When it comes to temple architecture, South India is a cornucopia of treasures. One can find ancient temples – some of them dating back 2000 years and more, standing majestically even now. Many of them have an interesting history, and unique features that make them a must visit the monument.
The style of temple architecture in the South is also very different from that in the North. Even within the southern states, there is significant variation in the style. Here are 12 of the temples you should definitely try and visit:
- Virupaksha Temple, Hampi – A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this temple is a magnificent reminder of the grandeur of the Vijayanagara Empire. Intricate carvings, a lofty gopuram (entrance gate) and its splendid architecture are the hallmarks of this Shiva Temple. The Ranga Mandapa, built by King Krishnadeva Raya, is an exquisite hall that is still used for weddings and local festivities.
- Madurai Meenakshi Temple – built on the southern bank of the Vaigai river, this Parvati – Shiva Temple is a thriving center of art, music, dance and culture. Consisting of grand shrines, awe-inspiring halls, and gopurams, this imposing temple draws millions of domestic and foreign visitors annually. The highlights are Meenakshi’s statue with a parrot and the statue of Nataraja with his right leg raised high.
- Tirupati Balaji Temple – Officially known as the Venkateswara Temple of Tirumala, this is a very famous temple which attracts the devout in the thousands every day, who donate huge sums of money here. It is believed that the construction of this temple began in 300 AD. It has a rich history and is an excellent example of Dravidian architecture.
- Ramanathaswamy Temple – Situated in Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, this Shiva Temple is one of the twelve sacred Jyotirlingas and one of the ‘char dham’; it is believed that Sri Ram had prayed here. Its highlight is the long and exquisitely decorated corridor – it is supposed to be the best in all of South India.
- Airavateswara Temple – Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, this temple in Darasuram near Kumbakonam is an awe-inspiring example of 12th Century Dravidian architecture. Airavata is the white elephant of Indra (the Indian equivalent of Zeus) and is supposed to have worshiped here – hence the name. This temple is renowned for its intricate stone carvings.
- Brihadeshwara – This splendid example of Tamil architecture during the Chola reign, was built in the temple city of Tanjavur, and is also a World Heritage Site of UNESCO. This majestic temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is 1007 years old and is one of the most renowned ancient temples where worship and prayers are conducted regularly.
- Vitthala Temple, Hampi – A magnificent architectural monument, this temple of Lord Vishnu showcases the glory of Hampi. You will be awe-struck at the grandeur of this temple, with the huge chariot carved in a single rock being one of the biggest attractions. Many come here to test the ‘musical pillars’: it is said that when you stroke the pillars in a particular way, they produce musical sounds!
- Suchindram Temple, Kanyakumari – Originally called the Thanumalayan Temple, this majestic temple is a splendid example of 17th Century temple architecture. The four musical pillar, the hanging pillars and the single Linga representing the holy trinity of Brahma Vishnu and Mahesh lure devotees and visitors in the thousands.
- Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam – This temple in Tiruchirapalli district of Tamil Nadu is dedicated to Lord Vishnu in the form of Ranganatha and is built on an island in the river Kaveri. One of the 8 ‘Swayam Vyakta Kshetras’ of Vishnu, this architectural wonder is one of the largest religious complexes in the world.
- Anantapadmanabhaswamy temple, Thiruvananthapuram – situated in the capital city of Kerala, this temple to Lord Vishnu is a complex synthesis of the Dravidian and Kerala styles of architecture, with its lofty walls and magnificent gopuram. It is the richest Hindu temple in the world, as recently discovered in 5 underground vaults. The deity is enshrined in the “Anantha Shayanam” pose, the everlasting yogic sleep on Adisheshan, the many-headed serpent, referred to as the King of all serpents.
- Sri Krishna Temple, Guruvayur – This ancient temple attracts the faithful from all over the country; it is believed that prayers are granted when offered here with true devotion. Believed to be thousands of years old, this temple features old Kerala style architecture that is simpler than in the temple mentioned above, but there is an inexplicable beauty in the simplicity and neatness; the sacred and serene atmosphere is something that can only be understood when experienced.
- Vidyashankar Temple, Sringeri – the first ‘math’ or ashram of Adi Shankara was established here in the 6th Century on the banks of the Tunga river. The temple itself os over 1200 years old and features impressive stone carvings, with many sculptures in the niches of the temple. It is a combination of Hoysala and Vijayanagara architectural styles. The highlights are the main hall with 12 pillars, each representing a sign of the zodiac, and the arrangement of the doors and windows in such a way that the sunrise during the equinoxes, directly fall on the deity. The northern and southern gates offer a view of the sunrise during the solstices.
We’re sure that you’re already planning your trip to see the best of South Indian temples! Leave the planning to the leading tour operators in India– just tell us what you’d like to see and when, and we’ll get back to you with a well-planned itinerary. Call us now on +91-9829488511.