Six Iconic Temples To Visit In South India
Each temple narrates a unique tale, from the majestic Dravidian architecture to the intricate Vijayanagara style
Southern India is renowned for its awe-inspiring architectural marvels that have withstood the test of time. Of these, the magnificent temples standing resolutely for centuries serve as a testament to the region’s rich heritage and cultural legacy. Each temple narrates a unique tale, from the majestic Dravidian architecture to the intricate Vijayanagara style. The Chalukyas’ elaborate pillars and the meticulous stone carvings attributed to Krishnadevaraya display the extraordinary craftsmanship of the artisans. Tall gopurams adorned with intricate carvings, reaching for the heavens and majestic pillars standing like silent sentinels bear witness to the passage of time. The meticulously sculpted life-sized shrines exude an ethereal beauty. These temples, scattered throughout the South Indian landscape, are architectural marvels and repositories of popular legends and tales, captivating all who visit with their opulence.
Here are three temples in South India, which deserve your sincere devotion:
Virupaksha Temple, Hampi
Believed to have been functioning uninterruptedly since its inception in the 7th century AD, the Virupaksha Temple is the oldest and the principal temple in Hampi. Situated on the banks of the beautiful river, Tungabhadra, Virupaksha Temple is a magnificent marvel of the Vijayanagara Empire. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple is famous for its tall gopuram; gateway tower, grand architecture and intricate carvings. It was built in the 7th century and underwent many additions by various rulers that ruled the kingdom to display their power. The central pillared hall, Ranga Mandapa, is the most ornate addition by Raja Krishnadevaraya. Virupaksha temple is a centre of marriages and festivities of Virupaksha-Pampa in December. This South Indian temple is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can witness the daily temple rituals and ceremonies in the mornings and evenings, and look at the unusual triple-headed Nandi.
How To Reach: This temple is located on the south bank of the river Tungabadra, just next to where the local bus drops you. The nearest airport to Hampi is Jindal Vijayanagar Airport (VOJV) in Bellary, which is approximately 40 kilometres away. You can hire a taxi or take a bus from the airport to Hampi. The closest railway station is Hospet Junction (HPT), well-connected to major cities in India. From Hospet, you can take a local bus, hire a taxi, or use an auto-rickshaw to reach Hampi, which is about 13 kilometres away. Hampi is well-connected by road to major cities in Karnataka and neighbouring states. To reach Hampi, you can take a bus or hire a taxi from cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, or Goa. There are both government and private bus services available. Once you reach Hampi, the Virupaksha Temple is located in the heart of the village. You can walk to the temple from the main bus stand or hire a cycle rickshaw for a short ride.
The temple opens before sunrise and closes at night. Usually, the sanctum is closed at noon. So entry into the campus may not be possible at that point of time.
Meenakshi Temple, Madurai
The Meenakshi Temple in the ancient city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu, is a historic Hindu temple dedicated to Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswarar, showcasing remarkable Dravidian architecture and having a history spanning thousands of years. The history of Meenakshi Temple dates back to the 1st century C.E. with scholars claiming it to be as old as the city itself, and it even finds a mention in the Tamil Sangam literature, with the goddess’ temple mentioned in 6th century CE texts. It is said that Kulashekarar Pandyan, a king who ruled over the Pandyan dynasty, built the temple per the instructions given in his dream by Lord Shiva. So, the temple’s significance lies in its association with Hindu mythology and its status as a significant pilgrimage site. Meenakshi Temple houses 14 gopurams, ranging from 4,550m in height, with the southern gopura tallest at 51.9 metres. Visitors can explore various halls, shrines, and courtyards, including the renowned Thousand Pillar Hall. The temple hosts festivals and ceremonies, such as the grand Meenakshi Thirukalyanam. It attracts millions of devotees and tourists who seek blessings, marvel at the architecture, and immerse themselves in the temple’s spiritual ambience. During the ‘Tirukalyanam Festival,’ which takes place for 10 days, the temple attracts more than a million devotees.
How To Reach: The nearest airport is Madurai International Airport which is well-connected to major cities in India. You can hire a taxi from the airport or take a pre-paid taxi to reach the temple, which is approximately 12 kilometres away. If the railways are preferred, then the Madurai Junction is your best bet as it is a major railway station in Madurai and well-connected to various cities in India. You can hire an auto-rickshaw or taxi from the railway station to reach the temple, which is around three kilometres away. Madurai is well-connected by road networks, and several bus services are available from nearby cities and towns. You can take a bus or taxi to Madurai and then proceed to the Meenakshi Temple.
Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangapatna
The Srirangam Temple, located in Srirangam, Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu, is a prominent Hindu temple dedicated to Sri Ranganathar. It holds immense significance as one of the most revered places of worship for Lord Vishnu. Referred to by various names such as Ranganathaswamy Temple, Ranganathar Temple, and Sri Ranganatha Temple, it stands as India’s largest temple compound and one of the world’s most magnificent religious complexes. Constructed in the distinctive Hindu architectural style, the Ranganathaswamy Temple is believed to have been built during the Vijayanagara period (1336–1565). The temple adheres to the Thenkalai tradition of Sri Vaishnavism, with its rituals and practices centred around the worship of Lord Vishnu. Lord Ranganatha, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu depicted in a reclining pose, is venerated within this grand temple. He is affectionately addressed as Nam Perumal, meaning “our god,” and Azahagiya Manavaalan, which translates to “beautiful groom” in Tamil, the local language.
How To Reach: The Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple is located at the western end of Srirangapatna town, which holds historical and religious significance. It is approximately 14 km from Mysore and 125 km from Bangalore. The best time to visit the temple is during the Kotarothsava festival, a grand celebration dedicated to Lord Ranganatha. To reach Srirangapatna, one can travel by road from Mysuru and Bangaluru, situated on the Bangaluru-Mysuru State Highway. There are regular bus services between these places, and taxis can also be hired from Mysuru. The nearest railway station to Srirangapatna is in Mysuru, and tourists can reach Bangaluru and Mysuru by train or flight.
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