South Indian temple architecture: Critical Analysis

South Indian temple architecture: Critical Analysis

Question: A Madras HC appointed committee has complained that the TN government is not protecting the centuries old heritage temples in the state.Offices have been built within temple complexes and electric junction box rooms and water tanks are stationed near gopurams. Provide a critical analysis of the South Indian temple architecture belonging to the era following the Cholas and the Cheras.

- Following the Chola and Chera dynasty, several successive kingdoms in South India built heritage temples during their reign

- Pandyas (1100-1350 AD) constructed several gopurams or monumental entrances

- Earliest examples of gopurams during the Pandyan period in the 12 and 13 century consistent of a building oblong in plan rising up to a tapering tower over 45 metres tall and entered through a rectangle doorway in the centre of its long side

- Sundara Pandya gopuram added to Jambukesvara in 1250 AD and gopuram of the great temple at Kumbakoman are examples of their temple architecture

- The Pandyas also constructed the temple Airyavatesvara at Darsuram in the Tanjore district during the first half of the 14th century AD

- Temples constructed by the Hoysala kings follows a specific type of architectural style whereby complicated plans which are polygon or star shaped with numerous angled projections are the key feature

- Carved surfaces are executed with pin point accuracy in chorite

- Columns are lathe turned or multifaceted and each temple has a low pyramidal tower

Temples from the Hoysala period can be seen in Karnataka in the following areas:

- Belur

- Halebid

- Sringeri

- Channakasheva temple built by Vishnuvardhana in 1117 AD is considered the most famous temple constructed by the Hoysalas

- Hoysaleshvara Temple is the most famous of the Halebid temples.

- During the 16th century, southern India mostly fell under the Vijaynagar Empire

Art was inspired during this period from 3 main regional styles:

- Dravidian style of Cholas and Pandyas

- Chalukya Hoysala tradition

- Indo Islamic art of Bijapur region

- Temple complex and construction of several mandapas is noted feature of these temples which were not constructed using mortar

- Vijaynagar tradition also emphasised the use of decorative friezes and pillars in mandapas comprised figural motifs

- Kalyana mandapa is a typical creation during the Vijaynagar period

- City of Vijaynagar had so many temples it was called Kovilapura

- Kanchipuram, Vellore and Thiruvannamalai are the areas where the best examples of Vijaynagar temple architecture can be found

- Strong Islamic influence during this period is found in secular structures such as Lotus Mahal

- Dravidian style of temple architecture attained its final form under the Nayakas

- Tirumalai Nayaka, the greatest ruler during this era supervised the creation of fine works of art including the Meenakshi temple at Madurai

- Temples at Srirangam, Rameshwaram, Jambuksewara and Chidambaram are notable examples of Nayaka temple architecture

Facts and Stats

- This temple style is most notable in the Meenakshi temple at Madurai which is a double temple with two separate sanctuaries - one is dedicated to Sundareshwara and the other to consort Meenakshi

- This temple has the tallest gopuram/ temple tower across the world

- Temple forms a parallelogram and has a record of 11 gopurams apart from a one thousand pillared hall, pool of lilies and musical pillars

- Close to 2000 pillars are part of this temple.
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