A brilliant blend of spirituality and art define the architectural splendour of south Indian temples. The historic dynasties ruling south India over hundreds of years had come up with some finest art specimens. In this article, you will get to explore fifteen south Indian temples with names and locations. Over the ages, these splendid monuments have stood majestically, conveying the legacy of ancient Indian dynasties.
The Dravidian style, particularly, defines the uniqueness of South Indian temples. The grand gates, or Gopurams, along with the Tamil relicts, looks breathtaking indeed. Have a look at the temples to visit in south India.
15 Popular Temples in South India:
1. Virupaksha Temple, Hampi:
Build by the Vijayanagara dynasty, this glorious temple stands on the banks of the Tungabhadra river. It has been acknowledged as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This Shiva temple stands apart from the rest, noted for its tall gate, or gopuram. It is one of the most famous south Indian temples. The carefully designed intricate carvings define the architectural craftsmanship of dynasties that lived centuries ago. After this temple was initially constructed in the 7th century, several rulers modified it over the ages, with plenty of additions. King Krishnadevaraya made the most ornate inclusion in this structure, the Ranga Mandapa, or central hall.
Presently, the Virupaksha temple is the centre of various festivals, like Virupaksha-Pampa, as well as marriage ceremonies.
2. Meenakshi Temple, Madurai:
This amazing structure was built in the 17th century, probably between 1623 CE and 1655 CE. If you are ready to explore one of the largest temple complexes in south India, make sure to include Meenakshi Temple in your bucket. The Vaigai river passes close to this temple, and it has as many as 14 monumental gates or gopurams around it. What’s interesting, is that the creators had come up with these gates at equal distance from one another. People all over the country visit this temple to worship Goddess Meenakshi. Several coiled corridors, spread over the temple complex add to the grandeur of this structure. The idol of Goddess Meenakshi had been engraved out of a single block of emerald.
3. Venkateswara Temple, Tirupati:
This is one of the richest temples, located in South India. The splendid architectural designs, made by the Dravidians, define the elegance of the structure. It was around 300 CE, that the construction of the Venkateswara Temple had started. Also referred to as the ‘Tirupati Balaji’ temple, it was built for Lord Vishnu. The Venkateswara Temple also has several other names, like Tirumala and Tirupati temples.
Presently, this is one of the most visited South Indian temples. The colourful gopuram is the prime attraction for tourists and devotees, and this is as high as a five-storeyed building. The Maha Dwaram, or grand entrance, lies below. The devotees offer their hair during the tonsuring event at the Venkateswara Swamy Temple. Vaikhanasa Agama, a traditional ceremony takes place in this temple, where the devotees worship all the avatars of Lord Vishnu.
4. Ramanathaswamy Temple, Rameswaram:
One of the most ancient South Indian temples, this structure is known for its 3,000 foot long corridor, the longest among all the Hindu temples across the world. The devotees of Lord Shiva visit the Pamban Island at Rameswaram to offer their prayers. Historically, this temple has a connection with Ramayana. People believe that Lord Rama visited this temple to seek forgiveness from Lord Shiva, before killing Ravana, who was Shiva’s devotee.
The temple complex has got as many as 22 waterbodies, known as teerthams, as 12 Jyotirlingas. Well, the Ramanathaswamy Temple happens to be one of the four places of pilgrimage (Char Dhams) in India. Besides, its corridors are among the most ornate ones in the country.
5. The Aihole Durga Temple, Karnataka:
The grandeur of this temple lies in the majestically carved exteriors and sculptures. It finds its name among the historical temples, situated by the Malaprabha river in South India. Structurally, it is unique and has got the distinct semicircular apsis. Particularly, tourists love the detailed designs on the exteriors of this temple, from the raised pedestal to the corridor.
This is one of the most beautiful temples built during the Chalukyan reign in Karnataka. Constructed in the 5th century CE, it displays an elaborate structural detail, along with gorgeous architecture. No wonder, why Aihole has earned the name ‘cradle of Hindu Rock Architecture’. Particularly, you will notice the mix of Dravidian and Nagara architectural styles in this temple.
6. Brihadeshwara Temple, Thanjavur:
One of the most popular temples to visit in South India, the Brihadeshwara Temple is more than a thousand years old!
Build during the Chola reign in Tamil Nadu, it stands proudly over centuries as a grand specimen of ancient Indian architecture. UNESCO has recognized this temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, as a World Heritage Site. Originally, the temple was built along with several other monuments around a moat in the 11th century CE. These structures included a massive tower, the main temple, gopuram, some sculptures that defined Shaivism and frescoes. Apart from Shivaism, the relics display traditions related to Shaktism and Vaishnavism too.
The Cholas used granite to build the vimana tower, which was among the world’s tallest structures when it was constructed.
7. Airavateswara Temple, Kumbakonam:
The Airavateswara Temple is another marvelous structure, devoted to Lord Shiva. Developed in the 12th century, it continues to be one of the best specimens of ancient Indian art. Besides, devotees believe it to be among the most powerful temples in South India. UNESCO has declared this temple as a World Heritage site.
This is one of the temples, where the Dravidian architecture finds its manifestation. The nomenclature of this temple has a connection to Airavata, Lord Indra’s white elephant, who used to worship Lord Shiva. The exquisite carvings, made out of stone, make this temple an outstanding piece of architecture.
8. Vitthala Temple, Hampi:
The musical pillars in this temple, located in South India, defines its individuality. Among the numerous monuments in Hampi, it continues to be a masterpiece in terms of architectural excellence. This Vishnu temple has got a giant stone-chariot, as well as a monolithic. The musical pillars emit certain notes when one plays them in a specified manner.
The temple was constructed during King Devaraya II’s reign in the 15th century. Devotees worship Lord Vitthala, believed to be one of Lord Vishnu’s incarnations in this temple. If you visit South India, make sure to include this temple in your list. It is one of the best temples in Hampi and stands strong on the banks of the Tungabhadra. Tourists love visiting this structure between November and February.
9. Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangapatna:
This is among the must-visit temples, constructed on an island in the Kaveri river in South India. You may have heard to Ranganatha, an avatar of Lord Vishnu. Disciples around the country come to this temple to offer their prayers. Enriched with South Indian architecture, it has one of the biggest temple complexes in South India, as well as the world. The Dravidian style is evident in the detailed architecture in this temple. Besides, it happens to be one of Lord Vishnu’s eight Swayam Vyakta Kshetras.
This temple has got several mandapams, along with 50 shrines. Besides, it has as many as 21 splendidly crafted gopurams. Among these, the Rajagopuram tower is still the tallest in Asia.
10. Suchindram Temple, Kanyakumari:
This Majestic temple in Tamil Nadu is noted for its hanging pillar. Besides, it has got musical pillars, that make it one of the best exhibits of ancient Indian art. This temple also couples up as an important pilgrimage site in India. It was built in the 17th century and continues to be a royal attraction of South India.
The temple is noted for its single Linga, representing Brahma-Vishnu-Maheshwar. Devotees come to see the 22-feet statue of Lord Hanuman, which had been carved out of a single granite block. Besides, the musical pillars, when tapped, produce various notes. The other sculptures and carvings on the exteriors offer a visual treat to the visitors.
11. Ayyappa Temple, Sabarimala:
The Ayyappa Temple has the capacity to host around 50 million devotees. One of the world’s largest pilgrimage sites, it is among the most prominent Sastha temples. Apart from the religious aspects, this temple has also got certain cultural and societal elements attached to it. Evidently, it is one of the best temples to visit, when you are in South India.
You would love the spirituality in this temple. It is nested around the Periyar Tiger Reserve in a blissful backdrop. Particularly, in the month of November, this temple attracts the maximum number of devotees. They believe this structure to be a symbiotic combination of strength, mental power and faith.
12. Guruvayoor Temple, Guruvayur, Kerala:
This Krishna Temple, located in the Guruvayoor town of Kerala, is presently one of the holiest pilgrimage sites in the state. A tank, or pond, is located close to the temple. Devotees believe that Lord Shiva, along with his family, used to pay their prayers to Lord Vishnu here.
The Guruvayoor Temple continues to be one of the most revered South Indian temples, where devotees also worship the Balkrishna Avtar of Lord Vishnu. In this temple, the idol, with four hands, carries a mace, a conch, a lotus and a discus. Devotees believe that the idol here is more than 5,000 years old.
13. Shivagiri Temple, Varkala:
Unlike most other South Indian temples, the Shivagiri Temple has been devoted to Goddess Saraswati. This is among the important temples you should visit in South India. Although devotees worship Goddess Saraswati in this temple, you will find no idol inside the structure. Devotees offer their prayers in this temple, and you would be fascinated with the white terraces, which have been designed in multiple layers. The serene, green ambience around this temple makes it a prime attraction for tourists. Each year, the annual pilgrimage takes place here between 30th December and 1st January.
14. Mahabaleshwar Temple, Gokarna:
A classical Dravidian style of architecture dominates this structure in Gokarna. The idol of Lord Shiva in this temple is believed to be over 1,500 years old. Gokarna is a beautiful place, located close to the Arabian Sea shores. The temple has got several legendary stories connected to it. You must have heard of the myth, that Ravana was influenced by Lord Vishnu to place the Atmalinga, which Lord Shiva had given to him in Gokarna. Evidently, the temple was constructed here after this incident.
At the top of the Mahabaleshwar Temple, there is a small opening or hole. Devotees can get a view of the Atmalinga from this opening.
15. Veera Narayana Temple, Belavadi:
The Veera Narayana Temple is one of the most famous temples, located in Belavadi, in South India. The Hoysala ruler Veera Ballala II constructed this temple, where Veera Ballala II, one of Lord Vishnu’s incarnations is worshipped. Besides, its connection to the Mahabharata, tourists and explorers love cherishing the architectural grandeur of this temple. The temple has got a trikuta, or three shrines. When you visit this temple, you will find two shrines facing each other inside the temple complex. The third one displays several architectural idioms in the form of a series. Interestingly, all the elements of the Hoysala reign have been embedded in the form of sculpture.
A unique blend of religion and culture define Indian architecture, that basks in grandeur even after centuries. In terms of opulence and magnanimity, these temples differ from their North Indian counterparts.
Now, you know the names of the most famous temples in South India. Which of these are you planning to include on your next trip?