MADURAI: A major fire broke out near the east gopuram (temple tower) of Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple at 10:40 pm on Friday, leaving more than 40 shops gutted. Over 80 fire and rescue service personnel brought the inferno under control after a struggle of over one-and-a-half hours. No human casualty was reported in the incident but doves nesting on the premises suffocated to death. While officials confirmed that no harm had been done to the sanctum sanctorum, ancient sculptures on walls near Aayaram Kaal Mandapam were damaged.
After preliminary inquiries, fire and safety officials said a short-circuit in a shop near Amman Sannidhi entrance at East Gopuram was the trigger for the blaze. The fire soon spread to the nearby shops and raged till the Aayaram Kaal Mandapam (1,000 pillar hall). “Monetary loss due to the fire would be assessed in the morning,” officials said.
While fire service and rescue personnel were immediately informed, rescue efforts were hampered as vehicles could not enter the narrow Chithirai Street, which also leads up to the Temple entrance. Collector K Veera Raghava Rao, along with city police commissioner, reached the spot to monitor the situation. Deputy Commissioner of Police (L&O) Sasi Mohan said that public entry to the Temple via the east entrance would be restricted for the next three days.
Sources said that shops selling puja items and cosmetics were gutted. “Power supply to the area was immediately cut. Ancient sculptures on walls near the Aayaram Kaal Mandapam were damaged and doves inside the east gopuram too died,” the source added. After the fire was put out, corporation officials and police inspected the premises and confirmed that there was no damage to the Temple’s sanctum sanctorum. However, officials were roped in to check the stability of the building.