India is known for its rich culture and heritage. The heterogeneous nature of India makes it a melting pot of art, culture, and festivals. This contrasting nature is impeccably demonstrated by the mammoth number of Temples present all across the length and breadth of India.
It would be fair to say that India is a Land of Temples and is one of the most religious places in the World. Though there are Temples present all over India, right from Jammu & Kashmir to Kanyakumari, you will find some of the most beautiful and exquisite temples in the Southern state of India, Tamil Nadu. Here is a list of some of the most impressive and must-visit Temples in Tamil Nadu.
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Meenakshi Amman Temple at Madurai
The Meenakshi Temple is also known as the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple is situated in Madurai. The Temple is dedicated to Goddess Parvati in the form of Meenakshi and her companion, Lord Shiva, in the form of Lord Sundareshwar.
The Temple consists of two golden sculptured shrines over the sanctums of the main deities. It has 14 Gopurams (a large pyramidal tower over the entrance gate to a temple precinct) with the tallest being 170 feet. The Temple also has a thousand pillared halls which is an architectural marvel with each pillar built of a single granite rock that produces a different musical note when tapped.
In the months of April and May, the annual Meenakshi Tirukalyanam Festival is organized. According to the legends, it is believed that once Lord Shiva visited Madurai to tie the nuptial knots with Meenakshi and this tradition has been continued since then and devotees from all corners of the world come to witness this magnificent event.
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Kanchi Kailasanathar Temple at Kanchipuram
It is one of the oldest structures in Kanchipuram and has a Dravidian architectural style, dedicated to Lord Shiva. It was built between 685 and 705 AD by a ruler belonging to the Pallava dynasty. The Temple is carved entirely out of sandstone and is one of the oldest Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Its main sanctum enshrines a 16 sided Shivlinga which is made of black granite. The temple has 58 small Shiva shrines which are dedicated to different forms of Shiva and is one of the major tourist attractions. The main highlight of the temple is the beautifully carved sculptures of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati in different dance postures that can be seen adorning the inner walls of the temple. This beautiful piece of architecture attracts thousands of visitors every year.
Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam
The magnificent Ranganathaswamy Temple located on the Srirangam Island of the Tiruchirappalli city is dedicated to Lord Ranganatha, a form of Lord Vishnu in a reclining pose. It is also known by other names such as Thiruvaranga Tirupati, Periyakoil, Bhoologa Vaikundam, and Bhogamandabam.
It is designed in Dravidian architecture style and spread across an area of around 156 acres. It has 48 shrines dotted with 21 stunning Gopurams with the main one standing at a height of 236 feet, making it the tallest in Asia. The Ranganathaswamy Temple also has 7 enclosures with the deity of Lord Vishnu in the form of Lord Ranganathawamy reclining on the five-headed serpent, enshrined in the innermost enclosure.
The temple is a sheer example of architectural brilliance. It will blow your mind when you see the exquisite details and the spectacular craftsmanship. It is astounding to know that it has a thousand pillared halls that can leave anyone dazed looking at its artistic finesse.
One of the attractions of the temple is the monolithic pillars, depicting sculptures of warriors in action. Another interesting fact about the temple is that the walls of the temple complex are painted with exquisite paintings using herbal and vegetable dyes. The temple is believed to be the largest temple in India.
Brihadeeswarar Temple, Thanjavur
This is one of the largest Temples in India and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Temple’s claim to fame is that it is built from Granite, albeit, there is no granite quarry within a 100 km radius of the temple, which makes everyone sit back and wonder about the efforts that must have gone into transporting tonnes of granite to the site.
The Temple was built in the 11th Century AD under the reign of the Chola Dynasty and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the list of “Great Living Chola Temples’ It houses a 216ft tall ‘Vimana’ or tower which is supposedly the tallest in the World. The apex structure on its top weighs 80 tonnes and is craved from single granite. The Temple is a perfect example of architectural artistry.
Thillai Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram
The Thillai Nataraja temple in Chidambaram is another temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and is spread over 40 acres in the heart of the temple town of Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu. It is considered to be one of the five holiest Shiva temples; each representing one of the five natural elements.
This Temple represents akash (aether). It has nine gateways with four facing each of the major directions, north, east, south, and west, and houses seven-storyed gopurams. The Gopuram facing the east has 108 Bharathanatyam postures sculpted on it. The Temple also has five halls or sabhais.
The Raja Sabhai has a thousand pillars that symbolize the yogic chakra of the thousand pillared lotus, Sahasraram. One of its unique features is the bejeweled image of Nataraja depicting Lord Shiva as the Lord of the dance, Bharatanatyam. This Temple is another masterpiece worth visiting.
Jambukeswarar Temple, Thiruvanaikaval
The Jambukeswarar Temple located in the Srirangam Island is dedicated to Lord Shiva and represents the element of water. It is one of the five major Shiva Temples of Southern India. According to the legend, an elephant and a spider worshipped Lord Shiva and obtained salvation.
The name of the temple has been acquired from this legend. The Temple was built by Kocengannan of the Chola Dynasty more than 2000 years ago. The Temple has 5 corridors, Monolithic stone pillars, with Stone chains, and 12 zodiac signs excellently carved on these pillars. The shrine Lord Jambukeshwara inside the temple has an underground water stream, with water coming out of the stream.
Mahabalipuram Shore Temple
The Mahabalipuram Shore Temple is one of the most alluring temples in Tamil Nadu. It is built on the shores of Mahabalipuram and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its exceptional architecture. It was built in the 7th Century during the reign of the Pallava dynasty. The entrance to the Temple is through a diagonal barrel vault Gopuram. The Temple consists of three shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva and Vishnu. The temple’s interiors and exteriors are intricately carved and are an awe-inspiring masterpiece.
Ekambareswarar Temple, Kanchipuram
Ekambareswarar temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is located in Kanchipuram. It is believed to be one of the most ancient temples in India and is one of the five major Shiva Temples each representing a natural element. This temple represents the element of Earth and the deity worshiped here is the Prithivi Lingam.
As per legend, Goddess Parvati worshipped a Prithvi Lingam built out of the sand, under a Mango tree. This 3500-year-old mango tree is believed to be the manifestation of the four Vedas with its four branches representing the four Vedas.
The temple is spread across an area of more than 40 acres with the temple’s main entrance, ‘Raja Gopuram’, one of the tallest in South India and carved with elegant art forms in various poses. The Temple’s inner walls are decorated with an assemblage of 1008 Shiva lingams. The temple deserves to be on your list whenever you plan a trip to South India.
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