The Great Gopuram, Madura
Photographer: Nicolas & Company
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of the Great Gopuram of the Minakshi Sundareshvara Temple at Madurai, taken by Nicolas & Complany around 1870. This sacred temple complex, one of the chief pilgrimage sites of South India, is dedicated to Shiva and his consort Minakshi, an ancient local divinity. Construction of this temple-town began in the 17th century and was made possible by Tirumala Nayak (1623-1659). It is enclosed within a rectangular precinct which covers 6 hectares and has 11 huge gopurams or towers, the biggest of which mark four entrances from the four cardinal points. These towers are extremely elaborate and completely covered with figures of divinities, celestial beings, monster masks and animals, all encrusted in plaster decoration painted in vivid colours. Inside the complex there are columned mandapams or assembly halls, tanks, shrines and the two temples of Shiva and his consort Minakshi.