No matter your religious affiliation, and whether or not you
class yourself as an architecture lover, it's impossible not to
marvel at the famous South Indian temples. Some have towers that
stretch for dozens of metres into the sky; others are covered with
remarkably ornate carvings and rainbow paint; still others comprise
many different buildings, with temple complexes that occupy huge
expanses of space.
With histories that stretch back hundreds of years - if not
millennia - these sights should be on every visitor's itinerary.
We've selected five of the most famous South Indian temples worth
visiting. Be sure to bring your camera: you'll want to capture
memories of these sights while you have the chance.
Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai
Meenakshi Amman Temple is the
crown of Madurai © val_shevchenko/iStock/Thinkstock
Meenakshi Amman Temple is one of the best-known temples of South
India - and a classic of the Dravidian architectural style, which
typically consists of a complex featuring soaring towers, buildings
made from stone, and pillared halls. Thought to have origins in the
7th century, if not earlier, this enormous complex,
famous for its many gopurams, or towers, is the crown of
Brihadeeswarar Temple, Thanjavur
The stunning Brihadeeswarar
Temple is, incredibly, over 1,000 years old © Lakhesis/iStock/Thinkstock
Part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Brihadeeswarar Temple
in Thanjavur was opened over 1,000 years ago - all the way back in
1010. As one of the region's most ancient temples, it's a must-see
for curious travellers; it also has the distinction of being one of
the largest such complexes, with a tower that stretches dozens of
metres into the air amid huge fortifications. Within its walls,
Brihadeeswarar Temple is also renowned for the historic, colourful
murals, which exist in varying states of preservation.
Thillai Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram
Thillai Nataraja Temple is known
for its colourful carvings © Konstantin
Stretching across dozens of acres, the Thillai Nataraja Temple
is large enough that you'll need to come prepared with some walking
shoes. South of Pondicherry and devoted to Shiva, the temple was
initially sponsored by Chola Dynasty rulers. The gopurams here are
meticulously carved and strikingly colourful, and depict figures in
classical dance poses.
Annamalaiyar Temple, Tiruvannamalai
Annamalaiyar Temple is a classic
of the Dravidian architectural style © Dmitry Rukhlenko/iStock/Thinkstock
With the verdant Anaimalai Hills serving as a backdrop (and
themselves a sacred site), the Annamalaiyar Temple in
Tiruvannamalai is uniquely picturesque among the famous South
Indian temples. As with a true Dravidian structure, the splendour
of its colonnaded hall can only be matched by its four gopurams -
the Eastern one of which is one of the tallest in all of India.
Pilgrims flock to this temple, in the heart of town, whose current
iteration dates to the 9th century.
Ekambareswarar Temple, Kanchipuram
Ekambareswarar Temple is one of
the tallest in India © rchphoto/iStock/Thinkstock
While not as colourful as some of the other structures on this
list, the Ekambareswarar Temple in Kanchipuram is leant a bright
hue, thanks to the fact that it's constructed from white granite.
Though its origins stretch back many centuries, this is one of the
more modern landmarks on our list; its more recent constructions
date to the 18th century. The highlight of the temple,
though, may well be the 3,000-year old mango tree within its walls,
which has a great deal of religious significance.
To explore some of these South Indian gems, discover our Saffron &