Category Archives: Temple

The Lost temple of INDIA : Mysteries of Asia(Video)

The Mysteries of Asia three-part video series was originally produced for the Learning Channel. During this segment, historians and others examine temples built in India more than 1,000 years ago. They remain quite intriguing, though today’s tourists rarely visit them. Records reveal that trained elephants had to drag millions of stone blocks to help erect these structures. The program notes that due to the temples’ size, the U.S. Senate, Versailles, the Houses of Parliament, and St. Paul’s Basilica in Rome could all fit within a single one of them. Michael Bell narrates as footage and animated maps are used to help viewers learn more about what these ancient structures look like and why they were built. Asia is a continent steeped in ancient cultures, religions, and buildings. In this intriguing program, we are transported to this exotic land and examine the mysteries behind some of the most fascinating structures found there. Southern India has the largest temple complexes ever built. In “Lost Temples of India”, we examine these 1,000-year-old temples adorned with intricate and beautiful sculptures. We learn how the kings used large herds of trained elephants to drag the millions of stone blocks into place and how these temples are virtually unknown and unvisited by Western tourists. Truth or fiction, the stories of Mysteries of Asia will amaze and delight.

The Lost temple of INDIA – part 1/6

The Lost temple of INDIA – part 2/6

The Lost temple of INDIA – part 3/6

The Lost temple of INDIA – part 4/6

The Lost temple of INDIA – part 5/6

The Lost temple of INDIA – part 6/6

The fact that I can plant a seed and it becomes a flower, share a bit of knowledge and it becomes another’s, smile at someone and receive a smile in return, are to me continual spiritual exercises

Leo.F. Buscaglia

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The Lost temple of INDIA : Mysteries of Asia

The Mysteries of Asia three-part video series was originally produced for the Learning Channel. During this segment, historians and others examine temples built in India more than 1,000 years ago. They remain quite intriguing, though today’s tourists rarely visit them. Records reveal that trained elephants had to drag millions of stone blocks to help erect these structures. The program notes that due to the temples’ size, the U.S. Senate, Versailles, the Houses of Parliament, and St. Paul’s Basilica in Rome could all fit within a single one of them. Michael Bell narrates as footage and animated maps are used to help viewers learn more about what these ancient structures look like and why they were built. Asia is a continent steeped in ancient cultures, religions, and buildings. In this intriguing program, we are transported to this exotic land and examine the mysteries behind some of the most fascinating structures found there. Southern India has the largest temple complexes ever built. In “Lost Temples of India”, we examine these 1,000-year-old temples adorned with intricate and beautiful sculptures. We learn how the kings used large herds of trained elephants to drag the millions of stone blocks into place and how these temples are virtually unknown and unvisited by Western tourists. Truth or fiction, the stories of Mysteries of Asia will amaze and delight.

When people think of India, they think of the Taj Mahal, Shāh Jahān’s eternal memorial dedicated to his wife Mumtāz Mahal. But there is a more ancient and secret India hidden deep in its tropical jungles, with one of the greatest building efforts in the human [record]. History has produced thousands of strange and mysterious temples that are today lost and forgotten. This is India’s Deep South, a land of emerald green rice fields and immense palm forests, where every few miles temples soar toward the heavens in the countryside.

Here, over a thousand year ago, 985 AD to be exact, Rajaraja Cholan became King of the Chola Dynasty. His original name was Arunmozhivarman, and his title was Rajakesari Varman or Mummudi-Sola-Deva. He was the second son of the Parantaka Cholan II.

His capital was the city of Thanjavur. Thanjavur was the royal city of the Cholas, Nayaks, and the Mahrattas. Thanjavur derives its name from Tanjan-an asura (giant), who according to local legend devastated the neighbourhood and was killed by Sri Anandavalli Amman and the God Vishnu.

Rajaraja Cholan was one of the greatest kings of India, and in the south he embarked on one of the largest building plans in the history of mankind that still continues till this day. He and his successors moved more stone then the great pyramid of Giza.

The extent of the Temple Grounds is so large that over 200 Taj Mahal’s can fit into it.


You might ask why Rajaraja Cholan built all these temples. Well, it was the same motive that built Europe’s cathedrals and Egypt’s pyramids. He was moved by the power of faith. You have to understand one thing about India: this is a land with almost as many gods as people, and it believes all life to be sacred; even a humble ant has its place. Gods are worshiped differently here than in Europe. During festivals, for example, the gods are taken from their shrines and paraded around in the temple grounds, their costumes are changed at the end of the day, and they are put to bed for a few hours rest at night.

Generally, it’s believed that if these and other rituals are performed perfectly, then it’s going to be more beneficial for you, so that’s why rituals are taken very seriously and they are memorized rigorously by priests. These rituals hardly if ever change with the passage of time. For any religion, anywhere in the world, including Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and so on – to flourish it helps to have friends in high places, like kings or very wealthy benefactors. For Hinduism, with its vast temples and thousands of priests, friends in high places are absolutely essential. Rajaraja was one of the greatest patrons of arts and religion in India’s long history.

And this was his start, the great temple of Bragatheeswarar.


It’s one of the most amazing buildings in India. It’s 10 times taller than anything built before it, and not only is it huge, but it’s made of granite, one of the hardest stones in the world. The inner shrine under the large tower contains a large phallus-shaped stone, called a ‘Ling’, which represents the god Shiva, one of the most powerful and popular gods, and also one of the three gods of the Holy Trinity that began, runs, and ultimately ends this universe, only to start all over again. The phallus-shaped ‘Ling’ which is Shiva is 12 feet in height and 5 feet in diameter. Every day the priests dress Shiva, and wash him with milk. This has been going on since the creation of the temple and it still goes on today in an unbroken chain for the past thousand years.

To build temples like these required huge amounts of money, and the easiest way to get it was by attacking your weaker neighbors. Rajaraja began his career with the conquest of the Chera country. He defeated Chera King Bhaskara Ravivarman, whose fleet he destroyed in the port of Kandalur. He also seized Pandya Amara Bhujanga, and captured the port of Vilinam. By his campaign against the Singhalees, he annexed northern Ceylon (modern day Sri Lanka), and built a number of stone temples in the Ceylonese capital Polonnaruva. Most of his triumphs were achieved by the fourteenth year of his reign (AD 998-999). Rajaraja assumed the title “Mummudi Cholan” and moved his capital from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruva. The Chola culture and Shiva religion permeated the whole of Ceylon.

Having thus realized his cherished military glories, in or about 1003 AD Rajarajan sheathed his sword and turned his thoughts toward a life of peace. It was about this time, that the Chidambaram temple authorities bestowed on him the title of “Sri Rajarajan”.

India is a huge country and it has a very diverse climate. Eastern India is a desert, while the western part receives the highest rainfall in the world. Central India is a huge plateau covering four modern states. Warfare in India was a very different affair in each climatic region, with one common element throughout: the war elephants.

In the jungles of South India, Rajaraja had an ample supply of elephants for his war effort. Now, wild elephants might seem the right candidates to become war elephants, but they are actually very docile, only attacking when provoked. Only the biggest, fiercest, and fittest tusked males could be used as war elephants. Ancient elephant trainers, or “mahouts” (still called by this name today), made a stockade and drove elephant herds into a funnel that led them inside. As recently as the 1960s, the same method was used to capture elephants as in Rajaraja’s day, except they were used then for labor instead of war. The ancient mahouts picked the strongest bulls among the herds to be trained for the battlefields. The rest became working elephants, used for heavy lifting and transporting heavy objects for construction projects. The mahouts controlled the war elephants by getting them drunk on fermented rice liquor, called “makar”, before every battle. The elephants could literally slice their way through a battlefield with razor-sharp blades attached to their trunks. From the top of the elephants, spear throwers, generals, or archers could rain down death on the people below. Despite these advantages, elephants are very hard to control. Instinctively, they don’t favor killing people en masse. Only the legendary skill of the mahouts could make them do so. It is interesting to note, just like the Roman legions we know, the names of over 70 regiments in the ancient Indian army that distinguished themselves in battle are known because the names are inscribed in the temples – like the
Ilaiya-Rajaraja-terinda-Valangai-Velaikkarar, Parivarameykappargal (a regiment of Personal Bodyguards), Mummadi- Chola-terinda-Anaippagar (a regiment of the Elephant Corps). The surnames or titles of the king or of his son are usually prefixed before the regiment’s name, possibly as a sign of attachment after a regiment distinguished itself in a battle or other engagement. It would be considerably honorable and prestigious to be in the king’s own regiment.

After Rajaraja secured a good supply of money, he started construction on his Temple of Bragatheeswarar. The quarry that supplied the granite was over 50 miles away from the temple site. Most of the stones were moved with boats, but some much heavier stones, like the 81.3-ton capstone at the summit of the tower, were moved with a combination of ramps and elephants. The remains of the original ramps still exist today after a thousand years, indicating a gentle 6-degree slope pointing toward the top of the temple. The ramp began 1 mile from the temple, and gradually intersected with the top of the tower 216 feet in the air. Stones were moved from the quarry to the ramp, and up the ramp, with elephants pulling the stones over wooden rollers, much the same as the way ancient Egyptians built the pyramids.

You’d think Rajaraja was crazy going to so much trouble to make just a temple, but let me explain. Rajaraja was a very religious man, and he was caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, his religion forbade him to kill, and on the other hand, to be a successful king he had to make war on his neighbors for his people’s sake – otherwise his kingdom would be weak and easily overrun. So he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of his enemies. He firmly believed as do all Hindu’s today in rebirth and reincarnation, and that your actions in this life will determine your lot in the next one. Given the blood on Rajaraja’s hands, he might come back as a worm or something even worse. So he spent fabulous amounts of money on his temples. As one example, it’s written in an inscription that it took 4,000 cows, 7,000 goats, and 30 buffalos just to supply the butter required for the lamps that were lit in the temple and temple grounds. And this was just one temple. Rajaraja provided for hundreds of temples that he created just to insure that he kept his karma in good standing. By his generosity, he hoped the gods would overlook his transgressions and be persuaded to reincarnate him as something better than a worm.

Indian religion during Rajaraja’s time also spread across other lands. That’s why in the steaming jungles of Cambodia, the temples of Angkor Wat don’t depict Cambodian gods, but the gods of India. Not only did religion spread, but also art. When Europe was languishing in the Dark Ages, the artists in the Chola Empire were making bronze statues like the famous Nathraja shown below.

This is Shiva, who appears as Nathraja, the Lord of the Dance, simultaneously crushing the dwarf of ignorance under his foot, beating the drum of creation, unleashing the fires of destruction and finally raising one hand in assurance, telling us to fear not. Near Thanjavur, artists still create bronzes as they did in Rajaraja’s time, placing mud from the Kavari River on a hand carved wax statue to create a mold. After that, they pour molten bronze or gold into the mold and let it cool to take the shape of the statue.

Some Examples of Indian Art

When Rajaraja died in 1014, he left behind him a shining legacy that made him one of the greatest patrons of art and religion in India. The Chola Dynasty ended with King Rajendra Chola III, the last Chola king. The last recorded date of Rajendra III is 1279 AD. There is no evidence that Rajendra was followed immediately by another Chola prince. The Chola empire was completely overshadowed by the Pandyan empire, though many small chieftains continued to claim the title “Chola” well into 15th century.

This is a mural showing Rajaraja, drawn during his reign, showing him in red standing behind his guru. If you have seen a picture of the god Shiva, you might find similarities with the hair style of Rajaraja. It must be noted that some archeologists dispute whether this is actually Rajaraja or not.

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“”The fact that I can plant a seed and it becomes a flower, share a bit of knowledge and it becomes another’s, smile at someone and receive a smile in return, are to me continual spiritual exercises””

Leo.F. Buscaglia

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Brihadeeswarar Temple(world’s first complete granite temple)

The Peruvudaiyar Koyil or Brihadeeswarar Temple (Tamil: பெருவுடையார் கோயில்), also known as Rajarajeswaram,at Thanjavur in the Indianstate of Tamil Nadu, is the world’s first complete granite temple and a brilliant example of the major heights achieved by Cholas kingdom Vishwakarmas in dravidian temple architecture. It is a tribute and a reflection of the power of its patron RajaRaja Chola I. It remains as 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 architectural sites. The temple stands amidst fortified walls that were probably added in the 16th century. The ‘Vimana’ – or the temple tower – is 216 ft (66 m) high  and is among the tallest of its kind in the world. TheKalash or ‘Chikharam’ (apex or the bulbous structure on the top) of the temple is not carved out of a single stone as widely believed. There is a big statue of Nandi (sacred bull), carved out of a single rock, at the entrance measuring about 16 feet long and 13 feet high. The entire temple structure is made out of hard granite stones, a material sparsely available currently in Thanjavur area where the temple is located.
Built in 1010 AD by Raja Raja Chola in Thanjavur, Brihadishwara Temple also popularly known as the ‘Big Temple’ has turned 1000 years in 2010

EntranceTemple gateway

Temple complex

The temple complex sits on the banks of a river that was channeled to make a moat around the complex’s outer walls, the walls being built like a fortress. The complex is made up of many structures that are aligned axially. The complex can be entered either on one axis through a five-story gopuram or with a second access directly to the huge main quadrangle through a smaller free-standing gopuram. The massive size of the main sikhara (although it is hollow on the inside and not meant to be occupied), is 63 meters in height, with 16 severely articulated stories, and dominates the main quadrangle. Pilaster, piers, and attached columns are placed rhythmically covering every surface of the shikhara.
 
Main temple
The main temple is in the center of the spacious quadrangle composed of a sanctuary, a Nandi, a pillared hall and an assembly hall (mandapas), and many sub-shrines. The most important part of the temple is the inner mandapa which is surrounded by massive walls that are divided into different levels by sharply cut sculptures and pilasters providing deep bays and recesses. Each side of the sanctuary has a bay emphasizing the principle cult icons. Thekaruvarai, a Tamil word meaning the interior of thesanctum sanctorum, is the inner most sanctum and focus of the temple where an image of the primarydeity, Shiva, resides. Inside is a huge stone linga Literally the word Karuvarai means “womb chamber” from Tamil wordKaru for foetus. Only priests are allowed to enter this inner most chamber. In the Dravida style, the Karuvarai takes the form of a miniature vimana with other features exclusive to southern Indian temple architecture such as the inner wall together with the outer wall creating a pradakshina around the garbhagriha for circumambulation (pradakshina). The entrance is highly decorated. The inside chamber housing the image of the god is the sanctum sanctorum, the garbhagriha. The garbhagriha is square and sits on a plinth, its location calculated to be a point of total equilibrium and harmony as it is representative of a microcosm of the universe. In the center is placed the image of the deity. The royal bathing-hall where Rajaraja the great gave gifts is located to the east of the hall of Irumudi-Soran.
The circumambulation winds around the massive lingam in the garbhagriha and is repeated in an upper story, presenting the idea that Chola Empire freely offered access to the gods.
The inner mandapa leads out to a rectangular mandapa and then to a twenty-columned porch with three staircases leading down. Sharing the same stone plinth is a small openmandapa dedicated to Nandi, Shiva’s sacred bull mount.

The full view of the temple
 
Features
The temple is made up of 130,000 tons of granite. The 60-metre tall vimana is the tallest in South India. A European-like figure which is carved on the vimana is believed to be an ancient warning of the arrival of the British. Later investigations by archaeologists proposed that this carving may be a hoax. It is widely believed that the shadow of the gopuram never falls on the ground. However, some scholars have dismissed this as a myth.
The shikhara of the temple is made from a single 80-tonne piece of granite. This magnificent temple was built in just five years, (between 1004 AD and 1009 AD) during the reign of Rajaraja Chola.

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திராவிடக் கட்டிடக்கலை(Dravidian architecture)

A typical Dravidian gate pyramid called Gopuram-Thiruvannamalai temple-Tamil Nadu

Dravidian architecture was a style of architecture that emerged thousands of years ago in the Indian subcontinent. They consist primarily of pyramid shaped temples called Koils which are dependent on intricate carved stone in order to create a step design consisting of many statues of deities, warriors, kings, and dancers. The majority of the existing buildings are located in theSouthern Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh,Kerala, and Karnataka. Various kingdoms and empires such as the Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyan, Chera,Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, Hoysalas, Vijayanagara Empire amongst the many others have made a substantial contribution to the evolution of Dravidian architecture through the ages. Dravidian styled architecture can also be found in parts of NortheasternSri Lanka, Maldives, and various parts of Southeast Asia.

Composition and structure

The Annamalaiyar Temple in Thiruvannaamalai, India

Dravidian style temples consist almost invariably of the four following parts, arranged in various manners, as afterwards to be explained, but differing in themselves only according to the age in which they were executed:

1. The principal part, the actual temple itself, is called the Vimanam. It is always square in plan, and surmounted by a pyramidal roof of one or more stories; and it contains the cell in which the image of the god or his emblem is placed.

2. The porches or Mantapams, which always cover and precede the door leading to the cell.

3. Gate-pyramids, Gopurams, which are the principal features in the quadrangular enclosures that surround the more notable temples.

4. Pillard halls or Chaultris—properly Chawadis — used for various purposes, and which are the invariable accompaniments of these temples.

Besides these, a temple always contains tanks or wells for water—to be used either for sacred purposes or the convenience of the priests—dwellings for all the various grades of the priest-hood are attached to it, and numerous other buildings for state or convenience.

Influence from different periods

In Southern India seven kingdoms and empires stamped their influence on architecture during different times.:

Sangam period

The Subrahmanya Murugan temple of Saluvankuppam, in Saluvankuppam nearMahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu. The brick shrine dates to the Sangam period and is one of the oldest Hindu temples to be unearthed

From 1000BCE-300CE, the greatest accomplishments of the kingdoms of the early Chola, Chera and the Pandyan kingdomsincluded brick shrines to deities Murugan, Shiva, Amman andThirumal (Vishnu) of the Tamil pantheon. Some were built Several of these have been unearthed near Adichanallur,Kaveripoompuharpattinam and Mahabalipuram, and the construction plans of these sites of worship were shared to some detail in various poems of Sangam literature. One such temple, the Saluvannkuppan Murukan temple, unearthed in 2005, consists of three layers. The lowest layer, consisting of a brick shrine, is one of the oldest of its kind in South India, and is the oldest shrine found dedicated to Murukan. It is one of only two brick shrine pre Pallava Hindu temples to be found in the state, the other being the Veetrirundha Perumal Temple at Veppathurdedicated to Vishnu. The dynasties of early medieval Tamilakkam expanded and erected structural additions to many of these brick shrines. Sculptures of erotic art, nature and deities from the MaduraiMeenakshi Amman Temple, Chidambaram Thillai Nataraja Temple and the SrirangamRanganathaswamy Temple date from the Sangam period.

Pallavas

The Rathas in Mahabalipuram-Tamilnadu

The Pallavas ruled from AD (600-900) and their greatest constructed accomplishments are  the single rock temples in Mahabalipuram and their capitalKanchipuram, now located in Tamilnadu.

Pallavas were pioneers of south Indian architecture. The earliest examples of temples in the Dravidian style belong to the Pallava period. The earliest examples of Pallava constructions are rock-cut temples dating from 610 – 690 CE and structural temples between 690 – 900 CE. The greatest accomplishments of the Pallava architecture are the rock-cut temples at Mahabalipuram. There are excavated pillared halls and monolithic shrines known as rathas in Mahabalipuram. Early temples were mostly dedicated to Shiva.  The Kailasanatha temple also called Rajasimha Pallaveswaram in Kanchipuram built by Narasimhavarman II also known as Rajasimha is a fine example of the Pallava style temple. Mention must be made here of the Shore Temple constructed by Narasimhavarman II near Mahabalipuram which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Contrary to popular impression about the succeeding empire of the Cholas pioneering in building large temple complexes, it was the Pallavas who actually pioneered not only in making large temples after starting construction of rock cut temples without using mortar, bricks etc.(**) The shining examples of such temples are the Thiruppadagam and Thiruooragam temples that have 28 and 35 feet (11 m) high images of Lord Vishnu in his manifestation as Pandavadhoothar and Trivikraman forms of himself. In comparison the Siva Lingams in the Royal Temples of the Cholas at Thanjavur and Gangaikonda Cholapurams are 17 and 18 feet (5.5 m) high. Considering that the Kanchi Kailasanatha Temple built by Rajasimha Pallava was the inspiration for Raja Raja Chola’s Brihadeeswara at Thanjavur, it can be safely concluded that the Pallavas were among the first emperors in India to build both large temple complexes and very large deities and idols(**) Many Siva and Vishnu temples at Kanchi built by the great Pallava emperors and indeed their incomparable Rathas and the Arjuna’s penance Bas Relief (also called descent of the Ganga) are proposed UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The continuous Chola, Pallava and Pandiyan belt temples (along with those of the Adigaimans near Karur and Namakkal), as well as the Sethupathy temple group between Pudukottai and Rameswaram uniformly represent the pinnacle of the South Indian Style of Architecture that surpasses any other form of architecture prevalent between the Deccan Plateau and Kanniyakumari(**). Needless to add that in the Telugu country the style was more or less uniformly conforming to the South Indian or Dravidian idiom of architecture.(**)

Pandya

Srivilliputtur Andal Temple is the official symbol of the Government of Tamilnadu. It is said to have been built by Periyaazhvar, the father-in-law of the Lord, with a purse of gold that he won in debates held in the palace of PandyaKing Vallabhadeva.

The primary landmark of Srivilliputtur is 12-tiered tower structure dedicated to the Lord of Srivilliputtur, known as Vatapatrasayee. The tower of this temple rises 192 feet (59 m) high and is the official symbol of the Government of Tamil Nadu. It is said to have been built by Periyaazhvar, the father-in-law of the Lord, with a purse of gold that he won in debates held in the palace ofPandya King Vallabhadeva. The Government of Tamil Nadu uses this temple tower as part of its symbol.

Cholas

Detail of the main vimanam (tower) of the Thanjavur Temple-Tamilnadu

The Chola kings ruled from AD (848-1280) and included Rajaraja Chola I and his sonRajendra Chola who built temples such as the Brihadeshvara Temple of Thanjavur and Brihadeshvara Temple of Gangaikonda Cholapuram, the Airavatesvara Temple of Darasuram and theSarabeswara (Shiva )Temple, also called the Kampahareswarar Temple  at Thirubhuvanam, the last two temples being located near Kumbakonam. The first three among the above four temples are titled Great Living Chola Temples among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The Cholas were prolific temple builders right from the times of the first king Vijayalaya Chola after whom the eclectic chain of Vijayalaya Chozhisvaram temple near Narttamalai exists. These are the earliest specimen of Dravidian temples under the Cholas. His son Aditya I built several temples around the Kanchi and Kumbakonam regions.

Temple building received great impetus from the conquests and the genius of Aditya I Parantaka I,Sundara Chola, Rajaraja Chola and his son Rajendra Chola I. The maturity and grandeur to which the Chola architecture had evolved found expression in the two temples of Tanjavur and Gangaikondacholapuram. In a small portion of the Kaveri belt between Tiruchy-Tanjore-Kumbakonam, at the height of their power, the Cholas have left over 2300 temples, with the Tiruchy-Thanjavur belt itself boasting of more than 1500 temples. The magnificent Siva temple of Thanjavur built by Raja Raja I in1009 as well as the Brihadisvara  Temple of Gangaikonda Cholapuram, completed around 1030, are both fitting memorials to the material and military achievements of the time of the two Chola emperors. The largest and tallest of all Indian temples of its time, the Tanjore Brihadisvara is at the apex of South Indian architecture. In fact, two succeeding Chola kings Raja Raja II and Kulothunga III built the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram and the Kampahareswarar Siva Temple at Tribhuvanam respectively, both temples being on the outskirts of Kumbakonam around AD 1160 and AD 1200. All the four temples were built over a period of nearly 200 years reflecting the glory, prosperity and stability under the Chola emperors.

Contrary to popular impression, the Chola emperors patronized and promoted construction of a large number of temples that were spread over most parts of the Chola empire. These include 40 of the 108 Vaishnava Divya Desams out of which 77 are found spread most of South India and others in Andhra and North India(**). In fact, the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam, which is the biggest temple in India (**) and the Chidambaram Natarajar Temple (though originally built by the Pallavas but possibly seized from the Cholas of the pre-Christian era when they ruled from Kanchi) (**) were two of the most important temples patronized and expanded by the Cholas and from the times of the second Chola King Aditya I, these two temples have been hailed in inscriptions as the tutelary deities of the Chola Kings (**). Of course, the two Brihadisvara Temples at Thanjavur and Gangaikonda Cholapuram as well as the other two Siva temples, namely the Airavatesvara Temple of Darasuram and the Sarabeswara (Shiva )Temple which is also popular as the Kampahareswarar Temple at Thirubhuvanam, both on the outskirts of Kumbakonam were the royal temples of the Cholas to commemorate their innumerable conquests and subjugation of their rivals from other parts of South India, Deccan Ilangai or Sri Lanka and the Narmada-Mahanadi-Gangetic belts(**). But the Chola emperors underlined their non-partisan approach to religious iconography and faith by treating the presiding deities of their other two peerless creations, namely theRanganathaswamy Temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu at Srirangam and the Nataraja Temple atChidambaram which actually is home to the twin deities of Siva and Vishnu (as the reclining Govindarajar) to be their ‘Kuladheivams’ or tutelary (or family) deities(**). The Cholas also preferred to call only these two temples which home their tutelary or family deities as Koil or the ‘Temple’, which denotes the most important places of worship for them, underlining their eq. The above-named temples are being proposed to be included among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which will elevate them to the exacting and exalting standards of the Great Living Chola Temples(**).

The temple of Gangaikondacholapuram, the creation of Rajendra Chola I, was intended to exceed its predecessor in every way. Completed around 1030, only two decades after the temple at Thanjavur and in much the same style, the greater elaboration in its appearance attests the more affluent state of the Chola Empire under Rajendra. This temple has a larger Siva linga than the one at Thanjavur but the Vimana of this temple is smaller in height than the Thanjavur vimana.

The Chola period is also remarkable for its sculptures and bronzes all over the world. Among the existing specimens in museums around the world and in the temples of South India may be seen many fine figures of Siva in various forms, such as Vishnu and his consort Lakshmi, and the Siva saints. Though conforming generally to the iconographic conventions established by long tradition, the sculptors worked with great freedom in the 11th and the 12th centuries to achieve a classic grace and grandeur. The best example of this can be seen in the form of Nataraja the Divine Dancer.

Badami Chalukyas

Main article: Badami Chalukya Architecture

Virupaksha temple, Pattadakal, Karnataka built in 740

The Badami Chalukyas also called the Early Chalukyas, ruled from Badami, Karnataka in the period AD 543 -753 and spawned the Vesara style called Badami Chalukya Architecture. The finest examples of their art are seen in Pattadakal, Aihole and Badami in northern Karnataka. Over 150 temples remain in the Malaprabhabasin.

The most enduring legacy of the Chalukya dynasty is the architecture and art that they left behind. More than one hundred and fifty monuments attributed to the Badami Chalukya, and built between 450 and 700, remain in the Malaprabha basin in Karnataka.

The rock-cut temples of Pattadakal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Badami and Aihole are their most celebrated monuments. Two of the famous paintings atAjanta cave no. 1, “The Temptation of the Buddha” and “The Persian Embassy” are attributed to them. This is the beginning of Chalukya style of architecture and a consolidation of South Indian style.

Rashtrakutas

The view of the Kailash Temple from the top. The photo is taken at the cave temples clusters of Ellora, Maharastra, India.

The Rashtrakutas who ruled the deccan fromManyakheta, Gulbarga district, Karnataka in the periodAD 753 – 973 built some of the finest Dravidian monuments at Ellora (the Kailasanatha temple), in the rock cut architecture idiom. Some other fine monuments are the Jaina Narayana temple at Pattadakal and the Navalinga temples at Kuknur in Karnataka.

The Rashtrakutas contributed much to the culture of theDeccan. The Rashtrakuta contributions to art and architecture are reflected in the splendid rock-cut shrines at Ellora and Elephanta, situated in present dayMaharashtra. It is said that they altogether constructed 34 rock-cut shrines, but most extensive and sumptuous of them all is the Kailasanatha temple at Ellora. The temple is a splendid achievement of Dravidian art. The walls of the temple have marvellous sculptures from Hindy mythology including Ravana, Shiva andParvathi while the ceilings have paintings.

The project was commissioned by King Krishna I after the Rashtrakuta rule had spread into South India from the Deccan. The architectural style used was dravidian. It does not contain any of the Shikharascommon to the Nagara style and was built on the same lines as the Virupaksha temple at Pattadakal inKarnataka.

Western Chalukyas

Main article: Western Chalukya architecture

Dodda Basappa temple, Dambal, Gadag district,Karnataka

The Western Chalukyas also called the Kalyani Chalukyas or Later Chalukyas ruled the deccan from AD973 – 1180 from their capital Kalyani in modern Karnataka and further refined the Chalukyan style, called the Western Chalukya architecture. Over 50 temples exist in the Krishna River-Tungabhadra doab in central Karnataka. The Kasi Vishveshvara at Lakkundi, Mallikarjuna at Kuruvatii, Kalleshwara temple at Bagali and Mahadeva at Itagi are the finest examples produced by the Later Chalukya architects.

The reign of Western Chalukya dynasty was an important period in the development of architecture in the deccan. Their architectural developments acted as a conceptual link between the Badami Chalukya Architecture of the 8th century and the Hoysala architecture popularised in the 13th century. The art of Western Chalukyas is sometimes called the “Gadag style” after the number of ornate temples they built in the Tungabhadra – Krishna River doab region of present day Gadag district in Karnataka. Their temple building reached its maturity and culmination in the 12th century, with over a hundred temples built across the deccan, more than half of them in present day Karnataka. Apart from temples they are also well known for ornate stepped wells (Pushkarni) which served as ritual bathing places, many of which are well preserved in Lakkundi. Their stepped well designs were later incorporated by the Hoysalas and the Vijayanagara empire in the coming centuries.

Hoysalas

Symmetrical architecture on Jagati, Somanathapura, Karnataka
Main article: Hoysala architecture

The Hoysala kings ruled southern India during the period AD (1100-1343) from their capital Belur and laterHalebidu in Karnataka and developed a unique idiom of architecture called the Hoysala architecture inKarnataka state. The finest examples of their architecture are the Chennakesava Temple in Belur,Hoysaleswara temple in Halebidu, and the Kesava Temple in Somanathapura.

The modern interest in the Hoysalas is due to their patronage of art and architecture rather than their military conquests. The brisk temple building throughout the kingdom was accomplished despite constant threats from the Pandyas to the south and the Seunas Yadavas to the north. Their architectural style, an offshoot of the Western Chalukya style, shows distinct Dravidian influences. The Hoysala architecture style is described as Karnata Dravida as distinguished from the traditional Dravida, and is considered an independent architectural tradition with many unique features.

Vijayanagar

Virupaksha Temple at Hampi, Karnataka
Main article: Vijayanagar Architecture

The whole of South India was ruled by Vijayanagar Empire from AD(1343-1565), who built a number of temples and monuments in their hybrid style in their capital Vijayanagar in Karnataka. Their style was a combination of the styles developed in South India in the previous centuries. In addition, the Yali columns (pillar with charging horse), balustrades (parapets) and ornate pillared manatapa are their unique contribution. King Krishna Deva Raya and others built many famous temples all over South India in Vijayanagar Architecture style.

Vijayanagara architecture is a vibrant combination of the Chalukya,Hoysala, Pandya and Chola styles, idioms that prospered in previous centuries. Its legacy of sculpture, architecture and painting influenced the development of the arts long after the empire came to an end. Its stylistic hallmark is the ornate pillaredKalyanamantapa (marriage hall), Vasanthamantapa (open pillared halls) and the Rayagopura (tower). Artisans used the locally available hard granite because of its durability since the kingdom was under constant threat of invasion. While the empire’s monuments are spread over the whole of Southern India, nothing surpasses the vast open air theatre of monuments at its capital at Vijayanagara, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In the 14th century the kings continued to build Vesara or Deccan style monuments but later incorporated dravida-style gopurams to meet their ritualistic needs. The Prasanna Virupaksha temple (underground temple) of Bukka Raya I and the Hazare Rama temple of Deva Raya I are examples of Deccan architecture. The varied and intricate ornamentation of the pillars is a mark of their work. At Hampi, though the Vitthala temple is the best example of their pillared Kalyanamantapa style, theHazara Ramaswamy temple is a modest but perfectly finished example. A visible aspect of their style is their return to the simplistic and serene art developed by the Chalukya dynasty. A grand specimen of Vijayanagara art, the Vitthala temple, took several decades to complete during the reign of the Tuluva kings.

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ஸ்ரீ பத்மநாபசுவாமி கோயில்(Padmanabhaswamy Temple)

Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, maintained by the erstwhile Travancore Royal Family, and located within the East Fort in the city ofThiruvananthapuram, Kerala state, South India. The temple is one of 108 Divya Desams(Holy Abodes of Vishnu) – principal centres of worship of the deity in Vaishnavism. The temple, constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture is glorified in the Divya Prabandha, the early medieval Tamil literature canon of the Tamil Alvar saints (6th-9th centuries CE), with structural additions to it made throughout the medieval Chera periodup to the 16th century CE, when its ornate Gopuram was constructed. The most recent renovations to the temple occurred in the 18th century CE. Services were provided to the local community with the Kovil’s revenue. The temple gave its name to Kerala’s state capital Thiruvananthapuram. ‘Thiru’ ‘Anantha’ ‘Puram’ means Sacred Abode of Lord Anantha Padmanabha.

The principal deity, Padmanabhaswamy is enshrined in the “Ananta-sayanam” posture (in the eternal sleep of Yoga-nidra on the serpent Ananta). Travancore Kings, descended from the Kulasekhara line of the Chera Dynasty regarded themselves as ‘Padmanabha-dasa’ (Servant of Lord Padmanabha).

In late June 2011, a review of the temple’s underground vaults was undertaken by a seven-member panel appointed by the Supreme Court of India to generate an inventory, leading to the discovery of a vast hidden collection. Estimates suggest that the temple could be the richest in the world; unofficial estimates on the sixth day of the inventory placed the value of contents at close to                       Indian Rupee symbol.svg100,000 crore (US$22.3 billion). Donations were made by traders, pilgrims and various royal families at the city in the former Malabar country as offerings to the temple. It served as a depot for looted wealth from conquered states and a safe house for assets of other temples; they were sealed within the thick stone walls and vaults of the temple for over a millennium.

The temple is now considered wealthier than the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple inTirupati, Andhra Pradesh – by official records considered to be the richest place of worship in the world

Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple

 

Temple Entrance 

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