According to legend, the sacred Suyambulingam discovered by the king of Gods indira at Kadambavanam, was later enshrined by him in Madurai. The fact that the Lord is seen on the vehicle of Indira in this temple is said to be proof for this.
Many historical evidences of the temple have been found dating back from early A.D. The temple was almost completely destroyed in the year 1310 following the invasion of the Islamic conqueror Malikkapur.As kings who were followers of Islam were noted for their intolerance towards other religions, the invaders destroyed most of the ancient sculptures of the temple.
Thirugnanasambandar the Hindu Saint has mentioned the temple in his songs which go back to early 7th century. The Lord has been described as Alavai Iraivan in his songs.The temple was restored to its pristine glory in the late 14th century when the Hindu Kings came back to power in Madurai.This can also be termed as a new beginning of a new era in the history of the temple, when it was almost rebuilt. The King Thirumalai Naicker played an important role in the construction of the new form of the temple according to records.
The Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple is now under the administration of the HR and CE department of Tamil Nadu.
The temple which has five entrances, covers an area 847 feet (254.1 meters) long and 792 feet (237.6 meters) wide in the North South direction, the circumference of the Adi Veedhi which is the path within the great walls is 830 feet (249 meters) on the east west and , measuring 730 feet (219 meters) from North South direction.
If the devotees bathe in the waters of this pond of Golden Lotus on Amavasya (new moon) day, the first day of the month, days of eclipse and other auspicious days and worship the Lord, they will be blessed with all their aspirations for success.
The temple has four Rajagopurams or majestic towers, there are five towers on top of the sanctum sanctorum of the Lord, three on top of the sanctum sanctorum of the Goddess and two golden towers or gopurams, all which have been exquisitely designed and sculptured. All fourteen towers have been segregated based on the stages they are,
- Nine tier gopurams – four
- Seven tier, Chittirai gopuram – one
- Five tier gopurams – five
- Three tier gopurams – two
- Golden gopurams – two
RAJAGOPURAMS (NINE TIER GOPURAMS)
1. The tower on top of the sanctum sanctorm of the God (east)
- * This tower was constructed by Maravarman Sundarapandian the Pandian King (1216 – 1238)
- * The tower is 153.3 feet in height, and the base measurers 111.3 feet by 65.6 feet..
- * This bears 1011 episodes from puranams sculptured in it.
- * It was constructed in the year 1559 by Siramalai Sevanthi Murthy Chetti.
- * It is the tallest of the temple towers measuring 160.9 feet in height, with a base area of 108 feet by 67 feet
- * 1511 mythological figures are seen in it.
3. NORTH RAJAGOPURAM (TOWER WITHOUT ROOF)
- * Construction of this tower was started by Krishnaveerappanaicker (1564 – 1572) and completed by the family of Amaravathi Pudur Vayinagaram Nagappa Chetti in 1878.
- * This gopuram remaied unfinished for a number of years and was therefore called Mottai Gopuram meaning a tower without a roof.
- * This is 152 feet in height and the length of the base is 111.6 feet with a width of 66.6 feet..
- * This houses 404 carvings depicting mythological stories.
4.THE WEST RAJAGOPURAM.
- * This was constructed by King Parakrama Pandian duri ng his reign between 1315 and 1347.
- * This has a height of 154.6 feet with a base length of 101 feet and a width of 63.6 feet.
- * This tower houses 1124 sculptures of mythological importance.
THE TOWERS OF SWAMI SHRINE
There are five towers above the sanctum of the Lord.
1.Swami shrine gopuram (three tiers).
- * Built by King Kulasekarapandian (1168 – 1175).
- * Of all the towers of the temple,this is the most ancient.
- * This is situated at the entrance to the Swami Sannidhi near the Lords flag staff mandapam.
2.Gopura Nayaka Gopuram, also called Swami Sannidhi gopuram (five tiers).
- * It was constructed by a person named Vasuvappan in 1372
- * It is situated between the flag post of the Swami Sannidhi and the Thirukalyana Mandapam or marriage hall.
- * Standing 66 feet tall, it has a base area of 42 feet x 33 feet.
- * It has 280 mythological figures on it.
3. The Mukkuruni Vinayagar gopuram or Nadukkattu gopuram or Idaikattu gopuram (five tier) .
- * It was constructed by Siramalai Sevanthi Murthy Chetti in 1559
- * It is situated opposite to the shrine of the Mukkuruni vinayagar which is situated in the passage that leads from the Amman sannithi to the Swami Sannithi.
- * It is 69 feet in height with a base area of 44 feet x 33 feet. 112 mythological figures are sculptured on it.
4. Wooden gopuram (timber) or the Swami Sannithi west gopuram.
- * It was constructed by Mallappan in the year 1374.
- * It is situated in west end of the second corridor of the swami sannithi.
- * It is 72 feet in height with a base area of 48 feet x 31 feet.
- * 340 mythological figures are seen on it.
5.Sinnamottai gopuram (small roofless gopuram) or Swami Sannithi North Gopuram (five tiers).
- * It was constructed by Sevanthivellappa Chetti in 1560.
- * This tower is also situated on top the second corridor of the Swami Sannithi on the north side near the Kalyanasundareswarar Sannithi.
- * There are 184 sculptures on it.
AMMAN SANNITHI GOPURAMS:
There are five towers above the sanctum of the Lord.
1.Amman sannithi gopuram (three tier).
- * It was constructed by Anandathandava Nambi between 1227 and 1228.
- * It is seen on top of the entrance of the Amman Sannithi at the west end of the Killikoondu mandapam.
2.Kadahagopuram or Amman Sannithi west gopuram
- * This was constructed in the year 1570 by a person called Veerathummasi.
- * It is seen on top of the first corridor surrounding the Amman sannithi in the west end..
- * It is about 64.6 feet tall, with a base area of 50 feet x 28.6 feet.
- *There are 228 mythological figures on it.
3.Chittira Gopuram or Amman Sannithi gopuram
- * It was constructed by Kallathiappan Mudaliar in the year 1569.
- * It is situated inbetween the Meenakshi Naicker mandapam and the Muthupillai mandapam in the Amman sannithi.
- * As it contains 730 aesthetic sculptures of exquisite refinement it is also called the Chittira gopuram.
- * It 177 feet in height and has a base area of 78 feet x 38 feet