Temple towers / Gopurams

Hurray! This is the 100th post in my blog and this is really special, and by coincidence the topic says it…quite a big achievement 🙂

We visited several temples during my travelogue during the past few days and I posted the photograph of the corresponding temple tower or gopuram in my corresponding posts. Now, let’s go into some details as to what these gopurams are about, their significance and the height of these monuments in several magnificent temples.

Some prominent temple gopurams

Gopuram or gopura (Sanskrit: गोपुरम्, gopuram) is a monumental entrance tower, usually ornate, at the entrance of a temple, in the Dravidian architecture of the Tamil NaduAndhra PradeshKeralaKarnataka, and Telangana states of Southern India. They are topped by the kalasam, a bulbous stone finial. They function as gateways through the walls that surround the temple complex.  Another towering structure located towards the center of the temple is the Vimanam. Both of them are designed and constructed as per rules given in the texts of Vaastu shastra

The Tamil derivation is from the two words: கோ (kō) and புறம் (puram) meaning ‘king’ and ‘exterior’ respectively It originates from the Sangam age when it was known as ஓங்கு நிலை வாயில் (ōnggu nilai vāyil) meaning ‘imperishable gateway’.

An alternative derivation is from the Sanskrit word gopuram, which can be broken down to go (Sanskrit: गो), which means either ‘a city’ or ‘a cow’, and puram (Sanskrit: पुरम्), ‘a town’, or ‘a settlement’.

Vimanam means measure, indicating the number of measures made in the construction and design of that structure. Gopuram consist of two words, gawa and puram, meaning the place from which all the energy that exists in all living beings comes inside.

The below information lists the height of the gopurams of various temples (in descending order):

1. Sri Ranganathaswamy temple, Srirangam, Trichirapalli, Tamil Nadu – 236 ft (71.93m)

2. Annamalayyaar temple, Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu ,
(Pancha Bhootha Sthalam) – 217 ft (66.14m)

3. Brihadeeswarar temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu – 216 ft (65.84m)

4. Thiruperundhurai temple, Aavudaiyaar Koil, Tamil Nadu – 200 ft (60.96m)

5. Kasi Viswanathar temple, Thenkasi, Tamil Nadu – 178 ft (54.25m)

6. Meenakshi Amman temple, Madurai, Tamil Nadu – 170.6 ft (52.0m)

7. Andal Temple, Srivilliputhur, Virudhunagar, Tamil Nadu – 164 ft (49.99m)

8. Rajagopalaswamy temple, Mannargudi, Tiruvarur, Tamil Nadu – 154 ft (46.94m)

9. Sarangapani temple, Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu – 147 ft (44.81m)

10. Thillai Natarajar temple, Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu – 140 ft (42.67m)

11. Thanumalayan temple, Suseendram, Kanya Kumari, Tamil Nadu ,
(Pancha Bhootha Sthalam) – 134 ft (40.84m)

12. Jambukeswara temple, Thiruvanaikaval, Tamil Nadu, (Pancha Bhootha Sthalam) – 128 ft (39.01m)

13. Aadi Kumbeswarar temple, Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu – 128 ft (39.01m)

14. Subramaniya Swamy temple, Thiruchendur, Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu – 127 ft (38.71m)

15. Ramanathaswamy temple, Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu – 126 ft (38.41m)

Chidambaram

This travel series is dedicated to blindzanygirl, my inspiration. We started with Kancheepuram Varadaraja Perumal Temple 20 days back.

Yesterday, we visited the north western frontier of India, Amritsar and saw some memorable places like The Golden Temple, Durgiana Temple, Jalianwala Bagh and the Wagah Border. Today, we are going to travel to one of the most historic towns in Tamil Nadu, India viz., Chidambaram, the earliest mention is found as early as 1st century CE in Sangam Literature / Tamil Literature.

This is going to be the last post from my travels as of now. Over the last 20 days, it has been a rewarding journey for me to reminiscence these places and my experiences during their visits. I do wish to keep travelling and bring you the history and visual beauty of many more places.

Chidambaram is well renowned for its Thillai Natarajar Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva and Sri Govindaraja Perumal Temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is one of the 108 divya desams.

Chidambaram

Chidambaram is a town and municipality in Cuddalore district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, at a distance 215 km from Chennai and about 65 km from the Union territory of Puducherry and  is located close to the shores of Bay of Bengal. As mentioned above, Chidambaram is a town of significant antiquity.

For more information on Chidambaram, Please visit the huge Wiki Page: Chidambaram.

Thillai Nataraja temple, Chidambaram

Nataraja Temple, also referred to as the Chidambaram Nataraja temple or Thillai Nataraja temple, is dedicated to Nataraja – Shiva as the lord of dance. A Shiva shrine existed at the site when the town was known as Thillai. Chidambaram, the name of the city and the temple literally means “atmosphere of wisdom”, the temple architecture symbolizes the connection between the arts and spirituality, creative activity and the divine. The temple wall carvings display all the 108 karanas from the Natya Shastra by Bharata Muni, and these postures form a foundation of Bharatanatyam, a classical Indian dance.

The temple complex is spread over an area of 40 acres (160,000 m2) in the heart of the city. The main complex is dedicated to Shiva Nataraja and the complex contains shrines to deities such as Shivakami Amman, GaneshMurugan and Vishnu in the form Govindaraja Perumal

The temple is one of the five elemental lingas in the Shaivism pilgrimage tradition, and considered the subtlest of all Shiva temples. The Nataraja temple has ancient roots, likely following the temple architecture tradition that is found all over South India from at least the 5th century.

Thillai Natarajar temple is one of the Pancha (five) Bhoota (elements) Sthalam (place). (Please visit this post for more explanation on this).

Pancha Bhootham refers to the five prime elements of nature viz., Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. In Tiruvannamalai templeShiva is said to have manifested himself in the form of massive column of fire, In Thiruvanaikaval temple, Shiva represents water element where the appu lingam is submerged in water, In Chidambaram, empty space is worshiped as Shiva (akasha lingam) to signify God is beyond human comprehension. Unlike the other temples, this one does not contain a physical stone linga, while Kalahasti is representation of the airy element and Kanchipuram Ekambareswarar Temple is representation of the element Earth.

For more information on Thillai Nataraja temple, Please visit the Wiki Page: Thillai Nataraja temple.

Govindaraja Perumal Temple, Chidamabaram

Govindaraja Perumal Temple or Thiruchitrakoodam in Chidambaram in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, is dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. The temple is inside the premises of Thillai Nataraja Temple, constructed in the Tamil architecture. The temple is glorified in the Divya Prabandha, the early medieval Tamil canon of the Azhwar saints from the 6th–9th centuries AD. It is No.23 in the list of 108 Divyadesam dedicated to Vishnu, who is worshipped as Govindaraja and his consort Lakshmi as Pundarikavalli. Alwars. Kulashekhara Alwar mentions this temple as Tillai Chitrakutam and equates Chitrakuta of Ramayana fame with this shrine. The shrine has close connections with the Govindaraja temple in Tirupati dating back to saint Ramanuja of the 11-12th century.

For more information on Govindaraja Perumal Temple, Please visit the Wiki Page: Govindaraja Perumal Temple.

Amritsar

Yesterday, we travelled to one of the northern most states of India, Uttarakhand and visited the most revered places of pilgrimage, Haridwar and Rishikesh. Today, we are going to the most north western state of the country, Punjab , renowned as the land of hospitality, and going to visit the heritage city, Amritsar.

Amritsar, historically also known as Rāmdāspur and colloquially as Ambarsar, is a city in north-western India, in the Indian state of Punjab. The city is situated 217 km (135 mi) northwest of state capital Chandigarh and 455 km (283 miles) northwest of New Delhi, the national capital. It is near Pakistan, with the Wagah Border  (please see pictures) being only 28 km (17.4 mi) away.

Amritsar is well renowned for its:

  1. Golden Temple
  2. Durgiana Temple
  3. Jalianwala Bagh
  4. Attari-Wagah Border Retreating Ceremony

The Golden Temple

Amritsar is home to the Harmandir Sahib, popularly known as “the Golden Temple,” (please see pictures) one of Sikhism’s most spiritually significant and most-visited gurudwaras.

For more information on The Golden Temple, Please visit the Wiki Page: Golden Temple.

Durgiana Temple

As mentioned in the great epic RamayanaSita gave birth to Lava and Kusha, sons of Lord Rama at Ramtirth ashram. Large number of people visit Ramtirth Temple at annual fair and nearby cities to Amritsar, Lahore and Kasurwere said to be founded by Lava and Kusha, respectively. During Ashvamedha Yagna by Lord Rama, Lava and Kush captured the ritual horse and tied Lord Hanuman to a tree near to today’s Durgiana Temple. (please see pictures).

For more information on Durgiana Temple, Please visit the Wiki Page: Durgiana Temple.

Jalianwala Bagh Massacre

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre, (please see pictures) involving the killings of thousands of Indian civilians on the orders of a senior British military officer, Reginald Edward Harry Dyer, took place on 13 April 1919 in the heart of Amritsar, the holiest city of the Sikhs, on a day sacred to them as the birth anniversary of the Khalsa (Vaisakhi day).

For more information on the Jalianwala Bagh Massacre, Please visit the Wiki Page: Jalianwala Bagh Massacre.

Attari-Wagah Border Retreating Ceremony

Attari, also spelled Atari, is a village of Amritsar District in the Punjab state of India, 3 km from the Indo-Pakistani border at Wagah. It is situated 25 km west of the Sikh holy city of Amritsar, and is the last Indian station on the rail route connecting LahorePakistan with the Indian capital Delhi. Wagah or Wahga is a village and union council (UC 181) located in the Wahga Zone of LahorePunjabPakistan. Wagah is situated 600 metres (2,000 ft) west of the border and lies on the historic Grand Trunk Road between Lahore and Amritsar in India. The border is located 24 kilometres (15 mi) from Lahore and 32 kilometres (20 mi) from Amritsar. It is also 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) from the bordering village of Attari.

The lowering of the flags ceremony at the AttariWagah border is a daily military practice that the security forces of India (Border Security Force, BSF) and Pakistan (Pakistan Rangers) have jointly followed since 1959. The drill is characterized by elaborate and rapid dancelike manoeuvres and raising legs as high as possible, which have been described as “colourful”. It is alternatively a symbol of the two countries’ rivalry, as well as brotherhood and cooperation between the two nations.

For more information on Attari-Wagah border retreating ceremony, Please visit the Wiki Page: Attari-Wagah border retreating ceremony.

Haridwar and Rishikesh

Lakshman Jhoola Suspension Bridge, Rishikesh

Yesterday we visited the west end of India, Gujarat, Somnath, Today we travel to one of the northern most states of the country, Uttarakhand, the holy state where we are going to visit Haridwar Rishikesh and the Gods and Goddesses of Haridwar Rishikesh. Haridwar and Rishikesh areone of the many picturesque regions of the country and is a treat for connoisseurs of photography because of the beauty of River Ganges. The twin towns are one of the most frequently places visited by tourists outside the country and within the country as well!

Haridwar

Haridwar, also spelled Hardwar, is an ancient city and municipality in the Haridwar district of Uttarakhand, India. The River Ganga, after flowing for 253 kilometres (157 mi) from its source at Gaumukh at the edge of the Gangotri Glacier, enters the Gangetic Plain for the first time at Haridwar, which gave the city its ancient name, Gangadwára.

Haridwar or Hardwar is regarded as one of the seven holiest places (Sapta Puri) to Hindus. According to the Samudra manthan Haridwar along with UjjainNashik and Prayagraj (Allahabad).

Hari means “Lord Vishnu“. So, Haridwar stands for “The Gateway to Lord Vishnu”. In order to reach Badrinath, one of the four Char Dhams, with a temple of Lord Vishnu, Haridwar is a typical place to start a pilgrim’s journey. Therefore, the name Haridwar.

On the other hand, in SanskritHara means “Lord Shiva” and Dwara means “gate” or “gateway”. Hence, Hardwar stands for “Gateway to Lord Shiva”. Hardwar has been a typical place to start a pilgrim’s journey in order to reach Mount Kailash, the eternal abode of Lord Shiva, Kedarnath, the northernmost Jyotirlinga and one of the sites of the smaller Char Dham pilgrimage circuit and Gaumukh, the source of River GangaHar ki Pauri or footsteps of Lord Shiva is considered the most sacred site in Hardwar.

In Hindu traditions, the ‘Panch Tirth‘ (Five Pilgrimages) within Haridwar, are “Gangadwar” (Har ki Pauri), Kushawart (Ghat in Kankhal), Bilwa Tirtha (Mansa Devi Temple) and Neel Parvat (Chandi Devi Temple). There are several other temples and ashrams located in and around the city. Alcohol and non-vegetarian food is not permitted in Haridwar.

Haridwar is one of the most important pilgrimage centres in the country. I just mention some of the notable places of interest:

For more information on Haridwar, Please visit the Wiki Page: Haridwar.

Rishikesh

Rishikesh, also known as Hrishikesh is in Dehradun district of the Indian state Uttarakhand. Located in the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India, it is known as the “Gateway to the Garhwal Himalayas” and “Yoga Capital of the World“. It lies approximately 25 km (16 mi) north of the city Haridwar and 43 km (27 mi) southeast of the state capital Dehradun. It is known as the pilgrimage town and regarded as one of the holiest places to Hindus. Hindu sages and saints have visited Rishikesh since ancient times to meditate in search of higher knowledge.

In September 2015, the Union tourism minister Mahesh Sharma announced that Rishikesh and Haridwar will be the first in India to be given the title of “twin national heritage cities”. Due to the religious significance of the place, non-vegetarian food and alcohol are strictly prohibited in Rishikesh.

Hṛṣīkeśa” (Sanskrit: हृषीकेश) is a name of Vishnu composed of hṛṣīka meaning ‘senses’ and īśa meaning ‘lord’, thus ‘Lord of the Senses. Rishikesh has been a part of the legendary ‘Kedarkhand’. 

Lord Rama did penance here for killing Ravana, the asura king of Lanka; and Lakshmana, his younger brother, crossed the river Ganges, at a point, where the present ‘Lakshman Jhula‘ (लक्ष्मण झूला) bridge stands today, using a jute rope bridge.  

Shatrughna Mandir, Bharat Mandir, Lakshman Mandir are the ancient temples established by Adi Shankaracharya. Shatrughna Temple is near Ram Jhula and Lakshman Mandir is near Lakshman Jhula.

For more information on Rishikesh, Please visit the Wiki Page: Rishikesh.

Somnath

Yesterday we visited the KrishnaBhoomi, the twin cities of Mathura and Vrindavan, the place of birth and childhood pastimes of Lord Shri Krishna. Today we are going to Somnath, the place where the extinction of the Yadu dynasty and the disappearance of Lord Shri Krishna took place from the face of the planet Earth after performing his pastimes.

Somnath

Somnath is also called as “Prabhasa Kshetram” or “Prabhas Pathan” is a town situated near VeravalGir Somnath district in Saurashtra region of Gujarat, India. It is located about 7 km. from Veraval. Somnath temple, a place of pilgrimage due to its importance as Jyotirlinga site dedicated to Shiva, is located here.

Somnath is also called as “Prabhasa Kshetram” or “Prabhas Pathan” is a town situated near VeravalGir Somnath district in Saurashtra region of Gujarat, India. It is located about 7 km. from Veraval. Somnath temple, a place of pilgrimage due to its importance as Jyotirlinga site dedicated to Shiva, is located here.

For more information on Somnath, Please visit the Wiki Page: Somnath.

Important places of pilgrimage in Somnath include:

Somnath Temple

The Somnath temple located in Prabhas Patan near Veraval in Saurashtra on the western coast of Gujarat, is believed to be the first among the twelve jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva. It is an important pilgrimage and tourist spot of Gujarat. According to tradition, the Shivalinga in Somnath is one of the 12 jyotirlingas in India, where Shiva is believed to have appeared as a fiery column of light. The jyotirlingas are taken as the supreme, undivided reality out of which Shiva partly appears. Each of the 12 jyotirlinga sites take the name of a different manifestation of Shiva. At all these sites, the primary image is a lingam representing the beginning-less and endless stambha (pillar), symbolizing the infinite nature of Shiva. In addition to the one at Somnath, the others are at VaranasiRameswaramDwarka, etc.

Triveni Sangam

The confluence of three rivers: Kapila, Hiran and Sarasvati is a sacrosanct locale highly revered by Hindus as the Moksha Teerth. This is the place where the three blessed rivers flow into the Arabian Sea. As the sea is the ultimate destination of a river, obtaining Moksha is the ultimate goal of the human life. The three rivers Saraswati, Kapil and Hiran stand for the three stages of the life; birth, life and death. Triveni Sangam Snanghat is the sacred site for taking a divine and sin cleansing dip in the Triveni Sangam. 

Parsuram or Parshuram Temple] – located to the right of the road to triveni sangam, opposite to Rudralay temple, is popular among devotees. Lord Parshuram, the son of Goddess Renuka and a pious sage Jamadagni is believed to be the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu and one of the seven immortals (chiranjiv) as stated in Hindu scriptures.

Balaji Temple – built in Dravidian style is located close to the Main circle leading to Somnath Mandir.

Panch Pandava Gufa] [Hinglaj Mata Gufa] – established near Lalghati in Somnath, close to Suraj Mandir is a cave temple that was expanded to present form in 1949 by the late Baba Narayandas. The pandav brothers, during their exile, are believed to have done penance in the caves in order to impress Lord Shiva. 

Gita Mandir, Somnath – also known as Birla Mandir, placed at the confluence of three holy rivers known as Triveni Tirtha, is a Krishna temple built by Birla family in 1970. As the legend goes, the Gita Mandir is nested at the very exact spot where Lord Sri Krishna after being shot by a hunter at the Bhalka Teerth had rested for a while.

Lakshminarayan Temple, Somnath – located adjacent to the Gita Mandir along river Hiren is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Goddess Laxmi. Positioned along the pristine Beachside this Mandir is revered for enshrining the divine ‘Shree vigraha’ of Bhagwan Laxminarayan. Supposed to be fashioned after the Laxminarayan Temple of Badrinath, this temple is built in modern Indian style of architecture.

For more information on The Somanth Temple, please visit the Wiki Page: Somnath Temple.

Vrindavan

Lord Shri Krishna Subduing the snakeKaliya, Yamuna River, Vrindavan

Lord Ranganatha Temple, Vrindavan

Vrindavan is a historical city in the Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh, India. It is one of the main locations in the Braj Bhoomi region, and is also where, Lord Shri Krishna spent his childhood days. The town is about 11 km away from Mathura, Krishna’s birthplace on the AgraDelhi highway (NH 2). The town hosts many temples dedicated to the worship of Radha and Krishna and is considered sacred by Vaishnavism.

The ancient Sanskrit name of the city, Vṛndāvana, comes from its groves of vṛndā (holy basil Ocimum tenuiflorum) and vana (a grove or forest).

Vrindavan is a center of Krishna worship and the area includes places like Govardhana and Gokul that are associated with Krishna. Millions of devotees of Radha Krishna visit these places of pilgrimage every year and participate in a number of festivals.

Vrindavan, the land of Radha Rani, the City of Temples has more than 1000 temples to showcase the pastimes of Radha and Krishna.

Some of the post prominent temples that are most commonly visited by pilgrims include:

and many many more…

For more information on Vrindavan, please visit the Wiki Page: Vrindavan.

Mathura

Yesterday, we visited Noida, a satellite city of Delhi and saw the two most important temples, ISKCON Noida and Sri Aadi Sankaracharya Temple located there.

Today, we are going to visit the twin cities of Mathura and Vrindavan, a very important pilgrimage, historical and heritage site that has more than a thousand temples to showcase the multifarious incarnations of Lord Shri Krishna and the pastimes of Lord Shri Krishna and Shrimati Radharani.

Birth Place of Lord Balarama – Elder brother of Lord Krishna.

Lord Shri Krishna

Mathura is a city in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It is located approximately 50 kilometres (31 mi) north of Agra, and 145 kilometres (90 mi) south-east of Delhi; about 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) from the town of Vrindavan, and 22 kilometres (14 mi) from Govardhan.

Mathura is the birthplace of Lord Shri Krishna, which is located at the Krishna Janmasthan Temple Complex. It is one of the Sapta Puri, the seven cities considered holy by Hindus. The Kesava Deo Temple was built in ancient times on the site of Krishna’s birthplace (an underground prison).

Mathura has been chosen as one of the heritage cities for the Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana scheme of Government of India.

Mathura is a holy city for people practicing Sanatana Dharma, loosely called as Hinduism, the world’s third-largest religion. There are many places of historic and religious importance in Mathura and its neighbouring towns. The twin-city to Mathura is Vrindavan. As the home of Krishna in his youth, the small town is host to a multitude of temples of Lord Shri Krishna in various forms or avatars. Some notable religious sites in and around Mathura are:

For more information of Mathura, Please visit the Wiki Page: Mathura.