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Famous Temples of Tamil Nadu

MEENAKSHI AMMAN TEMPLE, Madurai

➢ Meenakshi temple is situated in the heart of the city of Madurai. The Meenakshi temple is dedicated to goddess Meenakshi, the Consort of Lord Siva.

➢ The temple has 14 gopurams including two magnificent exquisite sculptures of Golden gopurams.

➢ The tallest south temple tower is 51.9 meters (170 ft) in height. At the Sundareswarar Temple across the courtyard, Lord Siva is represented as a lingam.The pillars depict scenes from the wedding of Meenakshi and Sundareswarar.

➢ The Pandyas started construction of Sri Meenakshi Temple in the early 13th century. The East Tower (gopuram) was built first (13th century) and then the West Tower (gopuram) in A.D. 1323 by the Pandyas. South Tower (gopuram) was built by one Sevvandi Chettiar in1478 A.D. North Tower was built by Nayak rulers during A.D. 1564-72, but left unfinished, though the temple was commissioned with the east tower as the main entrance. The first Madurai Nayak king Vishwanatha Nayak (1529–64 CE) redesigned the city as per the rules of architecture that are laid out in the Shilpa Shastras.

➢ Then, in the 17th century, Thirumalai Nayak further expanded the temple. One individual from Sivaganga completed North Tower in 1878. In 1995, the temple celebrated a Kumbhabhishekam after one more renovation process. ➢ The city and the temple align to the directions of the compass. The temple is the centre of the city. The concentric layout of the internal complex resembles a mandala pattern. In the center is the Potramarai Kulam or the Golden Lotus Pond. ➢ The streets around the temple are in concentric quadrangles. The Ancient texts describe the temple as the lotus with the streets as petals. ➢ Above all, the pillared corridors and halls, the exquisite carvings and paintings, and the towering gopurams – all make this temple one of the major architectural treasures of the country.

➢ There are 12 Meenakshi Amman Temple Gopuram and two vimanas (towers over the main shrines). In particular, the temple has four huge, nine-tiered, outer towers called rajagopuram. ➢ Additionally, the temple has one seven-tiered gopuram, five five-tiered gopurams, and two two-storeyed gopurams.

➢ The axes of the north and south and the east and west gopurams intersect at the place where the shrine of the principal deity (Siva) is located. Every statue is in its place, and a place for everything’. The placement of the statue is coherent, i.e., logically or aesthetically ordered or integrated.

➢ The temple complex of Meenakshi temple too, resembles a mandala pattern when viewed from above. A mandala is a structure conferring the laws of symmetry and loci.A mandala is a sacred shape consisting of the intersection of a circle and a square. The square shape is symbolic of earth, signifying the four directions while the circle is logically the perfect metaphor for heaven, since it is a perfect shape, without beginning or end, signifying timelessness, and eternity.

➢ The main temple is enclosed in a wall, a pyramidical structure that is 850 feet x 725 feet (almost a square), built over the entryway. The entryway, towered to a height of about 160 feet, was built in the middle of this thick wall. The marvel is in thickness of the wall structure that were impenetrable.

➢ The temple has a total of 6825 pillars. There is one ‘thousand-pillared hall’, which has the famous ‘musical’ pillars made of stone. There are five musical pillars each consisting of 22 smaller pillars – carved out of a single block of granite – that produce musical notes when tapped. This hall has a total of 985 pillars. These pillars have been so arranged that from whatever angle one looks, the pillars appear in rows. The pillars appear to be in a straight line.

➢ Meenakshi temple adheres to the laws of acoustics. Echoes and excessive reverberation are not the example of good acoustics. Flat surfaces create standing waves which produce flutter echoes. Concave surfaces produce focused echoes. Convex surfaces diffuse reflections i.e. they break up and distribute sound. Space noise and all noises of nature are ‘white noise’ which mask other noises and deliver a soothing effect. All the stone pillars have sharp non-filleted edges, which are good sound diffusers. All the statues have convex surfaces that diffuse sound too.

➢ The four kinds of musical instruments – string, percussion, wind, and brass. Each of these has many varieties. All these instruments, with or without combinations, can be played anywhere in the temple, with balanced acoustics.

➢ Besides sculpting and placing large and tough blocks of the stones to build the temples, the ancient temple engineers also demonstrated breath-taking intricate ‘sculpting and

carving’. Meenakshi temple’s tallest entryway is approximately 170 feet and contains more than 1500 figures.

MANDAPAMS

THOUSAND PILLARS MANDAPAM (Aayiram Kaal Mandapam)

➢ It is considered culturally important and is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. At the entrance of the Mandapam, there is an idol of a man majestically seated on a beautiful horse. ➢ Legend has it that this is an idol of Ariyanatha Mudaliyar who built the mandapam.The thousand pillared hall is a noteworthy feature in the temple. ➢ It has 985 exquisitely carved pillars that feature different deities and celestials. The temple also has musical pillars that each produces a different note when struck. ➢ All the stone pillars have sharp non-filleted edges, which are also good sound diffusers. All the statues have convex surfaces which diffuse sound. ideal acoustic environment with good aesthetic charm is established by the statues.

➢ At Madurai Meenakshi temple parallel walls or parallelism produces standing waves, which in turn creates echoes. Hence the statues on the pillars in any hall have random distribution to avoid symmetry and parallelism.

➢ All parts of the statues are proportioned to the Golden Ratio 1.618 and the Fibonacci Spiral is profusely used in the statues.

The other halls or Mandapams are the Mandapa Nayaka Mandapam, Kambathadi mandapam, Ashta Shakthi Mandapam, Kilikoondu Mandapam, Kambatadi Mandapam, Vira Vasantha Raya mandapam, Pudumandapam, Golu mandapam and other smaller Mandapams. Meenakshi Amman Temple Images are indeed magnificent. These include lovely paintings, sculptures, and engravings on the pillars, walls, and ceilings. In fact, there are around 33,000 sculptures here. PORTHAMARAI KULAM (GOLDEN LOTUS POND)

➢ It is the sacred pond inside the temple, a very holy site for devotees. The name means the Pond with the Golden Lotus and people have to go around the tank to enter the main shrine.

➢ According to legend, Lord Siva promised a stork that no fish or other marine life would grow here and thus, none are found here.

➢ If you walk along the corridors, the pitch of the noise made by people come running from the opposite direction will be amplified by Doppler Effect.

➢ The space noise (infra sound) from the Pon Thamarai Kulam, being a white noise will mask the background noise.

➢ If there is rain, in the water in the tank the white noise effect is accentuated. All acoustic energy is degraded into some form of heat energy. By viscous attenuation of a plane wave the above heat energy can be absorbed.

➢ If statues are provided on the pillars of the corridors around Pon Thamarai Kulam air space will be reduced and the passages will be heated up by the acoustic energy. Hence big statues are avoided. Sharp edges of pillars serve as diffusers.

➢ If water is retained in the Pon Thamarai Kulam viscous attenuation of acoustic heat energy is possible. That is why the Pon Thamarai Kulam is situated inside the temple to collect rainwater from terrace and to get space noise to overcome the Doppler Shift and for viscous attenuation of acoustic heat energy.

PANCHA SABHAI

➢ The Nataraja form of Lord Shiva is highly revered. Lord Shiva as Nataraj performs the cosmic dance. There are five temples that are associated with this dance.

➢ They are the Pancha Sabhai Sthalams. ‘Pancha’ means five, ‘Sabhai’ means halls and ‘Sthalam’ is a temple. So, the Pancha Sabhai temples are the five halls where the Lord Danced. ➢ The Madurai Meenakshi Temple features one of the famous Pancha Sabhai halls called the Vellichabai. This translates as the silver hall. Lord Nataraja performed the Sandhya Thandavam in this hall.

➢ The other Pancha Sabhai Sthalangal are the Sri Vadaranyeswarar Temple, Thiruvalangadu, the Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram, the Kutralanathar Temple, Kutralam/Courtralam as well as the Nellaiappar Temple, Tirunelveli. THE DEITIES

➢ This temple has two main deities – Meenakshi and Sundareswarar. Here, Meenakshi is the primary deity, with her image carved out of an emerald-hued stone. The Sundareswarar Shrine has a snake hooded Shiva Lingam. Ganesha, Murugan, and Nataraja also have shrines here.

➢ The shrine to Meenakshi Devi is on the Eastern side of the temple complex while the shrine for Sundereshwarar is on the Northern side.

Construction technology of Meenakshi Temple is an amalgamation of various subjects including Astrology, science, religion, social sciences, mathematics, geography, geology, ecology , Architecture, art sculpting etc.

NELLAIAPPAR TEMPLE, Tirunelveli

➢ Nellaiappar temple which stands high at Tirunelveli is one among the 5 most sacred Shiva temples where Lord Shiva performed his Nataraja Nritham, the cosmic dance of life.

➢ The Nellaiyappar temple was constructed in the 7th century by the Early Pandyas, devoted to God Nellaiyappar, the avatar of Shiva. It spreads over 850 feet long and 756 feet wide in the middle of the city. There are two different shrines for god Nellaiappar and goddess Kanthimathi in the complex.

➢ This temple is another supreme example of marvel of engineering & technology.There is a cluster of 48 pillars surrounded by a central pillar that were carved from a single rock.

Remarkably, surrounding pillars vibrate when one of them is tapped. The pillars can produce the 7 basic musical notes – Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni.

MANDAPAMS

The Kanthimathi goddess shrine is connected to the Nellaiyappar shrine by a series of mandapams. This mandapam is ventilated by employing clerestory windows that open into garden spaces on one side and temple tanks on the other. It has one pradakshina path around the sanctum with colonnaded corridors. On the western side of the Nellaiyappar temple is the Dancing Hall (Thamirasabhai), which is approached by a colonnaded mandapam.

1000 Pillars Mandapam Iypasi Thirukalyana Pillar festival is conducted in this 1000 pillar mandapam. This mandapam is 520 feet length 63 feet wide. During Panguni Uthram, the sceptre giving function conducted in this mandapam. The stature of uchchishta Ganapathy is an attractive one. The Thirukalyana mandapam is built in the way in which the turtle shoulders it. There is a belief, Lord Vishnu himself disguised as a turtle and shoulders this mandapam.

Oonjal Mandapam 96 pillars in this mandapam represent 96 philosophies. After Thirukalyanam,God and Goddess are delighted in this oonjal and baby shower functions are also conducted every year. Yazhi sculptures are very special. This Mandapam was built in the year A.D.1635 by Cherakulam Pirariperumal Pillai .

Somawar Mandapam

It is situated in the northern side of temple.During Karthigai Somawar, special abishekam is done for Panchamoorthigal at this mandapam.Navarathri Poojas are also held here. It consists of 78 great pillars.

Chain Mandapam

There are two different shrines for god Nellaiappar and goddess Kanthimathi in the complex. They are two independent structures with spaces in between located inside the temple complex. It was connected by a chainmandapam in 1647 by the Vadamalaiappa pillaiyan.

Mani Mandapam The Manimandapam got its name from a hanging bell in the middle of the mandapam. It was built by Nindra seer Nedumaran. Musical pillars were constructed around a single rock,which reproduces unique pitches when it is beaten. When we strike the pillars with antlers mounted on wooden plates, the exact sound is produced. It consist of 48 pillars in total. According to historians, this is ancient temple in Tamil Nadu with musical pillars.

Vasantha Mandapam Every year during summer season,vasantham festival is conducted in this 100 pillars mandapam.It is surrounded with trees which gives aesthetic feel. This garden is made by Thiruvengada Krishna Muthaliyar. PRADIKSHNA PATH OR CORRIDORS

➢ The temple complex consists of two consecutive pradakshina paths with colonnaded corridors running along with it.

➢ The main sanctum (garbhagriha) is located at the center with other shrines surrounding it. The temple is approached by four gateways on all the four directions accessed by four temple car streets.

➢ According to Dravidian architecture, lighting and ventilation play a major role in categorizing various zones in temple hierarchy.

➢ In Nellaiyappar temple, the outermost pradakshina paths are open corridors that are surrounded by a garden and public spaces.

➢ The next pradakshina paths are partially ventilated using the clerestory, lightwells, light shafts,and chimneys. The innermost sanctum (garbhagriha) is considered to be the most sacred space which has no access to natural lighting and ventilation. PANJA RATHANGAL The Nellaiappar Temple Theru is the third-largest car in Tamilnadu. The first temple car trail was in 1505. This large temple car weighs around 450 tonnes to Panja Moorthy. The Copper Temple car runs during the monthly festivals. THAMIRA SABHA (The Copper Hall of Dance)

➢ It is located at the other end of the Kanthimathi goddess shrine of the complex and it is approached by closed colonnaded corridors at either end of the axis and culminates in a closed mandapam, which is called as a dancing space for Lord Shiva.

➢ The Copper Hall of dance is the most indispensable one in the history of Gandhimathiamman with Nellaiappar temple. ➢ Among the different type of Halls,Lord Shiva who performed Aananda Thandavam in the Golden Hall (Porsabai) at Chidambaram,Urduva Thandavam in Ruby Hall(Rathna Sabai) at Thiruvalangadu, Sundara Thandavam in Silver Hall(Velli Sabai) at Madurai,Asaba Thandavam in Chitra Sabha,a hall made out of paintings at Courtallam, performed Brahma Thandavam known as Gnana Dance in Copper Hall (Thamirasabai) at Tirunelveli which was beautifully portrayed by the Venuvana Purana. ➢ Lord Ursava Moorthy is also called as Thamira Sabapathi and Sandana Sabapathi.The Sannithi of Agni Sabapathi also known as Azhagiya Urchava Natarajar is one of the beautiful sannithi to be seen.This was depicted in Appar’s song “kunindha puruvamum kovvai sevvayil kumin siripum”.