Art Of Temple Architecture In Tamil Nadu

south indian religion

There are many temples in south India dedicated to the God Shiva. This is the most important temple of the South Indian religion, as it holds the epitome of all the three aspects of the religion – temple, sacrifice and meditation. Built in Thanjavur, Kerala in the seventh century BC, the sanctuary was built by the king Kalidasa. Its construction gave way to the present day structures which are still very intricate.

The temple of Shiva is a grand building. However, its construction did not stop at just constructing a temple. It took over a century to build this temple in perfection. This south Indian religion has a long history that can be traced back to around 700 BC when the Dravidian idea prevailed.

Influence Of The Dravidian Concept

Graffiti on a wall

The influence of the Dravidian concept prevailed throughout the period of British colonizers in India. To know the extent of the influence of this concept, it is imperative to look at the architectural aspects of the British era. Although there were some developments in the architectural style in some of the states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Assam, the south Indian states such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu have remained true to their Dravidian tradition. The influence of British era can be seen even today in the form of the Tilakam, a traditional south Indian celebration. It can also be seen in the architectural aspects of the temple of Karnatake, which is dedicated to Lord Krishna.

The architectural styles of the British period are best seen in the temples of Karnatake. A typical Tilakam would have a tall statue of the deity accompanied by carved wooden idols. Some of these wooden idols are replicas of the ones found at Sarnath. The reason why Sarnath was chosen by the British for this purpose is because it was strategically located. It served as a crossing point between the east and west; hence it had a strategic location. In the same way the south Indian architectural styles followed a similar path and hence there are many similarities between the temples of Karnatake and Sarnath.

The Thanjavur Painting

A flag flying on a cloudy day

Another important aspect of the South Indian religion is the Thanjavur Painting. This artwork was inspired by the Dhamakananda which was a religious text written by an Indian mystic. The Thanjavur painting is the most popular among all other South Indian epics. This is because it is said to be the last work of a great sage who was able to communicate with the transcendental spirit. The Thanjavur painting has become an integral part of the Indian religion. The significance of the painting can best be understood by looking at the factors which motivated the artist.

Looking at the architectural aspects, we can understand how the art of the South Indians influenced the Indian religion. For starters the Tamils have the highest ratio of temples to community members, to the South Indians have the lowest ratio of such worship. The South Indians are famous for their involvement in Dhamakananda, whereas the Tamil Nadu government has put up a temple in the town of Thiruvallam, where Dhamakananda was conceived. On the other hand the art of the South Indians reflects a form of worship based on the sun and the goddess of wealth, who established a temple at Nageriyampathi, Tamil Nadu.

Another interesting feature of the south Indian temple architecture is the use of a lotus as a facial feature of the deity. However this is anachronistic and was probably introduced by the followers of Buddha in the 6th century BC. In the Indus Valley civilization to the concept of a lotus began to take shape around the middle of the third millennium BC with the construction of the colossal Taj Mahal in present day India. The Taj Mahal is one of the largest and the most beautiful monuments in the world and it symbolizes the greatness of India and also the love of men and women for perfection.

Bottom Line

The architectural sophistication and unique style of temple architecture in India are further highlighted by the fact that in spite of being a part of a great Indian political and cultural inheritance the southern part of India has remained virtually free from foreign influence even after so many centuries. The people of Tamil Nadu have managed to preserve this unique style of temple architecture. The success of their artistic impulse is evident in the fact that till date the temple in Thiruvallam is open to visitors and devotees from all over the country who pay a visit to the house of the last Tamil Nadu governor of Mysore in recognition of his contribution towards the growth of the state.

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