Pudumandapam, which is currently occupied by shop owners and tailors, will be renovated and beautifed under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission.

A long-lost archaeological site containing a treasure trove that could keep scholars and researchers working for years together, which had remained concealed for decades, could soon come to limelight in the Temple City.

This site is not the kind that one would expect to be excavated from beneath the surface of earth. Rather, it is going to be recovered from beneath a huge pile of shops and commercial enterprises.

A meeting of the shop owners and tailors who have occupied the Pudumandapam space near the East Tower of the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple for over decades was convened recently by the Madurai Corporation.

It was a prelude to implementing a project under Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission with Corporation officials explaining to the traders and tailors the action plan for beautifying the mandapam.

A sound-and-light show depicting the life of the presiding deity Meenakshi has also been planned with the present occupants being assured accommodation at a new shopping complex to be constructed at the nearby vacant site where the Kunnathur Chathiram stood.

Rs. 20-crore project

This is part of a Rs. 20-crore project aimed at constructing a parking lot, a shopping complex, lighting up the four Chithirai Streets, beautifying the Mariamman Teppakulam and King Tirumalai Naick Palace.

Strongly supporting the move to shift the traders, M. Arunagiri, former Principal of Thiagarajar College, says the Pudumandapam could be converted into a museum like the Thousand Pillar Hall Museum inside the Meenakshi temple.

Dr. Arunagiri, who headed a committee that produced a souvenir to mark the Meenakshi temple’s ‘kumbabhishekam,’ said that the proposed sound-and-light show could also narrate the history of the temple construction and also of the city’s architecture.

The date of construction of the mandapam is estimated to be from AD 1628 to 35. It is 25-feet-high with more than 120 pillars of four rows on either side of the central corridor of the mandapam. The imposing pillars consist of the figures of Naick rulers. The hall is 330 feet long and 105 feet broad over the plinth.

It was constructed by the illustrious King Tirumalai Naick who ruled from 1623 to 1659. Sculptures of King Tirumalai Naick along with his consorts also adorn the mandapam.

K. Rajanayagam, Joint Commissioner of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments department and Executive Officer of Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple, says the construction of the pillars has been very well executed, reflecting the meticulous planning of the Naicks.

The sculptures are now blocked by the shops. Once the Pudumandapam is vacated, it would be renovated and then a feasibility study for the show would be undertaken by a private agency.

High-powered focus lights would also be installed to enable tourists have a better view of the sculptures.

After renovation, Mr. Rajanayagam says, the Pudumandapam would join the league of King Tirumalai Naick Mahal and Thousand Pillar Hall Museum as an attraction for tourists and scholars alike.

Must-visit spot

K. Dharmaraj, District Tourist Officer, says that a tourist can spend more than 10 minutes looking at each of the sculptures. They are so beautiful that no tourist would leave the Temple City without looking at the mandapam once.

The HR and CE Department, along with the Tourism Department, is thinking of conducting daily cultural events such as classical dance at the mandapam, he adds.

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