.
53
IPS163, 166
54
IPS 169, 176

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Thirteenth Century

The next builder to leave an indelible impression on the Madurai temple

was the great monarch Maravarman Sundara Pandyan55. He ascended the throne in

1216 AD.56 He defeated Kulotunga III, the Cola ruler in 1219 AD. 57 In his 15th

year of rule he constructed a gopurain the name of Avanivendaraman58 and that

gopura is named as Sundara Pandya Thirukkopuram.59 This was the earliest of the

gopuras constructed in the Madurai temple.60 The gopura was started by

Maravarman Sundara Pandyan I and completed by Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan

(1251-1268AD). In the temple Maravarman Sundara Pandyan II (1238-51AD)

enlarged the Swami Koil (god’s shrine) by adding the outer corridor around which

he built the wall now known as the ‘Sundara Maran Mathil’. He built the other

walls of the Amman temple and built the Sannadhi Mandapam known as Sundara

Pandyan Mandapam. He also built a seven tiered gopura (Chitra gopuram), a

mandapafor Atiraveesi Aaduvar61 and completely renovated the temple. Chitra

gopuram is the only seven tiered gopurain the temple. It is also known as

‘Muttalakkum Vayil’. A three tired gopura in the Amman Shrine, (on the way to

Amman shrine from Kilikuttu Mandapam) was constructed by Vembaturar

Ananda Thandava Nambi in 1227AD. So it is also called as ‘Vembathurar


55
ARE 60, 61 of 1905.
56
Epigraphia Indica, Vol. VIII, p.24.
57
SII, Vol XXIII. No. 124
58
ARE 285 of 1941-42
59
ARE 286 of 1941-42
60
S.Krihnasamy Ayyangar, South India and Her Mohammadan Invaders, Asian Educational
Services, New Delhi, 1921, p.99.
61
ARE 187 of 1941-42

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Gopuram’.62 He was a descendant of Perumbatra Puliyur Nambi who wrote the

Thiruvalavayudayar Thiruvilayadal Puranam. The work mentioned above was

released in the court of Varathunga Rama Pandyan in Karivalamvanthanallur. The

king gave the author many gifts including the area in which he lived which was

known as Selli Nadu. They were thus a wealthy family. The building of the

Vembathurar Gopuram is ascribed by some to Ananda Thandava Nambi, and by

others to his wife.

Fourteenth Century

During the fourteenth Century the Melai Gopuram63 (West Gopuram) in

Adi Street was constructed by Parakrama Pandya (1323AD).64 The five tiered

eastern tower at Lord Sundareswarar Shrine was built by Vasuvappan in

1372AD.65 The five tiered western tower of the Shrine is said to have been built by

one Mallappan in 1374 AD.66

The old temple was razed to the ground in 1311AD during the Malik

Kafur’s invasion. The outer wall with 14 towers was pulled down and the temple

was closed for forty eight years.67 Only the two shrines of Lord Sundareswarar and

Goddess Meenakshi survived, but the buildings which immediately surrounded

62
V.Kandasami, Madurai Varalarum Panpadum, Indira Pathipagam, Madurai, 1981, p.122.
63
Thiruppani malai, V. 12.
64
Thiruppani vivaram, No.6
65
Thiruppani malai, V. 14.
66
Thiruppani vivaram, No. 8.
67
T.R.SARE en and S.R.Bakshi (ed), Temples of India, Anmol Publications, New Delhi,
1993, p.159.

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them were collapsed along with arts and sculptures.68 After the fall of Madurai

Sultanate in 1365 AD to Kumara Kampana Udayar, the Vijayanagar King, most

parts of TamilNadu came under Kumara Kampana in 1366 AD.69 Then he came

with a large army to Madurai in 1372 AD and defeated Ala-ud-din Sikkandar Shah

and captured Madurai and annexed it as a part of Vijayanagar Empire. His aim

was not only to annex the Southern parts with the empire but also to renovate the

temples at Srirangam, Chidambaram, Kannanur and Madurai which were

destroyed by the Muslim invasion. He made arrangements for the regular pujas in

these temple70 and people were allowed to worship. In view of the fact that the city

was under Muslim rule until 1373, when Kumara kampana drove away the

invaders, it is difficult to conceive of this having been built on the date assigned.

However it is generally agreed that architecturally it belongs to this period. It is

therefore quite possible that it was built soon after Kampana’s victory over the

Muslims.71 According to Thirupanimalai Kampana rebuilt the compound wall,

brought back the idols, which were hidden in Nanjil Nadu during the Muslim

invasion and donated jewels. He also gave some villages for performing the daily

pujas in the temple. ‘Mathura Vijayam’ written by his wife Gangadevi mentions

about the invasion of his husband to Madurai.

68
S.Clement, Main Currents of Vijayanagar History, Madurai, 1974, p.28.
69
ARE 243 of 1919 and ARE of 693 of 1904.
70
S.Krishnaswami Aiyangar (ed) Robert Sewell’s, Historical Inscriptions of South India,
Madras 1982, p.198.ARE 18 of 1899 & 55 of 1892.
71
N.R.Subramaniya Sharma,A Short History of the Pandyan Kingdom under Nayak Rulers,
Madurai, Pari Nilayam, Madras, 1965, p.217.

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Fifteenth Century

The Vanathirayas, who ruled Madurai under the supremacy of the Chola

kingdom, took great interest in the expansion of the Madurai temple. They were

ministers to the Pandyans and lived in Azhagar Koil. They continued as petty

chieftains with Manamadurai as capital. Thirumalirunjcholai Mavali Vanatirayar

who was crowned king at Madurai by Lakana Nayakar72 took great interest in the

expansion of Madurai temple. He renovated a Mahamandapa which was

constructed during the time of Kulasekara Pandya. He also renovated the Sanctum

of the Meenakshi Shrine, constructed the Palliarai (bed chamber) and the first

prakara compound wall in 1452A.D.73

The six pillared entrance, which is in front of the Mahamandapa of

Sundareswarar Shrine and the Urchava Nayanar Mandapa were renovated by

Sundaratoludaiya Mavali Vanathirayar who ruled next to the Thirumalirunjcholai

Mavali Vanathirayar.74 One Arulalan Sevahadevan Vanathirayan seems to have

constructed the Nataraja Shrine and circumambulatory passage surrounding the

Thiruvalavaudaiyar Shrine.75

72
Thiruppani malai, V. 20.
73
S.KumARE sa Moorthy, Thalavaralaru- Arulmigu Meenakshi SundARE swarar
Thirukkoil, Madurai, 2009, p.63.
74
V.Vedhachalam, Pandiya Nattil Vanathirayar, Tholporul Thozhilnutpa Paniyalar Panpattu
Kazhakam Madurai, 1987, pp.120, 121.
75
Ibid.

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Sixteenth Century

In the inscriptions of the Vijayanagara- period, this temple is referred to as

Chokkanata Swamy Kovil.76Angayarkanni is also mentioned in the inscriptions as

Meenakshi Amman.77 Krishna devarya (1509-1529A.D) visited and worshipped

many temples in the south. He donated gold to the Madurai Temple. The Nayak

rulers renovated, expanded and enlarged this temple into a spacious complex. A

tank Ezhukadal (seven seas) was dug by Saluvanarasana Nayaka, an officer of

Krishna devaraya, to the east of Pudumandapam, in 1516AD. He named it

Saptasaharam.78

The Vijaya Nagar kings appointed the viceroys at Madurai. During the

viceroyalty of the Vijayanagar period the Madurai Temple was expanded in many

ways. Chinnappa Nayakkar constructed the100 pillared Mandapaor Mandapa

Nayaka Mandapam in 1526A.D.79This mandapa is situated in the north east corner

of the second prakara with 6 feet platform. The idol of Lord Natarajar has been

installed here. He also opened up a passage in the walls between Meenakshi

Shrine and Sundareswarar Shrine.80 He ruled Madurai from 1526- 1530 as the

representative of the Vijayanagar Empire.

76
ARE 287 of 1941 -42
77
A.Singaravel, Thamizhahathil Vijaya Nagar Atchi (1336-1530 AD), Saraswathi Mahal
Library, Thanjavur, 2007, p.66.
78
ARE 161 of 1937-38
79
Thiruppani Vivaram No.9.
80
ThiruppanimalaiV.37.

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During the viceroyalty of Veyyappa Nayakkar (1528- 1532) the Gopura

NayakaGopuram was built in the Sundareswarar’s second prakaraby his brother

Visvappa Nayakkar. The Palahai Gopuram in Sundareswarar’s shrine was built

by Mallappan (1529-42AD). The date of both Gopura Nayaka Gopuram and

Palahai Gopuram was given in Thiruppani Vivram as 1374, but it is seen from a

foundation inscription that the gopura was built in 1530. So it is likely that

Palahai Gopuram also is datable to 1530 because of the similarity in style.81

Tumpichi Nayakkar, who was a loyal subordinate of Achyuta Deva Rayar

(1529-42AD), constructed the Kadaka Gopuram in Meenakshi’s shrine. The date

of the construction of Kadaka Gopuram and the South West Mandapa in Adi

Street were given respectively as 1570 and 1578 in Thirupani Vivaram. In the

former case the name is referred to as Tumpichi and in the latter as Veera

Thumpichi. It would be more appropriate to attribute these two works to this

illustrious viceroy of Achyuta Deva Rayar.82 There was of course no inscriptional

evidence presently found in the Madurai Temple, but at Keelakkarai an inscription

refers to this viceroy.83 This five tiered Kadaka Gopuram was closed upto 1963

AD by constructing a wall and it was opened during the renovation of 1960-63 by

removing the wall after the construction of new doors.

81
A.V.Jayechandrun, Madurai Temple Complex, Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai, 1985,
p.169
82
Ibid.
83
ARE 98 of 1907

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The Nayak rulers governed the region of Madurai for about 200 years. In

the early part of the 16th Century the Nayak dynasty began its rule at Madurai.

Like the Pandyas, the Nayaks too had their share of wars with neighbouring kings

and others, but it was due to them the temple building received an impetus during

this period.

Viswanatha Nayak, the founder of Nayak dynasty of Madurai laid down the

general plan of the temple in 1560 AD84 and the construction of the outermost

walls were started during his reign. He gilded the vimana of Lord Sundareswarar

Shrine with gold and donated ornaments. He also donated some villages to the

temple.85 During the reign of Viswanatha Nayak number of persons did extensive

renovation works at the temple. In 1559 the nine tiered South gopura was built by

Siramalai Sevvanthimurti Chetti (Siramalai is the place near the present

Thiruchirapalli). He belonged to the Saiva Vellala community and hailed from

Thiruchirappalli. He was a large land owner and a Tamil scholar. His father was

Managaran Chettiar. And his sons Sevvanthi Velappa Chetty and Thiruvambala

Chetty also did thiruppanis to the temple. This is the highest of the four outer

gopuras with 160 feet.86 As it has numerous sculptures of puranic events, it is also

called as Puranic sculptured tower. He also built the five tiered gopuram in the

entrance of Mukkuruni Vinayakar. This is also called as Nadukkattu Gopuram.

This tower is built between the shrines of Meenakshi and Sundareswarar and so it

84
Kanmadi Marathe, Temples of India, circles of stone, New Delhi, 1998, p.110.
85
Thiruppani malai V.49, p.14.
86
S.KumARE sa Moorthy, Op.cit, p.46.

29
is called as Nadukattu or Idaikattu gopuram. He covered the Vimana of

Sundareswara Shrine and Meenakshi Shrine with thirty two pots of gold. He

renovated the Thiruvilayadal Mandapam at Pittuthoppu which was built to

commemorate the legend ‘Pittukku Mansumanta Leelai’. He and his sons were

responsible for a number of renovation works at the temple. Chevanthi

Velappachetti, his son built the Idabhakkuri gopuram in 1560 AD.87 This five

storyed tower is in the North Adi Street. Fish is the symbol of the Pandyas. But in

the entrance of this gopura a symbol of bull (Idabham) is inscribed. There is a

story behind this. A Chola king, who heard about the miracles performed by Lord

Shiva, wanted to worship the Madurai Somasundara Perumal. As the Pandyas

were his enemies, he was worried how to go to the Pandyan Kingdom. Lord

Sundareswarar appeared in his dream to go indisguise at night and worship the

Lord. The God came as a siddhar (saint) and helped him to open the door of the

north gate. The Chola king worshipped the God and returned his country. Lord

Shiva closed the north door and inscribed his insignia of Idabham (bull) on it. The

next day the Pandya king surprised seeing the change of symbol. But the God

explained in his dream about the incident. Thus the gopura got the name

Idabhakkuri gopuram. As this gopura is near the north mottai gopuram, this is

also called as Chinnamottai gopuram.88

87
Thiruppani Vivaram, No. 11.
88
K.Chinnappa, Alavai Kopurangalum Ariya Thagavalkalum, Meenakshi SundARE swarar
Thirukovil Kumbabhishekam Souvenir, Madurai, 2009, pp 197, 198.

30
On the same year 1562, the Dvarapala mandapam in front of the Swami

Shrine’s Sannadhi gopuram and the North colonnade of the Golden Lotus Tank

were built by Chettiappa Nayakkar.89Unjal (Swing) Mandapam is a small six

pillared mandapa, constructed by Thiruvambalachetti, the eldest son of Cheventhi

Murthi Chetti in 1562 AD. Every Friday the urchava idols of Meenakshi and

Sundareswarar are kept on the swing which is placed in this mandapa and they are

swung. This mandapa was fixed with mirrors in 1985 and opened by Rama

Veerappan the then minister of Hindu Religious Endowment department. Near this

mandapa the model of the Meenkshi temple is kept.90 Opposite to this mandapa

there is a small mandapatowards the golden lotus tank. It was built by Chettiappa

Nayakkar in 1563 AD.91 He also built the second prahara of the Amman shrine

and the corridor mandapa.

Chellappen Manikkam, a lady of the palace, constructed Vanniyadi

NatarajarMandapam and Annakkuli Mandapam in 1563 AD.92 Kallur Chevanthi

built Chevvanthiswarar temple on the western side of the Golden Lotus tank in

1564 AD. Thimmaravuthar built a mandapa to the south west of Ezhukadal in the

same year.

During the time of Krishnappa Nayakkar (1564-72 AD), a number of

construction works had been taken place. He installed the flag staff of the Swami

89
Thiruppani vivaram No.13.
90
Temple visit, 07.01. 2010.
91
S. KumARE sa Moorthy, Op.cit, p.58.
92
ThiruppanimalaiV.15.

31
shrine and covered with gold plate to the flag staff of Amman shrine which was

installed by Mallappan. The corridor mandapa of the Swami temple’s second

prahara, Seveechuram Thirumadaipalli, Murthiyamman mandapam and north and

west mandapam in the second prahara of the Amman shrine were all constructed

by him. He constructed Nalvar (Four persons) kovil in the south east corner of the

second prahara of Swami Shrine. This contains the idols of mangaiyarkarasiyar,

Kulachiraiyar, Sundarar and Manikkavasakar. He also constructed the Nandhi

mandapam in 1564 AD, which is in-between the sculptured pillars of the

Kambathadi mandapam. In the centre of this mandapa there is an altar and a flag

staff also. In 1877 AD the Nagarathar community renovated this mandapa and

erected new pillars around the Nandi mandapam.

The Kambathadi mandapam is known for sculptures with beautiful

carvings. Lord Shiva in his different forms is represented on each of the eight

black stone pillars around the Nandi mandapam. The sculptures include those of

Ardanareeswarar (half image of masculine and the other half feminine),

Dakshinamurthy, Rudrar,Bikshadanar, LinGodhbhavar, Ekapathamurthy,

Rishabaroodar, Somaskandar, Chandrasekarar, Natarajar and Somasundarar.

According to the Dalavay Agraharam plates93, the Vellankudi plates94, the

Padmaneri grant95 and an inscription dated 1584 AD96 on one of the pillars of this

93
E.I. Vol. XII, p. 159 fl
94
E.I. Vol XVI, p. 298 ff
95
E.I. Vol XVI, p. 287 ff
96
ARE 35 of 1908.

32
mandapa, the Kambathadi mandapam was built by Krishna Virappa Nayakkar

(1572- 1595A.D).

Krishnappa Nayakkar constructed the North Raya gopuram or Mottai

gopuram. Like other gopuras this does not have lot of stucco images. It was

started by Krishnappa Nayakkar but later on completed by Vayinagaram Chettiyar

in 1878 AD. It is also called as Mottai gopuram (literally bald) for two reasons. 1.

Compared to other gopuras, it has less number of stucco images (only 404 images)

2. This tower used to consist only of the brick and stone work storey for a long

period.

In the western side of this gopura there is a shrine for Muniyandi, the local

guardian deity. There are musical stone pillars on the both side of the Northern

tower, each give different sounds when it is beaten by iron rod.

Another contribution of Krishnappa Nayakkar to the temple is the Velliambalam

(Silvar Hall). The Nataraja shrine in the temple is known as Velliambalam and

there are many sculptural representations in it. This Sabha is one of the five

Sabhas where Lord Nataraja is believed to have performed the cosmic dance. 97 All

the five Sabhas are situated in the Madurai temple complex itself. Kanaka Sabha

and Rathna Sabha in the first prahara, Rajata Sabha in Velliambalam, Deva
97
Five divine sabhas.
a) Ponnambalam (Gold) - Chidambaram
b) Velliambalam (Silver) - Madurai
c) Thamira Sabha (Copper) - Thirunelveli
d) Chithira Sabha (Picture) - Thirucoutrallam
e) Rathna Sabha (Ruby) - Thiruvalankadu

33
Sabha in the Hundred Pillared Mandapam and Chitra Sabha in the Thousand

Pillared Mandapam.98

Lord Shiva is the God of dance, who performed different dances. The Agamas

speak of seven dancing postures of Shiva. When he dances with Goddess Kali it is

called as Oorvathandavam, as a destroyer he dances Rudhrathandavam and the

pose found here is known as Ananda Thandavam (dance of bliss). The Lord is

seen in a rare dancing pose with lifting His right leg. Usually Nataraja is depicted

as dancing with His left leg raised. It is believed that in Madurai, He did so for the

sake of His devotee, King Rajasekara Pandya. Thirugnanasambandar who visited

Madurai in 7thCentury AD mentions about the dance of Lord Natarajar in his

hymns. So there would have been a Natarajar Shrine during the Pandya Period

itself and renovated during the Nayak Period. This Velliambalam was completely

covered by silver plates of 1401 kg during the renovation of 2009.

During the time of Krishnappa Nayakkar, Thittiyappa Chetti, son of

Perumal constructed a mandapa in the second prahara (south side) of Amman

shrine in 1565 AD.99 During the Navarathri festival Goddess Meenakshi is

decorated in different forms for all the 9 nights and kept in this mandapam. So it is

also called as Golu Mandapam. Another family that made a substantial

contribution was that of the famous Dalavai Ariyanatha Mutaliyar, who came with

the first Nayak king Viswanatha Nayak and served under three succeeding Nayaks

98
S.Meiyappan, Madurai Meenatchi, Manivasakar Pathipagam, Chennai, 2009, p.48.
99
K.Karuppiah, Varalatru Parvayil Madurai, J.J.Publications, Madurai, 2006, p.99.

34
as minister until his death in 1601. His contribution to the temple was the famous

thousand pillared mandapa.100 This mandapa is one of the highlights of the

temple. It is now a great museum of rarest sculptures. A magnificent Nataraja

stands at the farthest end of the museum.101 The arrangement of the pillars

numbering 985, the space for the remaining 15 pillars are occupied by two shrines

is a treat to the eyes from any angle. At the entrance of the mandapastands the

equestrian statue of its builder. On either side are the statue of Kannappar,

Bikshadanar, Chandramathi, Kuravan and Kurathi. A Chakram (wheel) is there on

the ceiling which denotes the 60 Tamil years. This museum is attracting a large

body of visitors nearly 5,000 in number daily.102

Ariyanatha Mutaliyar also contructed a mandapafor 63 Nayanmars in the

second prahara south side of God’stemple, a mandapafor Amman in East Masi

Street, Arachalai mandapam and murugan shrine at Vanniyadi.103 Kalattiyapppa

Mudaliyar and his son constructed a seven storied Chitra gopuram in 1569 AD.104

This is the tallest of those of the Amman shrinegopuras with the height of 117

feet. The Chitra gopura, its name amply justified by its exquisite sculptures – 730

in number, stands over the entrance from the Meenakshi Naicker mandapam into

100
Taylor, Oriental Historical Manuscripts V.II, Madras, 1835, p.116.
101
P.N.Chopra, Prabha Chopra, The Encyclopaedia of Indian Culture, Reliance Publishing
House New Delhi, 2003, p.228.
102
J.V.Burlsen, Nayaker Kingdom in Madurai, Bright Publications, Bombay, 1973, p.324.
103
ThiruppanimalaiV.50, p.14, Thiruppani Vivaram No.23, p.16.
104
Thiruppani Vivaram No.24, p.16

35
the shrine complex of the Goddess. It could have been the original entrance into

the sanctum.105 He also constructed Kalatiswaram and Hariswaram shrine.

Veerappa Nayakkar had constructed a Karkuradu (stone steps) in the

sundareswarar sanctum, erected doors for the gopura of Sundareswarar shrine,

paved the floors of Natarajar’s Velliambalam and Meenakshi temple and provided

steps for palliarai and south gopura, and constructed Chokkanathar mandapam.

One of the doors now is preserved at the temple art museum inside the temple. He

made a Kavacha for Amman and Thulabaram and Ashwamedha yaga was

performed.106

During his reign Kuppaiyandi constructed cloistered mandapato the east of

the Golden Lotus Tank in 1573 AD. Kallur Chinna Chevvandi built

Chevvanteesura SutruMatil and Sannadhi mandapam in 1574 AD. Appan Pillai

constructed the Viswanathar shrine in south west of Golden Lotus tank and

cloistered mandapa to the south of the Tank in 1578 AD. Thirunokkazhahiyar

constructed a tall compound wall in the Adi Street in 1584 AD. Viruppannan built

the Thirunan mandapam in the second prahara of the Sundareswarar shrine in

1588 AD.

Veerappa Nayakkar had three sons namely Kumara Krishnappar,

Visuvappar and Kasthuri Rengappar. Kumara Krishnappar or Lingama Nayakkar

105
Vasanthi Srivinasan, The Holy Shrines of India, Mahadev Sathsangam, Chennai, 1998, p.41.
106
S.Krishna Moorthy, Tamil Nattu Cheppedukal, V.II, Meiyappan Tamizhaivaham,
Chidambaram, 2002, p.50.

36
the eldest son came to the power after his father in 1595 AD.107 He renovated the

granite structure in the Chitra gopuram, which was renovated with masonary work

during Krishnappa Nayakkar I. In the second prahara of Amman shrine there is a

shrine for Lord Murugan in the North West cornor facing eastern side. Arunagiri

Nathar’s Thirupugal hymns are inscribed on the walls. This Kudal Kumaran

temple (Lord Murugan) was constructed by Krishnappa Nayakkar II.

Seventeenth Century

Muthu Krishnappa Nayakkar (1601-09 AD), son of Visuvappa came to the

power after Kumara Krishnappar II. Muthu Krishnappar had three sons – Muthu

Veerappa Nayakkar, Thirumalai Nayakkar and Kumara Muthu.108 After his father,

Muthu Veerappa Nayakkar I came to the power. Veera Vasanta mandapam south

of Thousand Pillar mandapam was his contribution (1611 AD).109 It consists of 46

pillars. There is a Nandhi facing the Sundareswara Sanctum. If there is drought in

the country, water will be filled in the stone tub surrounding this Nandhi and

special pujas and rituals are performed for rain. There is a way in the south which

leads to Meenakshi Nayak mandapam. In between, there are Mangaiyarkarasi

mandapam, Servaikarar mandapam and Thirukalyana mandapam. Katanthai

Mudhaliyar constructed the Mudhalipillai mandapam in Meenakshi shrine in 1613

AD. This mandapa leads to the Chitra mandapam which surrounds the Golden

107
A.K.Parantamanar, Madurai Nayakkar Varalaru, Pari Nilayam, Chennai, 2004, p.104.
108
Ibidp.116
109
ThiruppanimalaiV.62, p.17.

37
Lotus Tank. Paintings depicting the 64 divine sports of Lord Shiva were painted

once on the walls of this mandapa. But due to natural reasons these paintings were

withered out leaving mere traces.

Abhisheka Pandaram (It was a post introduced by Vishwanatha Nayak for

the administration of the temple and appointed a person for that post. All the

persons were called as Abhisheka Pandaram in the name of the post itself. During

the time of Thirumalai Nayak the post was removed and he took over the temple

administration himself.) who was looking after the administration of the temple

during Muthu Veerappa Nayakkar constructed the Kilikoondu (Parrot cage)

mandapam in 1623 AD.110 Parrots in cages here had been trained to utter the

name of Meenakshi. Though the cages were removed still it is called as

Kilikoondu mandapam. This mandapa is also called as Sangili mandapam. During

the festival days girls performed a dance called Kolattam (stick dance). They

danced by catching long ropes hanging from top and made chains and thus it is

called as Sangili mandapam. In this mandapa there are 28 pillars which contain

beautiful sculptures. The sculptures of Pancha Pandavas, Vaali, Sugreeva and

Draupadi are marvelous pieces of art. Yali is engraved in another pillar. (A

fabulous animal like a lion with an elephant’s proboscis possibly the mammoth) A

stone ball revolves in its mouth. This is an admirable creation.

110
Ambai L.Manivannan, Madurai Meenakshi SundARE swarar Koil Amaipum, Sirappum,
J.JPublications, Madurai, 2003, p.37.

38
The temple itself certainly owes all its magnificence to Thirumalai Nayak

(1623-1659).111 He was a great builder. He erected Dwarapalaka Statues infront of

the Meenakshi Amman Shrine and of the Chokkanatha Shrine. Altars and

Dvajasthambas (Flag Staff) were erected during his period in front of those

shrines. The Dvajasthambas were covered with gold.112 The dilapidated walls of

the Meenakshi temple were repaired by him. In May 1628, he began renovating

the temple. He did extensive repairs with the stone and brick masonry.113

The Pudumandapam (new mandapa)also known as Vasantha mandapam

was constructed by him in front of the eastern tower. The work was started in 1628

AD and completed in 1635AD. This mandapa measures 333 feet length 105 feet

breadth and 25 feet height. The Pudumandapam contains 124 enormous pillars

and each carries remarkable sculptures.114 It is a paradise of sculptures. On the

granite pedestal at the centre of the hall, the deities are placed during festivals.115

Wonderful stone images of Thadathagai, Meenakshi’s wedding, Ravana lifting

mount Kailas and the stone elephant eating sugarcane decorate this Mandapam.

The images of Kali, Nataraja, Eka Pada Murthy, Sun and Moon also decorate this

mandapam116 He got the land for the construction of this mandapa from the

111
James Fergusson, History of Indian and Eastern Architecture, Vol.I, Munshiram
Manoharlal, New Delhi, 1972, p.392.
112
J.Thiyagarajan, Socio-Cultural History of India, Prabha Publications, Madurai, 2003
p.p.202, 203.
113
Thiruppanimalai, VV. 79-86.
114
N.S.Ramaswami, Madurai Minakshi Sympnony in stone, Mirror publications, Madras, 1977
p.53.
115
N.S.Ramaswami, Op.cit, p.150.
116
K.Rajaram, History of Thirumalai Nayak, Ennes publications, Madurai, 1982, p.59.

39
temple Bhattar (priest) families and in turn built houses for them in the northern

side of the North gopura. There are life size statues of ten Nayak rulers from

Viswanatha to Thirumala, whose statue is the best among them. The sculptor of

the mandapa was Sumandhra Moorthy Achary. Now this mandapa is occupied by

various shops, which hide the beauty of the sculptures.

To the east of this mandapais the Rayagopuram, which was also begun by

Thirumalai Nayak. The foundation is so deep that it was obviously meant to be of

tremendous height. The gopura remains incomplete. Had Thirumalai Nayak lived

to complete it, it would probably have been the finest edifice of its class in

Southern India.117 The base of this gopura measures 174 feet by 107 feet and the

entrance is nearly 22 feet wide. The tall slender door-posts, sixty feet in height,

consist of single blocks of granite covered with the most exquisitely carved

designs of foliage. Local tradition has it that one of these pillars had cracked and

the whole ambitious project was therefore abandoned. It was called the ‘Raya

Gopuram’ as it was built in honour of the Raya or Emperor of Vijayanagar, who

was the OverLord of the Nayak kings of Madurai.118

When he started his rule in Madurai, Thirumalai Nayak’s first costruction

work was the digging of a Theppakulam (tank). It is to the east of Madurai, near

the Marriayamman Temple. As it is near the place Vandiyur it is also called as

Vandiyur Mariyamman Theppakulam. There is a beautiful mandapa in the centre

117
James Fergusson, Op.cit, p.390.
118
J.P.Lasrad Shenoy, Op.cit, p.87.

40
of this tank. This maiya mandapam contains a mandapa in the centre with a

vimana and four mandapas also with vimana in the four corners of the maiya

mandapam which is a natural scenic beauty with lot of trees. This tank measures

1000 feet length from North -South and 950 feet breadth from East- West and 91/2

lakhs sq.feet area. It has a stone compound wall with four feet height and contains

12 steps of having 3 steps in each side. There was a provision to bring water

through a channel from the Vaigai River to fill this tank. He completed this work

in 1635AD. While digging the tank, a big size Vinayaka’s idol with 6 feet height

and 4 feet breadth was found there and it was installed at the entrance to the

second prahara of Sundareswara shrine by Kantappa Pettu Chetti.119 This

Vinayakar is called as ‘Mukkurini Pillaiyar’.120

During the reign of Thirumalai Nayak, Rudrapathi Ammal and Tholi

Ammal the two wives of Thirumalai Nayak built the Ashta (eight) Sakthi

Mandapam.121 Eight different forms of Sakthis (feminine power) were personified

as stone sculptures in this mandapam. They are Koumari, Roudri, Vaishnavi,

Mahalakshmi, Yagnarupini, Shyamala, Maheswari and Manonmani. The images

of the four principal Nayanmars were added during the renovation of the temple in

1960-63. This mandapa is an impressive structure with a hemispherical ceiling. It

is 14 m long and 5.5 m wide. There are bas reliefs all over the place. Over the

119
Thiruppanimalai, V. 88.
120
Temple visit on 07.01.2010, (Board kept near the Mukkuruni Vinayagar Shrine).
121
V.Viridhagirisan, The Nayaks of Tamil Nadu, Annamalai University Historical series No.3,
Chidambaram, 1942, p.124.

41
entrance, one of them depicts the marriage of Goddess Meenakshi with Lord

Somasundara.122 Scenes from Thiruvilayadal puranam of saintParanjothi, on the

Lord’s miracles are painted on the walls. An interesting story is told of what an

artist did in 1923, when adding some paintings there; he included a figure of

Mahatma Gandhi. The British authorities ordered that it to be removed. What the

artist did was to add to the lasting oil painting long locks of hair in water colour so

that a sage resulted. But shortly after the locks of hair disappeared Gandhiji re-

emerged.

It is worthy to mention that one of the temple employees, Mrs.Pechiakkal

built the mandapawest of the Veeravasantarayar mandapam which bears her

name.123 Ramappa Nayakkar the Talavoy of Thirumalai Nayakkar constructed a

Vasantha mandapa on the western side of Portramaraikulam. An Abisheka

Pandaram, who was removed from the office of temple administration, constructed

the second prahara mandapa in the God’sshrine.

Next to Thirumalai Nayak, his son Muthu Veerappa Nayakkar II (1659AD)

came to the power but he ruled only for four months and died in the same year.

Next to him his eldest son Chokkanatha Nayakkar came to the power. 124 He

shifted his capital from Madurai to Tiruchirapalli in 1665AD.125 Muttalakatri,

122
Vasanti Srinivasan, Op.cit, p.40.
123
Steon Burton, South Indian Temples, Vikas Publications House, New Delhi, 1969, p.404.
124
A.K.Parantamanar, Op.cit, p.213.
125
Ibid, p.227.

42
brother of Chokkanatha Nayakkar built a Visvanatha temple and installed in it

Vinayakar, Kantavel, Visvanatha, Visalakshi, Nandisa and Eswarar.

During the reign of Queen Mangammal (1689-1706AD), wife of

Chokkanatha Nayakkar and mother of Muthu Veerappa Nayakkar (1682-1689AD)

few mandapas were constructed in the Adi Streets. She renovated the Unjal

mandapam and the painting on the eastern wall is of during her period. Acharayan,

a minister of Mangammal constructed the Nagara mandapam in front of the

Meenakshi Shrine. He also donated some jewels and a palanquin.126

Eighteenth Century

Vijayaranga Chokkanatha Nayakkar (1706-1732) was responsible for the

construction of Kalyana mandapam(wedding hall) in 1711AD.127 This mandapa is

in the opposite side of the Mangayarkarasi mandapam. Thirukkalyanam (celestial

wedding) of Sundareswarar and Meenakshi was performed during Chithirai

festival in this mandapa every year. The life size statue of the Vijayaranga

Chokkanatha Nayak is erected in one of the pillars facing north side. A large

round size painting about the creation of the planets, living organisms has been

painted on the north and south walls of the platforms. Later on this mandapa was

extended with a hall of 97 feet length and 47 feet breadth by Vayinagaram

Venkatachalam Chettiyar and Nagappa Chettiyar in Chettinad style. On the sides

of the ceiling the paintings depicting 64 Thiruvilayadal stories and various forms

126
ThiruppanimalaiV.96, p.28.
127
ThiruppanimalaiV.95, p.28

43
of Lord Shiva has been painted and covered with glasses. He also constructed a

decorative room in front of the palliarai (bed chamber) in Meenakshi shrine. He

constructed a mandapa at Villapuram where the deities of Sundareswarar and

Meenakshi stay when the procession held.

During the time of Vijayaranga Chokkanatha, Meenakshi Nayakkar, his

Pradhani constructed the Meenakshi Nayakkar mandapam in 1708AD. This

mandapa is in between the Veda mandapam and Chitra gopuram. This mandapa

is bigger in size with 160 feet length and 110 feet breadth. It consists of 110 pillars

arranged in six rows. Once in this mandapathe temple elephant, camel and bulls

were kept but now we can see shops on both sides.

Few more additions were made after the Nayak period. Thummachi

Nayakkar constructed the Niruthimoolai mandapam in Adi Street in 1758AD. One

Aramutha Mutaliar built Agnimoolai mandapam in the Adi Street in 1760AD.

Arunachala Mutaliyar installed the Thiruvappudaiyar temple images in 1768AD.

Venkateswara Mutaliyar built a 16 pillared mandapam in the north east of Adi

Street in 1772AD and Maruthappa Servai (Marudhu brothers) constructed the

Servaikkarar mandapam opposite to the Thirukkalyana mandapam in 1795 AD. In

a left side pillar of this mandapathere is a statue of Periya Marudhu (elder). The

Maruthu brothers presented a Thiruvachi to the temple.128 It is a tall lamp of 25

128
B.Balasubramanian, Thiruppanimalai – Ilakkiya Varalatraivu, Azhagu pillai Pathipagam,
Shivagangai, 2010, p.132

44
feet height with 1008 oil lamps. This Thiruvachi is lit by the Shivagangai

Samasthanam till this day.

Renovation of the Temple

The temple was renovated then and there and protected from damages.

Earlier the Pandyas and Nayak rulers renovated the gopuras and mandapas which

were in dilapidated condition. Thiruvalayudaiyar Thiruppanimalai has given a

detailed account about the renovation works by various people, before 18th

century.

In 1842 AD Sri Cuppaiyar, Chief minister of Muthuchella Sethupathi built

the Manakkola mandapam and installed his own figure in a pillar as a portrait

sculpture.129 Muthuramalinka Aiyar, a minister of the Shivagangai Samasthanam,

constructed the Chithirai second day festival mandapaon the south of the Kalyana

mandapa and installed Kasi Visvalingam in a temple built by him.130

Nattukottai Chettiyar or Ezhukoil Nagarathar renovated the Thirukkalyana

andapam built by Vijayaranga Chokkanathar and Kambathadi mandapam built by

KrishnappaI and erected new pillars around the Nadu mandapam. The north

gopuram (Mottai gopuram) built by Krishnappa NayakkarI was incomplete for a

long time. The gopurawas completed and renovation work was done by the

Amaravathi Pudhur Vayinagaram Nagarathar family.131 Twelve gopuras and many

129
A.V.Jeyechandrun, Op.cit, p.186.
130
Ibid, p.187.
131
B.Balasubramanian, Op.cit, p.135.

45
mandapas were renovated by them. Nagappa Chettiar from Amaravti Pudhur was

the head of the administrative committee. They repaired the northen wall of the

first prahara in Amman Shrine. Flooring was made in the first and second

praharas and the walls of the Palliarai were gold plated. The walls of the first

prahara of .GodShrine were renovated. Stone flooring was done in the Adi Street,

iron fencing was made near the compound wall of the Chithirai street and a garden

was created between the fencing and compound wall. Thiruvilayadal scenes were

painted on the north and eastern walls of Potramarai Kulam and stucco images of

63 Nayanmars were made on the walls of first prahara in Swami Shrine.Rishaba

Vahanam, NandiVahanam and Kailasa Vahanam and jewels were donated.132

Sri Arulnandhi Thambiran Swamigal the head of Thiruppananthal Kasi

mutt carried out extensive renovation work in the temple.133 There are electric

bulbs showing the letter ‘Shiva, Shiva’ when lit in both .God and GoddessShrine.

1330 couplets of Thirukkural have been inscribed on the southern side walls of the

Golden Lilly Tank. Meenakshi Amman Pillai Tamil hymns have been inscribed on

the walls of both sides of the entrance of the six pillared mandapa. Thirugnana

Sampanda’s Thiruneetru Pathigam has been inscribed on the walls of Kanaka

Sabha mandapam. A silver Kavacha has been covered to the Kadamba tree and

132
R.Chokkalingam, Madurai Sri Meenakshi Amman Kovilil
VayinakaramKudumbatharThiruppanikal, Kumbabhishekam Souvenir, Madurai, 2009, pp.
202. 203.
133
S.KumARE sa Moorthy, Op.cit, p.189.

46
Madhurai Kalambakam hymns have been inscribed on the white marble walls

below it. A golden lotus was donated by them to float on the Golden Lilly Tank.

Sri Subramaniya Dhesika Gnanasambanda Paramacharya Swamigal

through Dharmapuram Aatheena mutt inscribed ‘Vazhka Andhanar’ a

Thirupathikam in white marble on the walls of Kanaka Sabha.134 Hymns of

Sekizhar have been inscribed in marble stones on the gopuram entrance of

GodShrine135 by Kundrakudi Aadhina Mutt. Dhatho Samuel, minister of Malaysia,

arranged to bring water through pipelines to Portramaraikulam. Murugesa

Mudhaliyar of Palani donated a silver palanquine for palliarai puja and

M.Bakthavachalam the then Hindu religious endowment department minister

inaugurated the procession of Palliarai Puja on 9.12.1957.

Kumbabishekams were performed after an elaborate renovation works in

the temple. As mentioned in Srithala Puttakam (book) aKumbabishekam was

performed by Kumara Kambanna Udayar only for the Meenakshi Shrine in 1381

AD. The idol of Meenakshi was taken and hidden in the vimana and the entrance

of God Shrine was closed during the time of Muhammaden invasion. Kumara

Kambanna renovated the Meenakshi Shrine only, as there was no damage for the

Sundareswarar Shrine. During his time it seems to be there were eight gopuras

including two vimanas in the temple.

134
Ibid
135
Ibid.

47
In 1628 AD Thirumalai Nayak carried on the renovation work. The

damaged portions of the temple were removed and constructed newly with lot of

expenditure. They used the well ground jaggery, gallnut, gooseberry and

blackgram. They were grounded two times, soaked in the water and mixed with

the lime stone paste. These details were mentioned in Thiruppanimalai.136 He

repaired the whole temple by this method. But there was no mention about the

performance of Kumbabishekam by him. He might have postponed it for the

completion of Rayagopuram which remained incomplete till this time.

Srithala Puttakam states that an Ashtabandana Kumbabisekam held for

Sundareswara Shrine on 1708 AD under Muthumalai Mudaliyar during the reign

of Vijayaranga Chokkanatha Nayak. After the period of Nayak rulers the condition

of the temple was in a very bad state. The east gopura was in a damaged condition

and the traffic through the East Cithirai Street was blocked for reasons of security.

The entire ceiling in the temple was leaking and a number of mandapas became

the living place for birds, scorpions, snakes and other wild insects. The renovation

work was started on January 23, 1872 by the members of the Trust Board of the

Temple.

Kutti Ayyah and his father Devakottai Mutturamalinga Chettiar collected

considerable amount of money from the philonthrophists all over the country upto

Rameswaram. After obtaining the permission of the trustees, the renovation

programme was first initiated with the rebuilding of the Kampathadi mandapam.
136
Thiruppanimalai, V. 82, p. 24

48
The twenty five sculptural pillars and other pillars were touched up, providing

beams and podigai wherever necessary. These pillars were made of huge block of

stones which were obtained from Andar Kottaram. Nagappa Chettiyar,

Venkatachalam Chettiyar, Annamalai Chettiyar and Subramanian Chettiyar the

four sons of Ramanathan Chettiyar from Amaravati Pudhur, in the present

Shivagangai District renovated the temple. They donated milk and flowers for the

pujas. In 1863 the administration went under five member committee headed by

Nagappa Chettiyar. He and his brothers renovated the temple, donated jewels and

vahanas(vehicles) for the temple out of their personal income of Rs.25 lakhs. Then

by their effort a kumbabishekam was performed on 06.02.1878.137 Nattukottai

Nagarathar donated two golden pots weighing 179kg for Abhisekam of God and

Goddess.

On 01.07.1923 a Kumbabishekam was performed by Muthu Karu V.

Alagappa Chettiar, the first executive officer of the temple.138 The head of the

Thiruvaduthurai Mutt, Sri Abbalavana Desigar was the president. There is no

record of any of the gopuras having been renovated at that time.

On 28.06.1963 a Maha Kumbabishekam was performed under the

leadership of P.T.Rajan, Bar-at-Law.139 His Holiness Jagadguru Sankarachariar of

Kamakoti Peetam graced the occasion. The seeds of the 1960-63 Thiruppani were

137
R. Chokkalingam, Op.cit,p. 202
138
S.KumARE sa Moorthy,Op.cit, p.189
139
K.Palaniappan, The Great Temple of Madurai, Arulmigu Meenakshi SundARE swarar
Thirukkoil, Madurai, 2012, p. 118

49
sown in Thiruvadavoor , the birth place of the Saint Manikkavasagar.The temple

at that place had been renovated by a committee of which Sir P.T.Rajan was the

president. Seeing the transformation of the premises after the renovation, many of

the members who had assembled for the Kumbabishekam thought that the Great

Temple at Madurai too should be renovated and that the person most fit to be

entrusted with such a herculean task, was Sir, P.T.Rajan himself.

The proposal for renovating the great temple at Madurai was first made

during a meeting of the trustees of the temple on 28.10.1959. Government was

approached and a Renovation Committee formed which had its first meeting on

7.1.1960. Plans and estimates were prepared with the help of eminent engineers

and other experts. The work was inaugurated on 17.4.1960, the estimated cost

being Rs.20 Lakhs. The following are the salient features of what was attempted

and what has been achieved.

1. In the first place the aim of the Committee was to reproduce all features

exactly as they were or would have been but for the ravages of time and

weather. No innovations were to be attempted or permitted in the

architecture, sculpture or painting.

2. In view of the importance, magnitude and enormous cost of the work, it

was decided to get the benefit of the experience and advice of experts and

institutions wherever and whenever possible on all technical matters.

In respect of the achievement the following are the important features:

50
1. The greatest achievement was the fact that suitable artists and artisans were

found to translate are aims of the Committee into realities.

Somem sceptics wondered whether there were still men who could handle

the trowel and the brush with the same skill and artistry of our old temple

builders, anyone who visits the temple today will be convinced that

architectural and sculptural skills are not things of the past. That this has

been proved beyond doubt could be itself justify the renovation work

carried out at such great cost, and it should certainly give heart to any

person contemplating renovation work in future.

2. Neither the artists and sculptors nor the Committee have sacrificed quality

for quantity. Meticulous care has been paid to every detail especially with

regard to the stated objective of reproducing all things exactly as they were.

3. Bearing in mind the enormous area covered and the patience and exacting

skill demanded by the type of work the renovation has been completed in a

relatively short time.

4. By orgnising its own administrative the technical staff, as against letting out

the work to contractors, the Committee has completed the work well within

the estimated expenditure.140

Regarding the type of paints to be used and the colour schemes, as with all

other technical matters, expert opinion was obtained. Two of the medium sized

towers standing side by side in the West Adi veedhi were painted, one with light

140
Ibid, pp.120,121

51
shades and the other with bright colours. The two were open to public view and

the people were asked to express their preference. Most people were in favour of

bright colours.

The tar-felt laid during the Kumbhabishekam in 1963 was worn out badly

due to the exposure to wind and weather. The ceiling in many places was leaking.

The Board of Trustees at their meeting on Feb 12, 1974 passed a resolution to

perform Kumbhabhishekam. The following works were included in the Thiruppani

works and the estimates were prepared as given below:

1. Construction of Compound wall round the Thirumadhils Rs. 1,03,000

2. Removal and refixing of Kalasam Rs. 8,200

3. Renovation of Gopuram (Amman Shrine West Gopuram) Rs. 10,000

4. Renovation of Mukkuruni Vinayagar Gopuram Rs. 10,000

5. Laying of pressed tiles over the terraces Rs. 5,72,700

6. Sudai (stucco) works Rs. 84,000

7. White and colour works Rs. 35,000

---------------
Total AmountRs. 8, 22,900
---------------

The entire work was technically controlled and executed under the

guidance of Mr.A.Krishnamoorthy, B.E., superintending Engineer, H.R & CE

52
(Admin.) Dept, Madras.141 The next Kumbhabhishekam was performed in

1995AD.142

The recent renovation work was started from 24.10.2007 and the

Ashtabandana and Swarnabandana Kumbhabishekam was prformed on

08.04.2009 by the efforts of Karumuthu T.Kannan, the Chairman and the member

of Board of Trustees, K.Rajanayakam, the Joint Commissioner and the devotees

and the donors. The following were some of the works completed by the

Renovation Committee:

The vimanaof MeenakshiShrine was covered by gold completely from

Kalasam to Prastara Kodungai same like that of the Lord Sundareswarar

Shrinevimana. 1150 Kg copper and 29 kg of gold were used to cover the Kalasam,

Sikaram, Greevam, Thalam, Prastara Kodungai (previously it was covered from

kalasam to Padmam or Sikaram). Velliambalam or Rajatha Sabha of Lord

Nataraja was covered with silver completely. 1401 kg of silver was used for it.

Karumuthu T.Kannan, the Chairman of the Trust board committee, donated 100kg

of silver and an amount of Rs.5 lakhs for this work.143 The Ko- ratham (Cow-

car) which was not in use for a long time was repaired. The large doors in front of

the Shrine of Mukkurini Vinayagar were renovated with same sculptures of the

damaged doors. The stone pillars of various mandapas were cleaned and they
141
V.V. Ramaraj,BE, Renovation: Civil work, Kumbhabishakam Souvenir, Meenakshi
SundARE swarar Thirukkoil Madurai, 1974 , p. 360
142
S. KumARE samoorthy, Op.cit, p. 196
143
K. Rajanayagam, Arulmigu Meenakshi Sundreswarar Thirukkoil
ThirukkudaNanneerattuPeruvizha 2009, Kumbabhishekam Souvenir, Madurai, 2009,p. vi

53
were made bright. The damaged ceilings were renovated. Granite stones were

paved on the walls of Mutalipillai mandapam. The pole in the centre of Golden

Lotus tank was fixed an electric light and the word “ShivaShiva” were written at

the top of the walls.

The 150 years old flag staff in the Kambathadi mandapamwas removed as

it was damaged. Instead of that, 56 feet new flag staff was installed (pradhishtai).

It is made of teak wood and covered by copper plate. On the copper plate, a golden

rack has been fixed using 11kg of gold. After finishing this work the

kumbabhishekam was performed on 10th July 2013 for the new golden flag

staff.144Shivachariyas poured holy water on the top of the flag staff and performed

abishekam and pujafor the bottom of the flag staff. Then it was brought in a

procession around the second prahara of the Lord Sundareswarar ShrineShrine by

the Shivachriyas. It is believed that if we pray the flag staff it is equal to pray all

the Gods in the temple. The objective behind that is the complete surrender to the

God by praying the flag staff.

144
Dinamalar, Madurai, 11.7.2013. p. 3

54