Dravida Style Temple- South Indian Style Temple
Dravida Style Temple- South Indian Style Temple

Dravida style is jati viman. The example of Dravida Style Temple Architecture is Southern-style has a pyramid-shaped building consisting of progressively shorter stories of small pavilions, a slim throat, and a dome on the top called a  shikhara. It has cube or prism-shaped Garbhgriha on whose flat roof is placed another smaller shrine which is domed.

The vimana and the gopurams are the unique characteristics of the southern style. The vimana is a tall pyramidal tower consisting of several progressively smaller stories. Also, this stands on a square base. The Gopuram has two stories separated by a  horizontal moulding. The Prakara or the exterior wall surrounds the main shrine as well as the other shorter shrines, the tank. However, the Pallavas, the Cholas, the Pandyas, the Vijayanagar rulers, the Nayaks all donated to the southern style of temples.

Dravida Style Temple
Brihadishwara Temple: Thanjavur
Meenakshi Temple: Madurai

The cella and the main portico joined mainly with a wall having pilaster work.  Niche thus created have relief work. The capital is broad having curvilinear brackets. Lintels and eves are part of the roof. Also, the tower is now pyramids in form with mostly straight lines, over the cella. Shikhara word employed only for the top story of the pyramid. The top resembles either the dome-like stupa or chaitya halls of the Buddhist styles of architecture the tower has a different number of stories having a pavilion on a miniature scale. This adds to visual thrust to the elevation.

Dravida Style Temple
Dravida Style Temple Architecture

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Gopurams- Main gateways of Dravida Style Temple

The gopuram had erected mainly to emphasize the significance of the temple within the city precincts without in any way changing the form of the temple itself. The formal characteristics of the gopuram had developed slowly over time. It had to be towering, massive, and outstanding. But it was not felt necessary to repeat verbatim the square-based form of the temple vimana. This could be due to the fact that the square was essentially a static form, signifying calm and rest, while the entrance gateway needed to have some dynamism. Elongating the square and converting it into a rectangle with an open entrance in the middle solved this problem.  Above this base could increase tier upon tier of a pyramidal design comprised of brick and plaster with the topmost tier also a rectangle, albeit much smaller.

This rectangular top was crowned by a barrel-vaulted form of Buddhist origin, crowned with a row of finials. However, as time went by, cities all over South India could distinguish from afar by the distinctive shape of their gopurams dominating the skyline.


Pallava Early Rock – Cut Temples example of Dravida Style Temple Architecture

The Pallavas were instrumental in the change from rock-cut architecture to stone temples. Also, the earliest examples of Pallava constructions are rock-cut temples dating from six hundred ten- six hundred ninety CE and structural temples between six hundred ninety–nine hundred CE. The greatest accomplishments of Pallava architecture are the rock-cut temples at Mahabalipuram. The excavated pillared halls and monolithic shrines known as Rathas in  Mahabalipuram. Moreover, early temples were mostly dedicated to  Shiva. Also, the Kailasanatha temple in Kanchipuram and the Shore Temple built by  Narasimhavarman II, a rock-cut temple in  Mahendravadi by Mahendravarman are fine examples of the Pallava style temples.

Dravida Style Temple
Pallava Early Rock – Cut Temples

Panch Ratha Rock – Cut Monolithic Architecture

Initially, the five Ratha complex commonly known as the  Pancha Rathas or five chariots stand majestically on the southernmost extreme of Mahabalipuram. Built by the Pallava ruler Narsimha Varman 1 (AD  630- 68) alias Mamalla in the 7th and 8th  centuries, each temple is a monolith, carved out of a single rock. These individual Rathas, named after the  Pandava brothers Yudhistara (Dharmaraja), Arjuna,  Bhima, Nakula & Sahadeva of the Epic Mahabharata and their wife Draupadi.

Panch Ratha Rock – Cut Monolithic Architecture

Besides these Rathas, the sculpture of an elephant  (the vehicle of Indra), lion (the vehicle of Durga), and Nandi bull (the vehicle of Shiva) are structurally displayed. Though these temples, named after the  Pandava brothers, are not in any way related to Mahabharata. While the Dharmaraja, Arjuna, and Draupadi Rathas are square on plan, the Bhima Ratha is rectangular and the Nakula Sahadeva Ratha is apsidal.

Dravida Style Temple
Panch Ratha Rock – Cut Monolithic Architecture Layout
Panch Ratha Layout

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Shore Temple: Mahabalipuram example of Dravida Style Temple Architecture

The Shore Temple is a 5-storeyed structural Hindu temple rather than rock-cut as are the other monuments at the site. It is the most earlier important structural temple in South India.  Its pyramidal structure is sixty ft high and sits on a fifty ft square platform. The small temple in front was the original porch. It is made out of finely cut local granite. Recent excavations have revealed new structures here beneath the sand. The temple is a combination of 3 shrines. The primary shrine dedicated to Shiva as is the smaller second shrine. A small third shrine, between the 2, dedicated to a reclining Vishnu and may have had water channeled into the temple, entering the Vishnu shrine.

Dravida Style Temple
The Shore Temple Mahabalipuram
Shore Temple Mahabalipuram

Firstly, the two Shiva shrines are orthogonal in configuration. Also, the entrance is through a transverse barrel vault gopuram. The two Shikharas have a pyramidal outline, each individual tier is distinct with overhanging eaves that cast dark shadows. The outer wall of the shrine to Vishnu and the inner side of the boundary wall extensively sculptured and topped by large sculptures of Nandi. The temple’s outer walls are divided by plasters into bays, the lower part is carved into a series of rearing lions.

The Cholas

The Cholas followed the Pallava style of architecture. The sanctum of the Chola temples is both circular and square in size.  The inner side of the external walls and the sanctum were beautified. On the upper side of the sanctum, special vimanas had built. Dome-shaped Sikhara and Kalasa were also there on the top of Gopurams. Chola temples are noted for their sculptures and ornamental works. Gopurams of these temples were meaningful. Many temples are having pillared mandapams namely Arthamandapa, Maha mandapa, and Nandi mandapa.

Sculptures and inscriptions are also specified on the walls of these temples. Besides all these temples of the Chola period, the greatest landmark in the history of south Indian architecture is the Brihadeeswarar temple at Tanjore. This is also called a big temple. It has much architectural significance. It was built by  Rajaraja I. This is the largest and tallest temple in Tamil Nadu. Rajendra Chola built a temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram which is also equally famous. King Rajendra Chola added credit to the Chola art and architecture. King Kulothunga I built a temple for Sun God at Kumbakonam. This temple is the first of its kind in south Indian architecture. Rajaraja II built the Airavatheeswarar temple at Dharasuram.

Also, Read: Vesara style temple /Central Indian style temple

Brihadishwara Temple : Thanjavur example of Dravida Style Temple Architecture

Through the gate to the courtyard where the 60-meter tower, a feast of Dravidian architecture towers into the sky dwarfing the landscape offers a glimpse into the mind of the once invincible imperial Cholas. Moreover, built in the 11th century by Rajaraja I, it established the power of the  Cholas. Granite blocks brought for the temple from a distance of 50 km. Also, the tower or vimana soars to a height of 60.96 meters and the stone cupola at the top weighs 81.284 tonnes. Long plinths used to put the stones in place.

Dravida Style Temple
Brihadishwara Temple: Thanjavur
Plan of Brihadishwara Temple: Thanjavur
Dravida Style Temple
View of Brihadishwara Temple: Thanjavur

Vijaynagar (Hampi) Style

Vijayanagara (1336- 1570) Harihara I to Rama Raya. The Vijayanagara style, a combination of the Chalukya, Hoysala, Pandya, and Chola styles. Which evolved earlier in the centuries when these empires ruled and characterized by a return to the simplistic and serene art of the past. The golden era of the Vijayanagar dynasty – under the rule of Krishnadeva Raya Victory of Muslim rulers of Bijapur, Golconda, Ahmednagar, Bidar over Rama Raya in  1565- this followed by savage destruction by the victors for the next 6 months that Hampi could never again reestablish its lost glory.

Building material was available on the site- accounts for many piers of the temple being monolithic. Two types of rock were available- granite, dark green chlorite stone Granite-more crude, and rugged cut appearance. Dark green chlorite stone-sharply cut and skilfully modeled. Most of the important structures and ruins of Vijayanagara are located in two -the Royal Centre and the Sacred Centre. The Royal Centre in the southwest part of the site – palaces, baths, pavilions, royal stables, and temples for ceremonial use.

The Sacred Centre is situated on the northern edge of the city along the banks of the holy Tungabhadra River. Modest structures of low height, Spans large areas, and courtyards are present. Huge compound walls and intricately decorated temples. Pillars have- horse capitals, different shapes, pillars decorated by small pillars.

Vitthala Temple: Vijaynagar(Hampi)
Dravida Style Temple
Vitthala Temple: Vijaynagar(Hampi)
The Vitthala Temple: Vijaynagar(Hampi)

Nayak/Madura Style

Architecture under the Nayaka Dynasty is mostly of Dravidian style and form. The major architectures which evolved under the rulers of the Nayak Dynasty who established with their capital at Madurai in the 17th century are the shrine at Tiruvannamalai and the Great  Temple at Madurai. Other significant architectural wonders included that of the Temple at Rameswaram (famous for its long corridors), Meenakshi Temple at Madurai, and the Subramanya Temple at Thanjavur  District. The architecture of the buildings is distinguished by the expansion of the temple precinct which is due to the corresponding enlargement of Hindu rituals with specific reference to the spiritual and temporal aspects of the deity. Tall and series off entrance gates called Gopuram. Temple became fort and forts turned into the city.

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Meenakshi Temple : Madurai example of Dravida Style Temple Architecture

Meenakshi Amman Temple is a historic Hindu temple located on the southern bank of river  Vaigai in the temple city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India. It is dedicated to Parvati who is known as Meenakshi and her consort, Shiva, named here as Sundareswarar. The Meenakshi temple is believed to be founded by Indra (king of Devas) while he was on a  pilgrimage. He felt his burden taken off nearing the Swayambu lingam (self-formed lingam)  of Madurai.

Dravida Style Temple
View of the Meenakshi Temple: Madurai

He ascribed this miracle to the lingam and constructed the temple and enshrined the lingam there the temple believed to sack by the infamous Muslim invader Malik Kafur in 1310 and all the ancient elements has destroyed. The initiative to rebuild the structure was taken by the first Nayak king of Madurai, Viswanatha  Nayak (1559– 1600) under the supervision of Ariyanatha Mudaliar, the prime minister of the Nayak Dynasty.

The layout of Meenakshi Temple: Madurai

About The Meenakshi Temple : Madurai

The temple complex is divided into a number of concentric quadrangular enclosures contained by high masonry walls. Which is one of the few temples in Tamil Nadu to have four entrances facing four directions. However, Vishwanath Nayaka allegedly redesigned the city of Madurai in accordance with the principles laid down by Shilpa Shastras relevant to urban planning. Also, the city laid out in the shape of a square with a series of concentric streets originating from the temple. These squares continue to retain their traditional names, Aadi, Chittirai, Avani-moola, and Masi streets, corresponding to Tamil month names.

Dravida Style Temple
Meenakshi Temple: Madurai

Old Tamil classics mention that the temple was the center of the city. And the streets happened to be radiating out like lotus and its petals. The temple Prakarams (outer precincts of a temple) and streets accommodate an involved festival calendar in which dramatic processions circumambulate the shrines at varying distances from the center. The complex, in a compound of forty-five acres (180,000 m2) Designed as a series of concentric courtyards or PRAKARMAS. Outermost circle – edifices of a practical nature than spiritual such as account offices,  dormitories for pilgrims, kitchens, shops, maintenance workshops, etc. Also, parking for wooden festive chariots. In addition, inner Prakarmas – pavilions or devotional songs and storytelling,  bathing tanks for ritual ablutions and guest houses Innermost courts – kitchen for brahmins, pavilions or dancing girls and treasury. Actual cella – open only to priests.

About the hall of 1000 pillars at Meenakshi Temple : Madurai example of Dravida Style Temple Architecture

Also, the Meenakshi Nayakkar Mandapam (“Hall of thousand pillars”) has two rows of pillars carved with images of yali (the mythological beast with the body of lion and head of an elephant), commonly used as the symbol of Nayak power. The Thousand Pillar Hall contains nine hundred eighty-five (instead of a thousand) carved pillars. However, at the entrance of the hall, the statue of Ariyanatha Mudaliar seated on a horseback, flanking one side of the entrance to the temple. The statue has periodically garlanded by worshippers. Each pillar in the hall is a carved monument of the Dravidian sculpture.

 The more prominent among the carved figures are those of Rati (wife of Kama), Karthikeya, Ganesha, Shiva as a  wandering mendicant, and an endless number of yalis (mythical figures of lions). In the temple Art Museum in the hall where icons,  photographs, drawings, and other exhibits of the 1200 years old history of the temple had displayed. Just outside this hall, towards the west, are the Musical  Pillars. Each pillar, when struck, produces a different musical note.

Dravida Style Temple
Spaces and views of Meenakshi Temple: Madurai

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