The Hindu temples in Tamil Nadu in South India attract both Hindu pilgrims and tourists. The most famous Tamil Nadu Hindu temple is the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai. Some of the most famous South Indian temples include the Meenakshi temple in Madurai, the Shore Temple in Mamallapuram and the Shiva temples in the sacred city of Kanchipuram.
Shri Meenakshi Temple in Madurai
The Meenakshi temple in Madurai is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and his wife Parvati, known here as Meenakshi. According to legend, Shiva and Meenakshi were married in Madurai. The large temple complex contains 12 famous gopuras or towers that are decorated with brightly coloured sculptures of HIndu deities. The Thousand Pillar Hall contains over 900 (but just under a thousand) carved pillars. It takes hours to explore the enormous temple complex.The temple is always busy with pilgrims, tourists, beggars, salesmen and palm readers, but becomes even busier during temple festivals. Madurai has flight connections to Chennai and Mumbai, and train and bus connections around .
Pilgrim Destination Rameshwaram
Rameshwaram is an important Hindu pilgrimage destination, being the place where the Hindu god Rama built a bridge across the sea to the island of Lanka in order to rescue his beloved Sita from her evil abductor, Ravana. The Ramnathswamy temple dates back to the 17th century and is an example of Dravidian temple architecture as well as one of the holiest of India's Hindu temples. Rameshwaram has train connections to Chennai and Madurai.
The Shore Temple in Mamallapuram
Mamallapuram (also known as Mahabalipuram) was an ancient seaport and the second capital of the Pallava kings of Kanchipuram. The Pallavas constructed many of Mamallapuram's Dravidian-style temples in the 7th and 8th century AD.
Mamallapuram's most famous sight is the 7th century Shore Temple, one of the oldest temples in South India. The temple stands on the shore of the Bay of Bengal and has suffered damage from erosion, and a rock wall has been built to protect it from the sea. The Dravidian-style temple was originally constructed in the 7th century and completed later by the Pallava king Narasimha Varman II, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The 2004 tsunami uncovered previously undiscovered ruins. Mamallapuram is easily reached by bus or taxi from Chennai.
Kanchipuram: a Sacred City
Kanchipuram is one of Hinduism's seven sacred cities. It is filled with stunning temples, most of them dedicated to the gods Shiva or Vishnu, although the goddess Shakti is also worshipped in the Kamakshi Amman temple. One of the largest and most ancient temples in Kanchipuram is the magnificent Ekambareshwar Temple.
Many of the temples in Kanchipuram will not let non-Hindus into the innermost area of the temple, but visitors can still walk around the temple complex. Kanchipuram is also famous for its silks and temple visitors can expect lots of invitations to silk shops from rickshaw drivers and touts who hang around temples. Kanchipuram can be easily reached from Chennai.
India Temple Do's and Don'ts
Hindu temples ask visitors to remove their shoes, which can usually be left in a shoe storage outside the entrance. Western visitors should also remember that appropriate dress for visiting a Hindu temple means covering shoulders (a large scarf is handy) and wearing long trousers or skirts. Some South Indian temples may charge for entry but others rely on donations.