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What to See in India
Temples of South India

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 Sundareshvara.

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.

Book NowMade 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 carvings.

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 hills.

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 for infants.

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 bull.

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 beach.

Another attraction of Varkala is vendors in their small stalls selling a wide variety of decorative items, mainly conch shells and beads.

A visit to Varkala refreshes the mind and soul.
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Forts of Rajasthan - Temples of South India
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