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Temple Mural Paintings of Tamil Nadu - M.V. Bhaskar and K.T. Gandhirajan

Temples of Tamil Nadu

Photo Gallery
- Chronological Order

Mahabalipuram - Pallava Period (7th - 9th century)
Srivilliputhoor Divya Desam
Kanchipuram - Pallava Period (7th - 9th century) with later additions
Thanjavur - Chola Period (9th - 13th century)
Gangai Konda Cholapuram - Chola Period (9th - 13th century)
Thiruvannamalai - Chola Period (9th -13th Century)
Chidambaram - Chola Period (9th - 13th century) with later additions
Airavateswarar Temple, Darasuram, Chola Period (10-11th Century)
Koranganatha, Srinivasanallur - Chola Period (9th Century)
Sri Rangam, Thiruchi - Chola Period (9th - 13th century) with later additions
Madurai - Nayaka Period (16th - 17th century)
Rameswaram - Nayaka Period (16th - 17th century)
Tiruchendur Murugan Temple
General features of a Chola temple (Dravidian style)
The Disappeared Mandapam - Annakkulzi Mandapam of Madurai - Dr.S.Jayabarathi
Architecture in Tamilnad - R. Nagaswamy, Journal of Tamil Studies, April 1969
Temples of Tamil Nadu - R.K.Das

U.C.Berkeley Tamil Conference - Koyil - Invention, Imagination, Transmission and the Temples of Tamil Nadu - April 2005

General composition of an early Chola temple - S.Gokul & S.Seetharaman 
Gangaikondacholapuram, Darasuram temples get world heritage status, 5 July 2004 "The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has declared the Brihadisvara temple of Gangaikondacholapuram in Perambalur district and the Airavatesvara temple of Darasuram in Thanjavur district "world heritage monuments," two examples of grandeur and excellence of Chola architecture and sculpture... Belonging to the 11th and 12th centuries, the two temples represent "an outstanding creative achievement in the architectural conception of the pure form of the Dravida type temple," says the citation, adding that they are an "exceptional and the most outstanding testimony to the development of the architecture of the Chola empire and Tamil civilisation in southern India."

The two temples have been put under the heading, "Great Living Chola Temples," under which the Big Temple of Thanjavur also features. The Big Temple made it to the World Heritage List in 1987. While Rajendra I (1012-44) constructed the Gangaikondacholapuram temple after scoring victories in the north, Rajaraja II (1146-73) built the Darasuram temple.
Temples of India: Pallava (600-900 AD,  Chola (900-1250 AD), Pandyas (1100-1350 AD), Hoysala (1100-1350 AD), Vijayanagara (1350-1565 AD), Nayaks (1600 AD)  - Sibashis Nanda
Pallava Art and Architecture  
Temple Art and Kingly Power : Shiva Worship and the Chola State" -   Eamon Murphy  "..The Cholas were the greatest of the dynasties that ruled over south India. At the height of their power the Chola kings, whose reign lasted for around 430 years (AD 850 to 1280), ruled over most of south India and Sri Lanka and their navies dominated the Indian Ocean. Chola power was based upon military might, which, in turn, rested upon the economic surplus derived largely from the vast irrigated rice lands of Cholamanadalam, the Chola lands based around the Kaveri River and its delta. But the Cholas were far more than warriors and conquerors. As fervent devotees of the great god Shiva, the great Chola kings, along with their queens, nobles and other powerful subjects, were the greatest builders of temples, both large and small, in south India. Art historians have quite correctly praised the magnificent Chola achievements in religious art expressed in temple architecture, stone statues, bronzes and frescos.."
Abodes of Shiva - Shivasthalams glorified by the Thevaram Hymns - Templenet Presentation -  "265 of the 275 Shivastalams are located in Tamilnadu (including Pondicherry) and are distributed rather unevenly. Traditionally the entire Tamil speaking region is classified into the Chola, Pandya, Kongu and Tondai territories, with Nadu Naadu (the erstwhile North and South Arcot districts) constituting the region between the Tondai and Chola territories. An overwhelming bulk of these shrines (191) are located in the fertile Chola naadu (Nagappattinam, Tiruvarur, Thanjavur and Tiruchirappali districts)irrigated by the Kaveri. A disproportionate bulk of these (128) are located to the South of Kaveri. Only 14 Shivastalams are located in what is classified as Pandya Naadu (Madurai, Ramanathapuram, Sivaganga, Karaikkudi, Tirunelveli. districts) and only 7 Shivastalams are located in Kongu Naadu (Coimbatore, Karur, Tiruppur, Erode and Salem districts). Tondai Naadu (Chennai and Chingleput districts) boasts of 32 Shivastalams, including the famed Sree Kalahasti temple in Andhra Pradesh.  The lone Shivastalam in Kerala is Tiruvanjaikkalam near Kodungallur, while the one in Karnataka is Gokarnam. Trincomalee and Tirukketheeswaram are the 2 Shivastalams in Sri Lanka...From the accounts of Sekkizhaar, it is apparent that the travels of the Nayanmars were confined to the Tamil region, and that Sambandar sang of the aforementioned shrines from Sree Kalahasti, the northern most point of his travel..." more
India's Parthian Colony - On the origin of the Pallava Empire of Dravidia -Dr. Samar Abbas, 2003 "..The Pallava Empire was the largest and most powerful South Asian state in its time, ranking as one of the glorious empires of world history. At its height it covered an area larger than France, England and Germany combined. It encompassed all the present-day Dravidian nations, including the Tamil, Telugu, Malayali and Kannada tracts within its far-flung borders (see map). The foundations of classical Dravidian architecture were established by these powerful rulers, who left behind fantastic sculptures and magnificent temples which survive to this very day..."
Temples of TamilNadu - R.Gurunathan  "My first visit to the Temples in Tamilnadu was in 1984. I was enchanted by the sight, sound and the daily rituals that took place in those temples. The majestic towers, the magnificent architecture, the intricate sculptures and art though captivated me. I was ignorant of their significance, the history and the mythology behind these wonderful testimony to man's spirituality. When I enquired at these temples for more information there was a distinct lack of authenticated material. So the seed of an idea to produce a guide myself was sown in my mind which lay dormant for several years..."
Tamil Nadu Temple Architecture "Thousands of temples with lofty towers dot the skyline of the southernmost state of Tamilnadu ... These temples are torchbearers of the glorious heritage of the Tamil speaking region, and are repositories of the magnificient art forms that evolved over several centuries. Several of these temples have been glorified by the ancient tamil hymns of the 1st millennium CE..."
South Indian Temple Architecture - K.Sukumar  "...Architecture found in Ancient Indian Temples showcases the country's old, rich and splendid culture. These temples (some dating to more than 1700 years old) display intricate carving and sculptures, which bear testimony to the craftsmanship and creativity of the artisans, sculptors and artists of Ancient India....I present here pictures of a few South Indian temples at Kancheepuram and Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu, at Belur and Halabid in Karnataka, the Big Temple at Tanjore and the Nataraja Temple at Chidambaram..."
Manas on Soth Indian Architecture "The south Indian style of temple architecture is very distinct from that of the rest of India. It is convenient to resolve the types of architecture into four periods corresponding to the principal kingdoms which ruled in southern India down the centuries...."
Indian Art & Architecture at Encyclopedia.Com

Related Books

* Middle Chola temples : Rajaraja I to Kulottunga I (A.D. 985-1070) - S. R. Balasubrahmanyam

* Early Chola architecture and sculpture ; 866-1014 A.D - Douglas E. Barrett

* The Art of the Imperial Cholas - Vidya Dehejia -(The Polsky Lectures in Indian and Southeast Asian Art and Archaeology)
*The Land of the Chola : The Eden of the South : The Tanjore Mahratta Principality in Southern India -William Hickey -
*The Pallava Sculpture - Rajeswari, D.R

* Early Chola Art - Origin and Emergence of Style  Hardcover 268 p., 320 plates, figures / Published 1994 Rama Sivaram

* Early South Indian temple Architecture : study of Tiruv�ali�svaram inscriptions Swaminathan, K.D

* Temple Art under the Chola Queens - B. Venkataraman
Visit Art & Architecture at tamilnation Library



Chidamabaram Temple

"The following works of art ...are among the most remarkable contributions of the Tamil creative genius to the world's cultural treasure and should be familiar to the whole world and admired and beloved by all in the same way as ... the cathedrals of France and the sculptures of Greece ...... Dravidian temple architecture, of which the chief representatives are perhaps the temples of Tanjore, Chidambaram and Madurai....." Tamil Contribution to World Civilisation - Czech Professor Dr. Kamil Zvelebil in Tamil Culture - Vol. V, No. 4. October, 1956

"...The plan of a temple closely resembles the plan of a human body in which the Sanctum Sanctorum (garbha gudi) is the head and the outer gate is the lower limb. The spine (gopuram) on the outer gate is the foot of the Lord. Even if a visitor does not enter the temple, he can as well contemplate on the gopuram and derive the benefit of a darshan. Temple architecture developed in two streams, Saiva style and Vaishnava style. Silpa is the architecture and Agama is the mode of worship. Agama of the Saivas is different from that of the Vaishnavas. The Vaishnava worship is again in two different styles, the Vaikasana and the Pancharatra. .." Architecture of a Hindu Temple - Sthapathi  

From T.V.Mahalingam, Professor of Ancient History and Archaeology, University of Madras on Tamil Art & Architecture paper presented at Second International Conference Seminar of Tamil Studies, January 1968

"Before sketching in outline the evolution of architecture it is necessary to acquaint ourselves with the major types of extant structures. These basic shapes are fivefold, viz., square (caturasra), rectangular (ayatasra), elliptical (vrittayata), circular (vritta) and octagonal (astasra). Generally speaking the plan of the temple was conditioned by the nature of the consecrated deity. The shrine of the reclining Ranganatha, for example, can only be rectangular. The basic shapes are amply reflected in the superstructure of the vimas . Though square and rectangular shrines are frequently met with, circular and octagonal shapes are very rare. However these forms are represented in the sikhara of the vimana. The apsidal form, a derivative from Buddhist architecture, was popular up to the 10th century in the Tondaimandalam, after which it declined in usage.

Mention should also be made here of the temples which have more than one shrine in the vertical order. This is to be found in a handful of Vaisnava temples as those at Kanchipuram, Uttiramerur, Madurai, Tirukkostiyur etc. Three shrines, one above the other, are found in these and are intended for the seated, standing and reclining forms of Visnu.

Unlike other parts of India the architectural history of the Tamil country starts only with the beginning of the seventh century A.D., the monuments built before that period having perished. In early Tamil literature we hear of such structures as koyil, maddam, nagaram, palli, pali. etc., which are apparently references to temples or religious edifices. Presumably they were built of impermanent materials which have succumbed to the ravages of time.

The earliest extant monuments in the Tamil country are the rock-cut caves scooped out under the Pallavas, and following them by the Pandyas, Muttaraiyars, and Atiyas. In his inscription in the cave of Laksitayatana at Mandagappattu, South Arcot district, Mahendravarman I (610-630 A.D.) declares that he caused the construction of the temple for Siva, Visnu and Brahma without the use of conventional building materials like brick, timber, metal and mortar; and the tenor of the language has been taken to indicate that the king was introducing a new mode of architecture by scooping out the cave.

Many other cave temples are definitely attributable to Mahendravarman on the authority of his inscriptions in them. These include the excavations at Pallavaram, Mahendravadi, Mamandur, Tiruchirapalli, Slyamangalam and Dalavanur. The Vasantesvaram at Vallam was also excavated in Mahendravaraman's reign by a feudatory of his. 

Besides these caves of definite authorship, those at Kuranganilmuttam, Vilappakkam, Aragandanallur and the Rudravahsvara cave at Mamandur are stylistically attributable to the period of Mahendravarman. These caves of Mahendra are simple in plan and consist of a mandapa with one or a few shrines. The sculptural decoration of the caves is inconspicuous. The pillars in them are equidistant and have square sections both on base and top with the portion in between chamfered octagonally. In the square section are seen delicate carvings of lotus medallions. The pillars and pilasters carry on top massive corbels with beams.

This 'Mahendra style' was continued by his son and successor Mamalla, the famous Narasimhavarman I, who, however, introduced certain variations in some of his caves. In these the entablature is almost completely finished, unlike in those of the Mahendra variety. Besides kudu arches in the cornice, it carries salas, karnakutas and alpanasikas. The pillars in Mamalla's caves are not only taller but also more slender than those of his father. The strutting figure of a lion ro vyala as the base of the pillar is a notable feature. Again in Mamalla's caves one can also find large bas-reliefs on walls in striking contrast to their plain nature in all but one of Mahendra's caves. The Konerimandapam, Varahamandapam, Mahisamardanimandapam, Trimurti cave, Adivaraha cave, Ramanujamand. apam, etc. - all at Mahabalipuram - are typical examples of the Mamalla types of rock architecture.

The Pandyas, who were ruling in the extreme south of the Tamil country, appear to have soon adopted the rock-cut technique and developed certain interesting variations in their excavations. It is possible that the cave at Pillaiyarpatti is one of the earliest Pandya attempts in the rock medium as evidenced by the archaic palaegraphy of the inscription in Vatteluttu characters in it. The Siva cave shrine at Malaiyadikurichi is assignable on the basis of an inscription to the second half of the seventh century and the Narasimha cave at Anamalai and the Subrahmanya cave at Tirupparankunram are on the same ground datable respectively to 770 to 773 A.D. 

At Tiruttangal, Piranmalai, Kudumiyamalai and Sittannavasal are to be found other caves of the Pandyas. Though similar to Pallava caves in plan and design, the Pandya examples differ from them in their adoption of certain Calukyan features such as the introduction of the rock-cut linga and Nandi and sculptural representations of Ganesa and Saptamatrkas. The pillars are large and reminiscent of those of the Mahendra variety with corbels generally with a plain level.

In this movement of scooping out live rocks for divine abodes minor dynasties like the Atiyas and Muttaraiyars also participated, though stylistically their excavations are much akin to those of their political master. The cave at Namakkal is evidently an Atiya enterprise while Muttaraiya involvement may be seen at Tiruvellarai, Narttamalai, Kunrlandarkoil etc.

Under Narasimhavarma I, Pallava rock-architecture took a new turn. besides cutting into rocks for caves, attempts were made to cut out monoliths from rocks. The rudiments of this practice are to be found in the carved-out stupas in the caves of Western India and the vimana-form in the Tawa cave at Udayagiri but it was at Mahabalipuram under the Pallavas that it found a full and eloquent expression.

 Architecturally they depict the external aspects of contemporary brick and timber structures. There are as many as nine monoliths at Mahabalipuram of which the five, named after the Pandavas and Draupadi, are a well-known assemblage of contiguous excavations, the other examples are the Ganesa ratha, Valayankuttai ratha and the two Pidari rathas. As they represent varying architectural designs they are of primary importance for any study of the plan and different zones and the details of the Yima-nas.

The Dharmaraja-ratha is three-storeyed with a square viguana and an octagonal dome. Though the Arjunaratha is similar to this it is two-storeyed. The Bhimaratha has a wagon-top roof and is single-storeyed unlike the Ganesa ratha, another example of wagon top roof, which is double-storeyed. The Draupadiratha is hut-shaped and is square in plan and its roof is domical. The Sahadevaratha represents the apsidal form with its back resembling that of an elephant, a feature high-lighted by the carving of a huge elephant by the side of the monolith. 

The only non-Pallava monolith in the Tamil country is Kalugumalai which was cut-out under the Pandyas. This has been cut out, like the Rastrakuta monoliths in the Deccan, by entrenching all round and not by free cutting of standing rocks as in the Pallava domain.

Though the rock medium appears to have continued for some more time it was soon replaced by structural temples. This movement, as available evidences indicate, appears to have first started under Narasimhavarman I's grand-son Paramesvaravarman (669-691 A.D.), though it is not unlikely that the practice was still older. A few pillars in the typical Mahendra style, one of them with an inscription of Mahendravarman I, found in the Eltamranatha temple at Kanchipuram seem to suggest that even at the beginning of the seventh century structural mandapas were built. The presence of Pallava pillars at Sivanvayil, Kuram, Vayalur, Tirupporur etc., is enough to confirm this.

The Vidyavimta Pallavesvaragriha at Kuram built by Paramesvaravarman I is an early structural edifice. The provision of a series of vertical and horizontal slabs instead of a full bAitti is an interesting and early feature in this temple. While this is a small temple and reflects the modest nature of the enterprise, the temples of the next reign are large in size, elaborate in plan and rich in architectural and sculptural decorations. With the accession of Narasimhavarman II Rajasimha the history of Pallava architecture enters upon a new and eventful phase.

While the temples of Kailasanatha at Kanchipuram, Talagirlsvara at Panamalai and the Shore temple at Mahabalipuram are indisputably assignable to his reign on epigraphical grounds, a large number of other smaller temples are also stylistically akin to them. The temples of Vaikuntanatha, Muktesvara and Matangesvara at Kanchipuram are said to be slightly later and belong to the reign of Nandivarman Pallavamalla. 

The Kailasanatha is four-storeyed and is an example of sandharaprasada containing two walls providing an ambulatory.

The storeys are decorated with architectural designs like kutas, kostas and panjaras. The pillars in structural temples are with rampant lions generally and with elephants, nagas and bhulas at times. Niches are to be seen in both the rock-cut and structural temples and have a makaratorana decoration on their top, the makaras in them having floriated tails overflowing on the sides. The corbels are generally curved in profile with the taranga (wave moulding) ornament and a median band. The gopuras are absent in these early temples. 

In the Kailasanatha at Kanchi and the Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram there are faint but unmistakable suggestions of gopuradhvaras which were to evolve into towers. Another feature of these early structural temples is the almost prodigal sculptural embellishment of the exterior walls. The carvings are invariably those of deities, a few of which appear to be fresh inceptions from the Calukyan area.

The Colas who supplanted the Pallavas about the middle of the ninth century as a political force continued the latter's artistic activities. For about five centuries a large part of the Tamil country besides peripheral regions in contiguous areas in Andhra, Karnataka and Kerala were under their sway which they studded with hundreds of temples. On the basis of certain accepted notions regarding the evolution of temple architecture and on the authority of numerous inscriptions it is now fairly possible to determine the dates of most of the Chola monuments. Though the periodisation of South Indian art-history is even now a subject of debate it is conceded by most scholars that the Chola temples are broadly divisible into three groups: 

the first group belonging to the period from the accession of Vijayalaya to the accession of Rajaraja I (i.e., 850-985 A.D.); 

the second group assignable to the period from the accession of Rajaraja I to the accession of Kulottunga (985-1070 A.D.); and 

the third group comprising the period from the accession of Kulottunga I to the decline and fall of the Chola empire under Rajaraja III and Rajendra III (1070-1270 A.D .).

The temples of the first group are many which in stylistic characteristics break away from the structural temples of the Pallavas. In the Pallava temples the lowermost tier of the vimana is extended to the vestibule in front of the shrine, while this is not found in early Chola temples, the only exception being the Vijayalayacolisvaram at Narttamalai  

[see also Takeo Kamiya - Architecture of the Indian Sub Continent] which according to recent researches is not a Chola but a Muttaraiya edifice. The torus moulding in the basement which is chamfered in Pallava temples continues to be so in the Chola period for sometime but soon gets a rounded shape. The cornice in Chola temples is no longer a projecting tier as it is in Pallava monuments but gets a flexed shape. The old lion and vyala motifs in pillars are also dispensed with, though they linger for sometime in a few temples. Further, the corbels in pillars get an angular profile and are bevelled, resulting in a triangular, tenon-like projection. The absence of extravagant sculptural decoration on the exterior of the shrine walls is another distinguishing feature.

Though typical early Chola examples are numerous, special mention must be made of those at Kilaiyur, Srinivasanallur (Koranganatha), Kumbhakonam, Erumbur, Pullamangai, Punjai and Kodumbalur. The introduction of sub shrines for attendant divinities (parivara-devatas) noticed in these temples reveals elaboration and development of the temple complex.

In fact the beginnings of this practice are to be discerned even in the latter Pallava temple of Virattanesvara at Tiruttani built under Aparajita. This temple, though Pallava in name, is Chola in design and style and chronologically almost coeval with some of the Chola monuments enumerated above. The parivdra shrines, usually eight in number, were meant for attendant deities like Ganesa, Subrahmartya, Surya, Candra, Saptamatrkas, Jyestha, Candikesvara and Nandi. The gopuras of this period continue to be inconspicuous, the vim�nas, dominating the temple complex. 

Generally speaking, temples built under Aditya and Par�ntaka contained only three niches in the shrine walls, one on each wall, and two niches in the walls of the ardhamandapa, again one on each wall. While the niches in the southern and northern walls of the ardhamandapa carried respectively carvings of Ganesha and Durga, those of the main shrine were intended for Daksin�murti and Brahm�. The niche in the rear wall offered scope for variation, the enshrined deity being either Lingodhbhava or Visnu, Harihara or Ardhan�risvara.

But even in two very early temples - those at Srinivasanallur and Kumbhakonam - the tendency to multiply the niches is found, the additional niches carrying what looks like portraits. This tendency has been developed in the temples built by Sembiyan Mahadevi, mother of Uttamacola at such places as Tirukkodikk�val, Sembiyan Mah�devi, Anangur, Aduturai, Tirunaraiyur, Kutt�lam, etc., where the additional niches carry such iconographic types as Natar�ja, Bhiks�tana and Ardhanri besides Agastya.

These early Chola architectural traditions are carried to those of the later Chola period by the temples built under the illustrious Rajaraja and his son R�j�ndra. Many are the extant examples assignable to this middle phase, the most famous among them being the Brihadisvara temple at Tanjore and Gangaikondacolapuram.

Other temples of this period are those at Tiruvaji, M�lpadi, Tiruvala�juli, Tirumalavadi, Tiruvarangulam, Dadapuram, etc. In most of these temples the basement is ornamented with pilasters which carry a cornice. The walls have a greater number of niches and a semi-circular arch (tiruvacci) the centre of which is identical with that of� the k�du which appears beneath the architrave and over the niche. The introduction of the kumbhapa�jara in between the niches is another feature.

 The Tanjore temple is undoubtedly the grandest achievement of the age.

It was more a monument of triumph than a strict example of temple architecture. It is in this temple that one notices for the first time two gopuras oriented in the same direction. They are architecturally coeval with the main vimana and are referred to in inscriptions as Rajar�jan tiruvasal and Keral�ntakan tiruvasal In spite of the massive size of the gopuras the vim�na, rising majestically to a height of 190 feet, continues to dominate and it is only in the subsequent period that a change in the gradation of magnitude takes place.

The multiplication of pariv�ra shrines and the introduction of a separate shrine for the goddess are the two significant changes in the temple complex effected during this period. Even in the Tanjore temple the Devi shrine is not contemporaneous with the main cella but was built later. The earliest Devi shrine which appears to be definitely chronologically coeval with the main shrine is the one at Gangaikondacolapuram. 

The Devi shrines, known as Tirukkdmakkottams, were thus largely a feature from the reign of R�j�ndra. In the temples representing the final phase of Chola architecture a discernible maturity of style is evident.

Notable examples of them are to be found at D�r�suram, Tribhuvanam, Chidambaram and Jambukesvaram. Of the stylistic improvements made in these temples mention must be made of the torus moulding in the basement which is rounded and has a smooth surface, though in a few cases it is orna�mented with vertical grooves or ribs. The makaratoranas become tall with narrow reverse curves on each side; the kumbhapanjaras are also developed and carry on top over the abacus the superstructure of a panjara. The phalaka in the pillars are thinner than those of earlier periods and the padma below it, which is inverted and smooth in early temples, now has petals. The pillars in the mandapas have attached pilasters on their sides, known as Aniyottikal.

Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the temples of the late Chola phase is the increased height of the gopuras. The five-storeyed gopuras at Tiruvenk�du, Uyyakondan-Tirumalai, Tirucceng�tt�ngudi and Kumbhakonam must belong to this phase. Besides the gopura, pillared mandapas were also built within the temple complex, some of them being shaped in the form of a chariot by the addition of wheels and horses and elephants.

Generally speaking, the characteristics of the early and late Chola temples are shared by Pandya monuments of the respective periods, though minor variations are present in them. 

The next stage of development is, however, seen only in the temples built under the Vijayanagar rulers. The Vijayanagar kings not only built many new edifices, but made many additions to the already existing temples. Such additions are to be found in many places, the most noteworthy among them being Kanchipuram, Tiruvann�malai, Chidambaram, Kumbhakonam, Madurai, Srirangam, Vellore, etc.

The mandapas become large and conspicuous adjuncts during this period due to the multiplication and elaboration of religious rituals and ceremonial observances. The Kaly�namandapa, Sop�natmandapa, Davana�mandapa, Sndpanamandapa, Ala�k�ramandapa, etc., are the usual mandapas in addition to the ardha, mukha and mah� mandapas of earlier times.

Some of these mandapas are, however, not entirely unknown under the late Colas. A few of them were built outside the temple circuit but not much away from it. These mandapas are essentially pillared halls, open or closed, and contain either a shrine or a raised platform over a huge tortoise either in the centre or behind. They are also notable for their pillars which are rich in sculptural work and to which are attached riders on horse or lion or y�li. The fluted type of simple pillars becomes rare and huge and monolithic ones are often seen. They have ornamental brackets forming their capitals, below each of which is a pendant. This pendant has been in many examples elaborated into a �volute which terminates as an inverted lotus bud.�

The niches in the walls are not surmounted by tor�nas as in Pallava and Chola temples but have a simple pa�jara design over them. What is more, the niches are empty, without any image in them. Their old functional character has been lost and they remain a simple ornamental design on the exterior of the wall. The increase in the height of the gopuras and in the number of pr�karas is yet another feature. The gopuras are generally seven�storeyed and are large and tall, especially in the Pandya region. The most typical gopuras of this period are to be found at Ka�chipuram, Srirangam, Chidambaram and Tiruvannamalai. These are rich with architectural designs like salas, karnakutas and alpanasikas rather than sculptural decoration.

The Vijayanagar mode of architecture was continued by the Nayak rulers of Madurai. In the temples renovated or rebuilt by them, as the ones at Madurai, R�mesvaram and Tirunelveli, the corbels in the pillars show at their ends a plantain-flower-like motif. The gopuras continue to be slender and tall, the typical example being the Vatapatrasayi gopura at Srivilliputtur which is eleven-storeyed. The corridors in these temples, unlike those of earlier periods, are provided with ceilings which are at times painted.

 General features of a Chola temple (Dravidian style)

"The two major temple styles of ancient India, namely the Nagara and Dravida, was formalised and crystallised during the fifth and sixth centuries A.D. The Dravidian style of construction was initiated largely by the Pallavas in a more permanent medium during the sixth century A.D. which reached its culmination under the Cholas.

The development of this style could be discernible from the examples at Mahabalipuram and Kanchipuram which were the major Pallava centres of art and commerce. The Kailasanatha temple at Kanchipuram is an example of a complete temple complex, consisting of a garbhagriha, antarala, mandapa enclosed by a cloistered enclosure wall with an entrance gopura. The sikhara of a Dravidian temple is square on plan and pyramidal on elevation unlike that of a Nagara temple which is square on plan and curvilinear on elevation. The sikhara is divided into various tiers or storeys by the arrangement of miniature shrines of three types, namely, the sala (rectangular), kuta (square) and panjara (apsidal). The arrangement of the pillar elements improvise from their Pallava examples in terms of elaboration and additional elements.

The Dravidian order of temples attained its zenith under the Cholas and ultimately under Rajaraja I, which is reflected in the Brihadisvara Temple.

The main shrine is the most dominant feature of the Chola temples, and in the Brihadisvara temple, it reaches the highest watermark. The sikhara of the Brihadisvara temple is the tallest among all the temples of south India. The construction of the entrance gopura also crystallises during this period which is reflected in the first entrance gopura of the temple. "

Temples of India: Pallava (600-900 AD),  Chola (900-1250 AD), Pandyas (1100-1350 AD), Hoysala (1100-1350 AD), Vijayanagara (1350-1565 AD), Nayaks (1600 AD)  - Sibashis Nanda

" ...The south Indian style of temple architecture is very distinct from that of the rest of India. The sikhara of a Dravida temple is a tower that ascends in ever-shrinking tiers. The base of these sikharas can be rectangular, hexagonal, or octagonal. The tiered structure creates a strong presence of horizontal lines which is absent on the vimana and mandapa. The height of sikharas varied, but by the peak of the Dravida style (during the Chola dynasty), they reached almost 200 feet above the ground. It is convenient to resolve South Indian types of architecture into four periods corresponding to the principal kingdoms that ruled in southern India down the centuries i.e. the Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyas and the Vijayanagara rulers.

Pallava (600-900 AD)

The earliest examples of temples in the Dravidan style belong to the Pallava period. The temple architecture of the Pallavas is divided into two groups: rock-cut (610-690 AD) and structural (690-900 AD). The greatest accomplishments of the Pallava architecture are the rock-cut temples at Mahabalipuram. These temples are further divided into excavated pillared halls or mandapas and monolithic shrines known as rathas. The five rathas were built by Narasimhavarman I (625-645 AD) and are named after Draupadi, Arjuna, Bhima, Dharmaraja and Sahadeva. The Dharmarajaratha is the longest and most complete of these rathas. The famous Kailasanatha and the Vanikunthaperumal temples at Kanchipuram are the best specimens of the structural temples of the Pallavas. The temple complex consists of a sanctum, preceded by a mandapa and an incipient entrance gateway. Early temples were mostly dedicated to Shiva, and were sparsely adorned in the interiors.

Chola (900-1250 AD)

The Chola art is a continuation of that of Pallava times. The Cholas had built several hundreds of temples, the earlier examples of which were modest in size while the later ones were huge and large with the Vimanas or gopuras dominating the landscape. Mention must be made of the Brihadeeswarar Temple in Tanjavur, the capital established by the Chola ruler Rajaraja-I. The 55 metres long main structure of the temple had a 58 metres feet tall pyramidal tower or shikhara. The temple is composed of several structures combined axially, such as a Nandi pavilion, a pillared portico and a large assembly hall, all aligned in the centre of a spacious walled enclosure.

The temples at Thanjavur, Chidambaram, Sri Rangam, Gangaikonda-Cholapuram, Darasuram and Tribhuvanam amply illustrate the style of architecture that characterised the monuments in southern India between the 11th-13th centuries. The Chola style of architecture also had a considerable influence on the architecture of temples of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and those of the Southeast Asian kingdoms like Sri Vijaya (Sumatra) and Chavakam (Java).

Pandyas (1100-1350 AD)

The Pandyas mostly concentrated on the Gopurams, the main entrance. A typical gopuram consists of a building oblong in plan, rising up into a tapering tower and entered by a rectangular doorway in the centre of its long side. The Sundara Pandya gopuram, added to the temple of Jambukesvara around 1250 AD and the gopuram of the great temple at Kumbakoman (1350 AD) are the best examples of the gopurams of the Pandyan times.

Hoysala (1100-1350 AD)

Temples erected during the Hoysala kings have complicated plans with numerous angled projections. Carved surfaces are executed with remarkable precision, usually in chlorite. Temples from the Hoysala period can be seen at Belur, Halebid and Sringeri. After the reign of the Hoysalas, architectural traditions were interrupted by Muslim raids at the end of the 13th century. Monumental temple building resumed later under the Vijayanagara Empire.

Vijayanagara (1350-1565 AD)

By the 16th century almost all of southern India was part of the Vijayanagara Empire. The main contributions of the Vijayanagar period were the tall massive gopurams and the multiple mandapas. Unlike the Chola style, where the entire temple structure was usually a unified whole, there were numerous mandapas, pillared halls, shrines to minor deities, etc. Another major feature is the carved pillars - with the rearing simhas (lions), yalis (lions with elephant trunks. The Temple of Pampapati, the Hazararama temple and the Vittalaswami temple are the best examples of the Vijayanagar architecture. The ruins of Buggala Ramalingeswara at Tadpatri also depict the Vijayanagar architecture at its best.

Nayaks (1600 AD)

The Dravidian style of architecture assumed its final form under the Nayaks and lasted almost until the modern times. The style developed by these rulers is described as the 'Madura style' and is most evident in the Meenakshi temple at Madurai. The Meenakshi temple (17th century) is a double temple, as it has two separate sanctuaries, one dedicated to Sundareshwara (Shiva) and the other to his consort Meenakshi (Parvati). It has the tallest gopuram (temple tower) in the world.

The total number of pillars in the temple exceeds two thousand. The art of constructing gopurams also reached its maturity during the Nayaka period. The temples at Srirangam, Jambukesvara, Rameshwaram and Chidambaram are other notable examples of the Nayaka architecture..."



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