The ancient Hindu temple of Meenakshi Amman can be found on the southern bank of the river, Vaigai in the temple city of Madurai, located in the state of Tamil Nadu, in India. The temple is what makes the 2500 year old city of Madurai famous, the world over.
Legend has it that the temple was built by Lord Indra when he was on a pilgrimage redeem himself of his sins. He felt his hardships vanish when he reached the swamayambu lingam in Madurai. He attributed this miracle to the lingam and erected this temple in order to preserve it. Indra was a devotee of Lord Shiva. It is believed that the temple was destroyed in 1310 by the heinous Muslim invader, Malik Kafur thereby destroying all its historic elements. The first Nayak king of Madurai Viswanatha Nayak,supervised by Ariyanatha Mudaliar, the then prime minister of the Nayak Dynasty, he was also the one who founded the Poligar System and rebuilt this temple thereafter.The original design by Vishwanatha Nayak in 1560 was later extended to the current structure during the rule of Thirumalai Nayak, who took genuine interest in constructing many complexes inside the temple. Rous Peter, who was the collector of Madurai in the year, 1812, donated a set of golden bearings, flecked with diamonds and red stones to the temple. Goddess Meenatchi rescued Rous Peter from a fatal accident. His last wish was that after his death, his body should be buried in a position that would enable his eyes to face the temple
An important feature of Goddess Meenakshi is that she carries a parrot, the bird in her hand. The bird is generally linked to the saint Andal, who belonged to the Vaishnava azhwar sect. "Pancha Sabhai" indicates the majestic courts of Nataraja, five in number, where he danced the cosmic dance. The word 'velli' in the Tamilian language, refers to silver and the word 'ambalam' refers to stage.This huge sculpture of Nataraja is encompassed in a huge silver altar and hence it is referred to as 'Velli Ambalam'.This special sculpture of Natarja usually differs from bronze statues that belong to the Chola dynasty because in those sculptures, Nataraja is shown to be posing as if he is dancing, his left leg is seen to be elevated, but as we see in this sculpture, His right leg is seen to elevated.As per the holy games organized by Shiva, when he was appealed by Rajasekara Pandya, who was a very compassionate follower of Lord Shiva, he appealed to the Goddess to bring about a change in his posture, as he felt that standing on the same raised foot would put a lot of pressure, and he readily agreed.
There are fifty priests, who reside in the shrine; they perform various rituals during festivals and also on a daily basis. The most important festival celebrated here is that of 'Meenakshi Thirukalyanam', that is the wedding of Meenakshi, which is celebrated in the month of April annually. Important Hindu festivals like those of Mahashivaratri and Navaratri are also celebrated with pomp and joy in the temple. Just like most shrines of Shakti that are located in the state of Tamil Nadu, Fridays of of July–August and January- February are celebrated in the temple by a ton of devotees.