Home - About Temples

Temples have a great significance in our Sanathana Dharma(popularly known as Hinduism). They are not only places of worship but also stand as an irrefutable testimony to the timeless beauty of our culture. They give a splendid exposition of our ancient philosophy, science, rationale and culture. Temples are centers of learning and serve as bridges to transcend the boundaries of vicious circle of birth and death. Ancient temples are built at strategic locations that receive high cosmic energy. Navagraha temples at Kumbakonam exemplify this.

Why should one go to Temples?
As per the scriptures people are broadly categorized into 3 groups based on Samskaras(spiritual maturity):
  1. Mandaadhikaaris
  2. Madhyadhikaaris and
  3. Uttamaadhikaaris
Uttamaadhikaari is a highly evolved spiritual being. He sees God in anything and everything be it animate or inanimate. An Uttamaadhikaari does not have to go to temples. His very body is the temple. Prahlad is the best example for Uttamaadhikaari.
Madhyadhikaari is one whose spirituality is moderately developed.
Mandaadhikaari is one whose spirituality is least developed.

None of us falls into Uttamaadhikaari group so there is a need for us to go to temples.

Temple styles 

Temples are broadly classified(as per Shilpa Shastras) into 3 Architectural styles:
  1. Nagara – Nagara is an architectural choice made for temple construction in North India. These temples are generally quadrangular from base to the Shikaram. The Shikaram remains most prominent while the Gopuram (gateway) remains lowly.
    Some of the temples built on this style are Parsurameswar temple, Khajurao temples, Sun Temple etc.
  2.  Dravida – This style is said to have originated from Tamil Nadu . It is said that the temples situated between Krishna river and Kanyakumari are Dravida. Thiruvannamalai, Madurai Meenakshi temple, Srivilliputtur Andal temple etc. are the examples of this style. 
  3. Vesara – This hybrid style originated from Chalukyas of Karnataka. The style is an amalgamation of Nagara and Dravida Style. Virupaksha temple, Belur, Halebidu, Somanathapura are fine examples of this style. 
The temples are built as per Agamas. Agamas are scriptures that are used as framework for constructing temples. There are Agamas such as Shaiva(focus on Shiva), Vaishnava(focus on Vishnu), Shakta(focus on Devi), Ganapatya(focus on Ganapathy), Soura (focus on Surya),Kaumara(Lord Muruga is the supreme Godhead) etc.

However, the most popular ones are Shaiva, Shakta and Vaishnava Agamas.

There are 28 Shaiva Agamas, 77 Shakta Agamas and 215 Vaishnava Agamas.

The famous Tirumala Tirupathi temple is built based on Vaikhanasa Agama.

How can a temple be compared to the body of God?

Temple is the God Himself lying in supine position. According to the famous verse by Vishwakarma:

“Garbagriha Shirahapoktham Antharalam Galam Thatha Ardha Mandapam Hridayasthaanam Kuchisthaanam Mandapomahan
Medhrasthaaneshu Dwajasthambam Praakaaram Janjuangeecha Gopuram Paadayosketha Paadasya Angula Pokthaha Gopuram Sthupasthathah Yevam Devaalayam Angamuchyathe"

Garba-Griha( sanctum sanctorum) - the Head of God
Ardha Mandapam (the chamber adjoining the Garba-Griha) -  the neck of God
Mahamandapam(the biggest mandapam) - the stomach of God
Dwajasthambam(the flagmast) - the male organ of God
Gopuram(the entrance gateway to the temple enclosure) - the feet of God

Garba-Griha: This is where the Moola Virat(idol of the main deity) is found. Usually only the priests of that temple are allowed to enter it.
Dwajasthambam: The flagmast is an indispensable feature of South Indian temples. This is made up of wood with brass or silver coating to it. Devotees are allowed to prostrate only to Dwajasthambam as prostrating anywhere between the dwajasthambam and the Garba-Griha could offend the deities(due to the extension of legs towards them while prostrating) in the other shrines within the temple. Dwajasthambam symbolises Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara. It receives cosmic energy from the resident deity in the sanctum sanctorum and charges the premises. The ones prostrating facing North at the Dwajasthambam receives the benefit of this cosmic energy. Dwajarohana(flag hoisting), done during Brahmostsavam or any other auspicious activities, is an invitation for the other Gods to attend the event.

Bali Peetam: It is the sacrifical altar near Dwajasthambam. People mistake this to be the pedestal where animal sacrifice is done.We need to sacrifice our tamasic and rajasic qualities before entering the temple. After the naivedyam is offered to the God in Sanctum Sanctorum, naivedyam offered to the kshetrapala and the other parivara devatas at Bali Peetam. In some temples, Bali peetam is found at various places.

We find sentinels (Dwarapalakas) flank the doorways of the temple. This is a widespread feature in almost all the South Indian temples. There can be multiple pairs of dwarapalakas depending on the agamas followed.

Dwarapalakas for some of the famous deities are as follows:
  1. Sri Ganapathy Temple:
    Mandodara(left) – Gundodara(right) [Source: Not known]
  2. Sri Subrahmanya Temple:
    Sumukha(left) – Sudeha(right)[ As per Kumaratantram]
    Jaya(left) – Vijaya(right)[As per Uttara Kaamika Agama]

    During my trip to Tiruttani temple, I happened to see that the 1st doorway is flanked by Jaya(left) and Vijaya(right). On proceeding further, there is another doorway close to Garba-Griha flanked by Sumukha(left) and Sudeha(right).
  3. Shiva Temple:
    Thindi/Dindi (left) – Mundi(right)[ Source: Not known]
    Vimalan(left) – Subhahu(right) [As per Uttara Kaamika Agama]
    Shringi and Bhringi flank the doorway [Source: Not Known] in some temples.
    Some say that there is only Bhringi on both sides of the doorway to expound Advaitha philosophy to the devotees.
  4. Sri Vishnu Temple:Jaya(left) – Vijaya(right)
    There are other pairs of Dwarapalakas (in addition to Jaya-Vijaya)in some temples namely
    Chanda –Prachanda
    Dhatru - Vidhatru
    Bhardra - Subhadra
  5. Devi Temple:
    Shankhanidhi(left) – Padmanidhi(right)[ [Source: Uttara Kaamika Agama]
Gopuram:It is said that even if one is not able to enter the temple for darshan due to various reasons, he can do namaskaram to the gopuram and receive the God's blessings.

Sculptures of an interesting creature seen on temple pillars and walls

Vyali, Yali, Yaliappan, vidala
Yali Pillar
Vidala (in Sanskrit) is a motiff used across South Indian temples for pillar carvings.  Vidalas are believed to protect and guard the temples.
Vidala(a form of Shiva) is a mythological creature also known as Vyala. Vyalas usually have the body of a lion and tail of a serpent with head of some other beast. 
The Vyalas commonly found are Simha Vyalas(lion-headed).

There are other variations of it such as 
 Gaja-vyala(vyala with the tusk of an elephant), Ashwa-vyala(vyala with features of horse),Nir-vyala(vyala with human features incorporated) and Shvana-vyala(vyala with canine features).

Vidala is referred to as Yali or Sharabam in Andhra. It is popularly known as Yaliappan in Tamil Nadu. Poojas as done to Yaliappan during Rahu kaalam at Sri Kurungaleeswarar temple at Koyembedu, Chennai.


  1. Hi Venu,
    Nice, informative blog. Keep writing.

  2. For a person like me who does not understand all this, it is a stepping stone ahead as I got to know few thing about the temple.
    What structure or design of temple do the Dravedian follow, as you have said it is quadilateral in shape for Nagar.

    1. Dravidian Architecture follows Pyramidal shape.

  3. Hi Sir,
    Today i had gone through your blog while i was searching about triranga darshanam on net, just two days back i had been visited triranga darshanam for third time and it is so useful by providing details of temple route and timings. Please keep writing sir


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