The enormous Meenakshi temple is a historic Hindu temple dedicated to Goddess Meenakshi, an avatar of Goddess Parvati and her consort Lord Shiva, known here as Sundareshvara.The original temple was built by Kulasekara Pandya, but the entire credit for re-making the temple as splendid as it is today goes to the Nayak ruler Vishwanatha Nayakar. 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.
As it is a common practice to worship Devi Meenakshi first and then Lord Sundareswarar, devotees enter the temple through the Ashta Sakthi Mandapam on the eastern street, named after the figures of eight sakthis represented on the pillars on two sides. At this Mandapam, one can see the vivid scriptural representation of Devi Meenakshi’s wedding with Ganesha and Subramanya on either side.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.
Various kings renovated the Meenakshi temple , leaving a distinct impression of their artistic taste. A number of complex corridors, magnificent sculptures and a heavenly abode suitable for Goddess Meenakshi, include the additions to the temple that were done by different kings. Her image is said to be carved out of a single emerald. According to mythology, the marriage of Meenakshi and Shiva actually took place in Madurai. It is still celebrated every year with great pomp and show.