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Meenakshi Temple
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Location : Madurai, Tamil Nadu
Dedicated to : Lord Shiva and Parvati
Also Known as : Meenakshi-Sundareshwara Temple
Temple Timings : 5 AM - 12:30 PM & 4 PM - 9:30 PM
Best time to Visit : October to March

Meenakshi Sundareshwara Temple
The holy land of south India is blessed with hundreds of temples and religious shrines, but perhaps none that can outclass the brilliance and grandeur of the Meenakshi temple. Situated at Madurai in the state of Tamil Nadu, this 17th century architectural marvel is one of the largest and most visited centres of worship in the country, ornate with intricately carved stone walls, life like statues and beautiful murals. Madurai has an important place in Hindu mythology being considered as the place where the wedding between Shiva and Parvati took place, better known in this part of the country as Sundareshwar and Meenakshi respectively. The twin temples of Shiva and Meenakshi lie enclosed within the towering 6 mts high wall of the temple resembling much like a fortress.

Legends Galore
According to mythical lores, the presiding deity of the temple goddess Meenakshi was born of the holy yagna flames, organised by King Malaydvaja to please the supreme being and bless him with a son. The king was surprised to see a girl emerge out of the holy flames who despite being utterly beautiful in every other respect had three breasts, the unwanted one supposed to disappear when Meenakshi were to meet her future husband. Years later when Meenakshi set about on a campaign to conquer the world she was defeated by Lord Shiva's army near mount kailash. The age old prophecy was fulfilled when Meenakshi lost her unwanted breast on coming across Lord Shiva. Shiva and Meenakshi then travelled to Madurai and got married.

History and Architecture
Not much is known of the ancient history of the temple, though references to the holy structure are found in literature as old as the seventh century. The old temple was destroyed by Muslim rulers in the 13th century and was restored in an even better way by the Nayak rulers during the 17th and 18th century.

The huge temple complex consists of 12 gopuras rising to a height of 46 mts, adorned with carved figures of mythical characters. The top of these structures affords a panoramic view of the city. A collection of shrines and over 33000 sculptures greet the visitors along with other ancient structures.

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Other Attractions in Madurai
Thirumalai Nayak Palace
The beautiful palace was a gigantic structure built in an Italian style of architecture by king Thirumalai Nayak in 1636. The enormity of the original structure can be well imagined by the fact that the structure we see today is just a part of the original structure which was almost four times in size.

A little away from Madurai city, the small town of Thirupparankundram is regarded as the abode of Lord Subramaniya. The temple houses a number of shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva, Ganapathy, Durga and Vishnu.

Azhagar Kovil
21 Km north-west of Madurai, Azhagar Kovil is a beautiful temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu is worshipped here in the form of Azhagar, the brother of Meenakshi.

Stay At
Some of the best hotels around the city include Taj Garden Retreat (15 min from the Meenakshi temple), Madura Park Inn (close to the railway station, 2.5 Km from Meenakshi temple), Pandiyan Hotel (Race Course, Madurai) and Hotel Sangam (Alagarkoil Road, Madurai).

Getting There
By Air : A domestic airport is situated at a distance of just 10 km from the city centre. Daily Indian Airlines flights connect the city with Chennai, Bangalore, Trichi and Coimbatore while flights are also available to and from Mumbai.

By Rail : Madurai is an important railway junction with nearly all the trains on the southern railway route halting here. Regular trains are available to and from nearby cities such as Bangalore, Coimbatore, Kollam, Madras, Rameshwaram, Thanjavur, Tiruchirappalli, Tirunelveli, Tirupathi and Tuticorin. The best option between Chennai and Madurai is the super fast Vagai express which takes around 7 hours for the journey.

By Road : Two national highways, NH 7 and NH 45 pass through the city connecting it to the rest of south India. State transport buses plying from 5 bus stations spread across the city connect it to all the major neighbouring cities.

Distance from Major Cities
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