Grand Temples in Tamil Nadu
The Indian state of Tamil Nadu, known as Land of
Temples. Nearly 33,000 ancient temples, many at
least 800 to 1200 years old, are found scattered all
over the state.
This presentation shows some very important Grand
Architect Temples in Tamil Nadu.
The Peruvudaiyar Koil or Brihadeeswarar Temple or Rajarajeswaram, at
Thanjavur, is the world's first complete granite temple and a brilliant example of
the major heights achieved by Cholas kingdom Vishwakarmas in Tamil
achitecture. It is a tribute and a reflection of the power of it's patron RajaRaja
Chola I. It remains India's largrest temple and is one of the greatest glories of
Indian architecture. The temple is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Great
Living Chola Temples".
This temple is one of India's most prized achitectural sites. The Temple stands
amidst fortified walls that were probably added in the 16th century. The
vimana(temple tower) is 216 ft(66m) high and is among the tallest of its kind in
the world. The Kumbam(kalash) of the temple is not carved out of a single stone
as widely believed. There is a big status of Nandi, carved out of a single rock, at
the entrance measuring about 16 feet long and 13 feet hign. The entire temple
structure is made out of hard granite stones, a material sparsely available in
Thanjavur area where the temple is. Built in 1010 AD by Raja Raja Chola in
Thanjavur, Brihadishwara Temple also popularly known as the 'Big Temple'
turned 1000 Years old in 2010.
Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple
The Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple at Srirangam, Tiruchirapalli.
Srirangam temple is often listed as the largest functioning Hindu temple
in the world, the still larger Angkor Wat being the largest existing
The temple occupies an area of 156 acres (631,000 m²) with a
perimeter of 4,116m (10,710 feet) making it the largest temple in India
and one of the largest religious complexes in the world. The temple is
enclosed by 7 concentric walls (termed prakarams (outer courtyard) or
mathil suvar) with a total length of 32,592 feet or over six miles.
These temple has 21 gopurams (towers), 39 pavilions, fifty shrines,
Ayiram kaal mandapam (a hall of 1000 pillars).There are 21 gopurams
(tower gateways), among which the towering 236-feet Rajagopuram
(shrine of the main gateway) is the second tallest temple tower in Asia.
Thillai Nataraja Temple
The Thillai Natarajah Temple, Chidambaram. Chidambaram is a temple complex spread over 40 acres
(160,000 m2) in the heart of the city.
The layout and architecture of the temple is replete with philosophical meanings.
The place where temple located is the center point of world's magnetic equator.
Three of the five Panchaboothasthala temples, those at Kalahasti, Kanchipuram and Chidambaram all stand
on a straight line exactly at 79 degree 41 minutes East longitude - truly an engineering, astrological and
geographical wonder. Of the other two temples, Tiruvanaikkaval is located at around 3 degrees to the south
and exactly 1 degree to the west of the northern tip of this divine axis, while Tiruvannamalai is around
midway (1.5 degree to the south and 0.5 degree to the west).
The 9 gateways signify the 9 orifices in the human body.
The Chitsabai or Ponnambalam, the sanctum sanctorum represents the heart which is reached by a flight of
5 stairs called the Panchaatchara padi - pancha meaning 5, achhara – indestructible syllables – "SI VA YA NA
MA", from a raised anterior dias - the Kanakasabai. The access to the Sabhai is through the sides of the
stage (and not from the front as in most temples). The Chit sabha roof is supported by four pillars symbolic
of the four Vedas.
The Ponnambalam or the Sanctum sanctorum is held by 28 pillars – representing the 28 agamas or set
methodologies for the worship of Lord Shiva. The roof is held by a set of 64 beams representing the 64
forms of art and is held by several cross-beams representing the innumerable blood vessels. The roof has
been laid by 21,600 golden tiles with the word SIVAYANAMA inscribed on them representing 21600 breaths.
The golden tiles are fixed using 72,000 golden nails which represents the no. of nadis exists in human body.
The roof is topped by a set of 9 sacred pots or kalasas, representing the 9 forms of energy. The artha
mandapa(sanctum) has six pillars denoting the six shastras (holy texts).
The hall next to the artha mantapa has eighteen pillars symbolizing the eighteen Puranas.
Annamalaiyar Temple is located at the base of Annamalai hills in the town of
It is significant to the Hindu sect of Saivism as one of the temples associated with
the five elements, the Pancha Bhoota Stalas, and specifically the element of fire,
The temple is situated at the bottom of the Annamalai hills, and faces east, lying
over 25 acres. The walls on the east and west measure 700 ft (210 m), the south
1,479 ft (451 m), and the north 1,590 ft (480 m). It has four gateway towers, the
gopuram, on its four sides. The eastern tower, the Rajagopuram, is the tallest in
the temple. The base of the Rajagopuram is made of granite, measuring 135 ft
(41 m) by 98 ft (30 m).
The tallest is the eastern tower, with 11 stories and a height of 66 metres (217
ft), making it one of the tallest temple towers in India. Second tallest temple
tower in Tamil Nadu.
Ekambareswarar Temple is located in Kanchipuram The temple
gopuram (gateway tower) is 59m tall.
It is one of the five major Shiva temples or Pancha Bootha Sthalams
(each representing a natural element) representing the element –
The temple covers an area of over 23 acres (93,000 m2),One notable
feature of the temple is the Aayiram Kaal Mandapam, or the "hallway
with a thousand pillars"
The temple's inner walls are decorated with an array of 1,008 Siva
lingams. The campus is 25 acres with 5 prakarams (or courtyards)
and has a thousand-pillared hall.
Jambukeswarar Temple is located in Thiruvanaikaval
Thiruvanaikal is one of the five major Shiva Temples of Tamil Nadu
(Panchabhoota Sthalams) representing the Mahābhūta or five great elements; this
temple represents the element of waterThe sanctum of Jambukeswara has an
underground water stream and in spite of pumping water out, it is always filled with
The massive outer wall covering the fifth precinct, known as the Vibudi Prakara,
stretches over a mile and is two feet thick and over 25 feet high. The fourth
precinct contains a hall with 796 pillars and measures 2436 feet by 1493
The third enclosure is 745 feet by 197 surrounded a wall 30 feet high. This area
has two gopurams (gateway towers) 73 and 100 feet tall The second enclosure is
306 feet by 197, a gopuram 65 feet high and several small shrines. The inner
most enclosure measuring 126 feet by 123 has the sanctum.
Vaitheeswaran Temple or Pullirukkuvelur is located in Sirkazhi.
The temple has a 5-tier gopuram (temple tower) and large precincts.
Lord Shiva is a swayambumurthi in the temple. The five towers – Gopurams of the
temple are on a straight line. The Maragatha Linga (Emerald Linga) is very
There are two flag posts-Kodimaram before the presiding deity made of silver and
gold. Navagrahas the nine planets are generally in the front side of the sanctum
facing different directions in Shiva temples.
Here they are behind the sanctum on a straight line obeying the presiding Lord
blessing the devotees freeing them of their adverse aspects, it is believed.
Vaithyan means physician in tamil. Hence, here Shiva is known as Vaithyanatha,
the supreme healer.
Tiruvarur Thyagarajaswamy Temple
Thyagarajaswamy Temple is located in the town of Thiruvarur
The temple complex covers 30 acres, and is one of the largest in India. It houses
four gateway towers known as gopurams. The tallest is the eastern tower, with
four stories and a height of 30 metres (98 ft). The temple has numerous shrines,
with those of Thyagaragar (Veethi Vidangar) and Neelothbalambal (Alliyankothai)
being the most prominent.
The annual chariot festival of the Thygarajaswamy temple is celebrated during
April – May, correspondong to the Tamil month of Chitrai.
The chariot is the largest of its kind in Asia and india weighing 300 tonne with a
height of 90 feet. The chariot comes around the four main streets surrounding
the temple during the festival.
The event is attended by lakhs of people from all over Tamil Nadu. The chariot
festival is followed by the "Theppam", meaning float festival
Srivilliputhur Andal Temple
Andal Temple is located in Srivilliputtur.
The history of Srivilliputhur centres around the Srivilliputhoor Temple, dedicated
to Andal (8th century or earlier), the only female Alvar of the 12 Alvar saints of
The temple faces east and is noted for ‘gopura azhagu’ (beauty of the
rajagopuram). The 11-tier rajagopuram is a magnificent structure rising to a
height of 196 ft. It was chosen as the emblem for the Madras Government (now
This temple is one of the 108 Divya Desams.
Within the temple's sanctum sanctorum is an image of the Lord in a reclining
posture; His consorts, Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi, are shown attending to him at His
feet. Sage Bhrgu stands near His head and Markandeya is near His feet. The
banyan tree — whose leaf is known as Vatapatram, on which the Lord is said to
rest in the form of a baby during deluge — is at His head, behind Sage Bhrgu.
Ulagalantha Perumal Temple
Ulagalantha Perumal Temple is located in Tirukkoyilur.
It is one of the "Divya Desams", the 108 temples of Vishnu revered by the 12
poet saints, Alwars.
This temple tower is one of the tallest, measuring 192 feet in height. The Alwars
Poigai Alvar, Bhoothathalvar & Peyalvar sang in praise of Lord Vishnu which
formed the integral part of the Nalayira Divya Prabandham.
The temple has a 5-tier rajagopuram and a vast temple complex. The prime
deity, Ulagalantha Perumal has an imposing image with foot raised. The temple
tank is situated right opposite to the temple.
The gigantic Lord Trivikrama measuring over 20 ft in height is seen in a grand
standing posture with the left foot on the ground and his right leg raised 90
degrees to his right and with the conch in his right hand and the chakra in his
Sarangapani Temple is located in Kumbakonam.
The temple is enshrined within a huge granite wall and the complex contains all the shrines
and the water bodies of the temple. The rajagopuram (the main gateway) has eleven tiers
and has a height of 173 ft (53 m). The Potramarai tank, the temple tank, is located opposite
to the western entrance of the temple.
The temple chariot festival is the most prominent festival of the temple, celebrated during the
Tamil month of Chittirai (March–April). The twin temple chariots are the third largest in Tamil
Nadu, each weighing 300 t (660,000 lb).
There are five other smaller gopurams in the temple. The rajagopuram has figures depicting
various religious stories. The temple faces east and the Potramarai tank is located outside
the western entrance.
The central shrine of the temple is in the form of a chariot drawn by horses and elephants,
with openings on either side, showing the descent of Sarangapani from heaven in the
Azhakar Kovil is located in near Madurai.
The architecture of the Azhakar temple corresponds to any of those of south Indian temples,
with large gopurams and pillared mandapams.
The gopuram of the Karuppa swamy shrine depicts the passionate side of human
relationship in the form of beautiful statues.
The Azhakar Hills has a tropical forest cover which extend from Azhakar Kovil in the south to
Natham in the north.
The Tamil Nadu state forest department has been maintaining a herbal garden on the
hills.The entrance to the garden is restricted to siddha research scholars.
The garden is irrigated by a natural spring locally known as the devi theertham or Noobura
Gangai. There is a temple dedicated for Goddess Rakkayi at the top of the hill near the
Rajagopalaswamy temple is located in the town of Mannargudi.
The temple is spread over an area of 23 acres (93,000 m2) and is one of the important
Vaishnavite shrines in India. The temple is called Dakshina Dwarka(Southern Dwarka) along
with Guruvayoor by Hindus.
The image of the presiding deity is 12 feet (3.7 m) tall. There is a big tank at the entrance of
the shrine where rain water is collected.
The temple complex has 16 gopurams(tower gateways), 7 prakarams(outer courtyard), 24
shrines, seven mandapams(halls) and nine sacred theerthams(temple tanks).
The utsava(festival deity) is a bronze figure from the Chola period. It shows keshabanda
type of coifure and restrained ornamentaiton, atypical of the Chola bronzes of the 11th
The temple tank is called Haridranadhi, 1,158 feet long and 837 feet broad, making it one of
the largest temple tanks in India.
Kasi Viswanathar Temple
Kasi Viswanathar Temple is located in Tenkasi.
This temple is called as The Southern Kasi.
The beautiful temple tower is a highlight of this temple; it is nine storeys tower with 178 feet
The Kasi Viswanathar temple which spreads for 4 acres approximately is built in
Somaskanda style. The temple is divided into three main sections with three shrines.
This temple has beautiful sculptures and also has musical stone pillars, that emit notes of
different pitch when tapped with fingers.
The entrance is really grand, with heavy steps. One could view the majestic Temple
Gopuram even while entering the town.
The Gopuram of the temple welcomes pilgrims with a pleasant cool breeze straight from the
nearby Thirikooda Malai.
Airavateswarar Temple is located at Darasuram
This temple is a storehouse of art and architecture and has some exquisite stone
The vimana (tower) is 24 m (80 ft) high. The south side of the front
mandapam is in the form of a huge chariot with large stone wheels drawn by
To the east of the inner court lies a group of well-carved buildings, one of which
is the Balipita ('seat for sacrifice'). The pedestal of the Balipita adjoins a small
shrine which contains an image of Ganesha. The pedestal has a set of 3 finely
carved set of steps on the south side. Striking the steps produce different
In the south-west corner of the court is a mandapam having 4 shrines. One of
these has an image of Yama. Adjoining this shrine are large stone slabs
sculptured with images of the sapthamathas (seven celestial nymphs).
This temple was added to the list of Great Living Chola Temples in the year 2004.
Gangaikondacholisvara is located in Gangai konda Cholapuram near
The waters of ganges were brought in vessels by vassal kings and emptied into a
huge tank more or less a lake named Cholagangam which literally means the
Ganges of the Cholas. A big Nandhi in front of the temple made of brick and
mortar, a lion-faced well with yawning mouth through which a flight of steps lead
to the water beneath and gigantic dwarapalakas (gate-keepers) are the other
thrilling features of this temple.
The superb architecture of the temple boasts of a 9 story vimanam that extends
to the height of 185 feet. Facing the east direction, Gangai Konda Cholapuram
embraces incredible sculptures and carvings. Not less than 54.86m in height, the
temple structure follows the style of Brihadeswara Temple.
The whole temple is thrived with rich and intricate carvings that are exclusive to
Chola style of artistry. Known to comprise a little northern style, the structure
embraces intricate carvings in the Vimanams.
This temple was added to the list of Great Living Chola Temples in the year 2004.
Adi Kumbeswarar Temple
Adi Kumbeswarar Temple is located in Kumbakonam.
The Hindu festival of Mahamaham is associated with this temple. The huge
temple is built over an area of 30,181 sq ft (2,803.9 m2)
Kumbeswarar temple is approached by a corridor 330 ft (100 m) long and 15 ft
(4.6 m) wide. There are five silver plated chariots in the temple used to carry the
temple deities during festive occasions. The temple is the largest Shiva temple of
Kumbakonam and has a 9-storeyed rajagopuram (gateway tower) 125 ft tall It is
spread over 4 acres in the centre of the town. The temple has 3 concentric
compounds, elongated along an east-west axis has triple set of gopurams.
The Navarathiri Mandapam (Hall of Navrathri celebration) has 27 stars and 12
rasis (constellations) carved in a single block. The idol of Subramanya having
six hands instead of 12, stone nagaswarams (pipe instrument) and Kiratamurti
are main attractions of the temple.
The Kampaheswarar Temple is located in Thirubuvanam.
The temple follows the Dravidian style of architecture. An unusual feature of the
temple is that the vimana is extremely high unlike other Dravidian-style South
The main deity of the temple is Shiva lingam in the form of Kampaheswarar.
There is a separate shrine for Sarabeswarar, a fusion of man, eagle and lion - the
deity is believed to have relieved the devas (celestial deities) from the furty of
Vishnu in the form of Narasimha after he slayed Hiranyakasibu.
A sculpture of Sharbeshwaramurti in the Tribhuvanam temple, a Shiva temple in
Tanjore district, in Tamil Nadu is seen with three legs, with body and face of a
lion and a tail. It has four human arms, the right upper hand holds axe, noose is
held in the lower right hand, the deer in the upper left hand and fire in the lower
Narasimha is shown with eight arms, flaying and struggling under
Sharbeshwaramurti’s feet. The shrine has sculptures of Sridevi and Bhudevi, the
consorts of Vishnu.
The Mayuranathaswami Temple is located in Mayiladuthurai.
The temple complex is 719 feet (219 m) long and 52 feet (16 m) wide.[citation
needed] The gopura at the eastern entrance to the temple is nine storeys high
and measures 194 feet (59 m)..
The idol of Durga near the northern entrance of the temple is expertly sculpted
and differs from those in other temples. On the temple walls, there is the
sculpture of a devotee trying to sever his head as an offering to the God.
There is an expansive temple tank in the centre of the complex. People travel in
large numbers to Mayiladuthurai to bathe in this tank on the day of the new
moon in the Tamil month of Aippasi (November–December)..
This bath purifies a person of sins because the waters of the river Ganges and
other Indian rivers mingle with the waters of the Kaveri river in this tank on this
Kamakshi Amman Temple
The Kamakshi Temple is located in Kanchipuram.
The main entrance of the Kamakshi temple has a Kalabhairavar deity onto its left
and the Mahishasura Mardini deity onto its right.
On the centre of the temple complex one can see a huge Dwajasthampa. Moving
further from entrance of the Kamakshi deity there is a view of Vinayaga deity.
Moving on further, the great Goddess Kamakshi is visible.
India has three main cities where the Goddess Shakti is been worshipped.
Kanchipuram holds the most important rank among all the three.
In the same order, the three places are Kanchipuram, where the Goddess
Kamakshi is worshipped, Madurai, where the Goddess Meenakshi is worshipped,
and Kashi, where the deity is 'Visaalakshi'.
Nellaiappar Temple is located in Tirunelveli.
Vast in area, this temple never ceases to surprise visitors for the wealth of detail
it has to offer.
The musical pillars in the Mani Mandapam which produce sound in various
pitches when struck (7th century AD by Nindrasir Nedumaran or Koon Pandyan),
the Somavara Mandapam, the 1000 pillared hall, and the Tamra sabha with
intricate wood work, and the Vasantha Mandapam are some of the noteworthy
points in this temple.
Lifelike sculptures adorn several of the Mandapams in the temple, noteworthy
ones being in the Sangili Mandapam which links the temples of Nellaiappar and
Kantimathi in this vast temple complex.
Thirunelveli also is one of the five places where Lord Shiva is said to have
displayed his dance and all these places have stages/ ambalams. While
Tirunelveli has the Thaamirai (Copper) Ambalam.
The Copper Hall of Dance is a brilliant work of art, and is housed within the inner
precincts of the temple. On the occasion of Arudra Darisanam.
Ramanathaswamy Temple is located in Rameswaram.
The primary deity of the temple is Ramanathaswamy (Shiva) in the form of lingam.There are
two lingams inside the sanctum - one built by Goddess Sita, from sand, residing as the main
deity, Ramalingam and the one brought by Lord Hanuman from Kailash called
Vishwalingam.Lord Rama instructed that Vishwalingam should be worshipped first since it
was brought by Lord Hanuman - the tradition continue even today.
Like all ancient temples in South India, there is a high compound wall (madil) on all four
sides of the temple premises measuring about 865 feet furlong from east to west and one
furlongs of 657 feet from north to south with huge towers (Gopurams) at the east and west
and finished gate towers on the north and south. The temple has striking long corridors in its
interior, running between huge colonnades on platforms above five feet high.
The outer set of corridors is reputed to be the longest in the world being about 6.9 m height,
400 feet in each in the east and west and about 640 feet in north and south and inner
corridors are about 224 feet in east and west and about 352 feet each in north and south.
Their width varies from 15.5 feet to 17 feet in the east and west about 172 feet on the north
and south with width varying 14.5 feet to 17 feet. The total length of those corridors is thus
3850 feet. There are about 1212 pillars in the outer corridor. Their height is about 30 feet
from the floor to the center of the roof. The main tower or rajagopuram is 53 m tall.[citation
needed] Most pillars are carved with individual composition.
Kanchi Kailasanathar Temple
The kanchi Kailasanathar temple is located in Kanchipuram.
The structure contains 58 small shrines which are dedicated to various forms of Shiva.
These are built into niches on the inner face of the high compound wall of the
It is of stone built architecture unlike the rock cut architecture built into hallowed caves or
carved into rock outcrops as in Mahabalipuram. The tall gopuram (tower) is to the left and
the temple complex is to the right. The temple's foundations are made of granite, which
could withstand the weight of the temple, while the super structure including the carvings
are all made of sandstone. Initially, only the main sanctuary existed with pyramidal vimana
and a detached mandapa (main hall).
At the entrance, the gopuram walls are plastered. Its entrance wall has eight small shrines
and a gopura, precursor to the main gopura. At some later stage, the mandapa and the
sanctuary were joined by an intermediate hall called the ardhamantapa, which is reported
to have marred the beauty of the temple to some extent. The temple is enclosed within
walls in a rectangular layout.
The outstanding feature of sculptures is the profusion of depiction of the erect lions
projecting out in several directions.There are two sculptures of Shiva here which are seen
holding the Veena] (musical string instrument) in the hand. There is a lot of difference
between the Veena found in the said sculptures and the present day Veena. There are also
beautiful sculptures of Mathahvialasa Prakshanam. The temple also has the earliest stone
inscription records of the twenty eight Saivagamas (Shaiva saints) in which the Pallava King
Rajasimhavarman states his faith in Shaivism. The murals on the inner walls[citation
needed] are well preserved.
Varadharaja Perumal Temple
Varadharaja Perumal Temple is located in Kanchipuram.
The Temple is huge within a 23-acre (93,000 m2) complex and shows the architectural skills
of ancient Vishwakarma Sthapathis in temple architecture and is famous for its holiness and
ancient history. The temple has 3 outer precincts (prakarams) namely Azhwar Prakaram,
Madai Palli Prakaram and Thiru Malai Prakaram.There are 32 shrines, 19 vimanams, 389
pillared halls (most having the lion type yali sculpture) and sacred tanks some of which
located outside the complex.
The main sanctum faces west and can be entered through a 130 feet tall, 7-tiered
rajagopuram (main gateway tower). The eastern gopuram is taller than the western
gopuram, which is contrasting to large temples where the rajagopuram is the tallest one.
One of the most famous architectural pieces in the temple is the huge stone chain sculpted
in a single stone. There is a 100 pillared hall which has sculptures depicting Ramayana and
The shrine of Varadarajaswamy is on a small hillock 10m tall and a flight of 24 steps, termed
"Hasthagiri". Another significant features of the temple are beautifully carved lizards and
gilded with gold, over the sanctum. The vimana over the sanctum of Varadaraja Swami is
called Punyakoti Vimanam and the one over Perundevi Thayar shrine is called Kalyana Koti
The ancient Athi Varadaraja Perumal idol is 40 feet long in a reclining posture brought out
once in 40 years for darshan. Chakkarathazwar shrine is on the eastern side of the temple
tank. Huge in size, He has 16 hands holding conch and discus.