Temples of South India
India's south is a showcase of magnificent monuments and natural
hotspots. The southern states consist of Kerala, Tamil Nadu,
Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The medieval rulers of the period
like Pallavas, Cholas, Chalukyas, Nayaks, Kakatiyas and Vijayanagar
rulers were deeply religious and constructed numerous big and
small temples in the region. The temples they built also carried
the stamp of their unique form of architecture. Dotting the
southern landscape to this day, they attract devotees in large
numbers from all parts of the country and even abroad.
The southern Indian states also boast of a long coastline. Along
this vast coastline running into thousands of kilometres are
some of India's most picturesque beaches. This combination of
great temples and scenic beaches makes India's south a favoured
holiday destination of many tourists.
Here, we shall take you on a tour of the most revered temples
and the most enchanting beaches.
Important temples of South India
Meenakshi Temple : The Meenakshi Temple in
Tamil Nadu's Madurai is a masterpiece of architecture of that
period. Built by the Pandyan King Kulasekara, the magnificent
temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Later on, the Nayakas meticulously
renovated it and brought it to its present shape. Located within
high enclosures, Meenakshi(Parvati) and Sundareshvara(Shiva)
are seated in the sanctum sanctorum.
There are 985 beautifully sculptured pillars supportingthe temple
and forming the thousand pillar mandapan hall. The sanctums
of Sundareshvara and Meenakshi are surrounded by a number of
smaller shrines and grand pillared halls. Most impressive are
the 12 gopuras of the temple whose soaring towers are made of
solid granite bases and have paintings of different deities,
mythical animals and monsters. The gopuras are pyramidal gates
rising to heights exceeding 50 metres.
The festivals celebrated in the temple with great pomp and gaiety
are Teppam and Meenakshi Kalyanam. Meenakshi Kalyanam is the
annual solemnization of the marriage of Meenakshi with Lord
Rock Fort Temple : Another temple displaying
the architectural genius of the medieval period, Rock Fort temple
of Thiruchirapalli is visited by devotees in large numbers.
The temple was originally built by the Pallavas as a small temple.
Later on, Nayakas developed it to its present position. Kangaala
Moorthy, one of the 64 manifestations of Lord Shiva is worshipped
in the Rock Fort Temple.
The temple is actually a collection of three temples. Manikka
Vinayakar temple is located at the foot of the hill, Uchhi Pillayar
Koyil at the very top and Taayumaanavar Koyil Shivastalam at
the middle of the hill. A number of steps lead to the temples.
The Rock Fort Temple ranks among one of the few temples of India
that has been meticulously carved out from a rock mountain.
The festivals celebrated prominently in the temple are the annual
Bhrammotsavam, Aadi Pooram and the float festival.
Badami Cave Temples : The unique cave temples
of Badami are located in northern Karnataka. Badami was founded
by Pulakesin I in the 6th century A.D. There are four cave temples
built in Chalukyan architectural style.
Tirupati Temple : The temple of Tirupati in
Andhra Pradesh dedicated to Sri Venkateswara is located on the
seventh peak, Venkatachala (Venkata Hill) and also lies on the
southern banks of Sri Swami Pushkarini. Regarded as the richest
temple of India, this temple also draws the highest number of
devotees in the country. According to the ancient scriptures,
one can attain Moksha in Kaliyuga by worshipping Sri Venkateswara.
All the great dynasties of southern India have contributed immensely
in beautifying this ancient temple. It includes the Pallavas
of Kancheepuram, Cholas of Thanjavur, Pandyas of Madurai and
the chieftains of Vijayanagar .
Padi Kavali Maha Dwara, the main gate of the temple has a quadrangular
base. Figures of Hanuman, Kevale Narasimha and Lakshmi Narasimha
could be seen on the Dwara. The main temple has three prakarams
or the path for circumnavigating the temple. There are many
mandapams in the prakarama area.
of red sandstone, the first temple dates back to 578 A.D. Devotees
are required to cover some 40 steps to reach the colonnaded
verandah, a hall with numerous pillars and a square shaped sanctum.
The second cave atop a sandstone hill is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
Located even higher is the third cave whose facade is nearly
70 feet wide and there are many carvings of ganas. This cave
best represents Deccan form of art. The fourth cave was built
much later in the 6th century but construction took a full 100
years. This is the only Jain cave of the place full of intricate
Sabarimala Temple : The temple of Sabarimala
is the best known pilgrimage destination of Kerala. This beautiful
temple is situated on top of Sahyadri Mountains. The temple
is dedicated to Lord Ayappa. Legend has it that Parasurama Maharshi
who uplifted Kerala from the sea by throwing his axe, installed
the idol of Ayyappa at Sabarimala. The temple attracts devotees
all round the year. Many beautiful carvings adorn the wall of
this temple. The temple is delightful to watch from below the
Guruvayoor Temple : One of the most sacred
temples of Kerala, Guruvayoor Temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna.
But the deity placed in the sanctum is a complete man incarnation
of Lord Vishnu with four arms. In the form of a rectangle, the
shrine is also called Dwaraka of south. The best attraction
of the shrine are the mural paintings around it. The Guruvayoor
temple also holds the reputation of hosting the maximum number
of marriages and rice feeding ceremony, the ritual first meal
Thousand Pillar Temple : The marvelous Thousand
Pillar temple is located in Andhra Pradesh's ancient city of
Warangal. The temple was built by King Rudra Deva in the 12th
century. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Surya,
one thousand richly carved pillars and a magnificent black basalt
Nandi bull are the main attractions here.
Built in the shape of a star, the temple is raised on a 1 metre
high platform on the slopes of the Hanumakonda hill. Many small
lingam shrines surround the gardens of this shrine.
Lepakshi Temple : One of Andhra Pradesh's best
visited temples, Lepakshi temple is located in Anandpur district
of the state. The temple was built by the Vijayanagar rulers.
In the Lepakshi temple, the best specimens of the mural paintings
of the Vijayanagar kings are available.
The temple has been built on a low rocky hill. The hill is called
Kurmasaila as it is in the form of a tortoise. The beautiful
sculptures on the prakaran attracts the attention of all devotees.
They include 14 forms of Lord Shiva. About 500 metres north
east of the temple is the largest image of a monolithic Nandi
Popular Beaches of South India
Kovalam beach : Beautiful Kovalam beach of
Kerala located some 16 kms from capital Trivandrum is also called
the light house beach. On the southern tip of the beach is an
old lighthouse. Kovalam beach is also popular for watersports
activities. Various water sports like sailing, skiing, swimming
etc. are a routine feature of this beach. Sunset cruises in
Kovalam are also very popular among tourists. The Kovalam village
nearby has many small scale industries.
Marina beach : The main attraction of Chennai,
picturesque Marina is the second longest beach in the world.
Marina provides one of the most mesmerizing sunrise and sunset
views. To have a glimpse of the rising and dipping sun, tourists
throng Marina during early mornings and evenings. Although strong
undercurrents do not allow swimming, taking long walks on the
golden sands of Marina with a soothing cold breeze following
is a favourite pastime of many. The evening market of Marina
where small vendors sell attractive decorative items is another
feature for which this beach is known.
Mahabalipuram beach : Apart from the cold waves
and soft sand, a few fascinating monuments further beautifies
Mahabalipuram beach. Infact, the beach of Mahabalipuram is one
with a spiritual aura. There are monuments located right on
the beach. Stretching to a length of 20 kms, the beach of Mahabalipuram
located some 58 kms away from Chennai is also one of the cleanest
beaches of India. Located near the beach is the 7th century
Shore Temple. It is a structural temple built out of hard blackish
leptinite. Arjuna's Penance, the world's largest bas relief
measuring 27m x 9m also stands on the Mahabalipuram beach .
It is a huge rock containing figures of Gods, Demigods and beasts.
It is fascinating to note that the structures on the beach have
withstood numerous onslaughts from the sea.
Alleppey beach : Located in the district of
Alappuzha, this beach is one of the finest of Kerala. The beach
allows tourists to indulge in diverse activities. While some
tourists love to have a glance of the early morning and late
evening sun, some others take leisurely strolls on the beach
with a cold breeze blowing continuously. Washed by the waters
of Arabian sea, the scenic beauty also fascinates painters and
photographers in a big way.
Varkala beach : If some beaches of South India
are known for fun and frolic, some also have a spiritual tilt.
Varkala is one such beach known for its unique combination of
breathtaking sceneries and beautiful ancient temples. Varkala
shore is also known as 'Papanashini'. It is believed that a
dip in the Varkala waters cleanses people of all their sins.
On some occassions, religious rituals also take place on this
Another attraction of Varkala is vendors in their small stalls
selling a wide variety of decorative items, mainly conch shells
A visit to Varkala refreshes the mind and soul.