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Painting of the goddess Meenakshi, depicted crowned, two-armed and with a green parrot perching on her right hand, circa 1820.
Other names Meenaatchi
Devanagari मीनाक्षी
Tamil script மீனாட்சி
Affiliation Devi, Parvati, Tripurasundari
Animals Rose-ringed parakeet
Consort (Sundareswarar) aka Shiva

Meenakshi (Tamil: மீனாட்சி, lit. 'Mīṉāṭci', Sanskrit: मीनाक्षी, lit. 'Mīnākṣī'), is an Avatar of the Goddess Parvati, her consort being Shiva, here named "Sundareswarar".[1]

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 Meenaksi is though to be derived from the Tamil meena (fish) and Sanskrit word akshi (eye),thus translated as "Fish-eyed one".[2] 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".[3][4][a]


Meenakshi does not directly occur in the Lalita Sahasranama, though there is a reference to it in chalan meenabha lochana. Her eyes are fabled to bring life to the unborn.

The stotram Meenakshi Pancha Ratnam (five jewels of Meenakshi) [1], composed by Sri Adi Sankaracharya is an incantation to her. There are several other great hymns on the goddess, composed in the later centuries by many saints and scholars including the famous Neelakanta Dikshitar.

In thirty words, Meenakshi becomes a global icon for all who deal with 'impossible' children (or husbands).[5] Themes and activities of early childhood run through the poems. God in the little child is worshipped and protected amidst the toys in the kitchen and back yard.


In order to answer the prayers of the second Pandya King, Malayadwaja Pandya and his wife, Kanchanamalai, Parvati appeared out of the holy fire of the Putra Kameshti Yagna (sacrifice for progeny) performed by the king.[6] According to another legend, the goddess herself gave notice to Kanchanamalai in one of her previous births that Kanchanamalai would have the privilege of mothering the goddess.

The girl who came out of the holy fire had three breasts. A voice from the heavens told the king not to worry about the abnormality and added that the third breast would vanish as soon as the girl met her future husband.[7] The happy king named the girl "Tadaatagai" (Meenakshi) [8] and as the heir to the throne, Tadaatagai was trained carefully in all the 64 sastras fields of science.

Lord Vishnu weds Meenakshi to Shiva

As the time came for Tadaatagai's coronation, she had to wage war in three worlds encompassing eight directions. After conquering Brahma's Abode, Sathyaloka, Vishnu's Abode, Vaikunta, and Devas' abode Amaravati, she advanced to Shiva's Abode Kailasha.[9] She easily defeated the bhoota ganas (IAST: Bhūtagana, meaning Shiva's army) and Nandi, the celestial bull of Shiva, and headed to attack and conquer Shiva.

The moment she looked at Shiva, she was unable to fight and bowed her head down in shyness, and her third breast vanished immediately.[9] Tadaatagai realized that Shiva was her destined husband. She also realized that she was the incarnation of Parvati. Both Shiva and Tadaatagai returned to Madurai and the king arranged the coronation ceremony of his daughter, followed by her marriage to Shiva.

Meenakshi Temple[edit]

One of the Gopuram of Meenakshi Temple at Madurai

The goddess Meenakshi is the principal deity of this temple, unlike most Shiva temples in South India where Shiva is the principal deity.[10]

After the marriage, the pair (Shiva and Parvati) ruled over Madurai for a long time and then assumed divine forms as Sundareswarar and Meenakshi, the presiding deities of the Meenakshi Temple.[11] Following the tradition, every evening, before closing the temple, a ritual procession led by drummers and a brass ensemble carries the image of Sundareswarar to Meenakshi's bedroom to consummate the union, to be taken back the next morning in dawn.[7] The marriage is celebrated annually as Chithirai Thiruvizha.


  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. ^ 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. ^ Palmer Hall, Manly (1949). Horizon, Volume 9, Issue 3. Philosophical Research Soceity. p. 33. 
  3. ^ Journal of Indian History. Department of History, University of Kerala. 2002. 
  4. ^ "A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Tamil Language, Vol. VII, PART - II". (மீன் = fish, ஆட்சி = rule). Tamil Virtual Academy, Government of Tamil Nadu. 2007. p. 68. Retrieved 2017-09-27. 
  5. ^ Richman, Paula (1997). Extraordinary Child: Poems from a South Asian devotional genre. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. 
  6. ^ Harman 1992, p. 44.
  7. ^ a b Brockman 2011, pp. 326–327.
  8. ^ Harman 1992, p. 24.
  9. ^ a b Sajnani 2001, pp. 307–308.
  10. ^ Knott 2000.
  11. ^ Bandopadhyay 2010, pp. 93–96.

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