With a unique fusion of British and Indian architecture, several cities in South India are adorned with intricate elements of style from the bygone era. The city of Pondicherry is the best example of the same. The same can also be observed in various temples in South India and other monuments of great historical importance, as these architectural wonders are based on Dravidian architecture, a Hindu temple architecture that arose in South India. The article features some prominent temples in South India and their history.
Located in Hampi, Karnataka, this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is part of the Hampi group of monuments that has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Consisting of a sanctuary, three antechambers, a pillared hall, and an open-pillared hall, this temple is popular with common people for being the holiest for centuries. It is surrounded by gateways, courtyards, and shrines. The nine-level eastern entrance houses many other smaller structures and provides access to the outer courtyard. The most fascinating sight is the narrow channel of the Tungabhadra River that flows along the terrace of the temple and descends to the kitchen of the temple to the outer courtyard. The most notable feature of the temple is the use of the mathematical concept of Fractals, giving the main triangular shape to the temple that keeps dividing and repeating itself.
Located on the south bank of the Vagai River in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, this historic Hindu temple is dedicated to Meenakshi (Parvati) and Sundareshwar (Shiva). This temple was built by the survivors of Kumari Kandam in the 6th century BC. It was built and rebuilt several times after invasions by various rulers over a period of time. This temple complex is located in the center of the ancient city of Madurai and consists of concentric precincts. It consists of sanctuaries, mandapas and a rectangular patio. Upon close examination of the temple plan, it was concluded that it is a comic diagram based on the principles of symmetry and loci. The mighty walls and enigmatic shrines are a sight to behold.
This Vaishnavite temple is located at Tirumala in Tirupati in the Chittor district of Andhra Pradesh. Commonly known as the Temple of the Seven Hills, this temple is dedicated to an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and is the richest temple in the world in terms of wealth and donations received. The temple has 3 entrances that lead to Garbhagriha and has a thick wooden door covered with gold plaques. The ring road is a common devotional practice for Hindu devotees and this temple consists of 2 ring roads. These roads have Mandapas, Dwajasthambam, prasadam range and secondary shrines, main kitchen, golden well. The temple houses wonderful sculptures of deities and has Garbhagriha as Sanctum Sanctorum.
This Hindu temple, located on Rameswaram Island in Tamil Nadu is dedicated to Lord Shiva, it is one of the 12 temples in Jyotirlinga. This temple, with the longest corridor among all Hindu temples in India, is believed to have been established by Lord Rama. The temple has 2 lingams, one brought by Hanuman God and the other made by Sita. There are long corridors that run on platforms approximately 5 feet high. The corridors also combine to form a unique structure that looks like a chessboard where the deities of Utsava are adorned. With the longest set of corridors in the world, this temple was built by many people over centuries. The realistic sculptures of deities are worshiped separately in different shrines.
Aihole in northern Karnataka consists of temples and monuments, built between the 4th and 12th centuries AD, where many deities are worshiped. This medieval-era Hindu temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, worships the goddess Durga. The oblong and apsidal plane allows worshipers to perform parikrama. The shape of the temple resembles the back of an elephant. The large pillars give an opening to the outside and there is also a tower that crowns the heart of the sanctuary.
This is a temple complex built in the 7th and 8th centuries AD in northern Karnataka. With the Malaprabha River running alongside, this UNESCO World Heritage site has Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. Most notable of all is the Kashi Vishwanatha or Kashivishweswara temple. It has a square shrine that houses a linga and in front of it is a sculpture of Nandi. It has adequate arrangements for draining the water collected during devotional activities. Since the site is ancient, the numerous sculptures of the deities’ poses, forms, and incarnations have been damaged and disfigured.
This Hindu temple is located in Darasuram, Tamil Nadu and is a Hindu temple of Tamil architecture. This temple, which is part of eighteen great Hindu temples from the medieval era in the Kumbakonam area, is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This is a chariot-structured stone temple that incorporates many Vedic and Puranic deities such as Ganesha, Rati, Saraswati, and many more. It has a very intricate stone carving detailing the architecture and some elegant sculptures.
The Brihadeshwara Temple
This Hindu temple is located in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu and is one of the largest in South India. With its amazing Tamil architecture, this iconic temple is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site called “The Great Living Chola Temples”. The rectangular temple complex consists of 5 main sections that use the rules of axial and symmetric geometry. There is a large patio with pillars and a covered terrace that gives a great space to bypass. The alignment of the shrines has been taken care of very well with the smaller shrines, dedicated to Lord Shiva, aligned axially.
Located in the southernmost district of Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, the Suchindram temple from a distance as it is 134 feet tall. The 24-foot-high entrance is adorned with a beautifully carved door and has a covered area directly in front of it. Along the outer wall runs a corridor with the inner area consisting of scattered shrines. The idols of Vishnu, Hanuman and a large lingam are present in the complex and have been well preserved. The 18 foot tall Hanuman figure represents Visuvaroopam. The carvings and sculptures on the pillars and panels are also present throughout the temple.
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Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple
The Thiruvarangam is located in Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu and has been dedicated to Ranganatha. Its location is on an island between the Kollidam and Cauvery rivers, further enhancing its beauty. Occupying an area of 155 acres, this temple has 50 shrines, 21 towers, 39 pavilions, and many water tanks in the complex. This temple is the largest temple complex in India and one of the largest religious complexes in the world. It is surrounded by 7 concentric enclosures with patios, the two being residential exterior patios and markets. The sanctuaries of Vishnu and his avatars are present in the 5 inner courtyards along with those dedicated to the goddess Lakshmi. The Thi9s shrine is based on the planimetric geometry of the Hindu temple.
This Hindu pilgrimage center is located in the western Ghat mountain ranges in Kerala. There is a sanctum sanctorum with a copper-plated roof and four gilded finials on top, two mandapams, and the belikalpura. This temple complex has several temples where deities are worshiped as parents of Lord Ayyappa. There is also a sanctuary of the Lord of the Serpents where offerings are given. In many other shrines, Ganapathi Homam and broken coconut are offered as offerings.
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