Top 10 Sacred Destinations of Tamil Nadu
Immerse yourself in a spiritual journey through temple tour packages of Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu is such an amazing multicultural destination in South India, combining centuries of cultural heritage of various Indian dynasties with different colonial influences from the Dutch to the British. Its architectural and spiritual richness makes it one of the most enchanting destinations and a temple tour to Tamil Nadu is sure to awaken your spirituality and enhance your holidays.
It’s not easy to single any of these places out, however below are the top 10 must-see temples you should look for in any Tamil Nadu tour package. They showcase the taste and richness of the dynasties of Chola, Pallava and Nayaka, while forming a precious heritage which defines India today.
This UNESCO World Heritage site is the most important of the Great Living Chola temples, built under the Chola dynasty in the 11th century.
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it is visited by thousands of pilgrims and a highlight of temple tours to Tamil Nadu. The tallest tower is 216 ft high and claimed to be the highest such temple tower in the world. It’s the world’s first temple completely built from granite, which in itself is an interesting fact as there is no granite quarry within 100km of the site!
Built to celebrate the goddess Parvati in the form of Meenakshi and her partner, Lord Shiva in the form of Lord Sundareshwarar, this is one of the most important active temples of India. It was originally built in the 6th century and restored and expanded throughout history, with its present impressive form dating back to the Nayak dynasty in the 16th century.
One of the best examples of Dravidian style of architecture, here you can admire the amazing towers (Gopuram) with intricate sculptures and rich decorations. There are up to 33,000 sculptures throughout. The thousand-pillared hall at the centre of the temple is also awe-inspiring.
On Srirangam Island of Tiruchirappalli, you can find this jewel of Tamil Nadu spiritual architecture. It is a huge complex over 150 acres with 49 sub-shrines, with intricately carved towers and buildings rich with statues. It is dedicated to the god Vishnu and built in the Dravidian style too. Here also, there is a thousand-pillar hall with amazing horse sculptures which will leave you in awe of the detail and artistic talent.
The Ramanathaswamy Temple is one of the four primary pilgrimage sites of Hinduism and therefore a most holy destination. It is located on a beautiful island at Rameswaram and built in typical Dravidian style dating back to the 12th century and the Pandya dynasty. One of its interesting features is the longest corridor hall in India and the colossal statue of Nandi which is 6 metres tall.
This ancient temple from the 6th century is believed to have been built during the Pallava dynasty and is another important pilgrimage site in Tamil Nadu and India overall. It is the oldest temple dedicated to the god Shiva in Tamil Nadu and it was made entirely of sandstone in Dravidian style.
You will enjoy the intricately carved sculptures of Shiva and his consort, Goddess Parvati, seen in different dance postures on the inner walls of the sanctuary.
Another essential stop in Kanchipuram is the beautiful Ekambareswarar Temple, one of the five Pancha Bootha temples (dedicated to the five elements of the universe). This temple is dedicated to the Earth and to Lord Shiva.
Legend has it that the goddess Parvati performed a penance here under a mango tree, and pleased with her devotion, the god Shiva appeared before her and came to be known as Ekambareswarar or the “Lord of the Mango Tree”. The sacred mango tree can be seen here and is believed to be over 3000 years old.
A Pallava dynasty temple from the 7th century, Kapaleeswarar Temple was rebuilt and is now displaying the remodelling done in the 16th century when the Vijayanagara kings restored it after the damage done by the Portuguese invasion. This temple is dedicated to Shiva and features ornate multicoloured towers and pillared halls. It is considered one of the holiest of places in Tamil Nadu.
No temple tour of Tamil Nadu would be complete without a visit to the sites of Mahabalipuram, where you can see a multitude of fascinating rock-carved temples and monuments. This UNESCO World Heritage site houses the five Rathas, monolithic rock-cut temples in the shape of chariots. Each Ratha is believed to be dedicated to a Pandava brother from the Indian epic of Mahabharatha.
You can also visit the Shore Temple here, the first built temple (as opposed to carved into the rock), made from granite blocks and adorned with intricate sculptures. You can find the shrine to Vishnu here as well as multiple sculptures of the Nandi bull.
Nataraja is the cosmic dancer incarnation of the god Shiva, and this temple in its honour is one of the oldest in Tamil Nadu. It was built during the Pallava dynasty in the 11th century, with several further renovations and embellishments afterwards. It is also one of the Pancha Bootha temples dedicated to the cosmic elements, representing the space. The main sanctuary has a golden roof and houses Nataraja and his consort.
One more of the many highlights of temples in Tamil Nadu is the Golden Temple at Vellore – dedicated to the goddess Lakshmi, it is covered in pure gold completely. Spread over an area of 100 acres, it is estimated that over 15,000 kg of gold were used in the building of this lavish sanctuary to the goddess of wealth and prosperity.
It is replete with outstanding carvings and sculptures and over 800 gold and coppersmiths worked on it for 7 years. This temple was only built in 2007 but has quickly become a staple on any spiritual tour. It is a unifying temple with passages from the Gita, Bible and Quran adorning its star-shaped pathways, and a truly unique feast for the eyes.