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Architecture In Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu is the land of temples and a living museum of styles that originated in the 7th century. The temples in Tamil Nadu (some dating to more than 1,700 years old) display intricate carving and sculptures, which bear testimony to the craftsmanship and creativity of the sculptors and artists of ancient India. In Tamil Nadu, one can see huge temple complexes with towering 'Gopurams' (gateways), which are a major part of the Dravidian architectural style. Hindu architecture is vigorous while Muslim architecture is virtually non-existent. Temple architecture catalogues the tastes of successive dynasties. These temples also serve as ample evidence of the vision and forethought of the kings and rulers of olden times to leave behind a heritage that modern India could be proud of.

Temple Architecture

Tamil Nadu, the holy land, is the land of temple architecture. The Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyas, Vijayanagar rulers and the Nayakas have made immense contributions to temple art in Tamil Nadu.

Thousands of temples with lofty towers dot the skyline of the entire state of Tamil Nadu. The Tamils have been the greatest of temple builders. Temples from the pre Christian era as well as those from the 20th century exist in this state, where the ancient rulers have made outstanding contributions to the growth of these monuments of great artistic value.

Contributions Of The Pallava And Pandya Rulers

The cave temples of Pallavas and Pandyas were the beginning in temple architecture. This gave place to structural temples built with cut stones. These types of sculptural decoration are found at Mamandur, Tiruchirappalli and Pallavaram, which are attributed to Mahendravarman. The examples seen at Mamallapuram exhibit a striking variation from the cave temples with bas-reliefs, monoliths and cutout rocks, which were introduced by Mamalla Narasimhavarman I, son of Mahendravarman.

The Kailasanathar temple at Kanchipuram, the 'City Of Thousand Temples' and the shore temple at Mamallapuram are the best examples of structural temples, which replaced the rock medium. They are attributed to the eternal noble men Rajasimha and Narasimha Varman II during the same period.

Contributions Of The Chola Rulers

Followed by Pallavas, the Cholas continued their reign from the middle of the 9th century for over 500 years and established themselves as the superiors among all the dynasties in building mammoth places of worship. They brought significant changes in the structural style with multiple layers, towering 'Gopurams', 'Parivaras' and separate shrine for the goddess. During their period, the land was studded with temples. Their architectural achievement is the Brihadeeswarar temple at Thanjavur. The temples at Parasuram, Thiruverkadu, Kumbakonam, etc. are the best examples of the Cholas final phase, which was a fine degree of perfection in temple architecture.

Contributions Of The Vijayanagar Rulers

The Vijayanagar rulers made valuable additions to existing temples. They built many structures in a new style. The Gopurams became taller containing richness in sculptural details and the spacious 'Mandapams' became even larger. Their finest specimens are seen at Srirangam, Kanchipuram, Chidambaram and Tiruvannamalai.

Contributions Of The Nayak Rulers Of Madurai

The tallest temple towers at Srivilliputhur, Madurai, Rameswaram and Tirunelveli are the best in the tradition of the Nayak rulers of Madurai who continued the Vijayanagar example and improved the elegance.

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