The Info List - Meenakshi

Meenakshi (Tamil: மீனாட்சி, lit. 'Mīṉāṭci', Sanskrit: मीनाक्षी, lit. 'Mīnākṣī'), is an avatar of the Goddess Parvati, the divine consort of Sundareswarar (Shiva)[1] and is considered to be the sister of God Vishnu.[2]

She is mainly worshipped in South India where she has a major temple devoted to her known as the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. She is also considered as a form of Goddess Lalitha Tripurasundari, one of the Dasa Maha Vidhyas.


There are two popular etymologies for Meenakshi. The name Meenakshi is though to be derived from the Tamil meen (fish) and Sanskrit word akshi (eye), thus translated as the one with "Fish-shaped eyes".[3] In chaste Tamil is Meenakshi also known as Angayarkanni, from the Tamil words angayar (of fish) and kann (eyes).[4][5]

The other popular etymology states that the name is derived from the Tamil words meen (fish) and aatchi (rule), thus Meenatchi as she is pronounced in Tamil is translated as "Rule of the fish".[6][7][a]


Several great hymns on the goddess were composed in the early modern period by many saints and scholars, including the famous Neelakanta Dikshitar. The stotram Meenakshi Pancharatnam (Five Jewels of Meenakshi), composed by Sri Adi Sankaracharya, is an incantation to her.[8] Meenakshi does not directly appear in the stotram Lalita Sahasranama, though there is a reference to her in the line Vakthra lakshmi parivaha chalan meenabha lochana (She who has auspiciousness and glory of Lakshmi and has beautiful eyes which look like fish in the pond of her face).[9]

One Tamil poem/song (Tamilpillai) portrays Meenakshi as the intersection of domesticity and divinity and as a global icon for all who deal with "impossible" children or husbands:[10]

The great madman Shiva with the metel flower / Wanders through the courtyard of space / Destroying your work again and again / And then he comes before you, / dancing. // You never get angry. / Every day you just pick up the vessels.[11]


According to a legend found in the Tamil text Tiruvilaiyatarpuranam, 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. Shiva intervenes and says that the parents should treat her like a son, 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 and when she meets Shiva, his words come true, she takes her true form of Meenakshi.[12][13] According to Harman, this may reflect the matrilineal traditions in South India and the regional belief that "penultimate [spiritual] powers rest with the women", gods listen to their spouse, and that the fate of kingdoms rest with the women.[12] According to Susan Bayly, the reverence for Meenakshi is a part of the Hindu goddess tradition that integrates with the Dravidian Hindu society where the "woman is the lynchpin of the system" of social relationships.[14] Her eyes are fabled to bring life to the unborn.

Meenakshi Temple

One of the Gopuram of Meenakshi Temple at Madurai

The temple complex at Madurai, Tamil Nadu in India is dedicated to Meenakshi as the primary deity. It is also referred to as Meenakshi Amman or Minakshi-Sundareshwara Temple.[15][16] Meenakshi's shrine is next to that of her consort Sundareswar, a form of Shiva.[1][17]

Though the temple has historic roots, most of the present campus structure was rebuilt after the 14th century CE, further repaired, renovated and expanded in the 17th century by Thirumalai Nayak.[18][19] In early 14th century, the armies of Delhi Sultanate led by Muslim Commander Malik Kafur plundered the temple, looted it of its valuables and destroyed the Madurai temple town along with many other temple towns of South India.[20][21][22] The contemporary temple is the result of rebuilding efforts started by the Vijayanagara Empire rulers who rebuilt the core and reopened the temple.[20][23] 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.[23][24][25]

The temple is a major pilgrimage destination within the Shaivism tradition, dedicated to Meenakshi Devi and Shiva. However, the temple includes Vishnu in many narratives, sculptures and rituals as he is considered to be Meenakshi's brother.[26] This has made this temple and Madurai as the "southern Mathura", one included in Vaishnava texts.[27][28] The large temple complex is the most prominent landmark in Madurai and attracts tens of thousands visitors a day.[29] The temple attracts over a million pilgrims and visitors during the annual 10-day Meenakshi Tirukalyanam festival, celebrated with much festivities and a ratha (chariot) procession during the Tamil month of Chittirai (overlaps with April–May in Georgian calendar, Chaitra in North India).[30]


  1. ^ Excerpt for the etymology of Meenatchi from "A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Tamil Language, Vol. VII, PART - II", page 68: மீனாட்சி ,Mīṉāṭci, பெ. (n. ) மதுரையை உறைவிடமாகக் கொண்ட தெய்வம்; Umā, the tutelary Goddess of Madurai. [மீன் + ஆட்சி. மீனைக் கொடியில் சின்னமாகக் கொண்டவள்.] Translation: [ Meen + Aatchi. Her who put the fish as symbol for the flag.] (மீன் - Mīṉ = fish, ஆட்சி- āṭci = rule)


  1. ^ a b Rajarajan, R.K.K. 2005. Minaksi or Sundaresvara: Who is the first principle? South Indian History Congress Annual Proceedings XXV, Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai, pp. 551-553.
  2. ^ "Meenakshi Pancharatnam Lyrics – Meenatchi Pancha Ratnam". Hindu Devotional Blog. Retrieved 2018-01-21. 
  3. ^ Palmer Hall, Manly (1949). Horizon, Volume 9, Issue 3. Philosophical Research Society. p. 33. 
  4. ^ "Meenakshi Sudareswarar Temple Official Website". Retrieved 16 February 2018. The name of Mother-Goddess is Meenakshi, which in chaste Tamil is known as Angayarkanni, meaning her eyes are in the shape of a fish. 
  5. ^ Proceedings. International Association of Tamil Research; [distributors: Department of Indian Studies, University of Malaya. 1968. p. 543. 
  6. ^ Journal of Indian History. Department of History, University of Kerala. 2002. 
  7. ^ "A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Tamil Language, Vol. VII, PART - II". www.tamilvu.org. (மீன் = fish, ஆட்சி = rule). Tamil Virtual Academy, Government of Tamil Nadu. 2007. p. 68. Retrieved 2017-09-27. 
  8. ^ "Meenakshi Pancharatnam - In sanskrit with meaning". greenmesg.org. Retrieved 2018-01-21. 
  9. ^ Ramachander, P.R. "Goddess Lalithambigai - Lalitha Sahasranamam with meanings of each of 1000 sacred name". StarSai. Retrieved January 20, 2018. 
  10. ^ Birth and birthgivers : the power behind the shame. Chawla, Janet. New Delhi: Shakti Books. 2006. ISBN 8124109389. OCLC 181090767. 
  11. ^ Richman, Paula (1997). Extraordinary Child: Poems from a South Asian devotional genre. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. 
  12. ^ a b Harman 1992, p. 44-47.
  13. ^ Brockman 2011, pp. 326–327.
  14. ^ Susan Bayly (1989). Saints, Goddesses and Kings: Muslims and Christians in South Indian Society, 1700-1900. Cambridge University Press. pp. 29–30. ISBN 978-0-521-89103-5. 
  15. ^ Madurai, Encyclopedia Britannica
  16. ^ Vijaya Ramaswamy (2017). Historical Dictionary of the Tamils. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 9–10, 103, 210, 363–364. ISBN 978-1-5381-0686-0. 
  17. ^ Bharne, Vinayak; Krusche, Krupali (2014-09-18). Rediscovering the Hindu Temple: The Sacred Architecture and Urbanism of India. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. ISBN 9781443867344. 
  18. ^ King 2005, pp. 72-74.
  19. ^ D. Uma 2015, pp. 39-40.
  20. ^ a b Madurai, Encyclopedia Britannica, Quote: "The [Meenakshi] temple, Tirumala Nayak palace, Teppakulam tank (an earthen embankment reservoir), and a 1,000-pillared hall were rebuilt in the Vijayanagar period (16th–17th century) after the total destruction of the city in 1310."
  21. ^ Michell 1995, pp. 9-10
  22. ^ Tara Boland-Crewe; David Lea (2003). The Territories and States of India. Routledge. p. 401. ISBN 1-135-35624-6. , Quote: "By the beginning of the 14th century south India was exposed to the depredations of Muslim raiders from the north, and even Madurai was destroyed in 1310, by Malik Kafur, briefly becoming the seat of a sultanate thereafter."
  23. ^ a b Christopher Fuller (2003). "Madurai". In George Michell. Temple Towns of Tamil Nadu. Marg. pp. 94–113. ISBN 978-81-85026-213. 
  24. ^ Brian A. Hatcher (2015). Hinduism in the Modern World. Routledge. pp. 20–21. ISBN 978-1-135-04631-6. 
  25. ^ D. Uma 2015, pp. 34-47.
  26. ^ V. K. Subramanian (2003). Art Shrines of Ancient India. Abhinav Publications. pp. 95–96. ISBN 978-81-7017-431-8. 
  27. ^ Edwin Francis Bryant (2007). Krishna: A Sourcebook. Oxford University Press. pp. 546 with note 45. ISBN 978-0-19-803400-1. 
  28. ^ T. Padmaja (2002). Temples of Kr̥ṣṇa in South India: History, Art, and Traditions in Tamilnāḍu. Abhinav Publications. pp. 97–99. ISBN 978-81-7017-398-4. 
  29. ^ Gopal 1990, p. 181.
  30. ^ Diana L. Eck (2013). India: A Sacred Geography. Random House. pp. 277–279. ISBN 978-0-385-53192-4. 


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