Top 20 South Indian Temples that culminate spirituality – The glorious history and rich heritage of India are well preserved in its temples. As the Hinduism worships many thousand Gods, there are myriad of temples extending over the length and breadth of India. However, the majority of these temples can be seen in South India and are regarded as one of the main tourist attractions in India.
Famous South Indian Temples
The Southern states of India, say, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana are primarily known for breathtaking temples that reflect awesome architectural wonders of Cholas, Pallavas, Nayaks, Chalukyas, Vijayanagar, and Kakatiyas, standing proudly as an epitome of cultural exuberance and heritage.
From huge beautifully sculpted gopurams to lofty pillars and life-sized monuments, these temples are rich and remarkable in their grandeur. Apart from being architectural miracles, these temples carry a distinctive divine aura that has been keeping the faith alive in people for centuries.
Considering the splendid glory of these temples, here is the list of temples that must be surely visited at least once in a lifetime to discover the intriguing history and glorious past of the country for which it is renowned globally.
Top 20 South Indian Temples
- Sri Venkateswara Temple, Tirupati
- Veerabhadra Lepakshi Temple
- Srikalahasteeswara Temple
- Mallikarjuna Swamy Temple
- Virupaksha Temple, Pattadakal
- Vittala Temple
- Chamundeshwari Temple
- Mahabaleshwar Temple
- Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple
- Sri Krishna Temple
- Sree Dharma Sastha Sabarimala Temple
- Vadakkunnathan Temple
- Brihadeeswarar Temple
- Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple
- Ramanathaswamy Temple
- Shore Temple
- Bhadrachalam Temple
- Gnana Saraswati Temple
- Thousand Pillar Temple
- Yadagirigutta Temple
1. Sri Venkateswara Temple, Tirupati – A temple which is a study in opulence
Location: Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh
Located in the hill town of Tirumala, Sri Venkateswara Swamy Temple is the most glorious South Indian temples. Also known as the ‘Temple of Seven Hills’, this famous Vedic temple is dedicated to Lord Venkateswara, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The temple is the 106th and last Divya Desam and is considered as the richest temple in the world in terms of wealth and donations received. Also, the temple is one of the most-visited places of worship in the world.
Many legends are linked with the manifestation of Lord Venkateswara in Tirumala. As per one legend, the temple has an idol of Lord Venkateswara, which is believed to remain in the temple for the entire duration of the present Kali Yuga.
The temple is maintained by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam, one of the richest religious bodies in the world. The Lord’s prasadam, a laddu, is also very famous. More than 75,000 devotees are estimated to visit the temple every day.
2. Veerabhadra Lepakshi Temple – The Popular Pilgrimage Centre
Location: Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh
Located on the banks of river Vaigai, Meenakshi Temple is devoted to Parvati and Lord Shiva. The temple has many shrines other than the main shrine of Veerabhadra, which include Shiva, Vishnu, and Durga. The temple is well-known for its architectural beauty and captivating fine arts.
The finely carved Mandapams of the temple display life-size images of dancers and musicians. The ceilings are beautifully decorated with mural paintings. The main attraction of the temple is a huge granite Nandi bull which is carved out of a single stone. All these spectacular sculptures attract devotees from around the world.
3. Srikalahasteeswara Temple – Temple renowned for Rahu-Ketu Puja
Location: Srikalahasti, Andhra Pradesh
Srikalahasteeswara Temple is one of the most famous Shiva temples in South India and also one of the most impressive temples in India. It is considered as one of the ancient and must visit holy places of Andhra Pradesh.
4. Mallikarjuna Swamy Temple – Eminent Srisailam Jyotirlinga
Location: Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh
The shrine of Lord Mallikarjuna Swamy is situated on a flat top of Nallamalai Hills in the town of Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh. Mallikarjuna Swamy Temple is considered as one of the 12 Jyotirlinga temples dedicated to Lord Shiva attracting devotees from all over.
1. Virupaksha Temple, Pattadakal – The one with many builders
Location: Hampi, Karnataka
Virupaksha Temple is a part of the Group of Monuments at Hampi and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, who is known as Virupaksha in the temple. The interiors of the temple are embellished with elegant carvings and aesthetically designed sculptures. Also, there are different big and small inscriptions engraved on the different parts of this temple.
The temple is visited by people from different regions of the country for its religious significance. A number of festivals are celebrated in the temple. The annual chariot festival, celebrated in the month of February, is the main attraction of the temple which is attended by a number of devotees.
2. Vittala Temple – The one with musical pillars
Location: Hampi, Karnataka
Dating back to the 16th century, Vittala Temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, who is known as Lord Vittala in the temple. Vittala Temple features the original South Indian Dravidian style of architecture. The temple was constructed back in the reign of King Devaraya II. The temple is one of the most popular attractions of Hampi and people from all over visit the temple to have a look at its beautiful carvings and magnificent architecture.
The star attraction of the temple is the Ranga Mandapa and 56 musical pillars, which emanate music upon tapping. The temple showcases the creativity and architectural excellence which the sculptors and artisans of the Vijayanagara era possessed.
3. Chamundeshwari Temple – One among the 18 Maha Shakti Peethas
Location: Mysuru, Karnataka
Named after the Goddess Chamundi Devi, the Chamundeshwari Temple was built back in the 12th century by the Hoysala Kings to honor the courage and victory of the Goddess. The temple is architecturally beautiful and is a great example of Dravidian architecture. It has a big statue of Goddess Chamundi Devi which is made of pure gold. The temple is considered a Shakti Peetha and is one among the 18 Maha Shakti Peethas.
To reach the temple, one needs to climb 1008 steps. People from all over the world visit the temple to seek the blessings of Chamundi Devi. The main attraction of the temple is Teppotsava festival which attracts people from all over the world.
4. Mahabaleshwar Temple – Exhibiting the architectural style with granite stones.
Location: Goakarna, Karnataka
Mahabaleshwar Temple of Gokarna is one of India’s most sacred places, situated in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka. The temple is located on the shores of the Karwar coast and built in the Dravidian architectural style with granite stones.
1. Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple – Trivandrum’s Top Pilgrim Centre
Location: W Nada, East Fort, Kerala
Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The history of this alluring temple dates back to the 8th century. It is one of the 108 sacred Vishnu temples present in India. The temple presents a great blend of the Kerala and Dravidian styles of architecture. It features bronze and stone work. The temple interiors are decorated with beautiful paintings and murals.
One of the best South India temples, PadmanabhaSwamy Temple exudes a royal and spiritual air that will simply mesmerize your senses. The gigantic temple structure is built from a single huge stone that makes it a sheer architectural marvel in Trivandrum. It is also claimed to be the richest temple in the world and has antique riches of worth 1 lakh crore rupees, shielded with the strong faith of millions of devotees.
2. Sri Krishna Temple – A Sacred Place for Viashnavites
Location: Guruvayur, Kerala
Sri Krishna Temple situated in Guruvayur of Kerala dedicated to Lord Krishna. It is the most prominent temple of worship for Hindus in Kerala. Sri Krishna Temple is also known as “Bhuloka Vaikunta” which means the “Holy Abode of Vishnu on Earth”. The shrine is appraised as one of the holiest spots for Vishnu followers.
3. Sree Dharma Sastha Sabarimala Temple – A place filled with Spirituality
Location: Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
Sabarimala Temple, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, is the prominent South Indian temple. It is basically located on a hilltop named Sabarimala. The greatness of the temple that it is open to all, regardless of caste and religion. Another fact is that it is open only during the days of Chitra Vishu, Makaravilakku, and Mandalapooja. In order to have Swamy’s darshan, pilgrims need to follow virtuous fasting for 41 days to purify their minds from all worldly pleasures. The journey to the temple is observed through tough paths in the forest by foot.
4. Vadakkunnathan Temple – A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Location: Thrissur, Kerala
Vadakkunnathan Temple is an ancient Shiva temple, situated at the heart of Thrissur city. This temple is a classic example of Kerala style architecture and has been recommended for world heritage site of Kerala.
1. Brihadeeswarar Temple – The one which is 1005 years old
Location: Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Brihadeeswara Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is one among the most beautiful architectural sites in India. The temple was constructed back in 1010 AD by Raja Chola I. The main reason behind the construction of this temple was to display the power and vision of the emperor royal ceremonies.
The entire temple complex houses around 250 lingams. The tower including the interiors and the kalashaare are structured on a single stone. The temple walls are built around the 16th century filled with beautiful paintings that depict Chola and Nayaka murals.
2. Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple – A Brilliant Architectural Wonder
Location: Madurai, Tamil Nadu
Located on the banks of river Vaigai, Meenakshi Amman Temple adores Goddess Parvati and her consort, Lord Shiva. Meenakshi Temple built back during 1623 and 1655 CE houses 14 gopurams (gateway towers) and around 33,000 sculptures. The temple witnesses 15,000 visitors every day and around 25,000 on Fridays.
The halls, towers and the shrines of the temple are sumptuously adorned and rich in their appearance. Two shrine state the iconography of Meenakshi holding a parrot and the right raised leg of Nataraja. This historic temple is nominated as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
During the festival of Meenakshi Kalyanam and Eppam, millions of devotees from around the world visit the temple.
3. Ramanathaswamy Temple – The one which is a Jyotirlinga
Location: Rameshwaram, TamilNadu
Ramananthswamy Temple – Beauty Redefined
Located at Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, Ramanathaswamy Temple takes the name of Lord Shiva. The temple has one of the extensive and elaborate corridor having 1200 exquisitely designed granite pillars among other South Indian temples. It is considered as one of the 12 Jyothirlinga temples of Lord Shiva and part of the most important Hindu pilgrimage circuit, Char Dham.
There is a belief that Lord Rama, while returning from Lanka after killing the demon Ravana, wanted to pray Lord Shiva to seek forgiveness for the sins done by him. The temple encrypts two lingams, the Ramalingam, built by Sita for Rama’s prayers and the Vishwalingam, brought from by Hanuman from Kailash. There are 22 wells located within the temple premises, each of them having water with completely different taste.
4. Shore Temple – Built of cut stones
Location: Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu
Built by King Narasimhavarman back in the 8th century, Shore Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. Being classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site monument, the temple is one of the ancient structural stone temples of South India and displays the royal taste of Pallava dynasty.
It is built of cut stones and has two shrines, one dedicated to Lord Shiva and the other to Vishnu. The style of the temple is characterized by a pyramidal kutina-type tower which has stepped storey topped by a cupola which forms a shape of the northern Indian sikhara.
1. Bhadrachalam Temple – Represents Scenic Beauty Spirituality
Location: Khammam, Telangana
Bhadrachalam Temple of Seetha Ramachandra Swamy shrine is the most famous temple in Telangana, dedicated to Lord Rama. The temple is located on the banks of Godavari River and forms a scenic tourist beauty for the people who visit the place.
2. Gnana Saraswati Temple – Destination of Knowledge for Children
Location: Adilabad, Telangana
Gnana Saraswati Temple (Goddess of Knowledge) situated on the banks of Godavari River at Basara, is dedicated to Goddess Saraswati. It is one of the two most famous Saraswati temples in India. Children get “Akshara Byasam” over here, before they start their education in Kindergarten.
3. Thousand Pillar Temple – Splendid Architectural Beauty
Location: Warangal, Telangana
Thousand Pillar temple located in Hanamkonda of the Warangal city is dedicated to Lord Shiva, Vishnu and Surya. This famous historic monument was built in a typical Chalukyan style of architecture by King Rudra Deva. It attracts many tourists throuought the year, making it one of the must-visit place in Telangana.
4. Yadagirigutta Temple – Sacred Avatar of Lord Vishnu
Locataion: Yadadri Bhuvanagiri, Telangana
Yadagirigutta Temple is a popular Hindu Temple in Telangana state, dedicated to Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. This Temple is situated on a beautiful and pleasant Hillock in Town.
It is said that Yada Maharshi had performed great penance for Lord Narasimha Swamy. Impressed with his devotion, Swamy gave his darshan to him, and came into existence in five avatars. Hence, Yadagirigutta is also termed as “ancha Narasimha Kshetram”.
Just a Glimpse
The list is not complete and is just a glimpse of many temples present in different states of Southern India. Once you visit any of the temples, you come across many other spiritual places surrounding it. If you haven’t visited any of the above list of south Indian temples, make sure you do, to attain divine aura and Moksha.