October 19, 2019

Madana Gopala Swami Temple - Madurai

Why is Madurai called as the Temple City? Is it because of the incredibly large temple of Meenakshi Sundareswara that is located at the center of the city? Else, is it because of hundreds of temples that are located at every nook and corner across the city? May be, both are valid reasons to call this ancient city as the Temple City.

The city, which is largely associated with Lord Shiva and his consort, has some important temples of Lord Vishnu too. This article covers one such important Vaishnavite temple - Madana Gopala Temple. Madana Gopala means lovely cowherd - Krishna, the incarnation of Vishnu.

This temple is located at Melamasi Street, next to Immaiyilum Nanmai Tharuvaar Temple.


All temples in South India would have some legends associated. This temple too has few tales. They are not recorded in Tiruvilaiyadal Puranam or any such authentic texts that talk about Madurai though.

After Lord Shiva as Sundaresa married Meenakshi, he installed Shiv Linga (Immaiyilum Nanmai Tharuvaar) and went into deep meditation. The world could not bear the energy that emanated from Shiva due to his severe penance. As per the request from the Devas, Lord Krishna played music with his flute. The melodious music distracted Shiva from his penance and thus the world was saved.

Another legend states that Andal, on her way to Sri Rangam, halted here and got darshan of Madanagopala.


The original temple might have been built during the Pandya period. However, there is no evidence for that. None of the idols or building structure that exist today belong to Pandays. The current structure of the temple is believed to have been built in the middle of the 16th century CE by Madurai Nayakas.

Some stone inscriptions were found in this temple. They are recorded in South Indian Inscriptions Volume 23, with serial numbers from 502 to 511.

Most of the inscriptions that were found here do not belong to this temple. Few inscriptions talk about Tirutturutti Mahadeva of Pandiyur village. There are few inscriptions, which could not be dated, are believed to be of Pandya Kings, based on the symbols and King names. An inscription dated 1536/37 CE mentions a Karnataka King, Tirumala I.

There is one interesting inscription dated 1597 CE. It mentions about an order that was issued in the name of Goda (Andal), which is unique.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Strangely, the mandapa that stood in front of the main shrine once, is found in Philadelphia Museum of Art in USA.

As per the information found in the Museum website, an American lady, Adeline Pepper Gibson by name, visited Madurai in 1912 CE . The pillars, which were part of a mandapa originally, were dismantled and were reportedly lying on the ground in the temple premises. All those pillars, which were about 60 in number, were purchased by that lady and were exported to Philadelphia.

The pillars were given to the Museum in 1938. The museum staff have assembled all the pillars and slabs. Thus the entire structure which is rebuilt, looks like the original mandapa. All these pillars have life size images of various Hindu deities such as Garuda and Hanuman. There are many small bas-relief images found on the slabs. They depict baby Krishna, royal couple, couple making love and so on.

Temple Layout

Temple Entrance

The temple entrance is west facing. It has a five tiered tower.

Madana Gopala

The west facing sanctum enshrines more than 5 feet tall beautiful idol of Madana Gopala. He is found in the standing posture. He has four arms. His upper arms hold conch and discus. His lower arms play flute. His consorts, Rukmini and Satyabhama are found on his either sides.

Deivika Vasudevan

The processional deity of the temple is named as Deivika Vasudevan. He is found in the standing posture; he has four arms and hold conch and discus in his upper arms; his two consorts are found along with him. These utsava idols and the utsava idol of Madanavalli are found in the sanctum.


The temple has Ardha Mandapa, Maha Mandapa and Mukha Mandapa. The Maha Mandapa and Mukha Mandapa have old pillars with lions on the upper side and very big Yazhis in the center. Two dwarapalas are found at the entrance of the Ardha Mandapa.

In Maha Mandapa, the stone images of Vishwaksena, Vennai Thazhi Krishnan and Navaneetha Krishna are found. Both the Krishnas' idols are big in size. Vennai Thazhi Krishna is an infant Krishna who holds the pot containing butter; it is rare to find Krishna in this posture.

The Mukha Mandapa is much bigger and more beautiful. The pillars have many attractive sculptures. The sub-shrines of Chakrathalwar with Yoga Narasimha on back side, Lakshmi Narasimha, Rama-Sita-Lakshmana with Bhakta Anjaneya, Panchamukha Anjaneya and Sanjeevi Anjaneya are found in this mandapa.


The vimana of the sanctum is Ashtanga vimana, which is not usual.

Garuda, bali peetha and the flag staff are situated in the direction facing towards the sanctum.

Madanavalli and Andal

On the prakara, the shrines of Madanavalli and Andal are found. Each shrine has its own prakara and mandapa. The mandaps have beautiful sculptures, big Yazhis and lions protruded on top.

Madanavalli is found seated and has four arms. It is the typical iconograhy of Maha Lakshmi in Vishnu temples.

Andal sports a hair bun on the left side and holds parrot. She is in the standing posture. It is also of the typical iconography.

 Other Shrines

Gaja Lakshmi's sub-shrine is found on the back side of the sanctum. It is not usually found in other temples.

There is holy peepul tree where an image of Ganesha and Nagas are found. A small sub-shrine for the stucco image of Saraswati is also found nearby. Along with Ganesha, the images of Saraswati and Rama Siddhar are also found under the tree.

Navagrahas are found in this temple. It is rare to find Navagrahas in Vishnu temple. But many of the ancient Vishnu temples of Madurai region have Navagrahas similar to this temple.

The walls around the main shrine has many beautiful bas-relief images that depict various scenes from Ramayana.

Happy travelling.

October 7, 2019

Immaiyilum Nanmai Tharuvaar Temple - Madurai

Immaiyilum Nanmai Tharuvaar Temple - the word is hard to pronounce for those who do not understand Tamil. It can be loosely translated as "the God who protects the devotees even in their current lifetime". This is one of the important temples of Madurai.

There are two unique things about this temple. We could see only the back side of Shiv Linga as he faces the opposite direction of the sanctum's entrance. Lord Shiva himself installed and worshiped this Shiv Linga, which is very unique.


As per the legends related to Madurai, Meenakshi, the incarnation of Uma, was born as Pandya princess and she ruled the empire. She invaded many kingdoms in Bharat and she went till Himalayas. There, she met Lord Shiva in a battlefield, which resulted in her marriage with him. Lord Shiva settled down in Madurai. He ruled the empire in the name of Sundaresha (Sundara Pandya). Before his coronation, he installed, worshiped and performed poojas to the Shiv Linga of this temple. (As per the tradition followed by all the Pandya kings, they had to worship Shiv Linga before their coronation). As Shiva installed his own icon, this site is also called as Atma Linga Kshetram.


The temple was built by Sundara Pandya in 1218 CE. A King, Kalathiyappa by name, renovated this temple (in the middle of the 16th century CE?). These details are found in the book "Tiruvaalavudaiyar Tiruppani Malai". To my knowledge, there is no inscription found. The temple is completely renovated. Except for the presiding deity, Goddess and very few bronze icons, everything else appears to belong to later period.

Temple Layout

Temple Entrance

The west facing temple has a small tower at the entrance. There is another entrance in the east direction which has no tower.

Immaiyilum Nanmai Tharuvaar

The sanctum faces the west direction, but the presiding deity, Shiv Linga (Immaiyilum Nanmai Tharuvaar) faces the east direction. Hence, we could see only the back side of Linga. In front of Shiv Linga, Sundaresha (Shiva) and Meenakshi are found. The images are big relief images. Both are found in the seated postures. Sundaresha has four arms. They are facing the western direction and performing the poojas to Shiva Linga who faces the east direction.

Ardha Mandapa

Two big Dwarapalas are found at the entrance of the Ardha Mandapa. Anugnai Vinayaka and Dandayudhapani are also found besides the Dwarapalas.

Kodanda Rama

A sub-shrine in the inner prakara of Shiva is unique. It enshrines Vishwanatha Linga, Vishalakshi and Kodanda Rama. It is unique to find Rama and Shiva in the same shrine.

Stone Idol of Nataraja

It is unusual to find stone idol of Nataraja. There is a big shrine in the inner prakara of Shiva, which enshrines a tall stone idol of Nataraja; Sivakami is found along with him; the saints Vyagrapada and Patanjali are found in Anjali mudra. The corresponding bronze images of all these deities and saints are too found in the same shrine.

Other Idols

The idols of Saraswati, Surya, Lakshmi and Chandra are found in the opposite direction. Jwara Linga and Jwara Shakti are also found in the inner prakara. All the bronze icons are placed in a separate sub-shrine.

Dakshinamurti, Lingodbhava, Brahma, Durga and another Goddess (name unknown) are found as the Koshta images. Chandikeshwara is found in his usual location. In addition, the Avatar of Shiva, Ellam Valla Siddha is also found near the niche image of Durga.

In the open corridor, Nandi Mandapa, flag staff and bali peetha are found facing towards the direction of the main shrine. The sub-shrines of Navagraha and Bhairava are found in the outer prakara. Veerabhadra is also found in the sub-shrine of Bhairava. Bilva, the sthala vruksha (sacred tree) is located near this shrine. The temple tank is located in the north side of the temple. The sub-shrines of Ganesha and Kartikeya are found near the main entrance and they face the east direction.


The Goddess of the temple is Madhyapuri Amman. (It should be noted that this area was originally called as Naduvur, meaning the town in the middle. The Goddess is Madhyapuri, which means the Goddess of the city/region in the middle). She is found in a separate south facing shrine. The shrine is more like a separate temple with its own mandapa, prakara, flagstaff, balie peetha and Nandi. The attractive idol of Madhaypuri is found in the standing posture. Sri Chakra made of stone is found in the sanctum, which is very rare. Generally, Sri Chakra is made of copper in all other temples.

Ganesha and Subramanya are found on the either sides of her Ardha Mandapa entrance. Ichcha Shakti, Kriya Shakti, Gnana Shakti, Saraswati and Brahma are found as the niche images. Chandikeshwari, the female form of Chandikeshwara, is found in the inner prakara. The sub-shrines of Ganesha and Subramanya-Valli-Devasana are located in the same prakara. Lingodbhava is found under the sacred peepul tree, which is located on the backside of the Amman shrine.

Happy travelling.

October 5, 2019

Madurai Dandayudhapani Temple

Dandayudhapani Temple is a very small temple located in a corner in Netaji Road in Madurai city. However, it remains as one of the most popular temples of Madurai.

Also called as Madurai Palani Andavar temple, it enshrines Lord Kartikeya in the form of Andi. He has shaven head, clad in loin cloth and holds a thin staff called as Dandayudham. The iconography is similar to that of the famous temple at Palani hills.

Although Dandayudhapani took the form of an ascetic, his idol is always dressed up in royal attire. The temple is famous mainly due to this almost-permanent Raja alankara of the deity.

The temple's structure cannot be date more than 50-60 years. However, as per the tradition and belief, Sundarar, the saint in the 7th century CE, stayed in this temple for few days and went to Tiruparankundram from here. Hence, the temple is also called as Sundarar Mutt.

The small mandapa of the temple enshrines many deities such as Shiv Linga, Dakshinamurti, Durga, Ganesha and Bhairava.

Happy travelling.