Unlike the Hindu shrines in other parts of India, what makes the temples in South India unique are their grand structure, done beautifully in Vijaya Nagara and Dravidian styles. Like literally, you’ll find no compromised work of art anywhere in South India especially when it comes to the Hindu temples where a plethora of devotees throng from the world over. Each shrine in South India, irrespective of its location displays fine artwork not only in the interiors but also outside on the Gopurams (spire). For instance, the exquisite decor of the popular Sabarimala Sastha Temple in Sabarimala simply takes one’s breath away and how can we miss out on the colourful facade of Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, which is simply divine! The richness of South India temples does not limit to just the architecture but belief as well where millions of devotees gather to pay respect to holy figures. You can expect to witness the interesting rituals like hair offering or tonsuring to Lord Venkateswara. We can surely say that, there are no shortage of temples to tour in the South Indian states and to keep your pilgrimage holiday even better, we have compiled a list of 50 must visit temples in South India.
This classically built temple adorned with an architectural style of Kerala is a must visit shrine that is set amid the lush garden in centre of Thrissur. Here, you can explore the exquisite collection of artworks and mural paintings that display the episodes from Mahabharata. Vadakkunnathan Temple is best visited during the annual celebration of Pooram Festival to see the fireworks and Puja.
Parthasarathy Temple tops to be one of the must-visit temples in the whole of Kerala dedicated to Lord Krishna (the incarnation of Vishnu). Here, you’ll find Krishna referred to be called as Parthasarathy because of his character in the epic tale of Mahabharata. Apart from adoring the architecture of the temple, you can also attend the Valla Sadya, during which a snake boat race in Pampa River can be witnessed.
A temple that displays an intricate blend of Tamil and Kerala style of architecture, you’ll also learn about the legendary stories that surrounds the Padmanabhaswamy Temple. It is said to have six hidden vaults (A to F) containing precious treasures but amongst them all, vault B is considered to be highly mysterious and is warned not to be opened by any human force.
One of the best temple to visit in Pathanamthitta, this Hindu pilgrimage centre of Sabarimala Sastha Temple offers a mind-blowing experience of spirituality. Located in the blissful surrounding of the Periyar Tiger Reserve, visitors come here to witness and be a part of the mass pilgrimage performed. It is said that; this temple receives around 50 million pilgrims annually and only men are allowed to enter into the temple complex (Although a case on women entry is pending in Supreme Court of India).
Displaying an authentic blend of both Kerala and Tamil architectural wonder, this colourful temple of Attukal Bhagavathy is yet another famous place of worship. While the interiors house the most attractive sight, the idol of the Goddess Bhadra completely adorned with gold ornaments, you’ll witness the exteriors of the temple all carved with beautiful sculptures around the temple. Bhagavathy Temple also known as the Sabarimala of Women attracts many women devotees for the Pongala festival.
Sri Krishna Temple in Guruvayoor is one of the most visited Krishna temples in whole of Kerala. It is believed that the idol of the deity worshipped here is more than 5000 years old, perhaps this makes many devotees visit Guruvayoor. Besides, Guruvayoor itself is considered to be Dwarka of the South. The most auspicious time to visit Sri Krishna Temple is during the festival of Janmashtami, the birthday of Lord Krishna.
Surrounded by the Brahmagiri hills and a shimmering nearby holy stream of Papanasini, Thirunelli Temple is one of the most popular religious sites amongst the Hindu followers in Kerala. Linked with legends and folklore, this temple is built with intricately carved pillars around the temple displaying beautiful Kerala architecture. There are few instances that, Thirunelli Temple is looked upon as the Kashi of South and it has also been mentioned in the Puranas.
This pilgrimage centre is noted to be one of the holy destinations in Kerala and it also serves as the headquarters to Sree Narayana Dharma Sangham. However, one thing to note is that, there is no idol inside the mutt/temple, despite it being dedicated to Goddess Saraswati. The design of Sivagiri Temple captivates the pilgrims with its unique multi-tiered white terraces amid green surroundings where an annual pilgrimage is performed between December 30 and January 1.
Vaikom Mahadeva Temple along with Ettumanoor Shiva Temple and Kaduthuruthy Thaliyil Mahadeva Temple make this centre the most powerful trisome temple. Located in Vaikom, this revered temple is respected by both the Shaivites and the Vaishnavites. It is also said that, if you seek blessing in these three temples before ucha pooja, you wishes may come true.
One of the biggest temples in Kerala, Thiruvalla Temple is famed for its architectural grandeur that boasts of an exquisite collection of beautiful murals inside the temple and intricate design stone-wooden carvings. Dedicated to Purusha as Lord Sreevallabhan, this shrine performs Kathakali each day and was once known for being the biggest educational institution in whole of Kerala.
Completely built in a classical Dravidian style of architectural, Mahabaleshwar Temple is located on the shores of the Arabian Sea in Gokarna. What makes this Temple one of the most sacred pilgrimage attraction in Karnataka is for the legendary stories that unfold the history of Gods. One of them being, Ravana on the influence of Lord Vishnu was forced to place the Atmalinga given by Lord Shiva on the grounds of Gokarna, thus, the temple was erected.
The Aihole Durga Temple is one of the oldest temple structure built on the banks of Malaprabha River. Often visited by tourists, this shrine is adorned in a Dravidian style of architecture and is famed for its unique semicircular apsis. The exteriors of the shrine from the elevated plinth to the corridor has a detailed sculpture of arts designed on it.
Built in a mixed variation of north and early south Indian style of architecture, this popular group of temples called Bhutanatha Temple is a place that must be visited. Circulating the pristine lake of Agastya and Rocky Mountains of Badami, this temple is dedicated to Bhoothnath, an incarnation of Lord Shiva. Here, you can find two sets of temples, Bhutanatha on the east and Mallikarjuna on the north-east.
What fascinates the pilgrims visiting Sri Krishna Temple in Udupi is perhaps the statue of Krishna that is faced on its back in the entrance. It is because, when Kanakadasa was denied entry in the temple due to his caste, he prayed from the back of the temple. Seeing his devotion, Lord Krishna (the statue) faced towards him turning his back to the entrance. The only way to see the front of the statue is through a window called Kanakana Kindi.
Located on the banks of Bhadra River, Annapoorneshwari Temple is deemed to be one of the oldest temples in Karnataka. This temple which is also known as Sri Kshetra Horanadu is dedicated to the Food Goddess Annapoorneshwari. Inside, you can witness a beautiful statue of the Goddess in a standing pose; as per the legends, it is said to be built by the sage Agastya.
The architectural splendor of Veera Narayana Temple is worthy to applaud located in Belavadi that was mentioned in the tale of Mahabharata. These three-superstructure shrine (trikuta) were completed using the soapstone (steatite) by Hoysala Empire King, Veera Ballala II. And it is here that you’ll find two shrines in the complex facing each other while the third shrine exhibits a series of architectural idioms that contain all the elements of Hoysala temple.
Overlooking the best trekking spot of Kumara Parvatha mountain, Kukke Subramanya Temple resides luxuriously surrounded by an abundance of natural beauty in village Subramanya. This temple is dedicated to the son of Lord Shiva, Kartikeya who is worshipped as Lord Subramanya, the serpent king. It is said that, the serpents including Vasuki seeked refuge under Lord Kartikeya when they were threatened by the Garuda.
Known for its beautiful sculptured walls that display the various images of Hindu deities, the temple of Lakshminarayana also offers striking architectural beauty. Inspired from the trikuta vimana temple (three shrined), it is completely built using soapstone. The interior of the temple features four polished lathe that supports the roof and other pillars that separate the halls into nine compartments. Like any other south Indian temples, the temple is built on top of a three-metre platform (jagati) showcasing splendid example of Hoysala art.
Perhaps Murudeshwara Temple’s main attraction is the 22-storied high gopuram better known as the monumental tower. But soon after the new addition of the statue of Lord Shiva which is noted to be the second tallest in the world, the tourism grew even more. Located on the edge of the Kanduka hill overlooking the Arabian Sea, one can simply visit this place and seek bliss.
Mookambika Temple dedicated to Goddess Parvati in Kollur is one of the most visited temples in South India built on the Kodachadri hills of the western ghats. The temple offers a simplistic decor and it is believed to be built around 1200 years ago. According to the legends, a demon named Kaumasura was first warned in order not to harass the village people but failing to listen, Goddess Parvati killed the demon.
The 7th century Shore Temple is truly a remarkable tourist attraction that sits on the coastline of the Bay of Bengal. Noted to be a UNESCO site, it was believed to have a collection of temples but due to natural disaster the temple comprises with only three shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. Throughout the exterior of the complex, you’ll notice artistic sculpted images and copious idols of Gods and Nandis.
Located on the Pamban Island of Rameswaram, Ramanathaswamy Temple with the same name offers a strong spiritual vibe during the visit. Perhaps, it has something to do with the legend of Ramayana where the Lord Rama prayed to Lord Shiva to seek forgiveness in order to kill his devotee Ravana. Inside the temple complex, you’ll find one of the 12 Jyotirlingas and 22 teerthams or waterbodies in the form of tanks and wells.
This ancient temple of Murugan is not only one of the richest temple of Tamil Nadu but it also has one of the largest temple complexes in India. Dedicated to Lord Murugan, the temple is completely built using red sandstone rock as the temple foundation and the beautiful Gopuram (monumental gatehouse tower) that gives an iconic look. An added feature Murugan temple offers are the 120 columns and 16 pillar of Ananda Vilas Mandap that stands on a cliff offering a splendid view of the sea.
With the temple’s architecture the gives a mixture of arts and spirituality, Thillai Nataraja Temple is one of the best temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. Located in Chidambaram that was once called as Thillai, you’ll find beautiful wall carvings that display 108 karanas from the Natya Shastra. These various postures in Natya Shastra made by Bharata Muni (an Indian Theatrologist and Musicologist) forms a foundation of Bharatanatyam, which is a classical Indian dance.
Naganathaswamy Temple in Thanjavur is one of the most-visited Navagraha Temples in whole of India and it features four entry towers with a fort-like walls. The eastern gateway to the temple allows the devotees to visit the Nandeeswarar Mandabam, Vinayaga temple, Thwaja Sthambam and Balibeedam. While on the southern gate, you’ll come across four mandapas adorned with elegant pillars. Naganathaswamy Temple has twelve sacred water heads in this place and a dip in one of these holy waters is said to cure diseases and also eradicate bad karma.
This 7th century Kapaleeswarar temple in Chennai offers divine and blissful ambience with colourful monumental gatehouse tower, Gopuram. Displaying beautiful example of the architectural style of Dravidian, you’ll find many inscriptions on the temple walls dating back to the 12th century. The devotees can witness six different types of puja’s in Kapaleeswarar Temple such as Vaikarai Pooja, Uchi Kala Pooja, Ko pooja, Kala Sandhi Puja, Kali Puja, Evening Puja and Ardhajama Pooja.
Located on the southern bank of the river Vaigai in Madurai, Meenakshi Temple is noted to have the largest temple complexes in Tamil Nadu. It can be justified by wondering amidst the 14 gopuram (monumental gatehouse towers) located in equal distance from each other. The majestic beauty of the temple is witnessed from the architecture that displays the image of Goddess Meenakshi, various other sculptures and coiled corridors around the complex.
Established on the southernmost tip of India in the shore of Kanyakumari, the temple of Kumari Amman is devoted to the virgin Goddess, Devi Kanya Kumari. This 8th century shrine was built by the Pandya kings and later innovated by the following rulers of Chola, Vijayanagar and Nayaka. There are many legends that revolves around Kumari Amman Temple but one such legend is that, Goddess Parvati performed penance in order to make Lord Shiva know her and ask for marriage.
One of the most popular Ram temples in Kumbakonam, Ramaswamy Temple is a 16th century structure built by Achutha Nayaka of Thanjavur. The seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu is worshipped in this temple and unlike other Ram temples. One can get a spectacular sight of Lord Ram with his wife Sita along with his devotee Lord Hanuman and all of Lord Ram brothers. You’ll also find a series of stone carvings of Meenakshi Kalyanam, Rama-Katha, Vamana Avatharam and more.
Considered to be one of the important pilgrimage centres in India for Shiva devotees, you can plan a visit to Ekambareswarar and wander amidst the temple complex that display a number of staggering gopurams. Inside the temple, you’ll witness an array of Shiva Lingam and 63 granite images of the Nayanmars. The architecture of the temple looks even more radiant with a beautiful pond in the centre of the complex. According to the legend, Goddess Parvati built Prithvi Lingam out of sand and worshipped it under a mango tree.
This popular Hindu temple in Andhra Pradesh dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, Mallikarjuna Swamy is said to be one of the twelve Jyotirlingas shrines in India. Situated on top of a flat area of Nallamala Hills, the temple displays beautiful inscriptions from the Satavahana Dynasty on the temple walls. You can explore its four gopurams, sculpted pillars, mirror hall that houses the image of Nataraja along with numerous shrines and sculptures.
Veerabhadra Temple is one of the famous ancient temples located in the state of Andhra Pradesh and it displays surplus carving examples all around the temple. This 16th century shrine features Vijayanagara style of architecture with fresco paintings on the ceilings and walls displaying in detail every scene of Rama and Krishna from the tale of Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Known by various other names like Tirumala, Tirupati and Balaji, Venkateswara Swamy Temple is by far the most visited Lord Venkateswara temples in Andhra. This holy place sits on the hills of Tirumala in Chittoor district and the facade of the temple gives an authentic south Indian architectural splendour of Dravidian style. This temple’s colourful Gopuram or the temple tower is said to be five storied high and below this is the main entrance to the temple, Maha Dwaram.
Located in the village of Paritala, Anjaneya Temple displays the tallest statue of Lord Hanuman, which is said to be 41 metres in height. Anjaneya Temple in Paritala offers a spiritual ambience for Hanuman devotees and an open playground for the monkeys that play around showing their mischievous nature. In addition, the statue in Anjaneya Temple is also said to be taller than the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
One of the most famous Durga temples in Andhra, Kanaka Durga Temple is located amid the greens of the Indrakeeladri hill near by the Krishna River. Here, a sight you’ll probably not miss is the golden coloured shrine in the centre of the temple complex that houses the idol of Goddess Durga. Surrounded by huge fenced walls and a colourful monumental tower that displays images of deities, Kanaka Durga Temple is a must visit holy destination.
Experience a spiritual environment while visiting Mahanandi Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. This ancient temple houses a Shivalinga which is quite unique, it is so because it appears to look like a rough rock featuring two cavities. Built in a Tamil architectural style, you’ll notice a gopuram that stands talls illuminating golden flair. And inside the temple complex, you’ll sight three pools, these holy tanks are around 60 square feet and the centre has a pavilion called a mandapa.
What makes Yaganti Temple famous is for the fact that, the sweet water gushes into Pushkarini (a small pond) through the mouth of a Nandi from the bottom of hill. There has been no explanations from where does the water comes from but the devotees find the water to hold special healing powers. You’ll also notice many caves around the temple complex, one can get to Agastya Cave by taking 120 steep steps, you’ll also find an idol of Lord Venkateswara in Venkateswara Cave and Veera Brahmam Cave where he wrote Kalagnanam (prophecy).
Known for the Vayu Lingam, Srikalahasti Temple in Andhra Pradesh is one of the famous Shiva temples in South India. This temple revolves around many legends, it is said that, Kannappa, one of Shiva’s saints almost removed his eyeballs in order to cover the blood flowing from the Sivalinga. Seeing his devotion Lord Shiva granted him Mukti (Nirvana). Built in a Dravidian architectural style, it has a 37-metre high gopuram and 100 pillar mandapam.
Built in Kalinga architectural style, Simhachalam Temple dedicated to Lord Narasimha (incarnation of Lord Vishnu) more or less resembles to a fortress. It gives a fusion of different styles of architecture of Chalukyas, Orissan and Cholas. The temple has five gateways and the main tower or the rajagopuram in west consists of five-tier. Here, the pillars and walls are carved with images of Lord Vishnu, Goddess Lakshmi and the Azhwars (Tamil poet-saints of South India).
Seated on the banks of river Thulya Bhaga, Gollalamamidada Rama Temple is a well-known Hindu pilgrimage destination that gathers the followers of Lord Rama. This holy place is located in the eastern part of Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh and it also known as Sri Kodanda Rama temple. Rama Navami is one of the famous and auspicious festival celebrated here.
Seated on 280 feet high Naubat Pahad hillock, Birla Temple offers the devotees with a sense of spiritual awakening. Perhaps the temple housing multiple shrines of various Hindu deities, it gives an opportunity to the visitors to seek blessing not only from Lord Venkateswara but other all deities like Shiva, Ganesh, Shakti, Hanuman, Saraswati, Brahma, Sai Baba and Lakshmi. With a mixed architectural style of Rajasthani, Dravidian and Utkala, the entire temple is built in white 2000 tons of white marble.
Also known as Yadagirigutta, Lakshmi Narasimha Temple is one of the popular Hindu shrines seated on a hillock in Yadagirigutta. In order to get to the main shine that houses various idols, you’ll have to pass through a 12 feet high and 30 feet long cave located at the back of the temple. Inside you’ll find a serpent shaped Jwala Narasimha, a silver idol of Lakshmi-Narasimha and a statue of Yogananda Narasimha in a meditating pose.
Gently seated near the shores of the Godavari River, the temple of Sita Ramachandra Swamy is a holy place to visit, it offers the best of nature and spirituality. This temple is separated into three parts, the head of Bhadra, a devotee of Lord Rama is the main shrine, the second section is of the sanctum and the third part of the temple is the Rajagopuram, the main tower located at Bhadra’s feet.
With an architectural style of Chola-Chalukya, the temple, Shaghi is located on a beautiful hillock of Paramanand Giri. As the name suggest, it was built by the Sanghi industrial group and its architectural beauty is what every visitors adore, completely covered in white. Sanghi Temple is dedicated to Lord Venkateshwara and it received many pilgrims throughout the year. Nearby the temple complex, there are also multiple temples of deities like Goddess Parvati, Lord Anjaneya, Lord Shiva, Goddess Kamalambika, Lord Rama, Lord Ganesha, Goddess Durga and Lord Kartikeya.
Anjaneya Swamy Temple is one of the most visited temples in Telangana, especially for Lord Hanuman devotees. Here, you’ll find many ghats since it is located near the Krishna River, one of the auspicious river worship and sacred bath events also take place here after every 12 years, Pushkara Snanam.
Built to honour Goddess Saraswati, this temple in Basar is one of the two famous temples in whole of India, the first located in Jammu and Kashmir. Since this Hindu deity Saraswati is considered to be the Goddess of Knowledge, many devotees bring their children to attend a ceremony called Aksharabhyasam. It is a famous South Indian ritual before the kids receive formal education.
Karmanghat Hanuman Temple is probably the most popular and oldest Hanuman temple in Hyderabad. The two auspicious days of Tuesdays and Saturdays are considered most holy and you can witness many devotees gather in this temple. One of the main festivals here is the Hanuman Jayanti that celebrated the birthday of Lord Hanuman during the months of either April or March.
Locally known as Rajanna, this spiritual temple of Sri Raja Rajeshwara is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The main idol of Raja Rajeshwara is coupled with two important deities of Sri Raja Rajeswari Devi and Sri Laxmi Sahitha Siddi Vinayaka. Being a popular Shiva temple, it draws many pilgrims throughout the year. During the festival of Maha Shivaratri, devotees receive a special offering by the temple called Kode Mokku. It is an important ritual where the devotees partake in pradakshinam around the temple with a Kode, a bull.
Chaya Someswara Swamy Temple, also known as Thrikutalayam was built in the 11th or 12th centuries by Ikshvaku family. The presiding deity of Lord Shiva is beautifully decorated during the festive night of Shivaratri. It is said that, the Lingam in the main temple is said to always be shadowed, thus the name Chaya represents the name of the temple.
Beautifully built in a shape of Snake, Narasimha Temple located in Nampally Gutta is one of the must-see temple attractions in Telangana. Perhaps, the structure of the shrine itself triggers the mind of the devotees to be religious significance and that one must visit here. Seated on a small hillock between the highway of Vemulawada and Karimnagar, this shrine dedicated to the reincarnated Lord Lakshmi Narasimha is one of the most fascinating temple ever built in India.
These temples will ultimately make your pilgrimage trip experience like never before in some of the best destinations in South India. And I am hoping you’ve bookmarked the temples you’d want to visit in your wishlist already. If you wish to explore the southern paradise and their many temples, call or mail Tour My India at +91-9212553106 / firstname.lastname@example.org and also check out the best pilgrimage tour packages to south India.