Updated: Jun 28, 2020
The ancient city of Madurai is located in the state of Tamil Nadu in South India, famed for its beautiful Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple. Legend has it that a farmer named Dhananjaya, who was passing through a forest known as Kadambavanam, spotted Lord Indra (the king of the gods) worshipping a Lingam under a kadambam tree. The farmer promptly reported this to his ruler, King Kulasekara Pandya, who cleared the forest and built a temple there, around which the city of Madurai was then planned. Lord Shiva is said to have appeared on the day that the city was to be named. A few drops of nectar (mathuram) from Lord Shiva’s hair are said to have fallen on the city, thus giving the city its name - Madurai.
The Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple is around 2000 years old and is one of the largest temple complexes in the country today. Being under the rule of monarchs from various dynasties such as the Pandyas, Cholas, Nayaks etc, the temple has thrived and flourished for two millennia, and currently extends over an area of 65,000 sq. ft. Thirumalai Nayak (1623-55 AD) contributed immensely to the temple’s expansion and to the enhancement of its architecture.
The temple has five massive gateways, and enshrines Lord Shiva in the form of Sundareswarar and Meenakshi, the fish-eyed Devi. The temple complex also houses the famous Mukkuruni Vinayagar Temple for Lord Ganesha.
Lord Ganesha is known as the remover of obstacles, and His shrine is the first stop for devotees visiting any Hindu temple. In the Madurai Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple, devotees first visit the Mukkuruni Vinayagar Temple and offer prayers to Lord Ganesha, before visiting the two presiding deities of the temple.
The imposing idol of Mukkuruni Vinayagar was discovered on a path that lay between the shrines of the deities of Meenakshi and Chokkanaathar/Sundareswarar. The idol was discovered in the year 1645, when a tank was being dug in the area. The tank is now known as the Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam (tank).
Legend has it that when Lord Ganesha was teased by everyone for sitting idle with his pot belly, He decided to seek employment. Taking the form of a young boy, Ganesha approached a farmer devotee and asked if He could assist him. When the farmer asked Ganesha about what wages He would expect for His efforts, Ganesha asked him for three (moonru) kurunis of grains, or mukkuruni. Thus, Lord Ganesha came to be known as Mukkuruni Vinayagar. After earning His wages, when Ganesha proudly offered them to His Mother Parvathi, She asked that they be given to His father, Lord Shiva instead, as Parvathi was of the opinion that fathers generally feel prouder of their children’s earnings than their mothers do. So, Lord Ganesha happily presented His earnings in the form of the mukkuruni of grains to Lord Shiva, who, however, promptly emptied the three kurunis of grains on Ganesha’s head.
An enormous kozhukattai or modakam (a dish made using rice flour), prepared from three kurunis of grains, is offered to Lord Ganesha. Devotees throng this temple during the festival of Vinayaga Chaturthi, which falls in the Tamil month of Avani.
There are two other temples for Mukkurini Vinayagar in Chidambaram and Nagapattinam.
Fun fact: According to the ancient measurement system in Tamil Nadu, 1 kuruni = 8 padi. 1 padi = 38,000 arisi (rice) grains or 115,200 sesame seeds. Which means, when Lord Ganesha asked for 3 kuruni or mukkuruni of grains, he would have received 3 kuruni x 8 padi = 912,000 rice grains or 2,764,800 sesame seeds.
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