Gopurams soaring high. Temple towns filled with arcbitectural marvels.
Intricate sculptures adorning temple walls. Delicate minarets reaching out to the sky. Towering catbedrals and doznes of shrines . Southern India is a treasure house of a glouries heritage.
Bowhere is this rich heritage more visible than in Tamil Nadu, home to some of the most exquisite temples in the world. The earliest Temples were built of brick and mortar. UP to about 700 BC, temples were scooped out of rocks. The Pallara Kings (up to 900 AD) were great builders in stone. The Cholas (9001250 AD) added ornate mandapams and large gopurams. The Pandya style (up to 1350 AD) SAW THE EMERGENCE OF BUGE TOWERS, HIGH WALL ENCLOSURES AND TOWED GATEWAYS. The Vijayanagar Kings (1350-1560 AD) brought in intricacy and beauty, while the Naiks (1600-1750 AD) developed large prakarams and pillared halls.
The most Indian of Indian cities. Chennai is home to dozens of temples, some of them over 1200 years old. The Kapaleeswarar Temple at at Mylapore is an ancient shrine glorified in the Tamil hymns of the 7th century AD. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple has a vast tower studded with stucco images.
The Parthasarthy Temple at Trilicane, is one of 108 Divya Desams- the Temples and Celestial Abodes of Lord Vishnu. Built in the 8th century by an early Pallava King., this Temple has five shrines and is the only Divya Desam, where Lord Krishna is seen enshrined with images of his family.
The two-spired Shore Temple housing the shrines of both Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu is at Mamallapuram 64 km from Channai. Also here is the Stalasayana Perumal Temple.
Kanchipuram one of the seven most sacred pilgrim centers of Hindus, was once called the city of Thousand Temples. It is home to the imposing 14th century Sri Kamakshi Temple, dedicated to Goddess Kamakshi, the magnificient Ekambareswarar Temple, whre Lord Shiva is worshipped as the Prithvi Lingam and the Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham. The temple is also one of the Panchabhoota Stalams signifying the five elements.
The Temple Town of Tiruvannamalai is home to one of the grandest temples in India, the Arunachaleswarar Temple. Among the most revered of Shiva Temples this temple has a great tradition of festivals, the most important of which is Kartikai Deeoam. The Temple town was also home to Sri Ramana Maharishi, the saint- philosopher, whose movement today is famous worldwide.
The Nataraja Temple at Chidambaram is one of the most ancient and most celebrated shrines in India. Lord Shiva can be seen in his Ananda Tandava pose (The Cosmic Dance of Bliss). One of the Panchabhoota Stalams and one of the five Dance Halls of Shiva, the Chidambaram Temple Complex reflects a collection of architectural and sculptural styles, assimilated over several centuries.
Sirkazhi near Chidambaram has one of the most revered Shiva Temples of Tamil Nadu. It also home to the Shiva saint Tirugnanasambandar . Also near Chidambaram is the ancient temple townof Mayiladuturai, with several temples, the foremost of which are the Mayuranathar and Parimala Ranganathar Temples.
At Thanjavur is the famed Brihadeeswarar Temple, built during the reign of Raja Raja Chola.Testimony to the Cholas; commitment to arts and culture, the temple is an architectural marvel with an imposing 200 feet high Vimana. Thanjavur also has 70 other temples.
At Mannargudi, near Thanjavur is the huge, 1000 year old Rajagopala Temple, referred to as Dakshina Dwara situated on the banks of River Cauvery, Kumbakonam is home to Kashi Viswanathar, Kumbeswarar, Nageswarar, Sarangapani and Ramaswammy Temples. The Mahamagam Festival occurs once every 12 years.
In and around Tiruchchirappalli are the Rock Fort Temple. Uraiyur, Samayapuram, Tiruvanaikkval, Srirangam Uttamar Koli, Vayaluretc. The largest and among the grandest templesin India, Srirangam enshrines Lord Ranganatha and its etrance is crowned with the loftiest tower in India. The Mariamman Temple near Tiruchchirappalli is a centre of Shakti worship.
At Pillayarpatti, Karaikkudi, is one of the oldest cave temples of Tamil Nadu, housing the familiar image of Karpaka Vinaayakar. Nearby is the hill temple of Shanmukhanthan at Kunnakudi.
The crowing glory of the historic city of Madhurai is the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple and ancient centre of worship as well as an art gallery of vast proportions. The festival traditions here represent a confluence of the Saiva, Shakti, Skanda and Vaishnava streams of Hinduism.
The Azhagar Koli near Madhurai, has been venerated by the hymns of the Alwars. Also near Madhurai is the hill temple of one of the revered Aaryu Padai Veedu Shrines (Six Abodes) of Lord Murugan.
Known as the Varansi of South India, the sacred island of Rameswaram, is held in great reverence by devotees of both Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. The Ramanathanswamy Temple has a thousand Pillared Corridor-said to be the longest in the country. The deity here constitutes one of the 12 Jyotirlingams of India. Another famous temple here is the Kothandaramaswamy Temple.
The ancient shrine of Kanniyakumari gives the southernmost tip of India its name. The Temple here is dedicated to the virgin Goddess Kanniyakumari who is believed to stand guard over the country. The Vivekananda Rock Memoral here is the place where sami Vivekananda the patriot saint of modem India sat in a long and deep meditation in 1892.
Nine ancient shrines in Tirunelveli are closely associated with Nammalawar. Eight of the nine. Navagaraha stalams in Tamil Nadu are temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. Seven of these are associated with the Bhakti movement of the 1st millennlum.
Near Tirunelveli is Srivilliputtur, the birthplace of Sri Andal, one of the 12 Alwars and another of the revered Tiruppavai humns.
The Lord Murugan shrine at Marudamalai, the Lingeswarar Temple and the Perur Patteeswaraar Temple are located near Coimbatore.