History of South Indian Temple Architecture
The origins of the Dravida style can be observed in the Gupta period. The earliest examples of the South Indian Temple Architecture style are the 7th Century rock-cut shrines at Mahabalipuram and the Shore Temple at the same site. Besides the stylistic influences of the architects of each era, who received royal patronage, they also depict the religious history of South India. As each ruler tried to surpass his predecessor, temples evolved from simple structures to larger complexes bound by walls with several shrines and halls within.
Construction of South Indian Temple Architecture
South Indian Temple Architecture is characterized by its pyramidal tower. The South Indian temple consists essentially of a square-chambered sanctuary topped by a tower. There is an attached pillared porch or hall popularly known as mandapa is enclosed by a peri-style of cells within a rectangular court. The external walls of the temple are segmented by pilasters and carry niches housing sculpture. The tower above the sanctuary is of the kutina type and consists of an arrangement of gradually receding stories in a pyramidal shape. Each story is delineated by a parapet of miniature shrines, square at the corners and rectangular with barrel-vault roofs at the centre. The tower is topped by a dome-shaped cupola and a crowning pot and finial.
Examples of South Indian Temple Architecture
The best examples of the South Indian Temple Architecture can be seen in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The South Indian style is mostly seen in the splendid Brihadeeswarar Temple at Thanjavur, built about 1003–10 by Rajaraja Chola the Great, and the great temple at Gangaikondacholapuram, built by his son Rajendra Cholain 1025.
The ancient temples of South India are as much of a lesson in history as it is in architecture. From early cave temples that were carved from sandstone hills, the architectural design of South Indian Temples slowly evolved to rock cut temples and finally, standalone structural temples. They differ in design and style from one era to the next due to the diverse influences of several ruling dynasties. The resulting grandeur has placed South Indian Temple Architecture among the top architectural wonders of India.
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