Madura. The Great Pagoda [Minakshi Sundareshvara Temple]. The pyramidal tower at east entrance
Photographer: Lyon, Edmund David
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph from an album of 41 albumen prints by Edmund David Lyon. Madurai is one of the chief centres of Tamil culture and site of the Minakshi Sundareshvara Temple. The present temple mostly dates from the 16th and 17th centuries, and especially from the period of Tirumala Nayaka (reigned 1623-59). Lyon's 'Notes to Accompany a Series of Photographs Prepared to Illustrate the Ancient Architecture of Southern India', edited by James Fergusson, gives the following description of this view: 'On leaving the Puthu Portico we find ourselves immediately in front of the Pyramidal Tower, at the east side of the Great Pagoda, built by Trimul Nayak. It is about 158 feet high. The base is of granite about 30 feet high. The superstructure of brick and stucco. On the right and left is seen the outer wall of the pagoda enclosure. Before entering this pagoda, a few words regarding its history may be interesting. It is dedicated to Minakshi (Fish eyed) a name of Parvati, Shiva's wife, and Chokalingum or Sundara Pandia, an incarnation of Shiva, who reigned among the early kings of Madura. According to native legends it was built in a remote age by Kula Sekhara Pandian, by the express command of the god, as before stated. Being spared when the whole world was destroyed by the flood, it is said to have been rebuilt by Vamsa Pandian, about the second century of the Christian era. It was again almost entirely destroyed during the Mahommedan occupation of the country, about the middle of the 14th century. Some repairs are said to have been made, and buildings erected by Visvanatha Nayak, the founder of the Carnatic dynasty. It owes, however, almost the whole of its present magnificence to Trimul Nayak, who is said to have repaired and beautified it from the garbha or sanctuary, to the outer wall. The temple situated in the centre of Madura, is a parallelogram in form, the walls on the north and south sides being about 280 yards in length, and those on the east and west about 240 yards. The exterior wall is of hewn stone with a brick parapet, the height of the whole being 36 feet 9 inches. The whole building covers 20 acres, and contains within its walls 44 buildings, mostly of granite. Trimul Nayak bestowed 150 villages as an endowment for this and some other temples in the neighbourhood. These were taken away by his descendants Vijia Ranga, on account of the misapplication of the funds, and 25,000 rupees paid annually for the expenses of the temple. The East Indian Company, on assuming the government, returned to the old system of a land endowment; retaining however the surplus funds in their own hands. At the present time 40,000 rupees or £4,000 are paid annually by the government for the expenses of the temple. The number of officers and servants employed in connection with it, is somewhat over 700, of whom 250 are Brahmins and 40 are dancing-girls. The temple consists of four enclosures one within the other. The inner one containing the shrine of the god and goddess is not accessible to Europeans. There are four large pyramidal towers and five smaller ones. The large ones are placed, one at each of the cardinal points.'