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Ancient Temples of South India

Discussion in 'Destination Guides' started by Debapriya Deb, Jun 15, 2016.

  1. Debapriya Deb

    Debapriya Deb Active Member

    South India is dotted with temples. Some of the most prominent ancient temples of India are located down South. The temples of South India are not only known for their religious importance, but are also famous for their architectural grandeur.

    You get to see some of the most authentic and finest Dravidian architectural elements in the ancient temples of South India. The Ancient temples of South India are characterized by the decorative pillars, intricate stone carvings, towering vimanas and distinctive gopurams. Both religious pilgrims as well as heritage tourists have been equally amazed by the appeal of these architectural masterpieces.

    For those who are interested in exploring the rich cultural and religious attractions of South India, here's a compilation of 7 magnificent South Indian temples belonging to the classical and medieval era that must be visited by one and all.

    1. Virupaksha Temple

    Location - Hampi (Karnataka)

    Virupaksha temple at Hampi, also popular by the name of Pampapathi temple, is one of the most noted architectural marvels from the bygone era of Vijayanagar Empire. This rock-carved temple, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was originally constructed in the 7th century. Surprisingly though the temple is still intact. It is one of the oldest temples in India to have remained functional for over 13 centuries. The presiding deity in the temple is Lord Virupaksha - a form of Lord Shiva.

    The main temple complex houses a towering gopuram, the main shrine and a huge prayer hall supported by 100 pillars. The walls of the temple is engraved with various figures and sculptures. Besides the main temple, the complex houses several smaller shrines dedicated to various Hindu Gods and Goddesses.
    Chariot Festival, which is the most important annual festival here, is celebrated with lots of grandeur and fanfare in the month of February.

    How to Reach Hampi?

    Hampi is situated in the central part of Karnataka. Hospet is the nearest major town (12 KM) that serves as a gateway to Hampi. Hospet has a well-connected road network with all major South Indian cities. Regular buses are available from Bangalore, Tumkur, Dharwad, Bijapur, Belgaum, Gulbarga, Hubli, Mysore, and Bellary. A few long-distance buses also operate from Hyderabad and Goa.

    You may travel by trains as well. Hospet (HPT) has a railway station of its own which is connected to Bangalore, Mysore, Hyderabad, Guntakal, Bijapur, Ahmedabad, Ajmer, and Kolhapur by express trains.

    2. Ramanatha Swamy Temple

    Location - Rameshwaram (Tamil Nadu)

    One of the four sacred char dhams in Hinduism as defined by medieval reformer Adi Shankaracharya, the Ramanatha Swamy Temple has immense significance among the followers of Hinduism. Moreover, it is one of the 12 Shiva Jyotirlinga temples in India. Various mythological legends are associated with this temple. Some believe that the original temple was constructed by Lord Rama himself - although there is no historical basis for such claims.

    The Ramanatha Swamy temple is believed to have been constructed between the 7th and the 8th centuries. It exhibits an authentic Dravidian style of architecture. The temple complex sits on a huge area of over 15 acres which houses four gopurams, a monolithic structure of Nandi (the Bull), a 4000 feet long pillared corridor and the main sanctum.

    How to Reach Rameshwaram?

    Rameshwaram has good road connectivity with Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore and Bangalore. Regular buses are available from all these places to arrive at Rameshwaram. It is also a major railhead which has direct train connectivity with Chennai, Bangalore, Trichy, Tirupathi and Madurai.

    3. Meenakshi Temple

    Location - Madurai (Tamil Nadu)

    Meenakshi Temple is Madurai is one of the most famous temples in South India. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Parvati, who is worshiped as Meenakshi Amman. It was constructed during the mid of 17th century (1623-1655). Meenakshi temple is one of the busiest pilgrimage centers in India with an average devotee count of over 15,000 people per day.

    The architecture of the temple is both complex and impressive at the same. It was on the list of top 30 nominees for the “New Seven Wonders of the World.” The massive temple is supported by over 4500 pillars. It has as many as 14 gateway towers (gopuram) and several pavilions (mandapa). The most striking feature of the entire temple complex is the extensive use of brightly painted statues and sculptures of Gods, Goddesses, animals, and demons. There are two main shrines - one dedicated to Goddess Meenakshi and the other to Her husband Lord Shiva. The temple complex also houses a 1000 pillared hall, an art museum, a holy tank and several smaller shrines.

    How to Reach Madurai?

    Madurai is a prominent city in Tamil Nadu. It can be easily reached via roadways, railways and airways. Madurai has good bus connectivity with all major South Indian towns including Chennai and Bangalore. Railway is another option to reach here. Madurai railway station has regular train services to and from Chennai, Bangalore, Trichy and Trivandrum. Madurai Airport has daily flights to Chennai, Trichy, Bangalore and Coimbatore.

    4. Tirumala Venkateswara Temple

    Location - Tirupati (Andhra Pradesh)

    Tirumala Venkateswara Temple, or more popularly the Tirupati Balaji Temple, needs no introduction to religious minds. Situated on top of Tirumala Hills in Andhra Pradesh, the Venkateswara Temple is arguably the most visited temple in the Southern region of India and the wealthiest temple in the world in terms of donations received from the pilgrims.

    The temple has a rich history and it is known for its beautiful Dravidian architecture. The original temple is believed to be constructed in the 3rd Century AD, which went through several renovations, reconstructions and extensions. Most of the existing structures including the Ranga Mandapam and the main shrine were constructed in the 13th Century under the patronage of Vijayanagar Empire. Kings from the Chola, the Pandya and the Pallava dynasty all have contributed towards the development of Tirupati Balaji temple

    How to Reach Tirumala Venkateswara temple at Tirupati?

    Tirupati has both road and rail connectivity. Buses are available from all major towns and cities of South India including Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai. Tirupati Railway Station too is a busy railhead. It has direct railway connectivity with Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore, Vijaywada, Vizag, New Delhi, Pune and Mumbai.

    5. Sangameshwara Temple

    Location - Pattadakal (Karnataka)

    Pattadakal is a small village in Karnataka which was the cultural epicenter of Chalukya and Rashtrakuta kings. The group of ancient temples at Pattadakal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. The Sangameshwara Temple is the grandest and oldest structure among all the temples in Pattadakal. Constructed in the later half of 6th century, this rock-cut temple is one of the few South Indian temples where you can find both Dravidian and Aryan architectural elements.

    Sangameshwara Temple was built during the rulings of Chalukya King Vijayaditya Satyashraya. The temple premises consists of a sanctum (vimana), inner corridor and a mandapam (navaranga). There are various sculptures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses carved on stone. Stone-carved figures of Ugranarasimha and Nataraja are used extensively on the pillars and the exterior walls.

    How to Reach There?

    Pattadakal is situated at a distance of just 22 KM from the historical town of Badami. From Bangalore, the distance is around 510 KM. Public buses operate from all major towns and cities in Karnataka. KSRTC buses are available from Bangalore, Bijapur, Hubli, and Belgaum.

    Badami is also the nearest railway station. Direct trains are available to Bangalore, Sholapur and Ahmedabad. If you are traveling by air, then Belgaum has the nearest airport. There are direct flights to Bangalore, Mumbai and Chennai from Belgaum airport.

    There is no accommodation option at Pattadakal. Badami and Aihole are the nearest places where you can find hotels and guest houses.

    6. Brihadeshwara Temple

    Location - Thanjavur (Tamil Nadu)

    Brihadeshwara Temple at Thanjavur is regarded as one of the finest preserved architectural marvels from the Chola period. Built by Raja Raja Chola 1 in the 10th century, it was the largest temple complex in India during the time of its creation. The entire temple structure is made out of granite rock carvings. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    There is a five-storey gopuram which leads you to the main Vimana. The elaborately decorated vimana rises to a height of over 60 meters. There is a huge Nandi carved out of a single monolithic rock. The main deity in the temple is Brihadeshwara - which is a form of Lord Shiva. There are several smaller shrines inside the temple complex that are dedicated to different Hindu Gods and Goddesses. The outer walls are decorated with stone figures of various shapes while the inner walls portray the famed mural paintings - a famous art form during the Chola period.

    How to Reach There?

    Road transport is the best mode of transport to reach Thanjavur. Buses are available in plenty from all South Indian towns. TNSTC buses ply to Thanjavur from Thiruvananthapuram, Kanyakumari, Madurai, Chennai and Coimbatore. Private buses operate from Bangalore and Hyderabad.

    The nearest airport and railway station to Thanjavur is at Trichy - around 55 KM away. Trichy is a junction station on the Thiruvananthapuram–Chennai route. Trains are available from Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Bhubaneswar, Chennai, Coimbatore, Rameswaram, Varanasi, Mysore, Bangalore and Tirupati.

    Trichy Airport has direct flights to Chennai, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Bhopal, and Hyderabad. Being an international airport, it also flight connectivity with Dubai, Singapore and Colombo.

    7. Chamundeshwari Temple

    Location - Mysore (Karnataka)

    Chamundeshwari Temple is perched on top of the Chamundi Hills in the outskirts of Mysore city. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Durga in her fierce form of Shakti. It is one of the 51 Shakti Peeths in India and a very popular pilgrimage site in Karnataka.

    The shrine of Chamundeshwari was built by the Hoysala Kings in the 12th century. The temple has a seven story tall gopuram decorated with authentic Dravidian stone carvings. The main idol of Devi Chamundi is made of gold. There is also a huge granite Nandi statue which is 15 feet in height and 24 feet in width.

    How to Reach Chamundeshwari temple at Mysore?

    Mysore is the second largest city in Karnataka which has great road and railway connectivity with the rest of the country. The temple is situated at a distance of just 13 KM from the Mysore city. There are regular city buses to take the devotees to the temple from the main bus stop in the city. One can also hire a taxi from Mysore Suburban Bus Stand or Mysore Railway Station. The one-way taxi fare is around INR 500.

    Hope you have enjoyed going through this compilation of the most famous ancient temples in South India.

    Last edited: Jun 17, 2016
    Bonzer likes this.

  2. Bonzer

    Bonzer New Member

    Hello Deb,
    Thanks for your compilation of some of the magnificent temples in South India. I would like to add a few more ancient and prominent temples to that list.

    1. Sun God temple in Arasavalli, Srikakulam, AP
    2. Lord Lakshmi Nrisimha temple, Simhachalam, Vizag, AP
    3. Yadadri Nrisimha temple, Telangana
    4. Goddess Saraswati temple, Basara, Telangana
    5. Kalyana perumal temple, Chennai, TN
    6. Bramaramba, Mallikarjuna temple, Srisailam (One of the 12 Jyotirlingas in India)

    and much more. These are listed for their historical importance and religious importance. Yes, these temples reflect the architectural prowess of the artisans of the bygone era. These temples have to be visited to treasure those memories.
    Debapriya Deb likes this.