The Grandeur of Dravida Style- Dynasties and Temple Architecture

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The south Indian rulers were generous patrons of art and architecture. They created several temples, which were not simply a place of deification it was the hub of the socio- cultural-political life of the people. in south India Dravida style of temple architecture was prevalent. The Dravidian style of temple architecture commenced during the period of the Pallavas and during the reign of Cholas it acquired the pinnacle. 

The construction of many storeys above the main deity room is the prominent feature of the Dravida style and they are characterized by structures in stone, lofty towers, sculptures, and intricate inscriptions. They often vary in format and style from one era to the next due to the myriad influences of several ruling dynasties.

Pallavas and their Temple Architecture

From the 7th c onwards Pallava’s style starts to emerge. they constructed rock-cut temples and structural temples. the prominent contributions of Pallavas include seven Ratha temples of Mahabalipuram built by Narasimhavarman 1 , Shore temple of Mahabalipuram by Rajasimhan, Kailasanatha temple of Kanchi etc,.

ratha temple of pallabva dynasty
kailsantha temple
shore temple

(Clockwise Ratha temple, Shore temple, Kailasanatha temple)


The Chalukyas were exquisite builders. they created a number of cave temples and in their construction, we can see both nagara(North Indian temple architectural style) and Dravida style, which when conjoined resulted in the Vesara style of architecture. of the temples, at Badami, the Melagitti Sivalaya is very significant. The Papanatha temple and Virupaksha temple are their other contribution. and there are many temples at Pattadakal in both north and south styles.

chalukya dynasty
shivalaya chalukyas
papanatha temple
virupaksha temple

(Clock wise Vesara style temple, Sivalaya temple, Virupaksha temple, Papanatha temple )


Cholas took the Dravida style to another level. The Vimana or the story is a significant element of the Chola building. under Rajaraja 1 the massive Brihadisvara temple at Tanjavur was made. the temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram built by Rajendra was another beautiful creation of the time. there are a number of temples at Pudukkotai, the Vijalaya Choleswara temple at Narthamalai is prominent among them.

vimana temple
gangaikonda chola
brihadevara temple

(Clock wise Vimana temple, Brihadisvara temple, Gangaikonda chola )


Chera dynasty, played a major part, in Kerala and Tamilnadu. in Kerala the Dravida style, as well as a unique style called Kerala style, has been used in the building of temples. three distinct architectural styles can be cited in the construction of Kerala temples. in the last phase, the process of temple construction becomes more pleasing and intricate with embellishments. the major feature of the Kerala style is Garbagriha or Sreekovil. some of the temples have Kuthambalam and Garuda Mandapam too. The Koodalmanikyam temple and Vadakkumnathan temple are some of the examples of typical Kerala

koothambalam temple


vadakkumnathan temple

(Vadakunathan temple)

Because of the implication of temples in a society, temple architecture often embodies the soundest of a culture’s design and craftsmanship. The Dravidian architecture has sub -divisions also that can be categorized into Kuta, Shala, Vrittayata, Vritta, and Ashtasra. the basic feature of Dravida architecture can be pointed out as;

  • The Dravida temple is enclosed by a compound wall.
  • The front wall has an entrance gate in its center, which is known as a Gopuram.
  • The shape of the main temple tower known as vimana is like a stepped pyramid that rises geometrically rather than the curving shikhara of North India.
  • Fierce Dvarapalas safeguarding the temple adorn the entrance to garbhagriha
  • It is typical to find an extensive water reservoir, or a temple tank, held within the complex.
  • Subsidiary shrines are either included within the main temple tower or found as distinct, distinct small shrines beside the main temple 


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