Magnificent South Indian Temples You Must Visit on Your Trip to India

(Last Updated On: June 28, 2018)

India is a country rich with cultural heritage and architectural masterpieces. And one of the fine examples of architectural magnificence is the spectacular temples which can be found across the length and breadth of the country. These temples have elaborate architectural designs featuring massive towers, lofty halls, pillars adorned with remarkable sculptures, intricate carvings, and paintings. The southern part of India has some of the grandeur ancient temples which are hundreds of years old and of great historical significance. Some of the famous temples in South India are also the top tourist places in India and are visited by pilgrims and enthusiasts from all over the world.

We asked our travel blogger friends to share their favorite South Indian Temples. These temples should definitely be on your list of places to visit in India.

Murudeshwara Temple, Karnataka

Murudeshwar Temple is one of the most beautiful and magnificent Shiva temples in the world. Murudeshwar Temple located in Murudeshwar Town of Karnataka State of India is popular for the 123 ft tall statue of Lord Shiva which is world’s second tallest statue. The statue of Shiva sits on a hill called Kanduka Giri surrounded by the Arabian sea on three sides.

Temples in South India - Tallest Shiva Statue Murudeshwar Karnataka Murudeshwara Temple Photos

The entrance to the temple complex is through a 20-story high tower decorated with sculptures of Hindu god and goddesses. One can access the top floor of the tower by a lift. The top floor offers breathtaking panoramic views of the beach, the Shiva statue, and the surrounding. A visit to the sanctum sanctorum may take time sometimes due to the long queues. You can visit the inner courtyard which has several smaller temples. At some 10 minutes walk from the temple complex is a garden which has numerous sculptures along with the colossal Shiva statue, a visit to the garden offers a closer look at the statue of Shiva.

Murusdeshwar Temple is one of the most famous temples in Karnataka you cannot miss it on your visit to this part of India. Murudeshwar is a popular beach destination on the west coast of India. There are plenty of water sports activities one can indulge in on a visit to Murudeshwar. The street to the temple is lined with numerous hotels and shops selling puja items, souvenirs, clothing, and toys.

Ramanathaswamy Temple, Tamil Nadu

If you travel towards the southern extremities of India in the state of Tamil Nadu, you leave the mainland of India and enter Rameshwaram situated on the Pamban Island. A beautiful sea bridge known as Pamban Bridge connects the town of Rameswaram to the mainland. Rameshwaram is one of the holiest of holy places amongst the Hindu Temples. Situated here is the famous Ramanathaswamy temple dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. The temple is associated with the Indian epic Ramayana and legend has it that the Shiva Lingam which is the main deity in the temple was consecrated by Rama who is considered to be an avatar of the Hindu God Vishnu. It is believed that Rama offered prayers here after the war with Ravana at Lanka, as repentance for the destruction wreaked by the war. It is believed that Rama had instructed his trusted lieutenant Hanuman to get a Shiva Lingam from the Himalayas, but as he was delayed, Sita built one from sand and this became the main deity over which the Ramanathaswamy temple now stands. This is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas and hence one of the most important pilgrimage centers.

Temples in South India Ramanathaswamy Temple in Rameshwaram

Voted by Sandy & Vyjay from VOYAGER

The temple itself is an architectural marvel and one of its striking features is its long corridors.which run between raised platform like structures on either side. There are two sets of corridors that run through the temple. The outer set of corridors is considered the longest corridor in any temple in the world. The corridors are supported and ornamented by 1212 exquisite pillars. The temple’s architectural and artistic magnificence is indeed a visual delight and inspires awe.

Lakshminarasimha Temple, Karnataka

The construction of Lakshminarasimha Temple took place during the 13th century, much later than Veeranarayana Temple of Belavadi. It was built by King Vira Someshwara (1235 – 1263). This temple is made of grey soapstone, which is easy to sculpt and hardens on exposure to air. The temple has Hoysala architectural style. This style developed under the rule of the Hoysala Empire between the 11th and 14th centuries. This architectural style was more prevalent in the region known today as Karnataka, a state of India. The three Garbhagruhas (the inner portion that houses the idols) of Lakshminarasimha Temple are arranged in a triangular pattern. They have the idols of Lord Vishnu in the main sanctum, Lord Venugopal’s idol in the southern and Lord Lakshminarasimha’s in the northern sanctum. The idols were laden with several garlands of colorful flowers during our visit.

Temples in South India - Lakshminarasimha Temple in Javagal, Karnataka

Voted by Indrani from Isharethese

The sculpted images on Temple Exteriors are stunning. The outer wall here fascinated me the most! It has stunning workmanship on it. There are 140 wall panel images, each made with attention to fine details. It seems like each figure has a story to tell. Nowhere else have I seen the Dashavatars depicted so finely!

Lakshminarasimha Temple in Javagal is 15kms from Halebeedu Temple of Hassan district, Karnataka. It is 195kms from Bangalore. You can hire private vehicles or state transport buses to get to Javagal from Bangalore. Approximate time to travel is 4 hours. Bangalore is well connected by air.

Pattadakal, Karnataka

The beautiful UNESCO-listed temples of Pattadakal are incredibly well preserved and one of the most popular tourist places to visit in Karnataka. The UNESCO listing is done as part of a three-temple complex which includes Aihole and the Badami Cave temples on the banks of the Malaprabha River. These three temples are considered to be the greatest architectural inspiration for constructions in the rest of India from the 7th to the 8th temple and were used for experimentation and innovation.

Temples in South India - Pattadakal, Karnataka

Voted by Mar from ONCE IN A LIFETIME JOURNEY

The temple’s name means coronation and it was used by the Chalukya Dynasty as the place for the coronation of kings. While the majority of the constructions are Hindu and devoted to Shiva, there are also two Buddhist temples and one Jain temple farther away but still part of the same complex. Visiting Pattadakal is not as easy as it is quite remote but can be done as part of the Golden Chariot luxury train journey across Karnataka. Alternatively, you can get there by train to the Badami station which is 6km away. The nearest airport is 4h away.

Badami Cave Temples, Karnataka

The Badami Cave Temples are a group of four temples, three Hindu and one Jain Temple. The cave temples are located in the town of Badami in the Bagalkot districts of Karnataka. The caves are carved out of the large sandstone cliffs and are adorned with sculptures and inscriptions on walls and pillars. The Badami Cave temples are an excellent example of the rock-cut architectural style.

Each of the temples is built alike featuring a large veranda and a colonnaded hall. Of the three Hindu temples, two enshrine Lord Vishnu, one is dedicated to Lord Shiva and the last one to the Jain Tirthankaras. The cave temples overlook the beautiful Agastya Tirtha Lake which dates back to the 5th-century. Surrounding the Agastya Tirtha Lake are the ancient temples of Mallikarjuna and the Bhuthanatha.

The other points of interest close to the Agastya Tirtha Lake are an ancient fort and an archaeological museum. The archaeological museum displays a wonderful collection of ancient sculptures and historical artifacts. All these attractions are located in the interior of a small village with narrow winding alleys. It is usually very difficult to get through these alleys to reach the lake.

The nearest airport to the caves is located in the city of Belgaum and Hubli. You can hire a taxi from Hubli to the caves of Badami which will take you around 3 hours. Alternatively, reach Hubli or Bagalkot from the city of Bangalore which is well-connected with buses and trains.

Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Kerala

Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in the city of Thiruvananthapuram (or Trivandrum in English) in the Southern Indian state of Kerala, is a magnificent piece of architecture. The style marries the typical Kerala temple style architecture with that of the neighboring Tamil Nadu’s. Only those who profess Hindu religion can enter the temple. And even the devotees have to follow strict clothing and other rules. I was thus unable to enter, but the splendor of the temple is well obvious on the outside as well.

Temples in South India - Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala

Voted by Veronika from TRAVEL GEEKERY

Being the main Vishnu temple and also one of the oldest temples in the country, the Padmanabhaswamy Temple belongs to main things to see in Trivandrum, as actually the whole city was built around the temple. The temple belongs to the Travancore Royal Family and is their major asset. In 2015, a treasure chamber was found inside the temple worth a trillion US dollars (!), which confirmed its status as the richest temple in the world.

To visit the Padmanabhaswamy Temple, I drove there by bus with other bloggers on the Kerala Blog Express bus, but you can easily get there by yourself. As the temple is positioned relatively centrally, even within a walking distance from the Central train station, you can simply walk. If your hotel is located further away, make use of an auto-rickshaw (a tuk-tuk).

Sri Prasanna Krishna Swamy Temple, Karnataka

The Sri Prasanna Krishna Swamy Temple in Mysore is an impressive temple located with the grounds of the Mysore Palace. It is dedicated to Lord Krishna and was built in 1829. The exterior of the temple is intricately carved with figures and stands out in the palace grounds. Visitors can enter the temple and see the ancient murals which are beautiful examples of Mysore art from the 19th century. Inside the temple are several displays of carved religious figures and a holy man offers visitors the chance to be blessed with the traditional tilaka.

Temples in South India - Sri Prasanna Krishna Swamy Temple in Mysore, Karnataka

Voted by Rohan from TRAVELS OF A BOOKPACKER 

While visiting the temple by day is recommended, a visit on a Sunday night is a must. Every Sunday evening at 7 pm the entire palace grounds and buildings are lit up by thousands of LED light bulbs creating the most magical spectacle. The temple looks particularly stunning as the lights intensify the details of the carvings. Entrance to the grounds is free during this time but you cannot enter the temple or palace.

Vitthala Temple, Karnataka

A highlight of the temple tours in Hampi is certainly the world famous Vittalasvami Temple. The mid-15th-century Vittala Temple is located about 2 kilometers east of Hampi Bazaar and can be reached on foot as you walk along the riverbank. You can also reach the Vittala Temple by rickshaw or taxi driving along the Talarigatta-Kamalapur Road. Better ask the driver to wait, otherwise, you might have problems getting back to the hotel in Hampi Bazaar.

Temples in South India - Vitthala Temple in Hampi, Karnataka

Voted by Clemens from TRAVELLERS ARCHIVE

Please note that you pay entry for the area of the so-called “Royal Center” and the “Holy Center”, as they are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In front of the main shrine is a magnificent platform with carved pillars, an open hall, and countless temple pillars adorned with lion-like mythical creatures, the Yalis. The roof is supported by 56 pillars, which are 3.60 meters high. Among other things, there are also the famous musical pillars along the outer sides, which produce different sounds. Particularly impressive are the sculptures in the interior. There are sculpture friezes with horses, warriors and wild geese, while the stairs are lined with elephants. Some of the works still show traces of colors. Make sure not to miss the most photographed structure in the entire region: the impressive stone temple car or Garuda pavilion pulled by stone elephants.

Golden Temple, Karnataka

Many people know about the world famous Golden Temple in Amritsar (North India), yet quite a few know that there is another Golden Temple in Karnataka, South India. It is situated in Bylakuppe – the second largest Tibetan settlement in India. Golden Temple (Namdroling Monastery) is home to thousands of monks and it is the largest center of the Nyingma tradition (the oldest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism). Nevertheless, back in 1963, the initial structure of the temple was made out of bamboo sticks. The popular name – Golden Temple – came after it was rebuilt several decades later. There appeared three 40 feet idols – Buddha, Padmasambhava and Amitayus – and numerous murals and wooden carvings made in golden color among other intricate interior elements.

Golden Temple in Bylakuppe, Karnataka - Temples in South India

Voted by Natalia from MY TRIP HACK

There is no entry fee to visit Golden temple, though donations are accepted. I recommend reading about traditional functions and prayers in advance, as during that time the common audience can’t visit the temple. Bylakuppe is situated 11 km away from Kushalnagar – the bigger town well-connected with other cities in Karnataka and neighboring states by bus network. Once you reach Kushalnagar, you can take an auto to reach the temple.

Meenakshi Temple, Tamil Nadu

We arrived in Madurai on a bus from Kanyakumari. The Meenakshi Hindu Temple was our first stop in this city, it is one of the famous temples in Tamilnadu. The temple complex covers 6 hectares and comprises 12 gopurams or monumental towers. It was built between 1623 and 1659. One of these gopurams here has 1511 gods, goddesses, demons and heroes decorating it.

Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu - Temples in South India

Voted by Sarah from ASOCIALNOMAD

The temple is stunning. It’s home to the triple-breasted Goddess, Meenakshi, who is an incarnation of Shiva’s consort, Parvati. In Tamil poetry, Meenakshi means perfect eyed and according to legend, Meenakshi was born with three breasts, the third melted away when she met Shiva. As we’re not Hindu we cannot enter the main shrine, but what we can see is stunning. The Pudhu Mandapa near the eastern entrance is a stunning long pillared hall from the 16th century – you must look up to the ceiling to see the most stunning feature. This was our first visit to an Indian Hindu temple and it was quite simply stunning.

Brihadeeswara Temple, Tamil Nadu

The Temple that never casts a shadow at noon – Thanjavur Brihadeeswara temple

I grew up in the shadows of the Big Temple in Tanjore also called the Thanjavur Brihadeeswara temple. It is one of the most ancient temples and known for its disappearing shadow – at 216 feet, the temple is one of the tallest temples in the world and is designed that it does not cast a shadow at noon during any part of the year. It is situated in the city of Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu, India also known as “The rice bowl of Tamil Nadu”. Built over 1000 years ago Brihadeeshwara temple has stood the test of time and is a great example of excellent workmanship and grandeur.

Thanjavur Brihadeeswara Temple, Tamil Nadu - Temples in South India

Voted by Priya from OUTSIDE SUBURBIA

The Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, was built by King Rajaraja I in the 11th century to celebrate a military victory. The temple is a tribute as well as a reflection of the power of RajaRaja Chola I. The complex that houses the main sanctum is known as the ‘Periya Kovil’ and is located amidst the fortified walls that were added to the building in the 16th century. The Siva Lingam here is more than 12 feet tall and the Nandi facing the sanctum is also 12 feet in height. The temple is built over 29 square bases and is surrounded by a moat on two sides and Grand Anaicut river on the other side. The walls of the temple complex are adorned by beautiful paintings and frescoes belonging to the Chola and Nayak period. In the main hall, there are musical pillars that produce different sounds when tapped. This architectural masterpiece has been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

How many of these temples have you already visited on a trip to India? Visiting these famous temples in South India are an architectural masterpiece and a great way to experience the rich heritage of the incredible land of India.

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20 thoughts on “Magnificent South Indian Temples You Must Visit on Your Trip to India

  • June 27, 2018 at 2:42 pm
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    The temples of India are sheer poetry in stone. Their magnificence and architectural brilliance is indeed a treat for the senses. This is a wonderful collaboration, and indeed difficult and unfair to choose one from the list as a favourite. We have seen most of them and there are a couple we want to visit soon.

    Reply
    • mm
      July 4, 2018 at 11:32 am
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      Thanks Sandy and Vyjay for being part of this collab. The temple architecture is treat for senses indeed.

      Reply
  • June 27, 2018 at 5:40 pm
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    There are so many temples in India where I can spend hours exploring the details of exteriors and interiors. It’s truly some of the best examples of smart ancient as well as modern architecture 🙂 Thank you for putting together this list!

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    • mm
      July 4, 2018 at 11:33 am
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      Glad you like the post, Natalia. Yes, these temples are an exemplary architectural masterpiece.

      Reply
  • June 30, 2018 at 10:40 pm
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    Wow, Meenakshi Temple is so intricate! I was astounded at the architecture when I was in India earlier this year- didn’t make it down to the south though!

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    • mm
      July 4, 2018 at 11:43 am
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      True Meenakshi Temple is a wonder, the architecture is awe-inspiring!

      Reply
  • July 1, 2018 at 12:13 am
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    The Gold Temple really stands out for me and the 40 foot idols must be jawdropping to see in person. It’s really nice that so many of these temples, including this one, beautifully balance private time for ceremony and worship with letting travellers see their beauty.

    Reply
    • mm
      July 4, 2018 at 11:45 am
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      Very true. That is so important. A place loses its charm if flocked by tourists all the time.

      Reply
  • July 1, 2018 at 4:29 pm
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    Hii Rashmi,
    Superb post. I love the magnanimous temple structures of the south. They are grand and beautiful. So far, I could see only Meenakshi Temple & Rameshwaram. Your list has given me some serious travel goal for south India.
    I so much want to explore Badami Caves, the richest temple in the world in Trivandrum and take a temple tour in Hampi. Thanks again for this compilation.

    Regards,
    Himanshu

    Reply
    • mm
      July 4, 2018 at 11:46 am
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      Thanks, Himanshu, Badami is one our favorites and a fine example of rock-cut, you should definitely plan a visit to Badami.

      Reply
  • July 1, 2018 at 4:47 pm
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    These are some pretty spectacular temples. How would you even choose which to visit, there are some many! I might go for the UNESCO heritage ones or Misore with the lights, just to simplify the decision-making. Is there a tour available or is it preferred to visit them solo?

    Reply
    • mm
      July 4, 2018 at 11:50 am
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      As per our knowledge, there are no tours running for these temples. There is usually no entry fees to the temples so there would be no skip the line option too. All you need to know is a little background of its construction.

      Reply
  • July 1, 2018 at 9:33 pm
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    great list! South India has so many amazing temples. Even though I spent five weeks there I couldn’t see anything close to all of them. I did make it to Madurai, Hampi, and Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum, but missed the rest on this list. I wish I’d known about the Karnataka Golden temple!

    Reply
    • mm
      July 4, 2018 at 11:51 am
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      Agree with you Carrie, the Karnataka Golden temple is truly a gem. Something not to miss on your trip to Karnataka.

      Reply
  • July 2, 2018 at 12:50 pm
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    Goodness, that’s a lot of work that went into each of those temples. A lot of love too, I’m guessing. All of the detail is amazing, especially considering how long ago they were built. Amazing that they could do it and that they still stand. The cave temples look the most interesting to me. Probably because I like caves.

    Reply
  • July 3, 2018 at 9:21 am
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    You have collected a good list. Each of them stunning with their architecture. There are still some in this list that I am yet to visit. Hopefully I get the opportunity soon.

    Reply
    • mm
      July 4, 2018 at 11:52 am
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      Thanks Indrani. Hope you can make through the list soon 🙂

      Reply
  • July 3, 2018 at 4:23 pm
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    This is an incredible list of temples. I’ll admit, I think of India and my mind automatically goes to the Taj Majal. But there are so many more temples, each unique in their own way. I personally love architecture, especially when its so detailed. But the temples that really stand out to me are the Badami Cave Temples because of how they were carved out of the cliffs. And the views to the lake must be spectacular!

    Reply
  • July 3, 2018 at 4:38 pm
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    The temples are definitely one of the main reasons I want to visit India, so this is a great list to refer to! I have never seen a photo of the interior of Ramanathaswamy Temple. That’s quite an impressive sight with row after row of columns extending back into the distance!

    Reply
  • July 3, 2018 at 7:18 pm
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    These are some really beautiful temples. I love that each one has its own unique look and style. Badami Cave Temples caught my eye the most because of it’s awesome cave-location! Temples like these are one of the main reasons that India is at the top of my list!

    Reply

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