South India is perhaps most famous for the large number of ancient temples that dot its landscape. Over the centuries, kings and noblemen have constructed masterpieces of architecture in honor of gods and goddesses. The deity who was most frequently worshiped was probably Shiva, of the Hindu trinity, and his consort Shakti or Parvathi. Vishnu, another member of the trinity, was also worshiped in several places. Here’s a list of 5 famous temples in South India.
Tirumala Venkateswara Temple
The Tirumala temple at Tirupati in the state of Andhra Pradesh is visited by a huge number of pilgrims every year. The temple deity is Lord Venkateswara, one of Vishnu’s many aspects. The temple is situated atop a small hill and is reached by climbing about 4000 steps. In the recent past, a road has been added as well. The official temple website has more information on facilities and other details.
The Brihadeeswarar temple in the town of Thanjavur in the state of Tamil Nadu is one of the grandest temples in South India. Known as the “Big Temple” for its sheer size, it celebrated its 1000th anniversary in 2010. The main deity in the temple is a linga, an aniconic form of Shiva. A UNESCO World Heritage Monument, the temple is well known for its 65-meter tall tower that stands above the sanctum.
Thillai Nataraja Temple
The Thillai Nataraja temple is located in Chidambaram, a town in Tamil Nadu. Famous for the Nataraja deity, an aspect of Shiva as the Lord of Dance, the temple is also simply referred to as the Chidambaram temple. Historically related to Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutras, it is also one of the Pancha Bhuta Sthalas, a group of five temples in South India, representing the five elements.
The Dhyanalinga temple is located at the foothills of the Velliangiri Mountains, an arm of the Nilgiri mountain range in South India. Located in Tamil Nadu, the main deity is a linga that stands almost 14 feet high. The temple is noted for its unique earth and mud-based architecture. The Velliangiri Mountains and the Dhyanalinga are visited by several thousand pilgrims on the night of Mahashivaratri.
Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple
The Guruvayur temple is located in the state of Kerala, close to the western coast of India. It is dedicated to Krishna, the blue god of the Hindu pantheon who plays a crucial role in the ancient Mahabharata epic. Krishna is considered an avatar or embodiment of Vishnu. Legend has it that Krishna himself sent his aide and close friend Udhava to establish the temple.
South India’s rich cultural heritage includes much more than temples. Add a few of its famous palaces, museums and monuments, and throw in a few of its forests and beaches for the vacation of a lifetime!