Fire in Madurai’s Meenakshi Temple Sparks Demand for Shops to be Evicted from Complex

TAMIL NADU, INDIA, February 11, 2018 ( On Friday night, a major fire broke out in the famed Meenakshi Amman temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, destroying 36 shops located in the 400-year-old Veera Vasantharayar Mandapam, a hall in the temple’s East Wing. The 7,000 sq ft mandapam, which housed more than 100 shops selling everything from puja items like flowers and coconuts to plastic toys, was badly damaged. Parts of the hall’s stone roof and a few intricately-carved stone pillars have collapsed, reported The Hindu. There were no casualties. The fire is suspected to have been caused by a short-circuit in a shop. The district administration has reportedly sought the help of experts from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, to ascertain the extent of the damage caused to the structures in the complex.

The architect explained that stone pillars were not impervious to fire. “Stone also can take heat only to an extent,” said Madhusudhanan. “When that limit is crossed, stone sculptures can be defaced or the entire structure can be weakened.” He added that the stones used to construct the temple were affixed with lime mortar, which weakens and collapses when charred. “That is exactly what has happened with the roof of the hall,” he said. A February 5 report in The Times of India quoted an unidentified senior official of the Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services as saying that the department had warned temple authorities several times to take fire safety precautions, such as streamlining electrical wires and avoiding storing plastic items in shops. But these warnings went unheeded. When asked to confirm this, Saravanakumar said: “We have to verify the records.” He added that for the last five years, the fire services had kept a fire engine on standby in the temple complex.