The temple has a stunning architecture and a significant testimony for Vishwakarma Brahmins for their master architecture in sculpting this temple.This was a frontrunner in the election for the modern seven wonders of the world for its architectural importance. The complex houses 12 magnificent gopurams or towers that are elaborately sculptured and painted. The temple is a significant symbol for the Tamil people, and has been mentioned since antiquity in Tamil literature, though the present structure is believed to have been built only recently in the early 17th century.
According to Hindu legend, Shiva came down to earth in the form of Sundareswarar to marry Meenakshi, an incarnation of Parvati. Parvati had earlier descended to earth in the form of a small child in response to the great penance of Malayadwaja Pandya, the ruler of Madurai. After growing up to adulthood, she began ruling the city. The Lord appeared on earth and proposed to her. The marriage was supposed to be the biggest event on earth, with the whole earth gathering near Madurai. Vishnu, the brother of Minakshi, was traveling to preside over the marriage from his holy abode at Vaikuntam. Due to a divine play, he was tricked by god Indra and delayed on the way. Meanwhile, the marriage was presided over by a local god Koodal Azhaghar. This angered Lord Vishnu, and he swore never to enter the city, settling on the outskirts at a beautiful hill called Alagar Koil. He was later appeased by other gods, and he proceeded to bless the divine couple - Shiva and Parvati.
Both the marriage and the Vishnu's pacification are still celebrated as the biggest festival in Madurai, called Chithirai Thiruvizha also called as Azhakar Thiruvizha (the festival for the Beautiful Lord).
The divine couple are believed to have ruled the region for a long time. It is not clear what happened to the place after they left.Though there is proof that this divine incident was real Another legend says that Shiva's idol, in the form of the lingam, was discovered by the God of heaven, Indra, who built the original temple. This tradition is still followed in the temple - the deity is accompanied by a model of Indra's vehicle, during festive processions.
Thousand Pillar hall of Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple was built with the oldest Nellaiappar Temple,Tirunleveli as a model. The Aayiram Kaal Mandapam or thousand pillar hall is of very high sculptural importance and contains 985 (instead of 1000) magnificiently carved pillars and maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. The thousand pillar hall is supposed to have been built by Arya Natha Mudaliyar, the Prime Minister of the first Nayaka of Madurai (1559-1600 A.D.), the founder of 'Poligar System'. An equestrian statue of the Mudaliyar flanks one side of the steps leading to the 'mandapam'. Each pillar is sculptured and is a monument of the Dravidian sculpture. There is a Temple Art Museum in this 1000 pillars hall where you can see icons, photographs, drawings, etc., exhibiting the 1200 years old history. Just outside this mandapam, towards the west, are the Musical Pillars. Each pillar, when struck, produces a different musical note. The kalyana mandapa, to the south of the pillared hall, is where the marriage of Shiva and Parvati is celebrated every year during the Chithirai Festival in mid-April.