Hindu Sanctuaries in India
Southern India
5th - 17th cent AD

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Southern Indian Hindu Architecture

Trichy-Chola Dynasty
5th cent - 1279 AD

The Chola were a southern Indian dynasty that flourished in the 9th–13th centuries. Based on the banks of the Kavery (Cauvery) River, the Cholas overthrew their Pallava and Pandya neighbours and established themselves as the major regional force. The two greatest Chola kings were Rajaraja I (reigned 985–1014) and his son Rajendra Cholavarma (reigned 1014–1044).

The Chola Empire

During their reign, Chola military expeditions were sent to the Ganges valley and the Malay archipelago, and magnificent temples were built at Tanjore. The dynasty lasted until c. 1279, but lost much of its territory in western and central India during the 12th century. In addition to making themselves into a maritime power, the Cholas built a system of local government and supported commerce and the arts.
Their capital was Tiruchchirappalli.

Badami Chalukya Dynasty
6th - 12th cent AD

Badami was the capital of the Eastern Chalukyas, who ruled much of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh between the 6th and 8th centuries. It was founded in 540 A.D. by Pulakesi I (535-566 AD).
Eastern Chalukyas were a South Indian dynasty whose kingdom was located in the present day Andhra Pradesh. Their capital was Vengi and their dynasty lasted for around 500 years from the 7th century until c. 1130 AD. when the Vengi kingdom merged with the Chola empire. The Vengi kingdom was continued to be ruled by Eastern Chalukyan kings under the protection of the Chola empire until 1189 AD, when the kingdom succumbed to the Hoysalas

The Rock of the Chalukpa Capital.
Photo Panoramio

Kalyani Chalukya Empire
1050 to 1195 AD

Kalyani (Basavakalyan, also Vengi) was the royal capital of the Western Chalukya (Kalyani Chalukyas) dynasty from 1050 to 1195. Somesvara I (1041-1068A.D.) made Kalyana his capital, to differentiate from the Eastern Badami Chalukyas.

Chalukya Fort at Kalyani 10th -11th cent AD
Photo Wikipedia

Halebidu, the Hoysala Capital

Halebidu, Karnataka, (which was previously called Dorasamudra or Dwarasamudra) was the regal capital of the Hoysala Empire in the 12th century. It is home to one of the best examples of Hoysala architecture in the ornate Hoysaleswara and Kedareswara temples.

Shiva and Parvati on Nandi, Halebidu, 12th cent
Photo Wikipedia

Venkateswara Temple

300 BC(?) to present

Photo Wikipedia

Tirumala Venkateswara Temple is a famous Hindu Temple dedicated to Venkateswara located in the hill town Tirumala. The temple is built on the Venkatadri hill, one of the seven hills of Tirumala, and hence is also known as the Temple of Seven Hills. The presiding deity of the temple, Lord Venkateswara, is also known by other names - Balaji or Srinivasa. T\It is visited by about 50,000 to 100,000 pilgrims daily, while on special occasions and festivals, like the annual Brahmotsavam, the number of pilgrims shoots up to 500,000. A Southern Indian Disney Land.

Entrance to the temple district.
Photo Panoramio

Crowds waiting for admission which is tightly controlled.
are allowed to spend only a couple of minutes in the temple. Photo Panoramio

Today Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams also referred as TTD is an independent trust which manages the templel. The trust not only oversees the operations and finances of the richest and the most visited religious center in the world, it is also involved in various social, religious, literary and educational activities within Andhra Pradesh and India. TTD employs about 14,000 people to maintain the 12 temples and sub-shrines under its control along with the execution of its social activities. Text Wikipedia
For booking information see official website of TTD !

Elephanta Shaivite Caves
810–1260 AD

The Elephanta Caves (Marathi: Gharapuri Lenya) are a network of sculpted and painted caves located on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri (literally "the city of caves") in Mumbai Harbour . The island, located on an arm of the Arabian Sea, has consists of two groups of caves—the first is a large group of five Hindu caves, the second, a smaller group of two Buddhist caves. The Hindu caves contain rock cut stone sculptures, representing the Shaiva Hindu sect, dedicated to the god Shiva.
The rock cut architecture of the caves has been dated to between the 5th and 8th centuries, although the identity of the original builders is still a subject of debate. The caves are hewn from solid basalt rock. All the caves were also originally painted in the past, but now only traces remain.

Shiva as Nataraja, the Dancer

Shiva as androgynous Ardhanarishvara: the sculpture's left is female and the right is male, representing symbolocally the conjunction of Shiva and Shakti (Parvati). Ardhanarishvara is one of the most prevalent forms of the Divine in Indian art since around the beginning of the Christian era.

The most famous image at Elephanta is Shiva Trimurti (in his three aspects), to our left is the face of Bhairava - god of destruction, and to the right is the female incarnation of Siva as Vamadeva. Photos Wikipedia

Badami Caves
Vishnavite, Shaivite, Jain
6th cent AD

Badami was the capital of the Early Chalukyas, who ruled much of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh between the 6th and 8th centuries. It was founded in 540 A.D. by Pulakesi I(535-566 AD), an early ruler of the Chalukyas. His sons Kirthivarman (567-598 AD) and his brother Mangalesha I (598-610 AD) constructed the cave temples.

Photo bergerfoundation.ch

The rock-cut Badami Cave Temples were sculpted mostly between the 6th and 8th centuries. The four cave temples represent the secular nature of the rulers of the time, with tolerance and a religious following that included Brahmans, Shaivites and Jains. Cave 1 is devoted to Shiva, Caves 2 and 3 are dedicated to Vishnu, and Ccave 4 displays reliefs of Jain Tirthankaras.

Dancing Shiva, Cave 1 Shivaite, 575 - 585 A.D.

Vishnu Varaha, boar-faced, 6th cent AD.

Bahubali (Gommateshvara), Jain Cave 4, 6th cent AD.
Photo by archivenews.blogspot.com

Shaivate, Jain Chalukya

6th- 9th cent AD

The village of Aihole contains 7 temples from the Early Western Chalukya and later periods (6th - 9th century) and one Buddhist and one Jain cave temple of the 7th – 12th cent.

The temple's unusual apsidal form is thought to imitate the earlier Buddhist chaitya halls
Photo usandeep.com

The circumambulatory
Photo indoarch.com

Huchhimalli Temple 700 AD.
Photo igougo.com

Meguti Temple, Jain, 634 AD,
Photo indoarch.com

This is a Jain temple built by Pulakesin II of the Chalukya dynasty on a lonely hill overlooking the town. It has a square plan with a pradakshina path around the shrine. The pillars on the outer walls, the base foundation and the parapet in this temple, are all hallmarks of the southern style of the Later Ages. The first floor was added on later.

Ravanaphadi Cave Temple, Shiva Nataranya Dancing.
Photo Wikipedia

Pattadakal Shaivate
Chalukya, 7th - 9th cent AD

Pattadakal, a ceremonial site where the coronations of the Early Western Chalukyan kings took place. The six temples all date from the first half of the 8th century. However, the Kashivishvanatha temple seen in the photo is Rashtrakutan, from the second half of the 8th century. Photo bergerfoundation.ch

Patattakal, Mallikarjuna (l.) and Kashivishvanatha (r.) Temples.
Photo from indoarch.org

The Pattadakal temples display a mixture of styles, like the much larger group at Aihole. In the photo, for example, northern (r.) and Deccan (l.) towers are displayed side-by-side. All the temples face east.

Viruksha Temple. Photo Archeological Service of India
Virupaksha and its "sister" temple, Mallikarjuna, were built 745 by two sisters, queens of Vikramaditya II (733-746).

Examples of the often unorthodox sculptures in the largest Viruksha Tempel.
Shiva subduing Ravana who shakes Mount Kailas. Although the temple is dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu is also present:

Harihara - Vishnu ("hari") and Shiva ("hara") combined half-and-half into one deity:

A trident-bearing gana on his right and Lakshmi on his left. His left upper hand holds a conch. His right upper hand holds a attribute which looks like a chakra, although this would not be correct for the "Shiva half" of Harihara. Note the solar disk engraved in low relief by his face, on the Vishnu side. Photo clas.ufl.edu

Another unusual Chalukya sculpture from the Virupaksha temple (745).
Photo bergerfoundation.ch

History of Mahabalipuram
6th - 9th cent AD
The Pallava Dynasty

The Pallava dynasty ruled this region from 6th to 9th centuries. Their capital was Kanchipuram. They were constantly at war with the Chalukyas and Pandyas until the Cholas overpowered them.
Since the Pallavas had trade relations with many countries and invaded Sri Lanka, it is understandable that the port city of Mahabalipuram was very prominent. It was built by Mamalla or Narasimhavarman I Pallavamalla (630-668) Since the Tamil traders travelled as far as South East Asia, the Pallava architecture was influenced by Shri Lanka and Southeast Asia.
Mahabalipuram was developed at the same time as Chalukya Badami and Aihole. The evolution of stone architecture right from cave temples, rock cut temples and the early stone temples can be seen here in sequence. - At Kalpakkam, 7 km south of this ancient town, the Indian Atomic Energy Commission reprocesses its reactor wastes for plutonium bomb production.....

Shore Temple, Pallava

700 - 728 AD

The temple was rescued from the sea and reconstructed stone by stone after being washed away in a cyclone. Recent excavations have revealed new structures. The famous Shore Temple - built during the reign of the Pallava King Rajasimha - is the earliest important structural temple in Southern India. Its three sanctuaries are dedicated to Vishnu and Shiva
Photos from a now blocked Russian Website

Pallava Rock Relief

Early 7th cent AD

Descent of the Ganges or "Arjuna's Penance." - This magnificent relief, carved in the mid-7th cent, measures approximately 30m (100ft) long by 15m (45ft) high. The subject is either Arjuna's Penance or the Descent of the Ganges, or possibly both. Arjuna's Penance is a story from the Mahabharata. The Ganges story is similar: The sage Bhagiratha performs austerities in order to bring the Ganges down to earth. Shiva had to consent to break her fall in his hair, because otherwise Bhagiratha power would have destroyed the earth.

The upper left of the relief depicts a mountain setting with grazing animals, lions, humans, and celestials, Mt. Kailas, Shiva's abode in the Himalayas where the worlds of gods, humans, and animals intermingle. Photo shunya.net

Varaha Mandapa
Cave temple
Late 7th cent AD

The entrance hall

The Varaha (Boar) Mandapa shows Krishna Govardhana, who lifts up the mountain to shelter his followers from a storm. Photos shunya.net

Mahishasuramardini Mandapa C
ave Temple
7th cent AD

This cave temple has a garbhagriha in the centre with a porch and the walls of both sides are sculpted. Photo indoarch.org

Pancha Rathas
7th cent AD

From the left - Draupadi,Arjuna,Bhima, Dharmaraja and Nakula Sahadeva Ratha.

Draupadi Ratha is a small square with a sloping roof. Arjuna Ratha is a southern style vimana with a stepped pyramidal roof. These five stone temples are erroniously called Pancha (five) Rathas (chariots). Carved out of the standing rock, one behind the other, they are properly named after the five Pandava brothers in the Mahabharata and their wife Draupadi. The style of each temple is different and together they constiute a veritable catalogue of the temple styles of the time.

Bhima Ratha

The Bhima Ratha is rectangular with a suspended roof and has a farmhouse look.
The lower portion of the Bhima Ratha is incomplete. Photos from indoarch.org

Kailasanathar Temple, Shaivite

Pallava early 8th cent AD

The Kailasanath temple was built by the Pallava King Narasimhavarman II in the early 8th century CE. It is famous for its splendid vimana. It is the oldest of the four great temples of Kanchipuram and contains numerous panels showing lord Siva as Nataraja in various postures.

Detail of the vimana

Shiva Nataranya.
Photos from a now blocked Russian Website

9th - 11th cent AD

The Chalukyas who wrested power from the Rashtrakutas (9th-10th centuries), made Kalyani their capital. Nothing remains of this city now. Most of the later-Chalukya temples are preserved in Lakkundi. There are more than 15 Hindu and Jain temples in this town All the temples are made of green schist and the outer walls and entrances are richly decorated. The shikhara is an in-between-style type and the parapet and the artistic division of the wall with pilasters is typical of the south-Indian style.

Naneshvara temple

Brahma-Jinalaya Basti, Jain, 11th Century

This Jain temple is the largest and oldest temple in Lakkundi. That there are three other Jain temples here, shows that the later-Chalukyas were religiously tolerant. This temple has a garbhagriha shrine and mandapa style with deep beams on the mandapa from where the eaves are cantilevered. Photos and text from indoarch.org

Varadharaja Perumal Temple, Vishnavid,

Chola, 1053 AD

The Varadharaja Perumal Temple is dedicated to Vishnu. It was built by the Cholas in 1053. It was greatly expanded by the following Chola kings. A very large complex.

Its "baroque" internal sculptures are its most significant aspect.
Photos from a now blocked Russian Website

Detail of the only partially visible culumn at left in the above photo. Photo Wikipedia

Ekambareswarar Temple Shaivite

11th cent AD

The Ekambareswarar Temple is dedicated to Shiva.

It is one of the five major Shiva temples representing the element Earth. Reaching a height of 57 meters, the temple's gopuram is one of the tallest in South India.

One notable feature of the temple is the Aayiram Kaal Mandapam, or the "hallway with a thousand pillars".

Thunderclouds on a hot afternoon.
Photos from a now blocked Russian Website

Chennakeshava Temple, Vishnavid

1117 AD

The temple was commissioned by Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana.It is dedicated to Chena Kesvara (Beautiful Vishnu) and has a cross-shaped centralized floor plan. Photo Amar Raavi, flickr.com

Beautiful Vishnu” Photo from Wikipedia

Brihadishwara Temple Shaivite

Chola 1003 - 1010 AD

Thanjavur-Tanjore was the favored capital of the Cholas (10th -12th century), Nayakas (16th century), and Marathas (17th - 18th century). The town harbors many temples, however, most exciting are the Chola bronzes in the Rajaraja Museum. The Cholas were ardent followers of Shiva

Brihadeshvara, is also called Rajarajeshvara after its founder (Rajaraja I, 985 - 1012). Its thirteen-storied tower (all temple towers in India have an odd number of storeys) is about 66m high. The temple is dedicated to Shiva.
A collection of exquisite Chola sculpture can be admired in the Museun.

Shiva Bhikshatana, Chola, 1040 AD.

Shiva wanders the earth as a beggar, accompanied by a dog who jumps up for scraps. The god is naked except for a snake around his hips, sturdy sandals on his feet, and various ornaments. His left lower hand holds Brahma's skullcap; his right upper hand holds a drum, on which he taps out the rhythm of the universe. The drum, dog, and skullcap secondarily associate this form of Shiva with the cremation-ground.

Marriage of Shiva and Parvati, Chola, 11th cent.

Shiva and Parvati join hands, accompanied by Vishnu (right) and Lakshmi (left). Although Vishnu is not on the same platform as the other figures, the group belongs together.

A most graceful Parvati, Chola 11th cent, Thanjavur-Tanjore.
Text and photos shunya.net

1220 AD

Halebidu (formerly Dwarasamudra) was the capital of Hoysala after Belur.Construction of the Hoysaleswara twin Shiva Temples were begun around 1121 AD. Despite more than 80 years of labor, it was never completed They have a common platform and two garbhagrihas, one beside the other and a common broad navaranga.

The sculptures of the temples are getting more and elaborate, their forms rounder and more south-Indian compared, e.g., to Kajuraho. They begin to overgrow the temple's outside.

Photos from shunya.net

Keshara Temple, Shaivite,
1268 AD

A good example of Hoysala architecture is in Somnathpur. Here you can see the entire range of the Hoysala style.The 50 m x 65 m precinct has a row of small shrines in the west, in its enclosed corridor, as in Jain temples. There are three vimanas with a common mandapa, and all three are very well preserved. They each have the cross plan. There are various gods and goddesses lining the walls.

Circumambulatory of the temple.
Photos and text from indoarch.org

Svayambhu Temple, Shaivite,
12th-14th cent AD

The Kakatiya capital shifted from Hanamkonda to nearby Warangal in (1199-1262). Laid out in three concentric rings, the fortified capital was occupied by Tughluq in 1323. Conquered by Vijayanagara in 1510, and by Quli Qutb al-Malik of Golconda in 1532, Warangal eventually passed into the domain of the Nizams of Hyderabad.

A ruined temple of Shiva occupies the geometric center of the Warangal "Fort".
Photo chotu, Flickr

This extensive temple site was originally enclosed by a rectangular wall, with four gates. The visitor today will see a confusing jumble of partially-reconstructed edifices, an extended display of pediments, and carvings that were discovered on-site.

A lintel from the temple showing the Hindu Trinity, Kakatiya 12th cent. A bearded Shaiva guardian of the shrine (previous page) carries attributes of trident, drum, and rosary (his fourth hand is missing). The stylized, slender figure is typical of sculptures of this period. Photo shunya.net

Tiruchchirappalli (Trichy)
Srirangam RanganathaTemple, Vishnavid

12th-14th cent AD

The Sri Ranganthaswamy temple is a quintessential, colorful Southindian complex dedicated to Ranganatha, a manifestation of Vishnu.

Shiva emerging from the earth
Photos from a now blocked Russian Website

Shaivite Temple
9th cent. AD

Annamalaiyar Temple is dedicated to Parvati and Shiva Arunachaleswarar (as a Lingam). It is one of the largest temples in India. The present structure and towers date from the reign of the Chola kings in the 9th century A.D Photo Trekearth.com

The great Lingam at the center of the temple.
Photo from the temple's official website

Meenakshi Amman Temple

12th - 14th cent AD

Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple - An amazing, piece of Dravidian Architecture. The massive structure measures 254 by 237 meters. The temple precinct is surrounded by nine gopurams (gateways).

Photo Panoramio
Eastern Gopuram of the Meenakshi Temple complex.

The fantastic detail of the Gopuram.
Photo napehtrap, Panoramio

And the equally colorful interior
Photo Panoramio

Murugan Temple, Shaivite

16th cent AD

One of the six main abodes of Lord Muruga, (sanscrit Subrahmanya). Lord Murugan is next to Lord Ganesha a son of Shiva and Shakti. After a contest with Ganesha over a mango Murugan fled his parents house and settled in South India. It was here that he married Deivanai, the divine daughter of the king of heaven, Indra.
One of the curious things about this temple is that Shiva and Vishnu face each other in the main shrine, which is rare in Hindu temples.
Tiruparankunram offers a South-Indian experience otherwise only obtainable in the Kathmandu Valley: a garish entry porch to a huge, dark cave lit by fluorescent lights, age-old, nearly unrecognizable images rubbed with thick layers of tikka powder crowds of pilgrims.

Entrance to the temple

Interior of the temple

People having their puja
Photos from a now blocked Russian Website

Kamakshi Temple, Shaivite

16th cent AD

The intricate sculpture incrustation of the Kamakshi Temple.
Photo Panoramio

The temple is dedicated to the goddess Kamakshi, one of the forms of Shakhti. Kanchipuram Kamakshi Temple is an important part of the worship of Parvati. There are no traditional Parvati or Shakhti shrines in the city of Kanchipuram, apart from this temple, which is unusual for a city that has hundreds of traditional temples. The form of Kamakshi worshipped here is unusually benign. At other Shakhti sanctuaries animal and once human sacrifices were common, see, e.g.. Dakshin Kali near Kathmandu - which incidentally points at the close relationships between Southern Indian Hindu sanctuaries and the Kathmandu Valley. - It is believed that the Hindu saint Adi Sankaracharya led to the more peaceful representation of the goddess.