Often referred to as the “Mathura of South,” Meenakshi Temple is located on the banks of Vaigai River in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. Meenakshi Temple is primarily dedicated to Parvati, (also known as Meenakshi) and her spouse, Lord Shiva. The temple dates back to around 2500 years and it is said that the city of Madurai was built around the Shiva lingam inside the temple. Deemed as the most iconic and beautiful temple of South India, Meenaksi Amman Temple is spread across 14 acres of land. With around 4500 pillars and 14 towers, this temple is a representation of classical architecture and its scenic beauty is sure going to take your breathe away.
Goddess Meenakshi lived and ruled over the city of Madurai along with her parents. Lord Shiva is believed to have assumed the form of Sundareswarar (the handsome one) to ask Goddess Meenakshi’s hand in marriage. The location of the temple is said to be the place where Lord Shiva married Parvati (Meenakshi). In their honour, the temple is also called the “Meenakshi-Sundareshwara Temple.” The temple has two main shrines — one dedicated to Goddess Meenakshi (Parvati) and the other to her husband Lord Shiva.
When to Visit and How to Reach the Temple
The Meenakshi Amman temple is open 365 days of the year all along. But since the temperature in South India can go very high, it is better to avoid visiting during the summer months. The months of Monsoons, July and August are pleasant so one can plan a trip around this time. The months from October to March are perfect to visit the temple and the city too. But if you want to enjoy the famous Chithirai Festival, then you may want to plan the trip in the months of April-May. Once you are there, the best time to visit the temple is early morning to avoid the long waiting lines or in the evening to view the night ceremony.
To reach this place:
From the Airport: If you’re flying to Madurai, it will take around two to three hours (depending on the traffic) to reach the temple. One can avail a taxi on the spot from the airport or pre-book a mode of travel (bus or taxi) for an airport pick-up.
From the Railway Station: Madurai is connected well to all the cities, so finding a train to the city should not be a big problem. Take the train up till the Madurai Junction Railway Station. The temple is located just 10 minutes away from the station. One can take an auto rickshaw or a taxi from there.
From the Mattuthavani Bus Stand: Get down at the Mattuthavani Bus Stand in Madurai. The Meenakshi Sundareshwara Temple is a mere 20 minutes away. One can take an auto or a cab as per convenience.
Meenakshi Temple Accomodations
The temple is a popular pilgrimage spot and a major tourist attraction. So there are a lot of decent hotels around the temple at very decent prices. The temple also has accommodations in the form of three lodges, which can only be booked at the time of the visit.
Meenakshi Temple Festivals
India is a land of festivals. The country has festivals 12 months of the year. Same goes for the celebrations at this temple. There are various types of festivals held here like the Vasantham festival, Unjal festival, Mulai-Kottu festival, Arudhra Dharsan Festival, Thai Utsavam, and more, throughout the 12 months of the Tamil calendar year. Each festival has its own significance and is celebrated with much zeal and fervor. But there is one festival which attracts millions of tourists from all parts of the world to this temple – Chithirai Thiruvizha or Thirukalyanam Festival.
The festival starts in the month of April and also lasts for a whole month. Centered around the divine union of Lord Shiva and Goddess Meenakshi, the temples are adorned with flowers and color and various kinds of décor. The celebrations here are an example of a female-dominated ceremony, also called a Madurai marriage. There are several other events such as the Chariot Festival and Float Festival which are also conducted during the celebrations. The festival offers a peek into the Tamilian culture, cuisine, and history. Another good time to visit Meenakshi Mandir is during the festival of Navratri, and be able to see the colorful dolls called ‘Gollu’ which are displayed there.
Pooja Timings at the Meenakshi Mandir
Meenakshi Temple opens daily at 4 a.m. and is open till 10 p.m., but from 12.30 p.m. to 4 p.m. the doors of the temple are closed as it is believed to be the resting time of the gods.
The temple priests conduct pooja ceremonies six times a day as follows:
5 a.m. to 6 a.m.
6.30 a.m. to 7.15 a.m.
Vizha pooja and Kalasandhi pooja
10.30 a.m. to 11.15 a.m.
Thrukalasandhi pooja and Uchikkala pooja
4.30 p.m. to 5.15 p.m.
7.30 p.m. to 8.15 p.m.
9.30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The highlight of the Meenakshi Temple is the night ceremony which non-Hindus can also see and shouldn’t really miss. A couple of hour after the sunset, the image of Lord Shiva (in his Sundareswarar avatar) is carried out from his shrine by temple priests surrounded by his devotees. The procession is moved in a chariot accompanied by chantings of the God’s name, to his wife Goddess Meenakshi’s shrine where he spends the night. His feet are brought out from his shrine. During all this, his chariot is fanned, and a pooja is performed. All this is encompassed by much chanting, horns, drums, and smoke. The night ceremony starts at 9.00 p.m. daily except Friday. On Fridays, it gets underway around 9.30-10.00 p.m.
Some Essential Information while visiting the Meenakshi Temple
Meenakshi Temple Entrance Fee: There is no such entrance fee for visiting the temple. There is, however, an art museum here whose entry ticket costs INR 5 for Indian citizen. For a foreign citizen, the same ticket will cost INR 50.
Darshan Duration: Only Hindus can enter inside the main shrine. There is a separate gate for non-Hindus to pay their respects. One can avail the special Darshan tickets, which cost INR 50 to view the idol of Goddess Meenakshi and INR 100 to see both the deities.
Dress Code for Visiting the Temple: This is a very important aspect here and is taken very seriously by the temple authorities. Clothing should be decent and cover both the shoulders and legs. Do not wear shorts, dresses, lungi, caps, or even socks here. Entrance will not be permitted if the appropriate dress code is not followed here.
Valuables Not Allowed Inside the Temple: Umbrellas, sticks, or anything like wallet or belts are strictly prohibited inside the temple. Cameras and mobile phones are also banned inside the temple.