The South India had been ruled by the great dynasties such as the Cholas, Pandyas, Pallavas, Cheras, Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, Kakatiyas, Hoysalas and the Vijayanagar Empire. Each of these dynasties had played an important role in constructing many valuable sculptures of historical importance. These sculptures made by them were very strong and beautiful that they yet exist with their magnificence. They used to carve human figures and semi-divine forms in their works. The mutual support relation of man and animals is exhibited in these motifs.
Many of these dynasties represented their tribe by using the animal symbols. For example, The Pallavas used the 'Simha Stamba' at Mamallapuram, which had lions seated at the base of the pillars. Again in Kanchipuram, the restricted lions were shown frowning in a standing position on their hind legs. The lions were shown as if they were ready to jump on anyone trying to harm the temple. The head of the lion is often shown with exaggerated features such as mouth wide open with protruding upper canine teeth, spherical pointed eyes, raised ears and two large horns. The other parts of the body are shown in a more realistic way. But the body of the lion seems to be short in comparison with the head.
One of the best examples of the Pallava depicting the nagas (snakes) and elephants is the sculpture representing the 'Arjuna's self-punishment' at Mamallapuram. All these motifs feature a very important design element of the architecture of that era. There is a motif, which shows the hamsa or the swan has the skill to extract milk from a mixture of milk and water. This one acts as the symbol for the great sages, who are praised for their purity, who could distinguish the highest truth from worldly reality.
The Mukteshvara temple at Karnataka, which was built by the Chalukyas, has a wall painting that runs all around the base of the temple, on the second pedestal. Here, the makara or crocodile is shown as a graceful creature rather than a terrifying beast.
The Hoysala dynasty used animal motifs to the greatest extent. During their rule, the outer walls of the temple were embroidered with friezes of men on horses, bamsas, Puranic scenes, etc running in bands around the temple. In one of such frieze, six hundred and fifty elephants push one another in a continuous line. Elephants are believed to signify stability and probably it is due to their powerful support, the temple has survived all kinds of weather since the centuries. The temples of the Hoysala dynasty also depict the motifs in a way that the madanika or bracket figures of ladies are playing with various birds and animals. For example, in some motifs, the women are shown conversing with a parrot sitting on her right palm while another woman is shown shooing away a monkey pulling her sari, with a twig.
All these sculptures and motifs tell about the superb use of the animals and birds in the craftsmanship of the Hoysala sculptors in South India. It was believed that God Ayyanar and his soldiers used to ride the Terracotta horses at night to battle adversity and protect communities. Therefore, the Terracotta horses were shown near the God Ayyanar. So, now, the huge statues of horses are decorated colorfully at the entrance of most villages.
Most of the South Indian sculptures depict these animals very beautifully in their artwork and shows how they related art with the animals.