South India, the land of temples, homes nearly 30000 ancient temples. Most of them are at least 600 to 1000 years old. The beautiful architecture, variety of sculptures and rich inscriptions makes these temples the most favorite tourist locations in the country, more than pilgrim locations. People from various corners of the world visit South India to watch the architectural wonders here and to learn about the historical importance of the temples.
1 Sri Ranganatha Swami Temple
Sri Ranganatha Swami Temple, dedicated to the Lord Ranganatha (Vishnu) in a reclining pose on Aasisesha, is the biggest temple in Trichy. It covers an area of 156 acres. Srirangapatna, where the Sri Ranganatha Swami Temple is situated, is an island that is surrounded by the river Cauvery. The older name of Srirangapatna was Srirangapuri. There are also some other famous temples in the town like Sri Lakshinarasimha, Sri gangadereshwara, Sri Jyothirmahadeshwara etc.
Sri Ranganatha Swami temple has a unique structure with seven enclosures that consist of thick and enormous walls running in a circular pattern around the sanctum. The majestically stood 21 towers of the enclosures are really architectural marvels. Besides the huge and main shrine of Ranganathar, there are several other shrines dedicated to different forms of Lord Vishnu like Narasimha, Sakrathazhvar and Rama in this temple. Mllions of tourists and pilgrims visit this temple every year.
The main celebrations held in Sri Ranganatha Swami Temple are Laksha Deepotsava (Makara Sankranthi Brahmotsava), Ratha Sapthami Brahmotsava, Magha Shuddha Poornima, Sriranga Jayanthi, Uyyalotsava, Vedanthacharya Thirunakshathra, Nava Rathri, Bangarada )Golden) Garudotsava, Ashta Theertotsava, Pushpabrindavanotsava, Jeeyar Thirunakshathra, Kotarotsava, Ugadi, Kodai Thirunal, Sri Narasimha Jayanthi, Cauvery Pooja etc.
2 Thillai Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram
Chidambaram Temple, One of most famous Hindu temples in South India, is located in the heart of the temple town of Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this 1000-2000 years old temple complex spread over 50 acres. What makes Chidambaram Temple special is that it is one of the few temples where both the Shaivite and vaishnavite deities are enshrined in one place. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva Nataraja and Lord Govindaraja Perumal. The bejeweled image of Nataraja, which depicts the Lord of the dance Bharatnatyam, is the unique feature of Chidambaram Temple. You can also see the temple for Thillai Kali, who challenged Lord Shiva in the dance contest nearby. This huge and ancient temple reveals the architecture skills of Tamilnadu. Four Gopurams or towers in the four cardinal directions that pierce the walls of the outermost prakaram are the most significant structures in the temple.
10 day Margazhi festival in December-January, dedicated to Saivite saint Manickavasagar, is the famous celebrations in Thillai Natraja Temple in Chidambaram. The temple is open between 6.00 am and 12.30 pm and between 4.30 pm and 10.00 pm. As numerous tourists and pilgrim visit Chidambaram from all corners of the country, there are several lodging and dining facilities in and around the town.
3 Brihadeeswarar Temple
Brihadeeshwarar Temple, which is also known as rajarajewara Temple and Peruvudaiyar Kovil, in Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu is one luminous example of major heights that Cholas achieved within Tamil architecture. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this huge temple is also a part of UNESCO World Heritage site as “Great Living Chola Temples”.
The construction of Brihadeeswarar Temple was finished within five years from 1004 AD to 1009 AD. It is first among all buildings in India, which make use of granite fully. There are fortified walls surrounding the temple and it added probably in sixteenth century. The 216 feet temple tower here is called as Vimana. The Shiva Lingam in the temple is gigantic with more than 12 feet height. You can also see a thirteen feet high and sixteen feet long statue of a sacred bull or Nandi at entrance of the temple. It was carved in a single rock.
There are beautiful paintings belonging to the Chola and Nayak period on the walls of the temple complex. There are two idols of Ganesha in the corridor, at the entrance of sanctum sanctorum. When you tap the two, you can feel the sound traveling through the stone in one idol and through metal on the other. Some musical pillars that produce various sounds when tapped can also be seen here.
The temple with Dravidian style of architecture has beautiful mural paintings on the ceilings that decorate both the interior and the exterior. Lots of people from various parts of the world come to watch this architecture wonder as well as to worship Lord Shiva.
4 Nellaiappar Temple
The temple of Arulmigu Neiiappar and Arultharum kanthimathi Ambal, situated in the heart of Tirunalveli city, is famous for its musical pillars and other brilliant sculptural splendors. One of the largest temples in South India, Nelliappar temple has a glorious tradition and historical significance. There are two temples in this temple complex, one is for Lord Shiva (Nelliappar temple) and the other is for his consort Parvati (Kanthimathi Ammai temple). A big terraced hall called Sangili Mandapam links these two temples. The pillars of these halls have life sized sculptures. You can also see a Nandi Mandapam that homes a fairly big statue of Nandi (the bull dog) similar to that of Tanjore.
The temple dates back to 700 AD and was built by the Pandyan kings. The towers nd the Sangili Mandapam were built during 17th century. Some of the main attractions of Nelliappar temple are the musical pillars in the Mani mandapam, the Somavara Mandapam, the 1000 pillared hall and the tamra Sabha with intricate wood work and the Vasantha Mandapam.
5 Annamalaiyar Temple
Located at the base of Annamalai hills in the town of Thiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu, Annamalaiyar Temple is a famous Hindu pilgrim spot dedicated to the deity Shiva. Here Lord Shiva is worshipped as Arunachaleswarar or Annamaliyar and is represented by the lingam. His consort Parvati is depicted here as unnamulai Amman.
Spread across 10 hectares, Annamaliyar temple house four gateway towers with the tallest in the eastern side. This gateway is 66 meters high with 11 stories. Besides, Annamaliyar and unanmali Amman, there are many other shrines in the temple complex. Among many halls in the temple, the most notable one is the thousand-pillared hall constructed during Vijayanagar period.
Temple opens at 5.30 am and closes at 10 pm. There are six daily rituals within this time. The temple celebrates twelve yearly festivals on its calendar. The important festival is the Karthigai Deepam festival, celebrated during the day of the full moon between November and December. Held during June-Nuly, Car festival is also the most auspicious festival of the temple. There are five cars for Vinayakar, Murugan, Kanthimathi, Nelliappar and Sandikaeswarar in the temple. Nelliayappar car with 400 ton weight and steel wheels is the third largest car in Tamil Nadu. It is the first car to be driven fully automatically.