Popular Hindu Temples in South India

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Bhutanatha Temple, Badami

India is a culturally diverse country. From the mountains in the North to the Ghats in the West and East, every place is unique. But while we may be separated by our languages, traditions, customs, and more, our faith is something that binds us all together. This is especially evident in the southern part of the country, which boasts some of the most magnificent and spiritually Hindu temples in the homeland.

Here, we have tried to do the difficult job of listing 17 of the most famous temples in South India. So, are you ready to delve into the heart of South India’s spiritual landscape?

17 Famous Temples in South India

Following is a list of some of the most important and popular Hindu temples in South India. Do note that this list does not follow any particular order and is a reflection of personal research and perspectives.

Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai

  • Main Deity: Devi Parvati and Lord Shiva
  • Location: Madurai Main, Madurai, Tamil Nadu, 625001
  • Timing: 5 am to 12.30 pm (morning) & 4 pm to 10 pm (evening)
  • How to Reach: Madurai is a well-connected city. It has a domestic airport that is 15 km from the temple premises; a taxi or prepaid auto is recommended for first-time visitors. Madurai Railway Station is also just 3 km away from Meenakshi Temple. The temple is also well-connected through local transportation.

Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai

Meenakshi Amman Temple is a breathtaking marvel in Madurai. Tamil Nadu & is a must-visit for devotees of Devi Parvati and Lord Shiva. Constructed around the 7th century, it is one of the oldest temples standing to this day. The temple was also nominated for the New 7 Wonders of the World.

The temple is renowned not only among devotees but also tourists, mainly because of its unique architecture. Meenakshi temple has intricately carved towers with gods, goddesses, and mythological figures – a hallmark of Southern architecture. The temple also has a ‘Hall of Thousand Pillars’ – a must-see on your visit.

Brihadeeswarar Temple, Thanjavur

  • Main Deity: Lord Shiva
  • Location: Membalam Road, Balaganapathy Nagar, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu – 613007
  • Timing: 6 am to 12.30 pm (Morning) & 4 pm to 8.30 pm (Evening)
  • How to Reach: The nearest airport is located in the city of Trichy, which is located around 48 km from the city center. However, Thanjavur Junction Railway Station is located nearby, just at a distance of 3 km. One can easily hail a cab, rickshaw, or even auto rickshaw from the Railway Station. There are also regular intercity buses between Chennai and Thanjavur.

Brihadeeswarar Temple, Thanjavur

Brihadeeswarar Temple, located in Thanjavur, is not only a masterpiece in Chola architecture but also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temple was built by King Rajaraja I in the 11th century. This temple is particularly famous for its Shiva Lingam and the temple tower. The temple celebrated its 1000th anniversary in 2010.

One of the most attractive parts of this temple is the towering vimana (temple tower), which stands as a testament to the engineering power of the dominating Chola empire. There is also a massive Nandi statue, which is carved from a single rock.

Ramanathaswamy Temple, Rameswaram

  • Main Deity: Lord Shiva
  • Location: Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu – 623526
  • Timings: 4.30 am to 1 pm (Morning) & 3 pm to 8.30 pm (Evening)
  • How to Reach: The nearest airport is located at Madurai, which is around 160 km away from the temple. However, direct trains from various major cities are available to Rameshwaram through the railway station. Rameshwaram Bus Stand is also well-connected to major cities. Local buses and autos provide onward travel options.

Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu

Ramanathaswamy Temple is one of the most famous temples in Southern India. The temple is located on the island of Rameshwaram’s Pamban Island in Tamil Nadu. It is constructed in the same place where Lord Rama asked for forgiveness from Lord Shiva for murdering his disciple, Ravana. This temple also hosts one of the 12 Jyotirlingas in India.

The temple is a marvel of Dravidian architecture; there is no doubt about that, especially with the presence of towering gopurams and expansive corridors – hallmarks of Dravadian creations. The corridors in this temple are the largest in the world and contain pillars with carvings from Ramayana and other ancient epics.

Sri Venkateswara Temple, Tirupati

  • Main Deity: Lord Venkateshwara
  • Location: S Mada St, Tirumala, Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh – 517504
  • Timing: 9 am to 9 pm
  • How to Reach: The city of Tirupati has a domestic airport, which is around 13 km from the temple’s entrance. Taxis and buses are readily available for travelers. The railway station is also nearby, located just around 2 km, and connects with notable cities in the country. Tirupati Central Bus Station has excellent connectivity with major cities in Southern India.

Sri Venkateswara Temple, Tirupati

Sri Venkateswara Temple is amongst the wealthiest and most visited temples in the world. Many readers might have heard of this temple from its other name, Tirupati Balaji Temple. This temple is dedicated to Lord Venkateshwara, and devotees climb the Tirumala hills to seek his blessings and offer their prayers all year round.

The temple also hosts annual festivals, with Brahmotsavan being especially popular, attracting devotees in large numbers. These festivals turn the temple into a hub of religious fervor and cultural activities – an occasion that you would not want to miss out on. So, plan your trip accordingly.

Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Thiruvananthapuram

  • Main Deity: Lord Padmanabhaswamy
  • Location: Pazhavangadi, West Nada, Fort, East Fort, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala – 695023
  • Timings: 3 am to 12 pm (Morning) & 5 pm to 7.20 pm (Evening)
  • How to Reach: Trivandrum International Airport is the closest airport, situated 6 km from the temple. Taxis and prepaid autos are readily available for travelers. Trivandrum Central Railway Station is also nearby. Trivandrum KSRTC Bus Station is centrally located in the city and connects to major cities in South India.

Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Thiruvananthapuram

Located in the heart of the city of Trivandrum is the Padmanabhaswamy Temple, our first entrant into the city from God’s own country. The temple was built in the 16th century and is known for its unique architectural style, which is a fusion of the Kerala style and the Dravidian style of architecture. Its architectural beauty has made this temple known worldwide.

The Lord Padmanashwamy is depicted reclining on the serpent Anantha. It is a majestic sight and symbolizes peace & serenity. The temple gained global attention in 2011 when vast treasures were discovered in its underground vaults.

Virupaksha Temple, Hampi

  • Major Deity: Lord Shiva
  • Location: Hampi, Karnataka – 583239
  • Timing: 6 am to 9 pm
  • How to Reach: For air travelers, the nearest airport is the Hubli Airport, which is around 135 km from Hampi. Hospet Junction Railway Station is 13 km away. Local buses and rickshaws are readily available. Finally, Hampi Bus Stand is well-connected to the major cities in Karnataka.

Virupaksha Temple, Hampi

Located in the ruins of the Vijayanagara Empire, we have the Virupakasha Temple. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a captivating blend of architectural style and vibrant history all rolled into one. The temple is world-renowned for its impressive gateway and intricate carvings.

A noteworthy fact about this temple is that it is not just a place of worship for devotees. The temple and its vast complex are also a cultural hub. It hosts various festivals and events throughout the year, with the chariot festival (Rath Yatra) being one of the most notable events.

Chennakeshava Temple, Belur

  • Major Deity: Lord Vishnu
  • Location: Temple Road, Belur, Karnataka – 573115
  • Timing: 9 am to 5.30 pm
  • How to Reach: The closest airport to Belur is Mysore Airport, situated around 140 km from the city. Passengers can easily rent taxis. Hassan Junction Railway Station is 35 km away. In addition, Belur is well-connected by bus to major cities in the state.

Chennakeshava Temple, Belur

Another ancient Hindu temple on our list is the Chennakeshava Temple. This temple was constructed in the middle of the 12th century by King Vishnuvardhana at the then-capital of the Hoysala Empire. This temple in Karnataka is celebrated for its intricate sculptures and welcomes devotees from every corner of the country.

The main deity worshipped here is the Lord Vishnu, the great God of preservation. His idol is housed in a beautifully crafted sanctum and welcomes millions of devotees every year. The temple facade also has beautifully carved figures depicting thousands of stories that form the core of Hindu mythology.

Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam

  • Major Deity: Lord Ranganatha
  • Location: Srinangam, Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu – 620006
  • Timing: 9 am to 9 pm
  • How to Reach: Trichy, or Tiruchirappalli, as it is more commonly known, is an airport connecting domestic and international travelers. In addition to that, the city is also easily accessible by both roads and trains.

Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam

This temple is one of the largest and most revered Hindu temples in the world. It boasts of Dravidian architecture with soaring gateways and intricately carved corridors. The temple is located on an island on the banks of the river Kaveri. Lord Vishnu is present in this temple in a reclining form. Also noteworthy is that this temple is one of the Lord Vishnu’s eight ‘Swayam Vyakta Kshetras.

The temple is uniquely designed, with seven concentric prakaras and 21 magnificent towers that showcase the architectural and cultural influence of the region. Sri Ranganathaswamy temple is a major pilgrimage destination for the devotees of Lord Vishnu, especially during the Vaikuntha Ekadashi festival.

Murudeshwara Temple

  • Main Deity: Lord Shiva
  • Location: Murdeshwar, Uttara Kannada District, Karnataka – 581350
  • Timing: 3 am to 1 pm (Morning) & 3 pm to 8 pm (Evening)
  • How to Reach: The nearest airport to Murdeshwara Temple is Mangaluru International Airport, which is around 130 km away. Travelers would find taxis and buses connecting to Murudeshwar there. Udupi Railway Station is the nearest railway stop to Murdeshwar, located around 53 km away. Murdeshwar is also well-connected to major cities in Karnataka by bus.

Murudeshwar Temple

Murudeshwara Temple is a must-visit for any devotee of Lord Shiva. Easily one of the oldest Shiva temples in South India, Murdeshwara temple is located on the picturesque coast of Bhatkal. The temple is also a popular tourist attraction, with its 123 feet high, towering Shiva statue the main attraction. The nearby Kanduka Hill also attracts travelers from far and wide.

The temple complex also has a man-made cave, which serves as a museum depicting the story of Ravana and Lord Shiva. Ravana was a devotee of Lord Shiva & once even convinced Lord Shiva to move to Lanka.

Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple

  • Major Deity: Lord Ayyappan
  • Location: Sannidhanam, Sabarimala, Kerala – 689662
  • Timing: 4 am to 11 pm
  • How to Reach: The nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, which is about 300 km from the temple. Both domestic & international flights are available here. From there, travelers can opt for taxis and buses to connect to Sabarimala.
  • Kottayam Railway Station can also be a choice for devotees, though it is located 200 km away from the Sabarimala. The best option is to choose an intercity bus as Sabarimala is well-connected to major cities in Kerala by bus.

Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple

It is very unlikely that readers have not heard of the Sabarimala Temple, as it was in the news in recent years. The Sabarimala Temple, or Sabarimala Sastha Temple as it is also known, is one of the most famous Hindu temples in South India. What sets this temple apart from others on the list is the trek that devotees need to undertake to reach the temple.

A noteworthy fact about this temple is that only men and women of certain ages are allowed to enter the temple premises. The pilgrimage to Sabarimala is a test of endurance, faith, and devotion – and millions of devotees take this trek every year.

Guruvayur Temple

  • Major Deity: Lord Krishna
  • Location: Guruvayur, Thrissur District, Kerala – 680101
  • Timing: 3 am to 1.30 pm (Morning) & 4.30 pm to 9 pm (Evening)
  • How to Reach: For air travelers, Cochin International Airport is the nearest airport. The distance between the airport and Guruvayur Temple is about 100 km. Taxis & buses are easily available for travel.
  • Train travel to Guruvayur Temple is extremely easy, with Guruvayur Railway Station located right next to the temple complex. Traveling by intercity buses from other major cities in Kerala is also possible.

Guruvayur Temple

Guruvayur Temple is one of the most revered temples in God’s own country. In fact, it is said to be the only temple where Lord Krishna himself resides. The temple is home to a golden idol of Lord Krishna on its premises, which devotees believe to have been installed by the Pandava brothers.

The Guruvayur Temple is not only a pilgrimage place for devotees of Lord Krishna, but it also hosts cultural activities throughout the year in the form of various classical music and dance performances. If possible, you should check out the unique ritualist dance form known as Krishnattam, which is performed here.

Ekambareswarar Temple, Kanchipuram

  • Main Deity: Lord Shiva
  • Location: Ekambaranathar Sannathi St, Periya, Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu – 631502
  • Timing: 6 am to 11 am (Morning) & 5 pm to 8 pm (Evening)
  • How to Reach: The nearest airport to Kanchipuram is Chennai International Airport, located around 70 km away. Luckily for travelers, Kanchipuram has a major railway station right next to the temple complex. Kanchipuram is also well-located by road, as every major city in South India provides intercity buses to Kanchipuram.

Ekambareswarar Temple, Kanchipuram

This is one of the most important temples in India dedicated to Lord Shiva. Constructed by the Pallava dynasty in the 7th century, this temple is home to a beautiful idol of Lord Shiva in his Ekambareswarar form, which literally means ‘Lord of the Banyan Tree.’ Within the temple complex, there is a sacred mango tree, which is believed to be over 3500 years old. It symbolizes the divine union of Lord Shiva and Devi Parvati.

Another major highlight of this temple is the 11-story Rajagopuram. The Rajagopum, standing at a height of 194 feet, is one of the tallest structures in India.

Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam

  • Main Deity: Lord Vishnu
  • Location: Sarangapani North Madavilagam, Valayapettai Agraharam, Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu – 612001
  • Timing: 7 am to 12 pm (Morning) & 5 pm to 9 pm (Evening)
  • How to Reach: Sarangapani Temple is conveniently located right next to the Kumbakonam Railway Station. Also, the city is well-connected to major cities in South India via bus. For air travelers, the nearest airport is Tiruchirapalli International Airport, which is located 80 km away from the city. Taxis and buses connect to Kumbakonam.

Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam

Sarangapani Temple, just like many other temples on the list, is over several centuries old. Built by the Chola dynasty in the 11th century, this temple is home to a beautiful idol of Lord Vishnu in his Sarangapani form, which literally translates to ‘Lord of the Bow.’ Sarangpani Temple also hosts several annual festivals, such as Brahmotsavam, which draws crowds of millions of devotees every year.

The temple is a splendid example of the Dravidian architecture. The majestic gopuram and the intricate carvings draw both devotees and tourists alike. The temple’s Vimanam is designed in the form of a chariot.

Bhutanatha Temple, Badami

  • Main Deity: Lord Shiva & Lord Vishnu
  • Location: Badami, Karnataka – 587201
  • Timing: 6 am to 7 pm
  • How to Reach: The nearest airport to Badami is Hubli Airport, which is around 200 km away. Luckily for train travelers, the Badami Railway Station is right next to the temple complex. Also, Badami is well-connected by bus to major cities in Karnataka.

Bhutanatha Temple, Badami

The Bhutanatha temple in Badami, Karnataka, was constructed by the Chalukyan dynasty. It is a magnificent example of rock-cut architecture and the artistic prowess of the dynasty. The temple is one of the two major shrines of the Bhutanatha Group of Temples.

The temple complex is beautifully located on the stunning sandstone cliffs of Badami. What is unique about this complex is there are two temples here, one dedicated to Lord Shiva while the other dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

Badami cave temples are another nearby attraction here. Here, visitors can find a group of four cave temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu & Lord Mahavira.

Thirunelli Temple, Wayanad

  • Main Deity: Lord Vishnu
  • Location: Thirunelli Temple post, Mananthavady, Kerala – 670646
  • Timing: 5.30 am to 12.30 pm (Morning) & 5.30 pm to 8.30 pm (Evening)
  • How to Reach: The nearest airport where travelers can fly is the Calicut International Airport, situated around 130 km from the temple. Wayanad is quite remote and challenging to reach, even via train. Kozhikode Railway is the nearest, around 120 km away.

Thirunelli Temple, Wayanad

Thirunelli Temple can be found in one of the most remote locations in Wayanad, Kerala. The temple is situated amidst the lush embrace of the Western Ghats and is encircled by the Brahmagiri hills. It is for this reason that this temple is also called ‘Kashi of the South.’ This makes this ancient and revered temple of Lord Vishnu an attraction for both devotees and tourists alike. This temple was built by Lord Brahma himself.

The annual festivals at the temples, such as Puthari & Sivaratri, are celebrated with great fervor – a must-watch for you. You can immerse yourself in the immerse and natural beauty of Thirunelli.

Sivagiri Temple, Kerala

  • Deity: Guru Sri Narayana
  • Address: Varkala, Thiruvananthapuram District, Kerala
  • Timings: 5:30 AM to 12:00 PM and 4:30 PM to 6:00 PM
  • Entry Fee: No entry fee.
  • Best Time to Visit: October to March for pleasant weather.
  • How to Reach: Varkala is around 50 km from Thiruvananthapuram. The nearest railway station is Varkala Sivagiri Railway Station.

Sivagiri Temple

This is a pilgrimage center located in Varkala that houses the tomb of the prominent social reformer Sri Narayana Guru. On the top of the Sivagiri hill lies the Shivagiri Math which was built in the year 1904. Set amidst opulent greenery, this is a popular spot for meditation, where devotees come from near and far in order to rejuvenate and relax their minds and soul.

The Shore Temple, Tamil Nadu

  • Deity: Dedicated to Lord Shiva
  • Address: Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu
  • Timings: 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM
  • Entry Fee: Separate fee for Indians and foreigners.
  • Best Time to Visit: November to February when the weather is cool.
  • How to Reach: Mahabalipuram is about 60 km from Chennai, accessible by road.

The Shore Temple

Situated in the prominent pilgrimage city of Mahabalipuram, this temple is believed to have been built between 700 and 728 AD. Classified as a World Heritage Site, the granite used to construct this architectural marvel dates back to the 8th century. It is one of the oldest structural stone temples in South India and features several intriguing rock carvings.

Conclusion

And that’s the list. We have covered 17 of the most popular Hindu temples in South India. There are many other temples that could have been part of this list, such as Aihole Durga Temple, Airavatesvara Temple & more. This only speaks of the immense spiritual and cultural richness of South India; it would take a lifetime for one to see all!

So, what are you waiting for? Start planning for your journey. Bon Voyage!