Ancient Temples of Tamil Nadu

sukkranStarred Page By sukkran, 24th Mar 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
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A large number of highest Temple towers dot the skyline of the state of Tamil Nadu in India. The Tamils had been the most skilled Temple builders. These Temples are landmarks of the celebrated heritage of the Tamil speaking people.

Temples of Tamil Nadu

These Temples are repositories of the magnificent art forms that developed over a thousand years. Many of these Temples glorified by ancient saints through their Tamil hymns of the 1st millennium.

Temples from the pre-christian era as well as those from the 20th century survive in this state, where the olden kingdoms had made remarkable support to these Temple developments, and to their great artistic value. These are a number of Temples in Tamil Nadu, arranged in a continuous chronological series enabling to study the temple development, architectural norms and forms up to the commencement of the present century.

The Tamil Nadu Temples are of major significance for the both Shaivite and Vaishnava pilgrims as there are an equal number of Temples for both the beliefs. In the middle of the famous temples, there are many Lord Ganesha Temples and Temples devoted to other Gods as well. There are several world-famous Temples such as the Temples in Srirangam, Thanjavur, Mahabalipuram, Chidambaram, Kancheepuram, Madurai, etc. That is so awe-inspiring that it has left an ineradicable mark in the minds of the visitors here.

The Temple Builders

In South India, by about the 10th century AD, the imperial power of Cholas had reached its highest position. Temples of various designs, forms and norms crystallized after the codified norms and sculptural manuals and the period that followed great activity in the temple construction. This paved way for the unification or systematization of the epic centers in Cholamandalam (the area under Chola's rule).

Especially in the religious art and indeed for a fresh wave of art forms. The temple plan retained its breathtaking simpleness and many of such temples erected during the time of Parandhaga Chola (founder of the Chola-II dynasty). From the time of Emperor Raja Raja Chola, a new improved standardization began, in that, lateral approaches provided to the stone pillared halls and with these devotees went in a clockwise direction for worshiping.

In Tamil Nadu the most important of the earlier medieval temples is the great Shaivaite shrine at Thanjavur, an imposing and consistently planned building with high pyramidal tower rising over the main shrine, it was in the process of construction by Raja Raja Chola about the end of the tenth century. The remains of the other Tamil Nadu temples earlier than the middle of the fourteenth century are very few.

By the middle of the thirteenth century, however, the style is fully evolved: its leading characteristics include the great gateway towers, Pillared Halls, the re-curved cornices, elaborate monolithic columns and column brackets of rearing horses or monsters, and the great processional corridors. Tamil Nadu is a delight for pilgrims as a host of well-known and sacred shrines that spread all around the state.

Temples for each god can found unfold across this land. The Tamil Nadu Temples can look upon as a wonderful demonstration of the world heritage of the state. Among Indian Temples, the Temples of Tamil Nadu receives particular mention in both the cultural, religious and architectural milieu.

Several famous hymns by scholars and saints from time to time have devoted to these supercilious Temples to draw out its importance and beauty. These are a number of Temples in Tamil Nadu, they are arranged in a continuous chronological series enabling to study the temple development, architectural norms and forms up to the commencement of the present century.

Sculptures in these Templs

The enchanting Temple Sculptures, in their variety and form, offer, likewise ample scope for a study both from the aesthetic and iconographic point of view. They abound in base reliefs in the rock-cut cave temples, in the niches of the various basis of the domes and the walls of the stone pillared halls, in the sub shrines and on the pillars of later periods.

The amazing samples of the ancient Chola variety of the sculptures are in Kodumbaloor and the Sculptures of later days at Avudaiyar Koil. The best and most decorative among the later Temples of the fourteenth centuries (Vijayanagara period), at the Madathukoil near Trichy which is the specimen of exquisite stone architecture.

In addition to these stone sculptures and iconography, we may also notice a few bronze icons-metal images in copper and bronze- that mark one of the greatest achievements of the Cholas. Many of the temples in Tamil Nadu, earlier or later have metal icons as processional idols. This has continued in Vijayanagara times and later.

But the Chola metal images acclaimed as the best from the aesthetic and technical point of view. Particularly Lord Shiva as Nataraja in the Dancing pose has hailed as a rare concept of iconography, full of aesthetic and esoteric, symbolism and significance.

The Nataraja bronze image of the Thiruvarankulam temple is the best (exhibited in the Government Museum, Pudukottai near Trichy and another at the National Museum, New Delhi). Tamil sculpture, though renowned and at length studied by savants, is spotted over thousands of shrines, some of them not cared for and little known.

Because it has been assayed, not by artists who could capture its dynamism and intelligence, but by art critics who were, and are real archaeologists, iconographers, epigraphists and historians, quite a few masterpieces remain in the dimness. No deep research is needed to recognize them - their beauty and flamboyance are understandable.

Puja and Yagna

Among the elements of Tamil origin are probably the cults of the phallus and of mother-goddesses Nagas, Yakshas and other nature spirits, and many of the arts. In particular, the popular Tamil elements must have played the major part in all that concerns the development and office of image worship, that is of 'Puja' as distinct from 'Yagna.'

Indeed, if we recognize in the Tamils a southern race and in the Aryans a northern, it may well be argued that the victory of kingly over tribal organizations, the gradual reception, into orthodox religion, of the phallus cult and mother-goddesses, and the shift from abstract symbolism to anthropomorphic iconography, in the period of 'theistic' and bakthi movement, mark a final victory of the conquered over the conquerors.

Some Famous Temples

There are few places in Tamil Nadu where there are no old, feeble shrines, and visitors to the State will find it worthwhile to go round these small shrines as well. Some less important shrines found around Madurai, the moderately recent temple at Nattarasankottai near Sivagangai and the shrines in Brahmadesam in the Tirunelveli District.

The less incomprehensible shrines can still revelation, one with the delight and charm, meticulous carvings - like the Temples at the foot of the hill at Tirukalukunndram and near Panruti, the Ramaswami and Ezhai Someswarar Temples in Kumbakonam and Tirubhuvanam, and Darasuram, Narthamalai and Moovarkoil in Pudukottai.

Srirangam Temple::

Srirangam near Trichy is an illustration of a living town where all life centers round the temple. This massive Temple complex has 21 outstanding gateway doors and a 1000 stone pillared hall with beautiful stone carvings. All are within the 7 walls of this temple town. The 22nd gateway tower, which is 236' high is the tallest temple tower in Asia. This Temple complex is very well maintained and has beautiful stone carvings and ceilings. The famous Horse Court Hall is worth to visit because the horses carved in stones are looks like real horses.

Chidambaram Temple:

Chidambaram Temple is very old and celebrated shrine in India. It is a holy place as well as full of history. Chidambaram Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva (Nataraja) and he is in his Tandava posture (the Cosmic Dance of bliss) in the golden cosmic hall. The disciples of both, Shaivites as well Vaishnavites go to Chidambaram as a pilgrimage spot, and celebrated for cultural significance.

Madurai Meenakshi Temple - Vid:

Temple Tour

A Tamil Nadu Temple tour discloses that, these Temples were not only places of worship, but also served as seats of learning and the birth place of a number of art forms. So get prepared to come on a Temple tour of Tamil Nadu and experience the ecstasy of getting to know all about the Temples that you have always wished to know and visit. For more details contact state owned Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC).


All the photos used under the creative commons license. Credit to Flickr.

Ancient Temple, The Temple, Temple Sculptures, Famous Temples, Temple Puja.

Other Interesting Pages by This Author:


Architecture, Chidambaram, Chola, Cultural Heritage, Iconography, India, Nadu, Pilgrimage, Sculptures, Srirangam, Sukkran, Tamil, Tamil Nadu, Temple, Temples Of Tamil Nadu

Meet the author

author avatar sukkran
I am sukkran aka sukkran trichy, from Trichy, India. I am an online writer, blogger, writing for many publishing platforms.

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author avatar madugundurukmini
24th Mar 2014 (#)

great temple

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author avatar sukkran
24th Mar 2014 (#)

thanks rukmini

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
24th Mar 2014 (#)

Interesting post!

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author avatar sukkran
25th Mar 2014 (#)

thank you dear fern. appreciate your support.

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
24th Mar 2014 (#)

wonderful piece..wonderful pictures..wonderful information...thank you so much..

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author avatar sukkran
25th Mar 2014 (#)

thanks carolina, for this 'wonderful' comment.

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author avatar M G Singh
25th Mar 2014 (#)

I have spent many years in Tamilnadu. Wonderful post

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author avatar n.c.radomes
4th Apr 2014 (#)

A fitting tribute to the skills and craftsmanship of the Tamils thus you obtained a well-deserved star. Keep up!

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author avatar GV Rama Rao
30th Apr 2014 (#)

Thanks for sharing a fascinating piece about temples in Tamilnadu. Your article and pictures are very good.

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