Tamil Nadu Temple Run: Madurai, Tirumalai Nayakar Palace

I’m ending this Temple Run set not with photos of a temple but of a palace. This Nayaka palace dates back to the mid-17th c, and if the current architectural elements are close to the original, the contrast between this palace and Nayaka temples is quite profound. In particular, the amount of Islamic and even European influence on the palace’s architecture is immense, but the temples don’t exhibit any such influence, and when they do, the influence is very subdued (for example the vaulted roofs of the Nataraj temple in Chidambaram). In any case, these are beautiful palace buildings with a completely hybridized architectural style. Continue reading

Tamil Nadu Temple Run: Madurai, Meenakshi Sundareshwara Temple

The devotional energy inside the Meenakshi Amman temple is so intense that it could convert an atheist into a devotee of Parvati. Or maybe it felt that way only because I visited the temple one day before deepavali when the crowds were greater than usual (if they were), or maybe I had been building up this visit to the “symbol of Tamil culture” in my head. In any case, my experience of this temple was quite intense. One of the contributing reasons is definitely the labyrinthine nature of the temple. Continue reading

Tamil Nadu Temple Run: Kalugumalai

Kalugumalai is a village between Madurai and Kanyakumari in southern Tamil Nadu, and the site of an unfinished rock-cut temple, called Vattuvan Kovil, from the Pandya period (8th or 9th c) and rock-cut Jain relief sculptures. Only the shikhar (tower) of the temple is complete, with only the general shape of the mandapa cut out. I wonder if this work was started with the idea of making a much larger temple than indicated by the current form, since the shikhar could be the top of a much larger temple. Continue reading

Tamil Nadu Temple Run: Srinivasanallur

Srinivasanallur is a village some 40 odd kilometers from Trichy, and is the site for the early-10th c Koranganatha Temple. This is a small Chola temple built around 80 years before the huge Brihadeshwara temple at Thanjavur, but has stylistic similarities, such as a general cuboid design for the mandapa and sanctum structure, spaces of unadroned wall between pilasters, and a square two-story base (sanctum structure) for the shikhar (main tower), which in this case is very small compared to the base. Continue reading

Tamil Nadu Temple Run: Srirangam, Ranganatha Temple

The island of Srirangam on the Kaveri river is immediately north of the city of Tiruchirappalli, and is the site of the Ranganatha (Vishnu) and Jambukeshwara (Shiv) temples. The Rangantha temple is a town unto itself, with the outer few concentric walled enclosures occupied with the city – residences, shops etc. One needs to pass through a few gopurams to get to the temple precints proper, and still there are gopurams and concentric enclosures to pass through to get to the central shrine. As such this temple is throbbing with life, not because it is crowded, but with a more laid back, everyday kind of life, as if this huge temple is part of the everyday of people who visit it. Continue reading

Tamil Nadu Temple Run: Kumbhakonam

Kumbhakonam was an important city to the Cholas and subsequent rulers as evinced by the large number of temples here, many of which have their beginnings in the Chola period but have been substantially altered in the interim centuries. I visited five of the larger temples, and each was an example of the more dynamic atmosphere that exists in a “living” temple. This dynamism is also seen in the different architectural styles and periods that co-exist in these temples, as opposed to the more “pure” styles in the more “archeological” temple sites. Continue reading