Publication date : July 2012 (version 1.2)
Length : 214 pages
South India is the premier area in which to experience the architectural tradition of the Hindu temple. Given that the Hindu empires of the South were able to hold off the imperial expansion of Islamic forces, Hindu architecture in South India did not suffer the same destruction as that in the North. As a result, the South’s complexes remain largely intact, offering an abundance of temples from all time periods and empires.
This Approach Guide to the Temples of South India explores South India’s architecture by looking at temples built by eight of the most powerful Hindu empires in Tamil Nadu (Pallava, Pandyan, Chola, and Nayak) and Karnataka (Chalukya, Rashtrakuta, Hoysala, and Vijayanagar). This guide begins by reviewing the defining features of each empire’s architectural style, with a focus on innovations and trademark elements. The goal is to provide travelers with an appreciation of both what makes each empire’s architecture unique, as well as what connects it to that of those empires that came before and those that would come after.
With this foundation in place, this Approach Guide takes travelers on a tour of twenty-four of the most iconic temples in South India. Each temple’s detailed profile includes high-resolution images and floorplans that highlight salient features with color highlights to ease identification. This tour includes the following locations:
- Aihole (near Goa). Visit the site of the earliest temples in South India, the Chalukya-built Ladh Khan and Durga Temples, that bridge the gap from early Buddhist to Hindu forms.
- Belur (near Mysore and Bangalore). Explore the Hoysala’s Chennakeshvara Temple, a decorative masterpiece.
- Ellora (near Mumbai). The stunning, rock-cut Kailasa Temple is the best example of the Rashtrakuta Empire style.
- Halebid (near Mysore and Bangalore). Yet another Hoysala site, the Hoysaleshvara Temple demonstrates a major step forward in the layout of the Hoysala floorplan.
- Hampi (near Goa). This Vijayanagar architectural site — with its Virupaksha, Vitthala, and Hemakuta Hill Temples — makes for a really cool stop, combining a wealth of cultural sites with a laid back vibe.
- Kanchipuram (near Chennai). Visit this Pallava architectural site’s three impressive temples that went on to influence all future ones in South India: Kailasanatha, Vaikunthaperumal, and Vadaraja Temples.
- Mahabalipuram (near Chennai). This Pallava site offers some of the earliest architecture in South India, the Rathas Temples, and one of the most picturesque, the Shore Temple.
- Madurai. Madurai is a very religious city and offers you a great opportunity to experience an active Hindu community, best witnessed at the enormous Meenakshi Temple, constructed in the Nayak style; however, the decoration of the little-known Kudal Alagar Perumal Temple makes it a highlight stop as well.
- Pattadakal (near Goa). At this site of the mature Chalukya temple style, visit the Virupaksha, Jambulinga, and Galaganatha Temples.
- Somnathpur (near Mysore and Bangalore). This site’s Keshava Temple represents the high point of the Hoysala style; its star-shaped, triple-shrine arrangement was a breakthrough.
- Thanjavur. The Brihadeshvara Temple, with its massive tower, represents the Chola architectural style par excellence.
Intuitively organized and loaded with over 100 photos, this guidebook serves as an ideal reference, both for pre-travel research and on location touring.
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: One of the benefits of ebooks is that we can easily update content and release new editions of our guidebooks. These updates are FREE for existing customers. Please visit for a list of recently updated guides and instructions on downloading the new version to your device.