The artistic beauty and historical importance of the 17th century Pudhu Mandapam near Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple remains hidden from the public due to the indifferent attitude of the city corporation.
The 333-foot-long and 25-foot-wide mandapam which has 125 pillars, each pillar bearing sculptures of Nayak kings and goddesses, had been rented to shopkeepers many years ago.
One of the Collectors of Madurai, U Sagayam, who had identified the historical importance of Pudhu Mandapam two years back, had ordered that the mandapam be converted into a tourist spot. He had also identified an alternative site for the 300-odd shopkeepers at Kunnathur Chatram, which was just two buildings away from the Mandapam.
However, the project had been stalled for nearly two years despite the three shopkeepers associations, which were managing the affairs of shops in the Mandapam, agreeing to move to the new location.
Ambai L Manivannan, assistant professor of department of history, Melur Government Arts College said, “The Pudhu Mandapam which depicts the sculptures of almost ten Nayak kings is one of the wonderful monuments in Madurai, which must be preserved. It was constructed by Visavanatha Nayak in 1635.”
Ambai Manivannan, who authored the book ‘Potramarai’, said each pillar of the Mandapam was not only an architectural marvel, but also explained a religious element associated with the temple city. “Freedom fighters met at the mandapam frequently to devise strategies to fight colonial powers,” Manivannan added.
M Sikandar Moideen, secretary of Madurai Pudhu Mandapam Books and Iron Merchants Association said, “When the Collector Sagayam wanted to declare it a tourist spot, we had agreed, he said. The officials have promised to provide us an alternative site at Kunnathur Chatram, but so far there has been no progress, he added.
Raj Kumar of PAL promoters, a contractor for building alternative site for shopkeepers said, “The construction work at Kunnathur Chatram was stopped last Deepavali, due to legal issues between the Corporation and a project consultant regarding payment.” A senior engineer of Corporation claimed that the dispute had been sorted out and the shops would be shifted to Kunnathur Chattram within three months.