Meenakshi

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Meenakshi
Patron and Guardian Goddess of Madurai[1]
Goddess Meenakshi
Other namesAṅgayaṟkaṇṇi, Taḍādakai, Mīnāṭci, Mantriṇi, Mangayakarasi, Maduraidevi
AffiliationParvati, Devi
AbodeMadurai
AnimalsRose-ringed parakeet
Personal information
Parents
SiblingsAḻagar (Vishnu)
ConsortSundareśvarar (Shiva)
DynastyPandya dynasty[2]

Meenakshi (Sanskrit: मीनाक्षि, romanizedMīnākṣi, Tamil: மீனாக்ஷி, romanized: Mīṉākṣi; also spelled as Minakshi; also known as Aṅgayaṟkaṇṇi,[2][3] Mīnāṭci and Taḍādakai)[4] is a Hindu goddess. She is the tutelary deity of Madurai and is considered an avatar of the goddess Parvati.[5] She is the divine consort of Sundareśvarar, a form of Shiva.[6] She finds mention in literature as the queen of the ancient Madurai-based Pandya kingdom, and is later deified.[7] The goddess is also extolled by Adi Shankara as Shri Vidya.[8]

She is mainly worshipped in India where she has a major temple devoted to her known as the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. Meenakshi, Kamakshi, and Visalakshi are considered the three Shakti forms of the goddess Parvati.[9]

Etymology[edit]

Mīnākṣī is a Sanskrit term meaning 'fish-eyed',[10] derived from the words mīna 'fish' and akṣī 'eye'.[11] She was also known by the Tamil name Taḍādakai 'fish-eyed one', mentioned in early historical account as a fierce, unmarried goddess as Meenakshi.[12] She is also known by the Tamil name Aṅgayaṟkaṇṇi or Aṅgayaṟkaṇṇammai (lit.'the mother with the beautiful fish eyes').[2][3] According to another theory, the name of the goddess literally means 'rule of the fish', derived from the Tamil words mīn 'fish' and āṭci 'rule'.[13][14]

Various meanings of this appellation have been suggested, including that she was originally a goddess of the fisher-folk, that her eyes are "large and brilliant" like that of a fish, or that she has "long and slender" eyes shaped like the body of a fish. Another interpretation is that the name is based on the belief that the fish never close their eyes: the goddess similarly never stops watching over her devotees.[15] Yet another interpretation states that the name is based on the ancient belief that the fish feed their young by merely looking at them; the goddess supposedly supports here devotees by merely glancing at them.[16] There are the three avatars of Adi Shakti (Kamakshi),[17] Vishalakshi in the north,[18] and Meenakshi in the south.[2]

Texts[edit]

Several great hymns on the goddess were composed in the early modern period by many saints and scholars, including the famous Neelakanta Dikshita. The stotram Meenakshi Pancharatnam (Five Jewels of Meenakshi) is an incantation to Meenakshi that was composed by Adi Shankara (8th century CE).[8] Though Meenakshi does not directly appear in the stotram Lalita Sahasranama, there is a reference to her in the line Vaktralakṣmī parīvāha calan mīnābha ocanā (She who has the face of Lakshmi and has fish-like eyes in the river of her face).[19]

One Tamil poem/song (Tamilpillai) portrays Meenakshi as the intersection of domesticity and divinity:[20]

The great Shiva with the metel flower / Wanders through the courtyard of space / Destroying your work again and again / And then he comes before you. // You never get angry. / Every day you just pick up the vessels.[21]

Legend[edit]

The 13th century Tamil Shaiva text Tiruvilaiyadal Puranam mentions king Malayadhvaja Pandya and his wife Kanchanamalai, who performed a yajna seeking a son for an heir. Instead, a daughter is born, who is already three-years old, and has three breasts. Shiva intervenes and informs the parents to treat her like a son, telling them that when she meets her husband, she would lose the third breast. They follow this advice. The girl grows up, the king crowns her as his heir. When she meets Shiva, his words come true, she takes her true form of Meenakshi.[22][23] According to Harman, this may reflect the matrilineal traditions in South India and the regional belief that "penultimate [spiritual] powers rest with the women", gods listen to their spouse, and that the fate of kingdoms rest with the women.[22] According to Susan Bayly, the reverence for Meenakshi is a part of the Hindu goddess tradition that integrates with the Hindu society where the "woman is the lynchpin of the system" of social relationships.[24] Her eyes are fabled to bring life to the unborn.[citation needed]

Meenakshi Temple[edit]

A Gopuram of Meenakshi Temple at Madurai

The temple complex in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India is dedicated to Meenakshi who is worshipped as the primary deity. It is also referred to as Meenakshi Amman or Meenakshi-Sundareśvarar Temple.[25][26] Meenakshi's shrine is next to that of her consort Sundareśvarar, a form of Shiva.[6][27]

Though the temple has historic roots dating back to 2000 BCE, most of the present campus structure was rebuilt after the 14th century CE, further repaired, renovated and expanded in the 17th century by Tirumala Nayaka.[28][29] In the early 14th century, the armies of Delhi Sultanate led by Muslim Commander Malik Kafur plundered the temple, looted it of its valuables and destroyed the Madurai temple town along with many other temple towns of South India.[25][30][31] The contemporary temple is the result of rebuilding efforts started by the Vijayanagara Empire rulers who rebuilt the core and reopened the temple.[25][32] In the 16th century, the temple complex was further expanded and fortified. The restored complex houses 14 gopurams (gateway towers), each above 45 metres (148 ft) in height. The complex has numerous sculpted pillared halls such as Ayirakkal (1,000 pillar hall), Kilikoondu-mandapam, Golu-mandapam and Pudu-mandapam. Its shrines are dedicated to Hindu deities and Shaivism scholars, with the vimanas above the garbhagrihas (sanctums) of Meenakshi and Sundareśvarar gilded with gold.[32][33][34]

The temple is a major pilgrimage destination within the Shaivism tradition, dedicated to Meenakshi and Shiva. However, the temple includes Vishnu in many narratives, sculptures and rituals as he is considered to be Meenakshi's brother.[35] This has made this temple and Madurai as the "southern Mathura", one included in Vaishnava texts.[36][37] The large temple complex is the most prominent landmark in Madurai and attracts tens of thousands visitors a day.[38] The temple attracts over a million pilgrims and visitors during the annual 10-day Meenakshi Tirukalyanam festival, celebrated with much festivities and a ratha (chariot) procession during the Tamil month of Chittirai (overlaps with April–May in Georgian calendar, Chaitra in North India).[39]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Great Temple of Madurai: English Version of the Book Koilmanagar. Sri Meenakshisundareswarar Temple Renovation Committee. 1963.
  2. ^ a b c d e f William P. Harman (1992). The Sacred Marriage of a Hindu Goddess. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 24. ISBN 978-81-208-0810-2.
  3. ^ a b Proceedings of the First International Conference Seminar of Tamil Studies, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April, 1966. International Association of Tamil Research. 1968. p. 543.
  4. ^ Menon, A. Sreedhara (1978). Cultural Heritage of Kerala: An Introduction. East-West Publications. p. 250.
  5. ^ Howes, Jennifer (2 September 2003). The Courts of Pre-Colonial South India: Material Culture and Kingship. Routledge. p. 27. ISBN 9781135789961.
  6. ^ a b Rajarajan, R. K. K. (1 January 2005). "Minaksi or Sundaresvara: Who is the first principle?". South Indian History Congress Annual Proceedings. Madurai: Madurai Kamaraj University. XXV: 551–553. Archived from the original on 30 March 2019.
  7. ^ Fiedler, Amanda (2006). Where does Meenakshi take her turmeric bath?: a multiply-constructed religious history and deity in Tamilnadu. University of Wisconsin--Madison. p. 1.
  8. ^ a b Journal of Kerala Studies. Vol. 36. University of Kerala. 2009. p. 97.
  9. ^ Nelson, Louis P. (2006). American Sanctuary: Understanding Sacred Spaces. Indiana University Press. p. 121. ISBN 9780253218223.
  10. ^ William P. Harman (1992). The Sacred Marriage of a Hindu Goddess. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 24. ISBN 978-81-208-0810-2. Archived from the original on 12 October 2020. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  11. ^ Manly Palmer Hall, ed. (1949). Horizon, Volume 9, Issue 3. Philosophical Research Society. p. 33.
  12. ^ Fisher, Michael H. (18 October 2018). An Environmental History of India: From Earliest Times to the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge University Press. p. 74. ISBN 9781107111622.
  13. ^ Journal of Indian History. Department of History, University of Kerala. 2002. p. 96.
  14. ^ Excerpt for the etymology of Meenatchi from "A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Tamil Language, Vol. VII, PART - II", page 68: மீனாட்சி ,Mīṉāṭci, பெ. (n. ) மதுரையை உறைவிடமாகக் கொண்ட தெய்வம்; Umā, the tutelary Goddess of Madurai. [மீன் + ஆட்சி. மீனைக் கொடியில் சின்னமாகக் கொண்டவள்.] Translation: [ Meen + Aatchi. Her who put the fish as symbol for the flag.] (மீன் - Mīṉ which means "fish", ஆட்சி- āṭci which means "rule")
  15. ^ William Norman Brown (1978). "The Name of the Goddess Mīnākṣī "Fish-Eye"". India and Indology: Selected Articles. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 84–86. OCLC 871468571. Archived from the original on 12 October 2020. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  16. ^ Klaus K. Klostermaier (2014). A Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Oneworld. p. 153. ISBN 978-1-78074-672-2. Archived from the original on 12 October 2020. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  17. ^ Harshananda, Swami (2012). Hindu Pilgrimage Centres (second ed.). Bangalore: Ramakrishna Math. p. 61. ISBN 978-81-7907-053-6.
  18. ^ Bangala Bhasar Abhidhaan ( Dictioanary of the Bengali Language), Shishu Sahitya Samsad Pvt Ltd., 32A, APC Road, Kolkata – 700009, Volume 2, p.1600. (ed. 1988)
  19. ^ Rupenaguntla, Satya Narayana Sarma (29 May 2018). Hidden meanings of Lalita Sahasranama. Panchawati Spiritual Foundation. p. 21.
  20. ^ Chawla, Janet, ed. (2006). Birth and birthgivers : the power behind the shame. New Delhi: Shakti Books. ISBN 8124109389. OCLC 181090767.
  21. ^ Richman, Paula (1997). Extraordinary Child: Poems from a South Asian devotional genre. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.
  22. ^ a b Harman 1992, p. 44-47.
  23. ^ Brockman 2011, pp. 326–327.
  24. ^ Susan Bayly (1989). Saints, Goddesses and Kings: Muslims and Christians in South Indian Society, 1700-1900. Cambridge University Press. pp. 29–30. ISBN 978-0-521-89103-5. Archived from the original on 25 December 2018. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  25. ^ a b c "Madurai". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 1 January 2023.
  26. ^ Vijaya Ramaswamy (2017). Historical Dictionary of the Tamils. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 9–10, 103, 210, 363–364. ISBN 978-1-5381-0686-0. Archived from the original on 19 September 2020. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  27. ^ Bharne, Vinayak; Krusche, Krupali (18 September 2014). Rediscovering the Hindu Temple: The Sacred Architecture and Urbanism of India. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. ISBN 9781443867344. Archived from the original on 12 October 2020. Retrieved 3 October 2020.
  28. ^ King 2005, pp. 72–74.
  29. ^ D. Uma 2015, pp. 39–40.
  30. ^ Michell 1995, pp. 9-10
  31. ^ Tara Boland-Crewe; David Lea (2003). The Territories and States of India. Routledge. p. 401. ISBN 1-135-35624-6., Quote: "By the beginning of the 14th century south India was exposed to the depredations of Muslim raiders from the north, and even Madurai was destroyed in 1310, by Malik Kafur, briefly becoming the seat of a sultanate thereafter."
  32. ^ a b Christopher Fuller (2003). "Madurai". In George Michell (ed.). Temple Towns of Tamil Nadu. Marg. pp. 94–113. ISBN 978-81-85026-213.
  33. ^ Brian A. Hatcher (2015). Hinduism in the Modern World. Routledge. pp. 20–21. ISBN 978-1-135-04631-6.
  34. ^ D. Uma 2015, pp. 34–47.
  35. ^ V. K. Subramanian (2003). Art Shrines of Ancient India. Abhinav Publications. pp. 95–96. ISBN 978-81-7017-431-8.
  36. ^ Edwin Francis Bryant (2007). Krishna: A Sourcebook. Oxford University Press. pp. 546 with note 45. ISBN 978-0-19-803400-1.
  37. ^ T. Padmaja (2002). Temples of Kr̥ṣṇa in South India: History, Art, and Traditions in Tamilnāḍu. Abhinav Publications. pp. 97–99. ISBN 978-81-7017-398-4.
  38. ^ Gopal 1990, p. 181.
  39. ^ Diana L. Eck (2013). India: A Sacred Geography. Random House. pp. 277–279. ISBN 978-0-385-53192-4.

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Minakshi at Wikimedia Commons