Southern India is a heavenly abode of magnificent monuments, standing majestically from ages. The architecture of the South Indian monuments is breathtakingly beautiful and grand. From Dravidian architecture to Vijayanagara style of architecture, from elaborate pillars of Chalukyas to minute stone carvings by Krishnadevaraya, each monument has a different tale to tell. From tall, intricately carved gopurams to majestic pillars and life-sized shrines, these South Indian temples are rich in legend and stunning in their grandeur.
1. Virupaksha Temple
The one with many builders
Situated on the banks of the beautiful river, Tungabhadra, Virupaksha temple is a magnificent marvel of Vijayanagara Empire. Dedicated to Lord Shiva (Virupaksha), the temple is extensively famous for its tall gopuram, grand architecture and intricate carvings. The temple, built in the 7th century underwent a lot of additions by various rulers that ruled the kingdom, to display their power. The central pillared hall, Ranga Mandapa, is the most ornate addition by Raja Krishnadevaraya. Virupaksha temple is a centre of marriages as well as the festivities of Virupaksha-Pampa in December. This South Indian Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
2. Meenakshi Temple
The one which is a new wonder
Located on the southern banks of river Vaigai, Meenakshi Temple is dedicated to Parvati and her consort, Lord Shiva. Also called Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple, this architectural marvel is a throbbing centre of culture and art.
The present structure, built between 1623 and 1655 CE, was on the list of top 30 nominees for the “New Seven Wonders of the World.” The halls, gopurams and the shrines of the temple are ornate and grand in their appearance. Two very distinct features in terms of iconography are the shrine of Meenakshi holding a parrot and the right raised leg of Nataraja.
3. Venkateswara Temple
A South Indian temple which is a study in opulence
Situated in the hill town of Tirumala in Andhra Pradesh, Sri Venkateswara Swamy Temple is one of the famous and majestic South Indian temples. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is also known as Tirupati Balaji temple. The construction of the temple is believed to have started in 300 AD.
Very interestingly, Tirupati Balaji temple is one of the richest temples in the world, in terms of the donations received by the devotees. The temple has a rich history and splendid Dravidian style of architecture.
4. Ramanathaswamy Temple
The one which is a Jyotirlinga
Located on Rameswaram island in Tamil Nadu, Ramanathaswamy Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is also one of the twelve sacred Jyotirlinga temples of the country.
The legend narrates the tale of Lord Rama who is believed to have prayed to Lord Shiva here. The temple has one of the longest and most ornate corridors among other South Indian temples. Rameswaram is also one of the char dhams for pilgrimage.
5. Aihole and Pattadakal
The one from the 5th century
These capital cities of Chalukyas are exclusively famous for their beautiful temples in Karnataka. These South Indian temples date back to 5th century CE, very elaborate in their architecture and grandeur. Aihole is also called the “cradle of Hindu Rock Architecture”.
Famous temples of Aihole include Durga Temple and Lad Khan Temple. Pattadakal follows the blend of Nagara and Dravidian style. Important temples include Sangameshvara Temple, Mallikarjuna Temple, Galganath Temple, Jain Temple etc.
6. Airavateswara Temple
The one about an elephant
Located in the town of Darasuram near Kumbakonam, Airavatesvara Temple is another awe-stricking example built in the Dravidian architecture. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this temple was built in 12th century CE.
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple traces its name from Airavata, the white elephant of Indra who worshipped Lord Shiva in this temple. The temple is exclusively famous for its exquisite stone carvings.
7. The Brihadeshwara Temple
The one which is 1005 years old
A splendid example of Tamil architecture under the Chola Dynasty, The Brihadeeshwar temple is located in the city of Thanjavur. One of the most famous South Indian temples, it is a part of “Great Living Chola Temples”. This majestic and grand temple is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this great India temple has turned 1005 years in 2015.
8. Vitthala Temple
The one with musical pillars
This spectacular masterpiece is a living legend of Hampi’s numerous monuments in terms of their architectural magnificence. Vithhala Temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu stands apart in showcasing its awe-strucking architecture and grandeur.
Famous for its musical pillars, it is said that the pillars emit musical notes when played in a certain manner. Another attraction of the temple is the monolithic and giant stone-chariot.
9. Suchindram Temple
The one with musical pillars + hanging pillar
Primarily known as the Thanumalayan Temple, this south Indian temple is a majestic monument and is another splendid example of architectural miracles. Built in 17th century, this temple attracts various pilgrims from across the neighbouring states. The legends of Anasuya and Ahalya are attached to the temple.
The special features of the temple include the four musical pillars, the hanging pillar and the single Linga, which represents the triumvirs, Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh.
10. Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple
The one on an island
Located in Srirangam, Tiruchirapalli, the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple is dedicated to Ranganatha, a form of Lord Vishnu. The temple is built on an island in Kaveri river and is exclusively rich in legend and architecture.
This South Indian temple has one of the largest religious complexes in the world. Built in the Dravidian style, this temple looks magnificent in its appearance and architectural details. The temple is also one of the eight “Swayam Vyakta Kshetras” of Lord Vishnu.
11. Ayyappa Temple, Sabarimala
The Sabarimala Temple, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, is one of the most renowned and prominent temples of all the Sastha temples. This temple is significant not only for its religious elements but also because of the cultural, societal and cultural elements attached to it. This is perhaps why this is one of the largest annual pilgrimages in the world; which attracts over 100 million devotees each year.
South Indian Temples are a study in grandeur, opulence, size and sheer magnanimity. How many of these architectural marvels have you visited?