Southern India’s temples are renowned worldwide for their distinctive Dravidian architecture, captivating millions of visitors annually. The Pallava dynasty, reigning over Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and significant parts of northern Tamil Nadu until the 9th century, pioneered this temple construction style.
Today, these southern Indian states are home to some of the most ancient Hindu temples, not only captivating to the eye but also marvels of human craftsmanship. Most of these grand temples are dedicated to Shaivism, venerating Lord Shiva, and they offer a breathtaking display of the extraordinary architectural prowess of their builders.
So, if you’re considering a visit to these South Indian temples, here’s a list of Shiva temples celebrated for their unique designs and rich histories.
Mallikarjuna Swamy Temple
Sitting gracefully on the banks of the Krishna River in the state of Andhra Pradesh, the Mallikarjun Swamy Temple stands as one of South India’s most historic and revered temples. Devoted to Lord Shiva, this temple holds a special place as one of the twelve Jyotirlingas scattered across our nation.
Nestled on Rameswaram Island in the picturesque state of Tamil Nadu, the Ramanathaswamy Temple stands out as one of South India’s most stunning Shaivite temples. With its captivating beauty, it beckons hundreds of thousands of devotees from all corners of the country every year. This sacred temple holds the esteemed title of being one of the twelve Jyotirlingas and is an integral stop on the sacred Char Dham pilgrimage circuit.
The Brihadeshwara Temple, one of India’s most expansive and ancient temples, stands proudly on the southern banks of the Kaveri River in the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu. It came to life in the year 1010 CE, under the illustrious rule of the Chola dynasty.
The Shore Temple, a remarkable testament to ancient craftsmanship, ranks among South India’s oldest stone temples. Constructed from durable granite, this architectural gem now graces the Mahabalipuram district of Tamil Nadu. Archaeological findings suggest that this temple was skillfully erected in the 8th century AD.
Meenakshi Sundareswarara Temple
The Meenakshi Sundareswara Temple stands as a historic gem among South India’s revered Shiva temples. Nestled in the heart of Madurai, this temple enjoys a distinguished reputation as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, steeped in rich mythological and historical significance.
According to age-old legends, it was here that Lord Shiva assumed the form of Sundareswara, the most handsome, and united in holy matrimony with Goddess Parvati, a divine event that graced the very grounds where the temple now stands.
The Srikalahasteeswara Temple stands as a renowned and beloved Shiva temple in the heart of Andhra Pradesh. This ancient sanctuary, devoted to Lord Shiva, boasts a remarkable history that spans around two thousand years.
The Annamalaiyar Temple is among the most renowned Shiva temples in the state of Tamil Nadu. This majestic temple’s origins date back to the 9th century, a testament to the grandeur of the Chola dynasty’s rule. Situated at the base of the Arunachal Hills, in the charming town of Tiruvannamalai, it stands as a timeless symbol of devotion and architectural excellence.
Thillai Nataraja Temple
The Thilai Nataraja Temple, a marvel of the Chola dynasty’s era, pays homage to Lord Nataraja, one of the revered forms of Lord Shiva. This sacred abode of divinity graces the town of Chidambaram in the state of Tamil Nadu, formerly known as Madras.
The Vadakkunnathan Temple, an ancient Shaivite marvel, stands proudly in Thrissur, Kerala. This temple is renowned for its exquisite construction in traditional Kerala architecture. Within its sacred precincts, it also houses a museum that preserves antique wall paintings and a treasure trove of wooden artifacts, offering visitors a glimpse into the rich heritage of the region.
The Mahabaleshwar Temple stands as a radiant embodiment of Dravidian architecture. Nestled in the Uttar Kannada district of Karnataka, this temple carries with it immense antiquity and holds deep significance for Hindus.
Legend has it that its construction dates back to the 4th century AD. What makes it particularly famous is its housing of the original image of Shiva’s linga, also known as the atmalinga, making it a place of profound reverence and devotion.
The Jambukeshwar Temple holds a prestigious position among the five most renowned Shiva temples in Tamil Nadu. This temple stands as a testament to the evolution of Dravidian style architecture, which was prominently employed in the creation of these magnificent temples.
Scholars and historians suggest that the temple was indeed constructed during the reign of the illustrious Chola dynasty, showcasing both its architectural brilliance and historical significance.
Ettumanoor Mahadeva Temple
The Mahadeva Temple at Ettumanoor holds the distinction of being one of the oldest Shiva temples in the state of Kerala. Its roots are believed to trace back to the time of the Pandavas from the Mahabharata. However, it’s worth noting that the temple underwent a significant reconstruction in the year 1542 AD, which has contributed to its enduring legacy and continued reverence among devotees.
Murudeshwar Shiva Temple
The awe-inspiring Murudeshwar Shiva Temple, situated in Karnataka, stands out as one of the most frequented temples in the state. This sacred abode is home to the world’s second-highest statue of Lord Shiva. It is perched atop the Kanduka Hills, enveloped by the majestic embrace of the Arabian Sea on three sides, adding to its unparalleled natural beauty and spiritual significance.
Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple
Nestled within the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple stands as a living testament to the grandeur of the Chola Dynasties etched in stone. It represents a magnificent chapter in history, having been the largest temple constructed during the reign of Rajendra-I. This temple complex is a treasure trove of remarkable structures, showcasing the architectural marvels of the middle Chola period.
Constructed in the 12th century, the Hoysaleshwara Temple stands proudly as one of Karnataka’s ancient Hindu temples. In contrast to the predominant Dravidian architecture seen in many southern Indian temples, this temple is a shining example of Hoysala architecture, showcasing its unique and intricate design aesthetics.
Murugeshpalya Shiva Temple
The Murugeshpalya Shiva Temple is a renowned attraction in Bangalore, drawing visitors from far and wide. This temple is home to one of India’s largest Lord Shiva statues, towering at an impressive height of about 65 feet. The statue was ceremoniously inaugurated in 1995 and is prominently situated on the old airport road, just behind the Kemp Fort, making it easily accessible to all.