South India is home to some of the oldest and most beautiful architectural marvels of India, in the form of its temples. Built of various stones and often with tall expressive Gopuras, these are indeed manmade wonders. Most of these temples of South India that spread throughout the five states – Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana, are fine examples of the famed Dravidian temple architecture, which attracts scholars and tourists from all around the world, in millions, every year. Here are 15 of the most famous temples of the south.
1. Madurai Meenakshi Temple, Madurai | Famous Temples of South India
This is architectural marvel situated on the banks of the Vaigai River, in the city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu, is one of the oldest temples of India. The shrine dedicated to goddess Parvati and her consort Shiva is also known by the name Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple. Built by Kulashekarar, the Pandyan king, between the years 1623 and 1655 CE, the temple is a fine expression of Dravidian architecture. The temple managed to get into the top 30 nominees for the 7 wonders of the modern world.
2. Brihadeshwara Temple, Thanjavur
The temple which was constructed a millennium ago is probably the most famous among the great living Chola temples. It was constructed by King Rajaraja Chola and designed by KunjaraMallan Raja Rama Perunthachan. The dancing Shiva, other stone idols, and a large sculpture of Nandi are famous features of the temple. This grand temple holding many architectural wonders was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1987.
3. Ramanathaswamy Temple, Rameswaram | Famous Temples of South India
This is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga temples of India. The temple crafted of beige stones is located on Rameswaram Island in Tamil Nadu. The temple is particularly famous for its ‘infinite corridors’, the outer set of corridors that are the longest of their kind in the world.
Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, or the Sree Ananda Padmanabhaswamy Temple, located in East Fort, Trivandrum, has gotten famous in recent times as the richest temple of India. Constructed as a blend of the Kerala and Dravidian style of architecture, the large golden-colored temple stands facing a large holy tank, named the Padma Theertham. The temple is one of the 108 sacred Vishnu temples in India and gets its name from the presiding deity, the Ananda Padmanabhan- Vishnu in a reclining position on Anantha, the hooded serpent.
5. Virupaksha Temple, Hampi | Famous Temples of South India
Located in the Vijayanagara Empire, modern-day Hampi, by the banks of river Tungabhadra, Virupakshais one of the most important temples of this lost empire. The temple dedicated to Lord Shiva was constructed in the 7th century, by LakkanaDandesha, who was a chieftain under the rule of Deva Raya II. It was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1986.
6. Venkateswara Temple, Tirupati
Sri Venkateswara Swami Temple, also known as the Tirupati Balaji Temple, is situated in the town of Tirumala in Andhra Pradesh. The temple dedicated to Venkateswara, a form of Lord Vishnu is said to have been constructed around 300AD. This beautiful temple built in the Dravidian architectural style is one of the richest temples in India. The temple is situated on the 7th hill, in a seven-hill range, and hence is also known by the name- the temple of seven hills.
7. Ayyappa Temple, Sabarimala | Famous Temples of South India
The Sabarimala temple dedicated to Lord Ayyappa is the most prominent of the Sastha temples of South India. With over 100 million devotees visiting the temple every year, the temple witnesses one of the largest annual pilgrimages in the world. It is considered the most important temple of Kerala and is situated atop the Sabarimala hill in the Western Ghats.
8. Vitthala Temple, Hampi
One among the several magnificent temples within the ancient city of Vijayanagara, vitthala temple which is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, is famous for its detailed carvings, and unique architectural features. The musical pillars and the large monolithic stone chariot are especially popular among visitors.
9. Airavateswara Temple, Kumbakonam
Built-in the 12th century, by King Rajaraja Chola II, in the city of Darasuarmin Kumbakonam, the temple is another exhibit of beautiful Dravidian temple architecture. Another UNESCO world heritage site, this temple dedicated to Lord Shiva got its name from Airavata, the white elephant of Indra, who was a Shiva worshipper and visited the temple according to temple legends.
10. Aihole and Pattadakal | Famous Temples of South India
The group of temples located in Aihole, Pattadakaland Badami are famous for being beautifully carved rock-cut Dravidian temples. The sites are said to be the birthplace of Hindu cave temple architecture under the early Eastern Chalukya Dynasty. The first of the temples were constructed between the 6th and 8th century CE. Aihole is known as the cradle of Hindu rock architecture and holds the famous Durga Temple and Lad Khan Temple. Pattadakal has a mix of Nagara and Dravidian style and is home to Sangameshvara Temple, Mallikarjuna Temple, Galganath Temple, Jain Temple, etc.
11. Guruvayoor Temple, Guruvayur, Kerala
One of the most important temples of Kerala and one of the major pilgrimage destinations of South India is the GuruvayurSree Krishna temple, located in the town of Guruvayur. The Balkrishna avatar of Lord Vishnu is the presiding deity.
With slanting tiled roofs and long stretching corridors and the structure mainly constructed out of wood, the temple stands in contrast with the Dravidian temple architecture and adheres to the Kerala temple style, which is more suited to the local climate.
12. Thanumalayan Temple, Suchindram, Kanyakumari
Constructed in the 17th century, in the Suchindramdistrict of Kanyakumari, this is another popular pilgrimage site in south India. Today’s temple was built in the 17th century, while some older parts of it date as far back as the 6th century CE. One major feature of the temple is that it is dedicated to the trinity, Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma. And thus, it holds great importance among the Shaivite and Vaishnavite sects. The temple has about 30 shrines in total and is also known by the name Sthanumalayan Perumal Temple.
13. Ekambareswarar Temple, Kanchipuram | Famous Temples of South India
This temple is one of the most important Shiva temples in the country. It is one of the ‘PanchaBhootaStalam’, that is, five Shiva temples each representing five elements of life, and stands for element earth. The temple located in Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu is several thousand years old, with the present structure being attributed to 600 AD by the Pallava rulers. But the temple still displays works from all of these dynasties that ruled Kanchipuram.
14. Arulmigu Dhandayuthapani Swamy Temple, Palani
Considered to be one of the most important pilgrimage sites of south India, this temple was constructed in the 9th century by the Cheran king CheramanPeruman. The temple, which is also known as ArulmiguKulazhandaivellayutha Swamy Temple (Thiruavinankudi), is one among the six Padaiveedu’s (Abode) of Lord Muruga. These are the sub-temples of ArulmiguDhandayuthapani Swamy Temple, Palani.
15. Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple, Srirangam, Tamil Nadu
Srirangam temple is the most important among the 8 self-manifested shrines of Lord Vishnu. It is also believed to be the first and most important of the 108 main Vishnu temples in India. Other popular names of the temple include- Thiruvaranga Tirupati, Periyakoil, Bhoologa Vaikundam, Bhogamandabam. The temple is situated on an island formed by the twin rivers Kaveri and Coleroon and spreads over 156 acres of land.