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Meenakashi was an avatar of Parvati who was a consort of Shiva (who is considered the Supreme God in the Hindu denomination of Shaivism).  His avatar during Meenakashi’s earthly reign was Sundareswarar. Meenakashi’s name comes from the words mina which means fish and aksi which means eyes.

see more extraordinary photos of the meenakshi amman temple to the hindu goddess parvati and her consort shiva here.

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Madurai Meenakshi Temple (also known as Meenakshi-Sundaresvara Temple or Meenakshi Amman Temple)

The focal point of the city of Madurai, the Meenakshi-Sundaresvara Temple is dedicated to two deities, Shiva (known locally as Sundareshvara) and Meenakshi (a form of Shiva’s consort, Parvati), each with a separate shrine set within its own walled area inside the larger complex. According to legend, Meenakshi emerged from a sacrificial fire as a young girl in answer to the prayers of the childless Hindu Pandya king of Madurai, Malayadvaja. The king adopted the girl, but was concerned that she had three breasts. A divine voice told him that Meenakshi’s extra breast would disappear after she met her rightful consort.

Meenakshi grew up to become a fierce warrior and, during a skirmish against Shiva’s armies at Mount Kailash, the god’s Himalayan home, she saw him on the battlefield and immediately lost her third breast. Meenakshi recognized Shiva as her divine consort, as she was the incarnation of his wife, Parvati, and they were married. Together they ruled the Pandya kingdom and subsequently became the presiding deities of the Madurai temple.

The immense, rectangular temple’s layout is based on a mandala, a grid with concentric squares, surrounded by a high wall. Initially built by the city’s Pandya king, Kulasekara, in the 13th century CE, the temple was badly damaged in the early fourteenth century following the establishment of Muslim rule in Madurai. Most of the present complex dates from the 16th and 17th centuries, during the rule of the Nayak dynasty.

Renowned for its enormity (843 feet by 787 feet) and design, the complex’s main sanctums, to Shiva and Meenakshi, feature ancillary shrines and large, columned halls (mandapa), with one containing nearly 1,000 richly carved pillars. Other features include its numerous sculptures, 12 towered gateways (gopuras), and sacred tank, known as the Golden Lotus Tank, where devotees take baths before a puja (religious ritual).

Source: PBS

You can take a virtual tour of the Temple here.

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Madurai Slab by Jeremy Dooley

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