Meenakshi temple gets a new 'Linga'

Consecration held at Madurai on March 16

The new sparkling ‘Spatika Linga’ consecrated in the ancient Meenakshi Temple at Madurai.

It is the ‘fish-eyed-Goddess’, as the legend says, who rules Madurai in southern Tamil Nadu that houses one of the oldest Shiva temples in the country going back to the early years of the Christian era.   

Now it is in the cusp of a profoundly subtle change in its innermost sanctum that may bring synergies between wholesome spiritual living and the growing exciting science of climate change to reduce global warming.

This abode of Meenakshi, consort of the temple’s presiding deity Lord Sundareshwarar, is wrapped in layers of mystical symbolism that peels away as you walk through this gorgeous temple to have a glimpse of the divine.

With two main shrines - one for Goddess Meenakshi and the other for Lord Shiva or Sundareshwarar- and as many as 12 ‘gopurams’, this huge temple complex built by Pandya kings and successively rebuilt during the Nayak period after the Muslim ruler Malik Kafur’s invasion in AD 1310 had largely undone the structure, its esoteric impact has never waned.

A narrative tradition has it that the Lord’s sanctum was closed for nearly 50 years under Muslim rule. But when the temple authorities later reopened it, “the sandalwood paste placed on the Linga, was as fresh as on the first day, and two oil lamps were still burning.” More than its truth-claim, it is unshaken faith in the power of the Universal Spirit that makes the tradition.

Even as extensive renovation works have been carried out in the Meenakshi Temple, the convention here is that the Goddess is worshiped first, in recent years to give it a splendid external makeover, the main shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva has a new ‘Spatika Linga’. After its consecration on March 16, it has enhanced the divine presence manifold.

Transparent material

Of the 32 types of ‘Lingas’, depending on the materials used to shape the ‘Linga’, a pre-historic form of worship that manifests the formless Shiva,  the ‘Linga’ made from ‘Spatika’ or rock crystal, a brilliantly transparent material, is revered as the most “purest and auspicious gem”.

The sanctum of the Lord Sundareshwarar shrine has for over 300 years also housed a ‘Spatika Linga’, worshiped twice a day along with the main deity, says Mr Padmanabhan, Joint Commissioner of the ‘ Meenakshi-Sundareshwarar Temple ‘. The ‘Shivlinga’ made of ‘Spatika’ adds to the Lord’s effulgence as it is considered to “have the same effect as worshipping a ‘Jyothir Linga’, he told Deccan Herald from Madurai over telephone.

While devotees can have the ‘darshan’ of the ‘Spatika Linga’ only twice a day- when it is taken out of its casing for Poojas, some months back it was found to have developed ‘light cracks’, said Padmanabhan. The Temple authorities then yearned to replace it with another ‘Spatika Linga’, which matches the attributes of the original. Finding the right icon took a long time.   

The ‘Spatika Linga’, is also known as ‘Udayavar’, meaning ‘companion to the main deity Sundareshwarar,” says Mr Jayaprakash, Special Administrative Officer of the temple . After a long wait, thanks to a liberal Madurai donor who wishes to remain anonymous, a suitable ‘Spatika Linga’ has been brought from the Himalayas, the temple officials said.

The authorities also took care it conformed to the last details prescribed in the ‘Agama’ and ‘Shilpa Shastras’- manuals of temple worship. Symbolically, the ‘Spatika Linga’ represents the image of ‘Nataraja’ or the ‘cosmic dancer’, says Raja Bhattar of the ‘Veda-Agama Patasaala’ in Tiruparankundram near Madurai , who advises the temple in such matters.

As the ‘Prathinithi (representative)’ of Lord Nataraja, “we ensured that the new Spatika Linga is made strictly in accordance with the Agama Shastras,” said Bhattar. The dazzling new Linga brought to the temple is just about 7 to 8 inches tall, and was placed before the main deity after two days of a formal consecration ceremony, he added. Then the old ‘Spatika Linga’ was moved into the Temple ‘s safe vault.

A new silver receptacle for the ‘Spatika Linga’ was also ready by the Temple authorities, besides a new golden casing for it too. The ‘Spatika Lingam’ alone costs about
7.50 lakh, the officials said. As a totally transparent and pure medium, the fund of energy radiated by the ‘Spatika Lingam’ is for welfare of the entire humanity, added Raja Bhattar.  

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