The tall standing gopurams of Tamil Nadu never fail to astonish modern day engineers and architects. Gopurams are heavily ornamented pyramidal gateways to temples. Borrowing from or rather feeding the ideas to Egypt, these pyramid structures are supposed to channelise cosmic energy. Others have it that the gopurams merely served as major landmarks because townships began around temples.
Whether it was built as a landmark or for some scientific reason, these gopurams invariably please your artistic eyes! The obsession with origins brings us to the Pallavas. Many of these gopurams date back to the time of the Pallava Kings. By the time the Pandyas ruled, around 12th century the gopurams were accustomed to the Indian mindset. In the Sangam period, these gopurams were called "the imperishable gateways" by the poets in Tamil. The beautiful architectural detailing on every one of these gopurams demand a mention. Laboriously carved narratives along the length of the gopurams stagger onlookers. These carvings are depictions from the great epics of this great land.
It is said that the gopuram is symbolic of the feet of the presiding deity. The devotees enter the temple bowing to the holy feet of the Lord, leaving behind worldly contradictions. Here's a chance for each one of you to submerge yourselves in the elegance and grandeur of these gopurams.
The gopurams of Tamil Nadu signify the heights of beauty and the heights of heights as well. Here's a closer look...
Srirangam, The Tallest!
The tallest gopuram in India is the one at Sri Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangam. Situated on the island of river Cauvery, this temple has 21 gopurams. The Rajagopuram or the main gateway is a staggering 236ft tall and has 13 kalasams made of heavy copper on the top.
The seven concentric walls of the temple called the prakara are said to be indicative of the 7 elements of prithvi (earth), jala (water), tejas (fire), vayu (air), akasha (space), manas (mind), buddhi (intelligence).
Madurai Meenakshi, Most Magnificent!
The Meenakshi temple at Madurai has the most magnificent of all gopurams. With intricate carvings and imposing height, there are ten gopurams mostly built in block granite. The oldest gopuram lying to the East was built by the Sundara Pandyas. It was with them and the construction of this temple that temple towns became popular in Tamil Nadu.
Srivilliputhur, The Emblematic!
Reigning as the tallest gopuram during the Madurai Nayakas, the gopuram of Thiruvilliputhoor Divya Desam in Srivilliputhur is the emblem of the Government of Tamil Nadu. The temple is 2000 years old and one of the most popular of Vishnu temples. The 59m tall gopuram is a 11-storied structure.
Srivilliputhur also happens to be the birthplace of two prominent alwars, Periyazhvar and Andal.
Annamalai, The Revered!
The temple complex at Annamalai hills or Arunachala in Thiruvannamalai has four huge gopurams for its four entrances. The main gopuram or the Rajagopuram is on the East. It was started by Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagara Kingdom and completed by Sevappa Nayaka.
Ekambareswarar Temple, The Glorious!
The Saivite saints called Nayanars have sung glories to the Ekambareswarar temple. The temple has the tallest gopuram in Kanchipuram and was the pride of the Vijayanagara kings. Spread across 10 hecatres, the temple complex has five elaborate courtyards and a thousand-pillared hall.
Chidambaram, The Finest!
The Thillai Nataraja temple at Chidambaram has four fine gopurams facing the four directions. Intricate carvings adorn these seven storey gopurams. The one to the West, dates as far back as to the 12th century. The Eastern gopuram acts as a complete encyclopedia of 108 Bharatanatyam poses.
Visit the temples and let yourself be charmed by the heights of heights!