(Last Updated on : 14/01/2010)
Architecture in South India comprises the architectural creations in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. As per history the Dravidians of South India developed the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation
and moved south to avoid the constant north-south strife and to free themselves from the control of the Aryan people and the Hindi language. In Karnataka, during the middle Ages, temple building has shown its originality, in the architecture of the Hoysala period. Bijapur in Karnataka is renowned for its Muslim architecture. Kerala has wooden structures in the unique style of the west coast. The heart of Andhra Pradesh is the former feudal kingdom of Hyderabad. The symbol of this city Charminar is an Islamic memorial tower. The Mughals did not extend their empire so far south, which is why in Tamil Nadu there is little or no effect of Islam. Pure Hindu culture still thrives here. The temples here are built in the Dravidian style of architecture.
In South India more than the architecture, it is the Hindu temples linked to history and Hindu mythology that are famous and are major pilgrim centers even today. The history of South India reveals the several significant rulers and dynasties that have ruled over it, such as, the Cheras, Cholas, Pallavas, Chalukyas, Pandyas and the western Ganga dynasty. In the late medieval period south India witnessed the rise of the Muslim power. After Aurangazeb's death the rulers of South India gained autonomy. Though the policies and ways of administration altered with changing dynasties, what remained common is their love for art and architecture. South Indian architecture, thus, received patronage from almost all the ruling dynasties.
Hindu religious architecture comprises a major segment of the architecture of south India. There are a plethora of Hindu temples in the southern region of India. For example in the state of Andhra Pradesh there is a diverse style of temple building. Tirupati
is the best known of the temples in Andhra Pradesh
and attracts pilgrims all throughout the year. The temples of Pattadakal and Aihole
depict the origin of the south Indian architecture. The temples in Hampi
reflect some of the best Hindu architectural pattern. Badami
in Karnataka is one of the fascinating places in the South. The Bhutanatha groups of temples reflect the Chalukya style of architecture. There are a large number of temples in Tamil Nadu
and all of them built in the Dravidian style. The south style developed mostly in north Karnataka and around Mahabalipuram and Kanchipuram
. In the 7th-8th centuries the Pallava dynasty
built the stone temples. Even now in Mahabalipuram there are many small stone temples and cave temples. Rock-cut architecture was gradually replaced by structural monuments which were built with bricks and stones. During the 13th century under the Cholas the architecture of temples went through a massive metamorphosis. The temples became larger, more complex with a great number of buildings inside a wide rectangular area. The main shrine became small and could not be distinguished from the outside. The gopuras on the outer walls became larger and more magnificent, as can be seen in those at Madurai or Srirangam where the gopura stands more than seventy meters tall. Madurai
is a popular pilgrim centre in the south and the renowned Meenakshi temple
of this place is noted for its excellent architecture. There are few wooden temples in Kerala. The finest example of the Kerala
style of temples is the Vadakkunnatha Temple. The Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum is similar in style to that of temples in Tamil Nadu.
Apart from Hindu temples there are Islamic, Jain, colonial and Buddhist architecture that are prevalent in South India. Hyderabad
, the capital of Andhra Pradesh has Charminar
which is an Islamic memorial tower. Golconda
was a prominent Islamic capital in the 16th and 17th centuries. There are twelve tombs of the Qutb Shahi Emperors outside the city walls. These reflect the early Islamic style of the Deccan. A cubic tomb room has been built on the foundation platform and a dome-like roof has been placed on top. In Karnataka the northern half of the state became a stronghold of Islam and the southern states continued predominantly Hindu till the end. The three cities of Gulbarga
in the north of Karnataka have many structures reflecting south Indian Islamic architecture
. The effect of Islamic architecture is heavy in the fort and palaces. The Jami Masjid and the Haft Gumbaz of Gulbarga in Karnataka are among the most noteworthy monuments depicting Islamic architecture. The Bidar Fort
is located north of the city. It is built with bricks and basalt, and decorated with tiles. Most of the many palaces and mosques inside are destroyed now. The Rangin Mahal and Sora Kamba Mosque are in good condition. A Hindu style wooden structure is seen inside the Rangin Mahal and the walls still have the Persian style tiles. Sora Kamba mosque was originally designed as Friday mosque. Bijapur means the city of victory and has the largest number of Islamic ruins in south India. In Kerala there are a few wooded mosques and this architectural pattern is exclusive in Kerala in the south India. Kolikod
has the maximum number of Muslims in Kerala, and therefore a lot of mosques. The architectural style of these wooden mosques is similar to that of Hindu temples. The Mishqal Palli Mosque, the biggest in Kerala, is a four-storied structure with a tiled roof. It has a wooden ceiling over the porch, with floral patterns and verses from the Quran engraved on it.
The soaring point of expansion in South Indian Buddhist art was attained in the Later Andhra Period in a compilation of monuments dedicated by the Andhra sovereigns at Amaravati at the mouth of the Krishna River
. Chezarla, a small village in Andhra Pradesh has Buddhist temples. The temples have a Chaitya shrine with the Chaitya window sealed and Hindu sculptures carved on it. Buddhism
spread to south India from Bihar
. Jain temples were built on the west coast. It is a wonder that on the east coast one finds largely, ruins, while on the west coast there are numerous shrines and many temple towns. The west coast separated from the interior by the Western Ghats receives a lot of rain and hence the wooden structures have steep roofs like that of the temple in Moodbadri. The same style continues in Kerala too, which has a similar terrain. There are few Jain temples in Pattadakal and Aihole. The pillared partitions on the outer walls, the base foundation and the parapet etc in this temple show the southern architectural style of the later ages. There are some Jain temples in the old Bhatkal town of Karnataka. The Chandranatha temple is in the new town. The sloped roofs of the shrine continue lengthwise and in the front a Mana stambha has been designed. There is a two-floored turret facing the stambha, which is also different. The open pillared corridors only around the shrine are a rarity.
Colonial architecture in south India is seen in the city of Mysore
in Karnataka. The Amba Vilas palace is in the heart of the city surrounded by a fort. It is designed in the Indo- Saracen style with a blend of European, Islamic and Hindu architecture. The most impressive place is the Darbar Hall the ceiling of which is completely covered with stained glass made in Glasgow. In contrast to the Indo-Saracen style of the city palace, the Lalitha Mahal palace was designed entirely in the European style in the eastern suburbs. Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu is also set up as per the colonial architecture. The colonial buildings are worth seeing from an architectural point of view. Most of the colonial buildings belong to the 19th century except the Holy Mary Church, which was built in 1680 inside the St.George Fort. The Napier museum in Trivandrum in Kerala is built on the colonial style of architecture. This beautiful museum framed by two wide towers stands majestically within a large garden on a hill. The exterior and the interior of the museum are very ornate. The large exhibition hall is an amalgamation of the western architectural styles and the traditional architectural style of Kerala. This synergy of the two styles has been achieved by a happy coalition of architecture and art, which was brought about by the local artisans involved in the project.
South India is popular mainly for the architectural hallmark of the Hindu temples but the Islamic and Buddhist structural design contribute to enhance the artistic splendor of the place. With its wide panorama of architecture south India is one of the most visited destinations on the map of India.