When it comes to temples, South India dominates with its ancient temples which truly are the symbols of magnificence. These architectural gems feature India’s greatest temple architecture and form the backbone of the rich culture and heritage of the country. The breathtaking beauty of these temples makes you feel the presence of God with every breath.
From Tamil Nadu to Andhra Pradesh, entire Southern India is dotted with beautiful temples that hold immense religious significance. The majority of these temples are found in Tamil Nadu, which is home to more than 33,000 temples.
Many of these temples have been classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These Dravidian masterpieces take every visitor back to the history and legends of the ancient times. Here is a list of top temples in South India:
Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam
Location: Srirangam, Tamil Nadu
Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple is a famous Hindu Temple dedicated to Lord Ranganatha, who is the reclining form of Hindu deity, Lord Vishnu. The temple complex is huge and is spread over an area of 156 acres (63.131 hectares).
Featuring Dravidian style of architecture, the temple is one among the most revered temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Also, the temple is one of the 108 Divya Desams dedicated to Vishnu.
The structure of the temple is unique and comprises of seven concentric rectangular enclosures or prakarams which are formed by huge walls. These prakarams run around the chamber in which the deity presides.
As per a research it has been found that, Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple is one of the largest functioning temples in the World. Also, it is ranked amongst the largest religious complexes of the world.
Thillai Nataraja Temple
Location: Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu
A popular pilgrimage site, Thillai Natarajah Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Thillai Natarajar Temple is one of the main attractions in Chidambaram.
Devotees of Lord Shiva from all over the country visit the temple to seek his blessings. The Lord is worshiped as Thillai Koothan in the temple.The main idol in the temple is that of the Nataraja or the cosmic dancer.
The temple is one of the five Pancha Bootha Sthalams (Shiva Temples) spread around Tamil Nadu. Lord Shiva represents the element of sky in this temple. The architecture of the temple takes its influence from the dance and other art forms of Tamil Nadu.
Location: Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu
One of Panchabhoota Sthalams (Shiva Temples) in India, Annamalaiyar Temple is a famous Shiva Temple located Tiruvannamalai district, Tamil Nadu. Lord Shiva is worshipped here as Arunachaleshwarar in the form of the Agni Lingam which represents fire.
The basic structure of the temple was built back in the 9th century by the Cholas. Further, expansions in the temple were made by the Vijayanagara rulers. Other than the main deities Shiva (Agni lingam) and Parvati (Unnamulai Amman), the temple has many other shrines which are dedicated to other gods and goddesses.
The temple features four gateway towers which are known as Gopurams. The eastern tower is 66 meter high, with 11 stories which is one of the tallest temple towers in India.
The temple complex has a number of halls; the most notable of the halls is the one with thousand pillars which was built during the Vijayanagar period.
Location: Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu
Ekambareswarar Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is one of the five major Shiva temples or Pancha Bootha Sthalams, which represents the element – Earth.The entrance gate of the temple is 59 meter high and is one of the tallest in South India.
The star attraction of the temple is Aayiram Kaal Mandapam which is the hall with a thousand pillars. The hall was built by the Vijayanagar Kings. The walls of the temple feature 1,008 Shiva lingams.
A number of festivals throng the calendar of the temple through the year. The Phalguni Festival is the most important temple festival of Lord Ekambareswar. During this 13-day festival, the wedding ceremony of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati is performed.
Location: Trichi, Tamil Nadu
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Jambukeswarar Temple is one of the most revered temples in Tamil Nadu. The temple was built 1800 years ago by the Kocengannan, who was one of the Early Chola Kings.
The temple is one of the five major Shiva Temples, Panchabhoota Sthalams which represents the element of water. Lord Shiva is present here in the form of Appu lingam (water lingam).
There are 5 enclosures inside the temple complex which are called precincts. The first massive outer wall is Vibudi Prakar which is a mile long, 25 feet high and 2 feet thick.
The wall is believed to be built by Lord Shiva with the help of his workers. The temple features inscriptions and sculptures which date back to the Chola era.
Meenakshi Amman Temple
Location: Madurai, Tamil Nadu
Meenakshi Amman Temple is dedicated to Goddess Parvati who is worshipped as Meenakshi in the temple. She is worshipped along with her consort, Shiva, who is known as Sundareswarar in the temple.
Meenakshi Amman Temple was built back during 1623 and 1655 CE. This significant structure finds its mention in Tamil Literature. The temple houses 14 gopurams (gateway towers) and around 33,000 sculptures. The temple witnesses 15,000 visitors every day and around 25,000 on Fridays.
There are many Mandapams (pavilions) in the temple which form the major attractions of this temple. Prominent Mandapams include Aaiyiram Kaal Mandapam, Ashtashakti Mandapam, Meenakshi Nayakan Mandapam and Killi Kootu Mandapam. Every Mandapam has a history attached to it.
Location: Tiruvarur, Tamil Nadu
Tiruvarur Thyagarajaswamy Temple is a popular temple dedicated to Somaskandar, a form of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva is worshiped as Moolanathar in the temple. His consort Parvati is present here as Kamalambigai.
Covering an area of complex covers 30 acres, Tiruvarur Thyagarajaswamy Temple is one of the largest temples in India. The temple has four gateway towers known as gopurams.
The temple complex has many shrines other than the shrine of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, like Kamalaamba, Vanmikanathar and Thyagarajar.
It also has a Kamalalayam temple tank which is considered to be the largest in India. The star attraction of the temple is the Thyagaraja car festival which is celebrated at this temple once in 12 years. The festival is also known as Azhazhi Ther and is celebrated in the month of April.
Sripuram Golden Temple
Location: Vellore, Tamil Nadu
A spiritual park, the Golden Temple Of Sripuram was inaugurated in the year 2007.The complex covers an area of 100 acres and has been constructed by Vellore-based Sri Narayani Peedam, which is headed by spiritual leader – Narayani Amma.
Covered with gold, the temple features intricate work by artisans who specialize in temple art using gold. Every detail which the temple features holds immense significance which is associated with the Vedas.
The temple is designed in the shape of a star which is its main attraction. The temple is set amid this star-shaped path (Sri Chakra). To reach the main temple, one needs to walk along the star path which has different messages from Sri Sakthi Amma and other spiritual leaders.
Location: Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Brihadeeswara Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is one among the most beautiful architectural sites in India. The temple was constructed back in 1010 AD by Raja Chola I.
The main reason behind the construction of this temple was royal ceremonies. It was constructed to display the power and vision of the emperor. The temple has been built on the rules of symmetrical and axial geometry which makes it an engineering marvel of its time.
The exterior of the temple features hundreds of beautiful sculptures. Inside the temple, there is a huge idol of Lord Shiva with three eyes.
The entire temple complex houses around 250 lingams (representative of Lord Shiva). The entire temple structure was built using granite. It is believed that around 130,000 tons of granite was used in the construction of this temple. The height of the temple tower is 216 ft, which makes it one of the tallest among such type of structures.
Location: Mysuru, Karnataka
Named after the Goddess Chamundi Devi, the Chamundeshwari Temple was built back in the 12th century by the Hoysala Kings to honor the courage and victory of the Goddess. The temple is architecturally beautiful and is a great example of Dravidian architecture.
The temple is 7-storeys tall and it features intricate carvings. The temple has a big statue of Goddess Chamundi Devi which is made of pure gold. The Chamundeshwari Temple is considered a Shakti Peetha and is one among the 18 Maha Shakti Peethas.
To reach the temple, one needs to climb 1008 steps. People from all over the world visit the temple to seek the blessings of Chamundi Devi. The main attraction of the temple is Teppotsava festival which attracts people from all over the world.
Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple
Location: W Nada, East Fort, Kerala
Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The history of this beautiful temple dates back to the 8th century. The temple is one of the 108 sacred Vishnu temples or Divya Desams in India.
The temple presents a great blend of the Kerala and Dravidian styles of architecture. The temple features bronze and stone work. The temple interiors are decorated with beautiful paintings and murals. One can find life-size images of Lord Vishnu, Narasimha Swamy, Lord Ganapati and Gaja Lakshmi.
There is also a dhwaja stamba (flag post) at the temple which is 80 ft high and covered with gold plated copper sheets. The temple is known to house some interesting structural features like Bali Peeda Mandapam and Mukha Mandapam.
These Mandapams are beautifully decorated with sculptures of different Hindu deities. The main attraction of the temple is the Navagraha Mandapa which displays the navagrahas (the nine planets).
Sri Krishna Temple
Location: Guruvayur, Kerala
Sri Krishna Temple is a Hindu Temple dedicated to the Lord Krishna. The temple is one of the most important places of worship for Hindus in Kerala. Sri Krishna Temple is also known as “Bhuloka Vaikunta” which means the “Holy Abode of Vishnu on Earth”. The shrine is considered to be one of the holiest spots for Vaishnavites (Vishnu followers).
The presiding deity in the temple is Lord Vishnu who is worshipped here in the form of Lord Krishna. In the center of the temple, stands a four-armed statue of Lord Krishna.
The image of Shree Krishna represents the majestic form of Vishnu which was revealed to Krishna’s parents Vasudeva and Devaki during the time of Krishna’s birth.
Sri Kalyana Venkateswara Swamy Temple
Location:L Srinivasa Mangapuram, Tirupati
Srinivasa Mangapuram is a small village in Tirupati where Sri Kalyana Venkateswara Swamy Temple is located. It is believed that Lord Venkateswara after his marriage with Goddess Padmavathi stayed here for sometime before going to Tirumala. People who have trouble getting into wedlock visit here from different parts of the country to pray here and get rid of all the troubles.
Kalyana Utsavam is a special ritual which is performed everyday to honor Lord Venkateswara. Devotees attend this ritual to get rid of their troubles.
Sri Venkateswara Temple
Location: Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh
Also known as the ‘Temple of Seven Hills’, Sri Venkateswara Temple is a famous Vedic temple which is dedicated to Lord Venkateswara, who is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The temple complex has a traditional temple building which is known to feature beautiful architecture.
The temple is the 106th and last Divya Desam. The temple is the richest temple in the world in terms of wealth and donations received. Also, the temple is one of the most-visited places of worship in the world.
Many legends are linked with the manifestation of Lord Venkateswara in Tirumala. As per one legend, the temple has an idol of Lord Venkateswara, which it is believed to remain in the temple for the the entire duration of the present Kal Yuga.
Veerabhadra Temple, Lepakshi
Location: Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh
Veerabhadra Temple is a famous Hindu Temple which dates back 16th century. The presiding deity of the temple is Veerabhadra. Daily Poojas and other sacred rituals are practiced in the temple.
The temple has many shrines other than the main shrine of Veerabhadra, which include shrines of Shiva, Vishnu and Durga. The temple is well-known for its architectural beauty and captivating fine arts.
The temple features Vijayanagara style of architecture. The finely carved Mandapams of the temple display life-size images of dancers and musicians. The ceilings are beautifully decorated by mural paintings. The main attraction of the temple is a huge granite Nandi bull which is carved out of a single stone.
Location: Puri, Odisha
The Jagannath Temple is one of the most revered temples in India. Dedicated to Jagannath, the temple holds immense importance as a pilgrimage destination for many Hindu traditions.
The temple is a part of the Char Dham pilgrimage which a Hindu is expected to complete once in their lifetime. The temple has a huge idol of Jagannath which is made out of wood. The wooden figure is replaced after every twelve years by using sacred trees.
The temple was built back in the 12th century by the progenitor of the Eastern Ganga dynasty, King Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva. The temple is known for its annual Rath Yatra. During this festival, the main deities of the temple are hauled on huge and beautifully decorated temple cars.
Virupaksha Temple, Pattadakal
Location: Bellary, Karnataka
Virupaksha Temple is a part of the Group of Monuments at Hampi and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, who is known as Virupaksha in the temple.
The temple is the main center of pilgrimage at Hampi and is considered highly sacred. The interiors of the temple are embellished with elegant carvings and aesthetically designed sculptures. Also, there are different big and small inscriptions engraved on the different parts of this temple.
The temple is visited by people from different regions of the country for its religious significance. A number of festivals are celebrated in the temple.
The annual chariot festival, which is celebrated in the month of February, is the main attraction of the temple which is attended by a number of devotees.
Location: Hampi, Karnataka
Dating back to the 16th century, Vittala Temple is dedicated to the Lord Vishnu, who is known as Lord Vittala in the temple. Vittala Temple features the original South Indian Dravidian style of architecture. The temple was constructed back in the reign of King Devaraya II.
The temple is one of the most popular attractions of Hampi and people from all over visit the temple to have a look at its beautiful carvings and magnificent architecture. Vittala Temple features the original South Indian Dravidian style of architecture. The pillars and walls of the temple are beautifully decorated with intricate carvings.
The star attraction of the temple is the Ranga Mandapa and 56 musical pillars, which emanate music upon tapping. The Vittala Temple is recognized as the grandest of all temples and historical sites in Hampi.
The temple showcases the creativity and architectural excellence which the sculptors and artisans of the Vijayanagara era possessed.
Location: Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu
Built by King Narasimhavarman back in the 8th century, Shore Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. The temple is recognized in Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram. It is has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984.
The temple is one of the oldest structural (versus rock-cut) stone temples of South India. Built in the 7th century, Shore Temple displays the royal taste of Pallava dynasty. The temple features Pallava art which depicts the royal heritage of India.
Shore Temple is considered the finest example of medieval southern Indian temple architecture. The temple is built of cut stones and has two shrines, one dedicated to Lord Shiva and the other to Vishnu.
The style of the temple is characterized by a pyramidal kutina-type tower which has stepped storey topped by a cupola which forms a shape of the northern Indian sikhara.
Konark Sun Temple
Location: Puri, Orissa
One of the most popular tourist attractions of Orissa and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Konark Sun Temple is a Hindu Temple dedicated to the Sun God. The temple dates back to the 13th century and has been a World Heritage Site since 1984. Today, a major part of the temple is in its ruins.
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The Konark Sun Temple is shaped like a giant chariot for the sun god Surya. The chariot features beautifully carved stone wheels. Every part of the Sun god’s chariot symbolizes something.
The seven horses that pull the sun temple eastwards represent seven days of the week. The 12 pairs of wheels represent the 12 months of the year and the eight spokes in every wheel symbolize the eight ideal stages of a woman’s life.
The captivating Sun Temple displays Orissan temple architecture which makes it one of the most stunning monuments of religious architecture in the world.
Well-known poet Rabindranath Tagore once said for the Sun Temple that ‘here the language of stone surpasses the language of man’. The magnificent beauty of the temple leaves every visitor speechless.
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