Meenakshi Amman Temple – Mandapams (Halls)
The temple has a number of halls which served various purposes and were dedicated to different gods and goddesses.
The corridor surrounding the sanctum the Meenakshi is called Kilikoondu Mandapam ("bird cage corridor"). The space was once used to keep green parrots that were trained to utter the name of Meenakshi. There are two large cages full of squawking green parrots.
The Kambatadi Mandapam ("Hall of temple tree") with its seated Nandi (sacred bull) has various manifestations of Shiva carved and also contains the famous "Marriage of Meenakshi" sculpture. Sculptures of Shiva and Kali trying to out-dance one another are pelted with balls of ghee by devotees. A golden flag staff with 32 sections symbolizes the human backbone and is surrounded by various gods, including Durga and Siddhar.
The Viravasantharaya Mandapam is a large hall with huge corridors.
To the south of Viravasantharaya Mandapam is the kalyana mandapam, to the south of the pillared hall, is where the marriage of Shiva and Parvati is celebrated every year during the Chithirai Festival in mid-April.
The golden images of Meenakshi and Sundareswarar are carried into the 16th century Oonjal mandapam (swing corridor) and placed on the swing every Friday at 5:30 p.m. The shrine has a 3-storied gopuram guarded by two stern Dwarapalakas (guardians) and supported by golden, rectangular columns that bear lotus markings. Along the perimeter of the chamber, granite panels of the divine couple are present. The hall is situated in the western bank of the temple tank.
The Kolu Mandapam is a hall for displaying dolls during the Navarathri festival celebrated during September–October. This hall is situated in the second corridor of the Meenakshi shrine at the western side.
Meenakshi Naicker Mandapam
This mandapam which is seen next to the Ashta Sakthi mandapam was constructed by Meenakshi Naicker belonging to the Naicker clan in the year 1708. There are sculptures depicting Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Shiva who took the form of a hunter and huntress to rid a Brahmin of his sin. The twelve Sun signs of zodiac have been depicted in a square shape structure on top of the mandapam. This mandapam is 160 feet in length and has pillars that have been arranged in six rows.
This mandapam was named after the constructor and the same is 110 feet broad and 160 meters long. The vast mandapam is then supported by 110 pillars each 22 feet high in 6 rows. One can see the figure of a Yali inscribed on each of these pillars and that adds to the surreal feel of the mandapam.
This is a meditation hall built from stones and has 100 pillars supporting the ceiling. It is also called Meenakshi Nayakkar Mandapam or Nooru Kaal Mandapam.
Muthupillai Mandapam or Iruttumandapam
The Mudali Pillai Mandapam or Iruttu Mandapam (Dark hall) is a wide and long hall. On the pillars of the halls, there are fine sculptures depicting the story of Shiva taking the form of Bikshadanar to teach the sages a lesson.
It was constructed by Kadanthai Mudaliar in 1613. There are statues of Pitchanar, Munivars or saints of the Tharukavanam and wives of the saints. Mythology has it that Lord Shiva took the form of Pitchanar to preach to the Munivars of Tharukavanam. The statues of Munivar, Mohini and Kadanthai Mudaliar are seen at the southern side of the mandapam.
It is also called the Dark Mandapam. There are etchings of beautiful women on the pillars supporting the mandapam. These women are depicted to have mesmerized by the charming beauty and grace of Lord Shiva who appeared in front of them.
Swamy Sannidhi (sanctum sanctorum) – Dakshinamoorthy, Lingothpavar, Durga Mandapams
On the walls of the sanctum sanctorum of the Lord are the Dakshinamoorthy Mandapam with a pinnacle, the Lingothpavar mandapam has sculptures of Maal and Ayan unable to find the feet and crown of the Lord and the Durga mandapam. These mandapams were built by Kambavarayar.
Celestial wedding Hall
The sacred wedding hall to the south of Veeravasantharayar mandapam was built by Vijayaranga Chokkanatha Nayakkar (1706 – 1732). His sculpture is etched on a pillar. The ceilings of the sacred wedding hall are covered with teak planks with exquisite art work. The 64 miracles of Lord Sivaperuman have also been painted on the dome of the mandapam. There are also paintings depicting the twin worlds and fourteen worlds.
Earlier the celestial wedding of the Lord and Goddess used to be solemnized in this mandapam. Now the wedding takes place at the new wedding hall where the North Aadi Street and West Aadi Street meet. After the wedding, the Lord and Goddess would proceed to the old wedding hall to bless the devotees.
A scene from the wedding of the celestial couple forms the backdrop of the wedding dais in the mandapam. Sculptures of the Meenakshi and Chokkanathar are found at Kampathadi mandapam and new mandapam. Paintings of the celestial weddings adorn the walls of entrance to Amman Sannidhi and the western wall of the parrot cage mandapam.
The golden chariot of the temple is kept in this mandapam. During the festivals the Lord and Godess would be taken out in procession from this mandapam. The golden chariot procession also starts from this mandapam.
Mangayarkarasi Mandapam & Sculpture
The Mangayarkarasi mandapam is a newly built hall situated opposite to the marriage halls and bears the name of saintly queen, Mangayarkarasi who contributed to Saivism and Tamil language.
This mandapam is situated opposite the old wedding hall. In view of the Kumbabishekam, this mandapam was renovated between 1960 and 1963 according to the present style. This mandapam houses statue of Arikesari Maravarman, his consort Mangayarkarasiyar, Minister Kulachirayar and Thirugnanasambanthar in poses worshipping Lord Sivaperuman.
Situated opposite the old wedding hall and to the south of Mangayarkarasi mandapam, this mandapam was built in 1795 by Marudhappa Servaikarar.
Situated near the Servaikarar mandapam, this mandapam was built by Muthuramayyar. One of the pillars in this mandapam bears the statue of Muthuramayyar. Kasiviswanathar and Visalakshi Amman shrines are situated in this mandapam. In a pillar opposite there is a statue of Sarabeswarar. It is in the mandapam opposite this hall, that the sacred task of Annadhanam is distributed every day. About 250 persons are fed free every day.
Nagara mandapam situated opposite the Amman sanctum in East Chitra Street was built in the year 1635 by Achutharayan, minister of Rani Mangammal. This mandapam was built for the purpose of sounding the Nagara drum to announce important events and festivals to the devotees. Even though many shops are situated in the premises, the practice of beating the Nagara drum continues.
The Puthu Mandapam ("new hall") constructed by Tirumala Nayak contains large number of sculptures. It is situated opposite to the east gopuram.
The New Mandapam, situated opposite the East Rajagopuram was built by King Thirumalai Naicker with the work starting in 1626 and ending in 1645. The dimensions of this mandapam known as Vasantha mandapam and Thirumalai Naicker Mandapam are: length – 333 feet (100 meters), width 105 feet (31.5 meters) and height 25 feet (7.5 meters). On both sides of this mandapam the statues of ten famous kings of Naicker dynasty have been carved. These statues which range from King Viswanatha Naicker to Thirumalai Naicker had been chiseled in a life like manner.
On the pillars surrounding the mandapam, along the first six rows on the eastern side are carved figures of equestrian heroes, yalis, Ekapathamoorthy and that of Gajasankarar. In the adjacent interior are sculptures of Thadagapirattiar, her tours (dikvijayam), Lord Shiva facing her, feeding of piglets, moon, sun, tiger feeding fawns and two dwarapalakars.
On the six pillars next to the western entrance to the mandapam, there are sculptures of Thiripurasankarar, four heroes on horses, Ravana trying to lift Mount Kailash and others. In the interior of the mandapam, there are scenes of Meenakshi celestial wedding, Indra, Bramha, Sankaranarayanan, Arthanareeswarar, Oorthandavar, Kali, feeding the granite elephant with sugarcane and other sculptures.
On the pillars are 25 poses of Lord Shiva: According to the work Thirupanni Maalai all the sculptures in the mandapam were executed by Sumandira Moorthy Asari. Since the sculptures were new at the time the mandapam was built, it was called Pudhu Mandapam (New Mandapam). There are interesting episodes of events that took place while the sculptures were being carved.
Theradi Mandapams (the Mandapam at the foot of chariot shed)
Theradi Mandapams are situated along the East Masi Street. During the Chitra Festival, the procession deities Meenakshi and Sundareswarar arrive at this mandapam on the day of car festival before being taken out in procession in their chariots. The shed housing the car of Amman was built by Pappu Chettiar. Now the cars of Amman and the Lord have been renovated with modern technology. The shed of the Lord was built in the year 1795 by Anandazhvan Ayyan.
Ashta Shakthi Mandapam
This mandapam which is the eastern entrance of the Amman Sannithi is said to have been constructed by the queens Uruthirapathiammal and Tholiammal (1623-1659) who were the wives of Thirumalainaicker.
The eight forms of Goddess Sakthi the consort of Lord Shiva, Kaumari, Rowthiri, Vaishnavi, Mahalakshmi, Yangnarubini, Shyamala, Maheswari and Manonmani have been sculptured into the pillars of the mandapam individually. There are drawings depicting the life of Meenakshi Amman on the roof of the mandapam. There are statues of Vallaba Vinayagar and Murugan at the entrance of this mandapam.
Built by the two wives of Thirumalai Naicker, it is dedicated to the eight forms of Shakthi (Feminine power). These 8 forms are sculpted on the eight pillars of the hall.
The Ashta Shakthi Mandapam ("Hall of eight goddesses") is the first hall in the entrance of Meenakshi shrine tower near to East Tower. Ashta indicates eight and Shakthi refers to goddess - the hall has statues of eight goddesses. The gopurams (towers) can be viewed from this hall. The passage was named for eight forms of goddess Shakti carved on its pillars.
Other sculptures and paintings depict the Thiruvilayadal (holy games of Shiva).
Pancha Pandava Mandapam (Hall of Pandavas)
The sculptures of heroes of Mahabharata, the Pancha Pandavas can be seen in the Pancha Pandava Mandapam (Hall of Pandavas).