The Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai, India looks as though it is straight out of the psychedelic 1960s. The Meenakshi Amman Temple features 14 towers adorned with colorful statues of many-armed deities, lounging cows, and fierce dragons. The colorful temple is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Meenakshi—otherwise known as Parvati—who is said to have married the Hindu god Sundareshwarar—otherwise known as Shiva—on the very spot where the temple is located.
The Meenakshi Amman Temple is slightly unusual because it honors a female goddess. The goddess Meenakshi is said to have materialized from a sacred fire which was supposed to have produced a male heir for Meenakshi’s royal parents. Meenakshi’s parents were distraught when they saw a young girl with three breasts emerge from the fire. A divine voice instructed Meenakshi’s parents that her third breast would disappear as soon as she met the man that she was fated to marry. Meenakshi’s third breast reportedly vanished as soon as Meenakshi met dashing Sundareshwarar.
The Meenakshi Amman Temple dates back to approximately 1200 CE. The temple has been looted, invaded, and virtually destroyed on several occasions. A significant restoration effort in the 20th century restored the Meenakshi Amman Temple to its former glory in 1995. Every year, the Meenakshi Thirukalyanam Festival—which celebrates the divine wedding of Parvati and Shiva—attracts countless Hindu pilgrims.
Devotees are welcome to walk the halls of the ornate Meenakshi Amman Temple. The Hall of a Thousand Pillars features intricate murals on the floor and ceiling, and rows of finely carved pillars that pay homage to various Hindu deities.
Any person who stands at the foot of the Meenakshi Amman Temple’s 14 ornamental towers will understand why the ancient temple very nearly became one of the 7 wonders of the world. The Meenakshi Amman Temple is undeniably one of India’s greatest treasures.