Chennai - Mahabalipuram
- Kanchipuram - Trichy - Tanjore - Madurai - Periyar - Cochin - Bangalore - Mysore
temple architecture of the South Indian is very different from the temple architecture
of the rest of India. The temple building activity of the South India can be divided
four periods corresponding to the main kingdoms, which ruled the South India for
The Pallava dynasty ruled from AD 600 to 900. The characteristic
feature of the Pallava temple architecture is the rock-cut temples. The finest
specimen of rock-cut shrines can be seen at Mahabalipuram. The Shore temple at
Mahabalipuram is a fully carved temple complex with a towered sanctuary and mandapa.
The Chola dynasty ruled from AD 900-1150. The zenith of the Chola temple
architecture can be seen at Thanjavur. It was the capital established by the Chola
ruler Rajaraja I. The shrines have rising pyramidal towers crowned with domical
roofs. The walls are embellished by the sculptures and paintings. The Bronze sculptures
of this period are one of the finest in the whole of the South India.
The period of the reign of Hoysalas is from AD 1100-1350. The temples erected
by the Hoysala kings have complex plans with numerous angled projections. The
Chlorite stone was carved on the surface with remarkable precision. The columns
of the temples are multi-faceted. The example of the Hoysala temples can still
be seen at Belur, Halebid and Sringeri. The temple building activity came to an
abrupt end due to the Muslim invasion.
The construction of temples gained
fervor once again during the period of the Vijayanagara Empire. The characteristic
feature of the temples of this period the growth of the temple complexes. The
temples are concentric sequence of rectangular enclosure walls having gopuras
in the center. The best examples of the temples of Vijaynagara are at Hampi.
was the important seaport of the Pallava rulers. The place
is famous now for some of the greatest architectural and sculptural specimen in
India. The beautiful cave temples and gigantic open air reliefs carved from blocks
of granite date to the 7th century AD. The Shore temples at Mahabalipuram were
built during the reign of Rajasimha in the 7th century AD and marks the of zenith
of the Pallava art and architecture. The temple was designed to catch the first
rays of the rising sun and to illuminate the waters after dark. Thus the temple
has an unusual layout. The Shore Temple
was the first Pallava
structure to be built of stone rather than being hewn out of stone like the older
temples. The greatest improvement in design is in the shikhara or spire, which
has altered from the rounded vihara design to a soaring, tiered style. Elements
like the vimana or spire, the gopuram or gateway and animal figures that were
to become trademark features of Dravidian architecture can all be seen here. And
it is largely the use of dressed stone, which gave the architects greater creative
The main shrine faces the sea on the east and the gateway,
the forecourt and the assembly hall of the Shore Temple lie behind the sanctum.
The temple has shrines to both Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. The main sanctum and
one of the two lesser ones on the west are dedicated to the Shiva. The enclosing
wall has a series of Nandi bulls on it. Interconnected cisterns around the temple
meant that the sea could be let in to transform the temple into a water shrine.
A stone wall as been added to protect the shrine from the rising seas and further
erosion in the recent times. The Brihadeswara temple
is within a huge compound with walls rising above 15m. The temple is made over
a 29 m square base and has a soaring vimana and a stunted gopuram. The inner sanctum
and the gopuram were constructed over a period of 12 years. It was constructed
from a single piece of granite weighing around 80 tones. The dome was hauled into
place along a 4-km earthwork ramp in a manner similar to the Egyptian pyramids.
The lofty sanctum tower known as the Srivimana, is enclosed by a rectangular
prakara or corridor consisting of two squares. The inner wall of the garbhagriha
or the sanctum sanctorum has sculpted 108 dance poses called karmas performed
by Lord Shiva himself. The Shiva lingam is called Peruvudaiya, Rasjarajeshwaramudvya.
It is a huge lingam, which is set in a two-storeyed sanctum. Rajaraja Chola crowned
it with 12.5 ft tall finial of 9.25 kilograms of choppers plated with 800 grams
huge statue of Nandi measuring 6 m length and 3.7 m in height faces the inner
sanctum. The statue of Nandi was created from a single rock piece and weighs 25
tones. It is in fact one of the largest statues of Nandi bulls in India. The temple
also has a spacious ground, number of pillared halls, shrines and 250 lingams.
The Hoysaleshwara temple
at Halebid stands on a platform like
a casket. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It has two shrines connected
by the pillared walls. Each of the shrine has the lingam of Hoysaleshwara and
Shanthaleshwara. Ketumalla who was the chief of the staff of Vishnuvardhan built
the temple in 1121 AD.
The temple is richly ornamented with most intricately
detailed scrollwork in stone. Outside there is figure of Nandi or the Bull, the
mount of Shiva outside the shrine over a hillock. The figure of mortals and immortals
are larger here in comparison to Belur. They are beautifully chiseled in shining
black stone. The walls of the temples are embellished with variety of sculptures
of the gods and goddesses, animals, birds and dancing girls.
Raya, the ruler of the Vijayanagara Empire, constructed The Vithala Temple at
Hampi. It has a magnificent stone chariot in the courtyard of the temple. The
large ranga mandapa is very impressive as it has 56 musical pillars, which resound
with musical chimes when struck. The temple has variety of styles that is characterized
in the shrines within the temple courtyard and in the delicacy of the carvings
that embellish them. The temple stands over a large rectangular enclosure. The
three lofty gopuras on the east, north and south sides are now in a dilapidated
condition. The gopuram on the south is most ornate.
A pillared colonnade
is surrounded all along the interior of the enclosing wall. The main shrine is
in the center of the enclosed courtyard along with mandapa, amman sanctum, the
kalyana mandapa, an utsava mandapa, a hundred-pillared mandapa and a stone ratha.
There was a originally a lofty kipa-stambha, measuring 12.2 m in height, in front
of the east gopuram. But now it is broken condition and lies on the ground. The
main shrine was dedicated to Vishnu in the form of Vithala. Rameshwar
Jyotirlinga Shiva Temple
The temple is situated on the eastern coast. It is a huge structure with three
parakaramsand several mandapams with mini shrines to other deities. There is a
huge Anjaneya in a mini shrine. There is a huge Nandi measuring 12 feet in length
and 9 feet in height., with the idols of Viswanatha Naicker and Krishnama Naicker.
The lingams are housed in the inner section of the Ramalingeshwara. High walls
enclose the temple, forming a rectangle with huge pyramidal gopura entrances on
each side. The gateways lead to the spacious closed ambulatory, flanked to either
side by continuous platforms with massive pillers set on their edges. These corridors
are the most famous attribute of the temple, their extreme - 205 metres, with
1212 pillars on the north and south sides - giving a remarkable impression of
receding perspective. Delicate scrollwork and brackets of pendant lotuses supported
by yalis, mythical lion-like beasts, adorn the pillars. There are shrines for
Ganapathi and Subramanya. To the right of the Lords shrine is the shrine for Parvathi.
To its North is the Kasi Viswanathars shrine. Mariamman
Mariamman Theppakulam in Vandiyur - 5km south east of Meenakshi Temple is one
of the the huge Temple tank in south India. It was built in 1636 and was commissioned
by Thirumalai nayakar in 1646. The area of the tank and the island pavilion with
a garden in the center is approximately equal to the area of Meenakshi Temple
The length of the tank is 1000 feet and width is 950 feet. The mandapam and
temple in the center of the tank enshrines an idol of Lord Vigneshwara, the elephant-faced
god. It is said to have been found when the earth was being dug out from here
to build the Tirumalai Nayakkar Mahal. So the place attained sanctity and was
converted into a Teppakulam (tank).
The Float Festival is celebrated here
on the Full Moon Day of the Tamil month of Thai - mid-Jan, to mid-Feb every year.
The placid waters of the tank turn colorful when the mandapam is lit up and the
temple deities are brought to it in decorated floats. Huge trees with Nagalingam
flowers can be found here. The tank is connected to river Vaigai through underground
channels. The tank has total of 12 long stairs (steps) on all four sides.