Having a unique fusion of British and Indian architecture, South India’s several cities are adorned by the intricate style elements from the bygone era. The city of Pondicherry is the best example of the same. One can also observe the same in various temples across South India and other monuments of great historic importance as these architectural marvels are based on Dravidian architecture, a Hindu temple architecture that emerged in south India. The article counts on some prominent temples in South India and their history.
Located in Hampi, Karnataka, this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is a part of the group of monuments at Hampi that has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Consisting of a sanctum, three antechambers, a pillared hall and an open pillared hall, this temple is popular among the common folks for being the most sacred for centuries. It is surrounded by entrance gateways, courtyards, and shrines. The nine-tiered eastern gateway houses many other smaller structures and is provides access to outer court. The most mesmerizing view is of the narrow channel of Tungabhadra River flowing along the temple’s terrace going down to the temple kitchen to the outer court. The most notable feature of the temple is the use of the mathematical concept of Fractals, giving the main triangular shape to the temple which keeps on dividing and repeating itself.
Located on the southern bank of 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 following invasions by multiple rulers over a period of time. This temple complex lies in the center of the old city of Madurai and consists of concentric enclosures. It consists of shrines, mandapas, and a rectangular courtyard. By close examination of the temple plan, it was concluded that it is 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 situated in Tirumala at Tirupati in Chittor district of Andhra Pradesh. Commonly known as the Temple of 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 donation received. The temple has 3 entrances which lead to Garbhagriha and has a thick wooden door covered with gold gilt plates. Circumambulation is a common devotional practice in Hindu devotees and this temple consists of 2 circumambulation paths. These paths have Mandapas, Dwajasthambam, prasadam distribution area and sub-shrines, main kitchen, golden well. The temple houses marvelous sculptures of deities and has Garbhagriha as Sanctum Sanctorum.
This Hindu Temple, located in Rameswaram Island in Tamil Nadu is dedicated to Lord Shiva, is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga temples. It is believed that this temple, with the longest corridor among all the Hindu temples in India, was established by Lord Rama. The temple has 2 lingams, one brought by Hanuman God and the other one made by Sita. There are long corridors which run in platforms about 5 feet high. The corridors also combine together to form a unique structure which looks like a chess board where Utsava deities are adorned. With the longest set of corridors in the world, this temple was built by many individuals over centuries. The life-like sculptures of deities are worshipped separately in different shrines.
Aihole in North Karnataka consists of temples and monuments, built from 4th to 12th century CE, where many deities are worshipped. A part of pending UNESCO World Heritage Site, this medieval era Hindu temple worships goddess Durga. The oblong and apsidal plan allows the worshipers to perform parikrama. The shape of the temple resembles the back of an elephant. The large pillars give an outward opening and there is also a tower which surmounts the heart of the shrine.
This is a complex of temples built in the 7th and 8th century CE in Northern Karnataka. With Malaprabha River running on the sides, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. The most notable of all is Kashi Vishwanatha Temple or Kashivishweswara. It has a square sanctum housing a linga and facing it is a sculpture of Nandi. It has proper arrangements for draining out water collected during devotional activities. Since the site is ancient, the many sculptures of the poses, forms, and incarnations of the deities have been damaged and defaced.
This Hindu temple is located in Darasuram, Tamil Nadu and is a Hindu temple of Tamil architecture. A part of eighteen medieval era large Hindu temples in the Kumbakonam area, this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This is a stone temple with chariot structure incorporating many Vedic and Puranic deities like Ganesha, Rati, Saraswati and many more. It has 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 a part of UNESCO World Heritage Site called “The Great Living Chola Temples”. The rectangular temple complex consists of 5 main sections which utilize the axial and symmetrical geometry rules. There is a big courtyard with pillars and covered veranda giving a huge space for circumambulation. The alignment of shrines has been taken care of nicely with the smaller shrines, dedicated to Lord Shiva, aligned axially.
Situated in the southernmost district of Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, the Suchindram temple from a distance as it is 134 feet tall. The 24 feet high entrance is adorned with a beautifully carved door and has a covered area right 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 feet high feet high figure of Hanuman depicts Visuvaroopam. Also present are the carvings and sculptures on the pillars and panels 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 Kollidam and Cauvery rivers enhancing its beauty furthermore. 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 compound in India and one of the largest religious complexes in the world. It is enclosed by 7 concentric enclosures with courtyards, the two outer courtyards being residential and markets. The shrines of Vishnu and his avatars are present in the 5 inner courtyards along with those dedicated to goddess Lakshmi. Thi9s sanctum is based on the Hindu temple planimetric geometry.
This Hindu pilgrimage center lies in the Western Ghat ranges in Kerala. There is a sanctum sanctorum with a copper-plated roof and four golden finials at the top, two mandapams, and the belikalpura. This temple complex has various temples where deities are worshipped as parents of Lord Ayyappa. There is also a shrine of the Lord of Snakes where offerings after given. In many other shrines, Ganapathi Homam and broken coconut are given as offerings.
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