The Origins of Dravidian Architecture

Dravidian Architecture

The southern state of Tamil Nadu is famous for its temples which abound throughout this culture-rich land. Many of the temples located here are rich in legends and history, taking them to many centuries back when various important dynasties ruled southern India and beyond.

Aside from the rock-cut temple architecture, the Dravidian style of architecture for the construction of Hindu temples had its roots set during the reign of the Pallava dynasty, post the Sangam era. The first Dravidian style temples were built by the Pallava kings. They ruled the northern parts of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala and Karnataka till around the 9th century when Dravidian architecture and art flourished throughout this region. There are two subtypes to this form of temple architecture and include the Nayaka style and the Vijayanagar style, both having developed during the reign of these dynasties. This Hindu style of architecture evolved into its present form during the 16th century with the predominant feature in these temples being the ‘Gopuram’.

The Gopuram refers to the gateway or entry into the main temple precincts. This distinct towering structure is usually several feet high and comes heavily embellished with intricate sculptures of dancing figures in various poses as well as depictions of various mythological features and characters. It is really awe-inspiring to think how such beautifully-perfect sculpturing was achieved in an era when building technologies were less advanced.

Another feature of these Dravidian style temples is that the larger the temple, the more the number of gateways. A fine example is the famous Sri Ranganathaswamy temple in Trichy which has 21 majestic Gopurams with the largest one, the ‘Rajagopuram’, towering to a staggering height of 263 feet! Another famous temple built in the typical Dravidian style architecture is the Meenakshi Amman temple famous for its amazing architectural beauty, sculpturing and its 14 towering Gopurams.

Dravidian architecture is also mentioned as one of the three types of temple architecture in the ancient books on Vastu Shastra with the majority of its exemplary examples being located in southern India. Other than the Pallava dynasty, other empires that also contributed significantly to the evolution of Dravidian architecture include the Pandyas, the Cholas, the Cheras, the Chalukyas, and the Vijayanagaras, to mention a few.

Come visit Trichy which abounds in legendary temples built in the Dravidian style. The city is well-connected by rail, road and an airport and getting here is easy. While here, you could stay over at the Sangam hotel and enjoy true Trichy hospitality too!