South-west view of Royagopuram opposite to Pudumandapum, Minakshi Amman Temple [Minakshi Sundareshvara Temple], Madura
Photographer: Archaeological Survey of India
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of the Raya Gopuram in the Minakshi Sundareshvara Temple at Madurai, taken by a photographer of the Archaeological Survey of India in 1899-1900. The temple is one of the most important centres of pilgrimage in India. The ancient city of Madurai was known to the Greeks, and first attained eminence as a seat of the Pandya dynasty, and is described in early Tamil literature. The city has an antique tradition of Shiva-worship, here known as Chokkanatha or Sundareshvara, the divine consort of Minakshi (or Fish-Eyed One), an ancient and powerful local goddess. The earliest temples of the two deities have not survived, and the imposing present structures date from the reign of Tirumala Nayaka, 1623-59, the most illustrious of Madurai's Nayaka rulers (former governors under the Vijayanagara empire) who reconstructed and expanded the complex. The rectangular precinct covers six hectares and has eleven huge temple towers or gopurams, the four tallest marking entrances at the cardinal points. Inside this enclosure there are columned mandapas, tanks, shrines and the two temples of Shiva and Minakshi. East of the temple Tirumala Nayak began the construction of a new gopuram called Raya Gopuram which was never completed. The most remarkable features are four monolithic pillars over 50 feet high. This view shows the carved walls of the gopuram with mouldings and pilasters. The door jambs have fine scrollwork.