Goddess Meenakshi was married to Lord Sundareswarar on Monday, 20th February 3138 BCE at Madurai, when Moon was in Virgo (Kanya Rasi) and Sun transits Aries (Mesha Rasi). Tamil New year starts with Sun entering Aries and every year, 10 days after commencement of new year, Meenakshi Thirukalyanam (Wedding) is performed at the temple.
Pandyans were one of the longest ruling dynasty of Indian history, which date back to Mahabharata era (33rd century BCE) till 16th century CE.
The word Pandya has multiple meanings and is said to be derived from many words like ‘Pandu‘ means old, where Pandyan kingdom is considered as old kingdom, Chola (new) kingdom, Chera (hill) kingdom and Pallava (branch) kingdom.
Pandya is also associated with the tamil word Pandi (Bull), as ancient Tamils, considered the bull as a sign of masculinity and valor.
Sundareswara Lingam existed since Krita Yuga.
Indra, the king of the gods was guilty of having killed his guru and was cursed to wander in the world as a beggar. He went to Kaasi (Varanasi), Kanchi and Thirukadavoor and at last reached the forest of kadamba trees (Neolamarckia cadamba or Burflower tree) where he constructed a tower and installed a lingam and worshipped it for many years after which he was released from his curse.
Initial capital of Pandyans was Manavur, from where a king named Kulasekhara Pandyan ruled. Sangam literature started developing during this regime.
He was contemporary to Magadha king Jarasandha.
Dhananjayan, a merchant living in the capital city of King Kulashekara Pandyan happened to see this lingam in the middle of the forest and informed the king.
Kulasekhara went to the spot pointed out by the merchant and was entranced by the lingam. Lord Siva appeared to him king in a dream and told him to convert the forest into a city.
The king did so and proceeded to build a proper temple round the lingam in early 33rd century BCE.
During the final ceremony, the Lord allowed manna (nectar) to drip from the crescent moon on his head and mix with the water which was being used for abhishekam (ceremonial bath).
The water became very sweet and thus the town got the name Madurai (sweet) even though in ancient times the poets called it Alavai.
This king Kulasekhara Pandyan was killed by Krishna. This incident is descibed in Mahabharata.
Lord Krishna broke open the gates of a Pandyan King Kulasekhara and killed him in a battle.( Mahabharata VII.11.398) and VIII.23.1016)
Kulasekhara is said to be as strong as a bull. He is apparently killed by Lord Krishna, but although his son wants to avenge his father’s death, he is dissuaded from doing so by his well wishers. Krishna also defeated Chola King.(Mahabharata VII.11.321).
Krishna slew king Kulasekhara Pandya by striking his breast against his, and moved down the Kalingas in battle (5:48). TheCholas and the Pandyas were mentioned as vanquished by Krishna at (7:11).
Kulasekhara was succeeded by his son Malayadhwaja Pandyan.
Malayadhwaja was also called as Saragadhwaja as Pandyan flag had symbol of a Bow. Saranga (Bow) + Dhwaja (flag).
The mighty Sarangadhwaja, the king of the Pandyas, has white steeds, decked with armour set with stones of lapis lazuli. His country was invaded and his father was slain by Krishna in battle. Obtaining weapons then from Bhishma and Drona, BalaRama and Kripa, prince Sarangadhwaja became, in weapons, the equal of Rukmi and Karna andArjuna and Achyuta. He then desired to destroy the city of Dwaraka and subjugate the whole world. Wise friends, however, from desire of doing him good, counselled him against that course. Giving up all thoughts of revenge, he is now ruling his own dominions. Steeds that were all of the hue of the Atrusa flower bore a hundred and forty thousand principle car-warriors that followed that Sarangadhwaja, the king of the Pandyas, opposing Drona in Kurukshetra War.(7:23)
An inscription records that a Pandya king led the elephant force in the Mahabharata War on behalf of the Pandavas, and that early Pandyas translated the epic into Tamil.
King Malayadwaja Pandya and his wife Kanchanamalai performed a yajna seeking a son for succession. Instead a daughter is born who is already 3 year old and has three breasts. Lord Siva intervenes and says that the parents should treat her like a son, name her as ‘Tataatakai‘ and when she meets her husband, she will lose the third breast. They follow the advice. The girl grows up, the king crowns her as the successor.
Meenakshi grew up learning the martial arts, and became a fine warrior who excelled particularly in archery and sword-fighting. When Meenakshi reached the age of 21, her father decided to invite all the neighboring kings and princes to Madurai, in the hope of getting his daughter married. This was due to the prevailing custom of the Pandyans that women were not allowed to ascend to the throne on their own. Therefore, the king was hoping to find a suitable husband who would rule the kingdom jointly with his daughter.
Meenakshi’s suitors brought precious gifts with them, which they hoped would impress the princess. This did not work, however, as Meenakshi proclaimed that she would only marry the man who could beat her in combat. Therefore, she challenged each of the suitors to a duel in archery and sword-fighting. As expected, none of the suitors could defeat the princess. Thus, Meenakshi remained single, and her father eventually relented, allowing her to ascend the throne in her own right.
Malayadhwaja fought from Pandavas side in Kurukshetra war.
During the battle, Malayadwaja apparently wounds the mighty Dronacharya, the teacher of both the Pandavas and the Kauravas, and who fights on the side of the Kauravas. Malayadwaja goes further and takes on Drona’s son, Aswathama, in a duel, where he gets killed. This battle ended in december 3140 BCE.
After the death of her father, princess Tataatakai went towards north in search of a warrior who could challenge her.
After an year of defeating multiple princes on the way, she arrives at Mount Kailas, where she meets her equal in battle, Sundareswara, who is actually the god Siva. her third breast disappears, as prophesized, and the couple return to Madurai to be married.
She was called ‘Meenakshi‘, as her eyes resembled shape of fish. Meena (fish) + Akshi (eye).
The fish-eyed baby also never blinked her eyes, which was later thought of as “always keeping a careful eye on Madurai“. For this reason, Madurai is also called “Thoonganagaram” which means “The city that never sleeps“.
Siva announced that he would come to Madurai on the eighth day following which was a Monday and marry her. The marriage was performed in great state in the presence of gods, saints and rishis.
Krishna as Vishnu performs Meenakshi – Sundareswara Marriage
Tamil text Tiruvilaiyatarpuranam mentions her story in detail. It says that Vishnu, who is treated as her brother, agrees to preside over this wedding and perform ‘Kanyadanam‘, as Meenakshi had no father at that time.
This Vishnu could be Krishna himself, who was still in dwaraka at that time and lived for another 37 years.
As Vaishnavism was already spreading in south and Alwars started describing Krishna as Vishnu’s avatar, it could have been written that way.
Meenakshi and Sundareswarar ruled over the city of Madurai for a long period of time. Sundareswarar also goes by the name Sundara Pandyan. Ugra Pandyan (the valorous Pandyan) the son of the divine couple is believed to be none other than Subramanya.
Successors of Sundara Pandyan, installed Meenakshi idol in the existing Temple, alongside Sundeswara Lingam.
Meenakshi temple in Madurai was attacked by multiple invaders and destroyed. The first was Allaudin Khilji’s slave-general Malik Kafur, who destroyed the temple in early 14th century and looted its jewellery.
The peripheral city walls of ancient Madurai was completely surrounded by Malik Kafur and his army in the summer of 1311 CE.
Pandaya kingdom had amassed huge wealth through their Pearl production sites in the Bay of Bengal which they deposited at the temple treasury. Allauddin Khilji smelled the wealth and goaded his slave Malik Kafur across river Kaveri to Madurai.
The very powerful younger brother Sundara Pandyan and his army was defeated and chained just outside the walls of Meenakshi Amman Temple by Malik Kafur. The city walls were however guarded closely by a small yet extremely motivated army directly under the Pandya King Vira Pandyan IV.
The temple premise was large enough to shelter a huge population of the city dwellers who fiercely guarded the inner walls. Vira Pandyan used guerrilla techniques from the inner walls of the city. His best archers were placed inside the fourteen Gopurams (gateway towers) of the temple who consistently attacked the eunuch’s army taking ariel advantage.
His cavalry made sudden attacks any time during the night. It was almost impossible to breach the walls of Madurai. Malik Kafur waited for several weeks, sacking and looting the remaining part of the century old city. As time progressed Malik Kafur lost more than half of his army; he slowly grew impatient and almost decided to retreat when suddenly his army breached a part of the strongly guarded city walls.
The enemy tormented inside the premises and pulled down many towers and mutilated several parts of the temple. Yet, Vira Pandyan and his extraordinary army managed to hold the inner walls of the temple. The inside sanctum sanctorum meanwhile was covered by a false wall by the devotees to protect the main idol of Meenakshi and Sunderaswa (Siva).
An exceptionally hot summer, water and food shortage, fatigue and extreme resistance from Vira Pandyan and his men ultimately stopped the slaves from further plundering of the Meenakshi Amman Temple as Malik Kafur decided to negotiate. All the treasures inside Meenakshi temple and all of Madurai city treasures which included million gold coins and a large aggregate of precious stones and jewellery were handed over to Malik Kafur.
Half of the stocks of rice inside the temple premises were carried away by the Kafur army. Almost the entire consignment of elephants and horses of Pandyan kingdom were negotiated to spare the Meenakshi temple and to free Vira Pandyan’s brother Sundara Pandyan.
Thus the Pandyan kingdom gave away practically everything to save their temple. They could not take forward their empire after this battle, that’s a different discussion but Meenakshi and Sunderashwar sanctum sanctorum remained untouched from the eunuch slave Malik Kafur.
Ma’bar Sultanate (Persian: مابار سلطنت), unofficially known as the Madurai Sultanate, was a short lived independent Muslim kingdom based in the city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu, India. The sultanate was proclaimed in 1335 when the then viceroy of Madurai, Jalaluddin Ahsan Khan declared his independence from the Delhi Sultanate. Ahsan Khan and his descendants ruled Madurai and surrounding territories until 1378 when the last sultan, Ala-ud-Din Sikandar Shah fell in battle against the forces of the Vijayanagara Empire led by Kumara Kampana. In this short reign of 43 years, the Sultanate had 8 different rulers.
The contemporary temple is the result of rebuilding efforts started by the Vijayanagara Empire rulers who rebuilt the core and reopened the temple. 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 Sundaresvara guilded with gold.