Madurai: A massive fire that broke out on the premises of the famous Meenakshi temple here was put out in the early hours today and the devotees were allowed to offer the morning prayers.

The fire reduced 40 shops to ashes.

“The hall with 1,000 pillars, which houses the temple museum, has not suffered any damage,” District Collector Veera Raghava Rao, who supervised the fire-fighting operations, told reporters.

He added that a special team was formed to look into the impact of the fire on the temple, especially the 7,000-sq.ft Vasantharayar Mandapam, “which has been affected”.

There were no casualties, the collector said, adding that a police investigation was underway.

A preliminary probe revealed that the fire broke out late last night due to an electrical short-circuit in one of the shops situated near the 1,000-pillar hall.

About 40 shops, selling puja articles and toys, were gutted in the fire and steps were being taken to clear the area of smoke, the police said.

Fortunately, the sculptures in the hall were saved by the timely intervention of the temple staff and the fire and rescue services personnel, the temple authorities said.

Mani, a flower vendor at the temple, said the mortar paste had peeled off at several places inside the Vasantharayar hall, while the paintings on the roof were destroyed.

Besides, two pillars got dislocated in the impact of the fire, a temple official said on the condition of anonymity.

The east tower entrance of the temple has temporarily been shut for cleanup works and the devotees are being allowed inside through the other gates.

Meanwhile, various Hindu outfits staged a protest, demanding the relocation of the shops from the temple premises.

A huge posse of police personnel has been deployed in and around the temple.

The famous Sri Meenakshi Amman temple, one of the oldest in the country, attracts thousands of devotees every year.