In the center of Madurai, the oldest city in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu, the Meenakshi Amman Temple stands as a mythological and architectural symbol of the region. Initially founded in ancient times and rebuilt to reflect urban planning methods around the 17th century, the Hindu temple is dedicated to the legendary Goddess Meenakshi and her husband Lord Sundareswara (also known as Parvati and Shiva).
The 18 hectare (45 acre) temple complex consists of 12 pyramid-shaped gopurams, or traditional gateway towers, which measure as tall as 50 meters (164 feet) in height. These towers are erected along the outer and inner walls of the temple and are decorated with thousands of carved figures from roof to the floor, each representing gods, demons, heroes and animals appearing in Hindu myths. Other attractions of the premises include shrines for Meenakshi and Sundareswarar, magnificent hallways and the Golden Lotus Temple tank. The temple is home to around 50 priests and a number of annual Hindu festivals, making it an active place of worship as well as a major tourist attraction of Southern India.