Meenakshi is an avatar of the Hindu Goddess Parvati – sister of Lord Vishnu and spouse of Lord Shiva – who is worshipped mainly by South Indians. She is also one of the few Hindu female deities to have a major temple devoted to her – the famed Meenakshi temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. Learn more by following this link: Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai.
Once Indra killed a demon, even though the demon did not harm anyone. This act brought a curse upon Indra that forced him to continue wandering until he was walking around looking for a way where noone tells me which way to go redeemed from his sin. After much wandering Indra was freed from his suffering through the power of a Shivalingam in a forest, and so he built a small temple at that site.
It so happened that at that time in South India there was a Pandyan king called Malayadhwaja Pandiyan ruling a small city by the name Manavur, which was quite near to this Shivalinga. He was the son of Kulashekara Pandyan. He came to know about the Shivalinga and decided to build a huge temple for Shiva in the forest Kadambavanam (vanam means forest). He also developed the region into a fine princely state called Madurai.
The king was childless and sought an heir for the kingdom. Shiva granted him his prayers through an Ayonija child (one born not from the womb). This child was three years old and actually the incarnation of goddess Parvati the wife of Shiva. She was born with fish-shaped eyes. She was named Meenatchi, (meaning fish eyed) from the words mina (meaning fish) and ak-i (meaning eyes).
She grew up to be a Shiva-Shakti personification. After the death of the king, she ruled the kingdom with skillful administration.
In one of her expeditions she went to the Himalaya mountains and there, found Shiva. Many of the gods and goddesses came to witness their marriage.
At the wedding celebrations the gods refused to have the served food unless Shiva performed a majestic dance for everybody gathered at the place. At this there was the dance of Chidambaram, the cosmic dance in front of his wife Meenakshi. It epitomised and merged all life force and beauty into one whole. In the end Meenakshi was merged with the shivalingam and became the representation of life and beauty.
There is another legend that talks about why the North Tower (called as “Mottai Gopuram”) does not have that many sculptures. Bhootaganas were supposed to finish the construction of the temple towers during the night. Legend says that bhootaganas completed all three towers but while in the middle of building the north tower sunrise happened halting the completion of the north tower.
Silapadikaram, an ancient post sangam tamil literature, describes the Goddess as ThadAdagai Pratiyar a warrior Goddess, with a cresent moon on her matted hair, with two arms the left holding a lotus and the right holding a sword. She is described as having the right side in crimson colour and the left in dark colour – ArdhanAri form. After the 10th Century, there was a big influence of the lakshadhyayi cult of the Shaivates within Tamil Nadu region, as an effect of which, a separate shrine was created within the main temple of Madurai for Meenakshi Devi. The inscription refers her to as Thirukamakotathu Aludaya Nachiar. Please note that similar changes have happened elsewhere as well, for example, one may recall that Lord Nataraja’s consort, who was the Thillai Kali devi was substituted with a new shrine for the devi within the main temple unit at Chidambaram, as ShivakAma valli or ShivakAma Kodi.
Mieenakshi Devi does not directly occur in the Lalita Sahasranama, though there is a reference to it in chalan meenaba lochana. Her eyes are fabled to bring life to the unborn.
The stotram Meenakshi Pancha Ratnam (five jewels of Minakshi) is an incantation to her. There are several other great hynms on the goddess, composed in the later centuries by many saints and scholars including the famous Neelakanta Dikshitar.
We look forward to seeing you all the first celebration of Madurai Meenakshi Amman Thiruvilazh!!!