Once upon a time in Madurai, a Pandyan king was lamenting his lack of a son despite performing multiple rituals and sacrifices. Thankfully, his prayers did not go in vain, for at last, a three-year-old child emerged from the sacrificial fire. But when the king looked upon his child, he found that he had received a girl, and she had three breasts!
The king worried for the fate of the girl, fearing that she would be mocked for her body. But a voice from the heavens reassured the king, saying that this child was to be raised as a boy, and her third breast would disappear in the presence of the one she was destined to marry.
So Meenakshi, as the girl was named, was trained in military skill, and grew up to be a fearsome warrior. And instead of looking for a husband, she decided to conquer the world
She led a powerful army all over the Earth, crushing her enemies wherever she roamed. Then she looked to the heavens, and even Lord Indra fled before her.
No one laughed at her third breast.
But Meenakshi met her match in Lord Shiva. When Shiva looked upon her, her third breast disappeared – she immediately became more passive, more fearful, more ‘feminine’.
Now a ‘normal’ woman, Meenakshi and Shiva were married, and she transformed into a divine goddess.
But even today, Meenakshi is worshipped in her three-breasted form – a form that has been interpreted to represent her deviation from gender conformity and her independence. Every year, multiple festivals attract devotees from all over the country to worship this goddess.
Yet, one can’t help but wonder, which version of Meenakshi was more powerful – the goddess, or the warrior?
Pattanaik, Devdutt. “The Goddess Meenakshi of Madurai” Bangalore Mirror. November 27th, 2016. Web. <https://bangaloremirror.indiatimes.com/opinion/sunday-read/the-goddess-meenakshi-of-madurai/articleshow/55641135.cms> as seen on August 25th, 2020.
Pillai, Manu S. The Courtesan, the Mahatma and the Italian Brahmin. Chennai: Westland Publications Pvt. Ltd., 2019. Print.
Seshadri, Sudha. “Meenakshi’s Madurai: Myths & Miracles” Live History India. September 1st, 2019. Web. <https://www.livehistoryindia.com/cover-story/2019/09/01/meenakshis-madurai-myths-miracles> as seen on August 25th, 2020.