Meenakshi Amman Temple – Gopurams (Towers)
The temple is surrounded by gopurams (gateway tower), - There are 14 gopuram the tallest of which, the famous southern tower, rises to over 170 ft (52 m) and was built in 1559. The oldest gopuram is the eastern one, built by Maravarman Sundara Pandyan during 1216-1238. Each gopuram is a multi-storeyed structure, covered with thousands of stone figures of animals, gods and demons painted in bright hues.
The outer gopuram presents steeply pyramidal tower encrusted with plaster figures, while the inner gopuram serves as the entrance to the inner enclosure of Sundareswarar shrine.
The temple, like the many others in the nearby areas has been built in the traditional Dravidian style of temple architecture. The Dravidian style is highlighted by the large ornately decorated gopurams (temple towers), stone sculptures, pillars and courtyards. The temple regally swanks fourteen gopurams, all roughly 50m high, with the tallest standing at 51.9m. The oldest gopuram at this temple was built as early as 1238.
There are 5 outer towers ranging from 147 feet to 170 feet height. The tallest is the southern tower which is 170 feet tall. There are 9 smaller towers inside the temple complex. All the towers have huge gateways at the bottom to allow visitors. These towers are made up of 9 storeys of hollow chambers inside for the priests and sculptors to do worships and reparations. The mid portions of the towers are decorated with stucco work of thousands of deities. Every twelve years, these figures are repaired, repainted and reconsecrated. The top levels of the towers are adorned with fierce monster deities. These fierce figures are considered to guard and support the top level.
The temple has four Rajagopurams or majestic towers, there are five towers on top of the sanctum sanctorum of the Lord, three on top of the sanctum sanctorum of the Goddess and two golden towers or gopurams, all which have been exquisitely designed and sculptured. All fourteen towers have been segregated based on the stages they are,
· Nine tier gopurams – four
· Seven tier, Chittirai gopuram – one
· Five tier gopurams – five
· Three tier gopurams – two
· Golden gopurams – two
Rajagopurams (Nine Tier Gopurams)
The tower on top of the sanctum sanctorum of the God (East):
· This tower was constructed by Maravarman Sundarapandian the Pandian King (1216 – 1238)
· The tower is 153.3 feet in height, and the base measurers 111.3 feet by 65.6 feet.
· This bears 1011 episodes from Puranas sculptured in it.
· It was constructed in the year 1559 by Siramalai Sevanthi Murthy Chetti.
· It is the tallest of the temple towers measuring 160.9 feet in height, with a base area of 108 feet by 67 feet
· 1511 mythological figures are seen in it.
North Rajagopuram (Tower without Roof):
· Construction of this tower was started by Krishnaveerappa Naicker (1564 – 1572) and completed by the family of Amaravathi Pudur Vayinagaram Nagappa Chetti in 1878.
· This gopuram remained unfinished for a number of years and was therefore called Mottai Gopuram meaning a tower without a roof.
· This is 152 feet in height and the length of the base is 111.6 feet with a width of 66.6 feet.
· This houses 404 carvings depicting mythological stories.
· This was constructed by King Parakrama Pandian during his reign between 1315 and 1347.
· This has a height of 154.6 feet with a base length of 101 feet and a width of 63.6 feet.
· This tower houses 1124 sculptures of mythological importance.
The Towers of Swami Shrine
There are five towers above the sanctum of the Lord.
Swami shrine gopuram (three tiers):
· Built by King Kulasekarapandian (1168 – 1175).
· Of all the towers of the temple, this is the most ancient.
· This is situated at the entrance to the Swami Sannidhi near the Lords flag staff mandapam.
Gopura Nayaka Gopuram, (Swami Sannidhi gopuram (five tiers)):
· It was constructed by a person named Vasuvappan in 1372
· It is situated between the flag post of the Swami Sannidhi and the Thirukalyana Mandapam or marriage hall.
· Standing 66 feet tall, it has a base area of 42 feet x 33 feet.
· It has 280 mythological figures on it.
Mukkuruni Vinayagar gopuram or Nadukkattu gopuram or Idaikattu gopuram (five tiers):
· It was constructed by Siramalai Sevanthi Murthy Chetti in 1559
· It is situated opposite to the shrine of the Mukkuruni Vinayagar which is situated in the passage that leads from the Amman Sannithi to the Swami Sannithi.
· It is 69 feet in height with a base area of 44 feet x 33 feet. 112 mythological figures are sculptured on it.
Wooden gopuram (timber) or the Swami Sannithi west gopuram:
· It was constructed by Mallappan in the year 1374.
· It is situated in west end of the second corridor of the swami Sannithi.
· It is 72 feet in height with a base area of 48 feet x 31 feet.
· 340 mythological figures are seen on it.
Sinnamottai gopuram (small roofless gopuram) or Swami Sannithi North Gopuram (five tiers):
· It was constructed by Sevanthivellappa Chetti in 1560.
· This tower is also situated on top the second corridor of the Swami Sannithi on the north side near the Kalyanasundareswara Sannithi.
· There are 184 sculptures on it.
Amman Sannithi Gopurams
There are five towers above the sanctum of the Lord.
Amman Sannithi gopuram (three tiers):
· It was constructed by Anandathandava Nambi between 1227 and 1228.
· It is seen on top of the entrance of the Amman Sannithi at the west end of the Kilikoondu mandapam.
Kadahagopuram or Amman Sannithi west gopuram:
· This was constructed in the year 1570 by a person called Veerathummasi.
· It is seen on top of the first corridor surrounding the Amman Sannithi in the west end.
· It is about 64.6 feet tall, with a base area of 50 feet x 28.6 feet.
· There are 228 mythological figures on it.
Chittira Gopuram or Amman Sannithi gopuram:
· It was constructed by Kallathiappan Mudaliar in the year 1569.
· It is situated in between the Meenakshi Naicker mandapam and the Muthupillai mandapam in the Amman Sannithi.
· As it contains 730 aesthetic sculptures of exquisite refinement it is also called the Chittira gopuram.
· It 177 feet in height and has a base area of 78 feet x 38 feet.