The Southern states of India, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, are primarily known for two things, logic-defying movie stunts and breathtaking temples. For those of you who do not know, temples are the holy places where you can worship God and see him in all his beauty and feel his presence in the very air you breathe. Apart from being architectural marvels, temples have a unique and divine aura which has kept the faith alive in people for centuries. The oldest standing temples date back up to the 3rd and 5th centuries. As the Hindu religion consists of over thousand Gods, there are numerous temples spanning the length and breadth of India. However the majority of these temples are found in South India, especially Tamil Nadu which has 34,000 temples. The real beauty of these temples is that they present a different perspective to every devotee. The temples of South India are also one of the main tourist attractions in India. If you haven’t visited any of the temples on this list, make sure you do. It is said that a single minute inside any temple is enough to cleanse your soul. Here is the list of ten marvellous Holy South Indian Temples.
10. Brihadeeswarar Temple
Situated at the heart of a temple town in Tamil Nadu, Thanjavur (Tanjore), the Brihadeeswarar Temple or the Big Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This wonder was built over 1000 years by the Chola King, Raja Raja Chola I using granites. It is dedicated to Lord Brihadeeswarar, a form of Lord Shiva. The vimana or the tower is one of the tallest in the world and many of the interiors and the kalasha is said to be made from a single stone. It is a widely held belief that the gopuram doesn’t cast a shadow at all. The temple has fortified walls around it which is rumoured to have been built in the 16th century. The temple walls are filled with beautiful paintings which include both Chola and Nayaka murals that depict the majestic Lord Shiva.
9. Chamundeshwari Temple
Atop the beautiful Chamundi Hills in Mysore, Karnataka stands the popular Chamundeswari Temple which, as the name suggests, is dedicated to the Goddess Chamundeswari, a form of Goddess Shakti. It is one of the most famous temples in South India and the prime attraction of the city of Mysore. Initially, it was built as a small temple which was built by the Hoysala, but with the generous donations of many Mysore Maharajas, it was made bigger and better. It is believed that human and animal sacrifices were made in this temple a long time back. However many experts dismiss this as pure speculation. The doors to the shrine are said to be made of silver and gold. In 1659, a path consisting of a thousand steps was built leading to the temple on top of the hill which is 3000 feet high.
8. Ramanathaswamy Temple
The Ramanathaswamy temple in the holy island town of Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, is dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva. It is one of the 12 Jyothirlinga temples, where Lord Shiva is worshipped in the form of a lingam. Legend has it that Lord Rama, on returning from Sri Lanka after killing the demon Ravana and rescuing his wife Sita, wanted to pray to Lord Shiva to ask forgiveness for any sins that he may have committed during the war. He asked Hanuman to get the biggest lingam that he could find and due to the delay in Hanuman’s return, Sita built a small lingam for Lord Rama to pray. The temple was further expanded and beautified by the Pandya Dynasty and The Jaffna Dynasty. This temple has the longest corridor among all temples in India. The temple has two lingams, The Ramalingam, which was built by Sita and the Vishwalingam, which was brought from Kailash by Hanuman. It is said that Lord Rama instructed everyone to worship the Vishwalingam first and that tradition is followed till this date.
7. Shri Shri Madana Mohana(ISCKON) Temple
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) was established by His Divine Grace Abhay Caranarvinda Bhaktivedanta Swami also known as Srila Prabhupada. The ISCKON temple in Nampally Hyderabad is very popular and is called the headquarters of ISCKON in South India. This magnificent temple is always crowded with devotees. It was built mainly for the worship of Lord Krishna, the avatar of Lord Vishnu. Other deities of this temple are Sri Gaura-Nitai, Sri Jagannatha Baladeva-Subhadra, and Sri Radha Madana-Mohana. It is one of the most famous ISCKON temples around the world. Usual programmes are performed on daily basis. On Sundays special programmes are performed. ISKCON Temple also distributes the Krishna Prasadam to nearly 1,000 devotees every month. Bhakti Vrksha facilitates devotees to get personal attention and guidance on how to perform bhakti yoga and sustain good physical and mental health.
6. Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple
Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, situated in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala, is dedicated to the protector of the Universe, Lord Vishnu. It is one of the 108 Divya Desams, which can be found all around India. Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple gave the city of Thiruvananthapuram its name, as the city’s name translates to “the Holy Abode of Anantha Padmanabha”. Inside the shrine, the idol of Lord Padmanabhaswamy is in the Anantha-sayanam posture (in the eternal sleep of Yoganindra on the thousand headed snake Adisesha). It is said that the great Lord Balarama himself, once visited the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple long ago during the Dwarapa Yuga. The temple’s gopuram is 100 feet high and the temple tank, Padma Theertham, is located nearby. The platform in front of the vimanam and where the deity rests was cut out of a single rock from a nearby hill and it is hence called Othakkal Madapam.
5. Thillai Nataraja Temple
The Thillai Nataraja Temple situated in the small town of Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu, is widely known as the foremost of all Shiva Temples in the world. This temple is referred to in almost all scriptures as the Bhooloka Kailasam (Kailash on earth), as it is said that this temple was Lord Shiva’s home on earth. This place received lot of remodeling from various dynasties like the Cholas and the Pallavas. It is said that King Kocengannan Chola was born after his parents prayed passionately to Lord Nataraja and after he grew up, he refined the temple’s structure. Here Lord Shiva is in the form of Lord Nataraja, The God of Dance, in the middle of the Ananda Thandavam (The Dance of Delight). The postures of the famous dance form, The Bharatha Natyam, were inspired from the sculptures of Chidambaram. This city is also one of the five Pancha Bootha Sthalams, which represent each of the five elements. Chidambaram represents aether or akasha, which is the fifth element.
4. Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple
Situated in the temple village of Sri Rangam, which is located near the city of Thiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu, The Ranganathaswamy Temple is said to be the first of the 108 Divya Desams that are dedicated to Lord Vishnu. This temple is the abode of Lord Ranganatha, who is a reclining form of Lord Vishnu. The Sri Rangam temple is considered the largest functioning Hindu Temple in the world as it covers an area of 156 acres. The Rajagopuram is 237 feet high and consists of eleven tiers. The temple is rich in both art and history. In the 12th Century, when Malik Kafur’s troops were on their way to invade Sri Rangam, The priests and people of Sri Rangam, built a brick wall in front of the Lord’s idol inside the Sanctum Sanctorum. They took the smaller idol of the deity (called utsavar) and travelled to the Thirumala to the abode of Lord Venkateswara and took refuge till 1371. Six centuries later, the wall was brought down by the locals and the priests and Sri Rangam was restored back to its full glory. It is said that 13,000 vaishnavites died to keep Malik Kafur’s army away from the temple until the deity could leave city safely. It is considered the most sacred temples for vaishnavites.
3. Meenakshi Amman Temple
The majestic Meenakshi Amman temple is situated on the banks of the river Vaigai near the temple city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu. The temple is dedicated to Meenakshi Amman, a form of Parvathi and her consort Sundareswarar, a form of Shiva. The Meenakshi Amman temple was on the list of top 30 nominees for the New Seven Wonders of the World and it generates revenue of more than 60 Million rupees per year. It is believed that, Indra, the Lord of the Devas, built a shrine for the svayambu lingam that he had found while on a pilgrimage to cure his misdeeds. The temple lost a lot of its ancient elements when the notorious Malik Kafur invaded the temple. However the first Nayak King of Madurai, Vishwanantha Nayak later took it upon him to rebuild this divine and beautiful temple. The temple has a hall called Aayiram Kaal Mandapam or “The Hall of Thousand Pillars” that interestingly contains 985 pillars. However each pillar in the hall is a carved monument of the Dravidian sculpture.
2. Sri Krishna Temple
The Sri Krishna Temple in Guruvayur, Kerala is probably one of the most popular temples in the world. The main deity here, as the name suggests, is Lord Krishna who is an avatar of Lord Vishnu. It is one of the most important temples for Hindus in Kerala. It is referred to as Bhooloka Vaikuntam or Vishnu’s heavenly abode on Earth. The idol of Krishna represents the part of Krishna’s story when the 8th newborn son of Vasudeva a–nd Devaki reveals to them that he is no one but Lord Vishnu and will hence be holding the discus and the conch. Guruvayur is also known as the Dwaraka of South India and Krishna is known here fondly as Kannan and Guruvayurappan. However an interesting fact is that even though this temple is considered very holy by Hindus, it is not considered as one of the 108 Divya Desams of Lord Vishnu.
1. Tirumala Venkateswara Temple
The world’s most famous temple, Tirumala Venkateswara Temple located on the Tirumala hills near Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, is one of the most sacred temples for vaishnavites. It is said that Lord Venkateswara, a form of Vishnu, is one of the most powerful gods in the Hindu Religion, and it is believed that he came down to earth to stay on the 7 Tirumala Hills and help Mankind get through the Kali Yuga. Legend has it that Lord Vishnu came down to Earth as Venkateswara to woo back his consort Goddess Lakshmi after a feud. Goddess Lakshmi is present as Padmavathi. Another interesting belief is that Lord Venkateswara took loans from Lord Kubera for his marriage with Padmavathi and will pay the interest till the end of the Kali Yuga. The temple is maintained by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam, one of the richest religious bodies in the world. The Lord’s prasadam, a laddu, is also very famous. Tirupati has the world’s largest solar powered kitchen. The whole temple and all the houses, offices and other buildings run on solar and wind energy which are provided through the numerous solar panels and windmills present on the hill. More than 75,000 devotees visit the temple every day.