Photograph of a carved pillar in the Minakshi Sundareshvara Temple complex in Tamil Nadu from the 'Photographs to Illustrate the Ancient Architecture of Southern Indian' collection, taken by Edmund David Lyon in c. 1868. This complex contains two main shrines; one dedicated to Shiva and one to his consort Minakshi, an ancient local divinity. Each shrine is set within its own walled complex containing several subsidiary shrines, mandapams (assembly halls) and artficial pools. The construction of this temple-town was made possible by the wealth and power of Tirumala Nayak (1623-1659). He was the most prolific builder of a long line of Nayaka kings, a dynasty who ruled a large portion of Tamil country in the 16th and 17th centuries. The whole site, which mostly dates from the 17th century, is enclosed within a rectangular precinct which covers six hectares and has 11 huge gopurams or towers, the biggest of which mark four entrances from the four cardinal points. The thousand pillars of the Airakkal Mandapam (Thousand Pillar Hall) have figures of divinities, attendants and musicians carved in full relief on the shafts, as can be seen in this photograph. Lyon wrote that the carving on this pillar '...is a Woman playing on the Vina the native form of lute, the same that is used by nautch girls at the present day.'