We saw the west gopuram of the Meenakshi temple in the best possible light. It was late in the afternoon, just before the sun dipped below the line of the buildings around it. When we reached, the long shadows of these buildings had begun to creep across the road, and by the time we left they were climbing up the walls of the tower. This 47 meter high tower is the second oldest of the outer gopura, having been built between 1315 and 1347 CE in the reign of the Pandya king Parakrama.
By the time I came to this tower my confusion was complete. I’d expected that this temple to Meenakshi, consort of Shiva, was firmly in the Shaiva tradition. On the other hand, this gopuram has an image of Vishnu’s avatar as Narasimha, and several other Vaishnava images. Later reading told me that, in the south Indian tradition, Meenakshi is Vishnu’s sister. As a result, this temple is important in both traditions.
That certainly put a lot of the imagery in perspective.