famous temples in south india

13 Famous Temples in South India to Visit

As you travel around South India, you’ll find many incredible temples.  These gorgeous temples reflect the incredible cultural and religious variety of India. You won’t be able to visit them all, India is a massive country after all and the area of South India is vast.  So our guide here details the most famous temples of South India, where to find them, what to expect, and practical information on visiting South India’s temples.


13 Famous Temples in South India to Visit

There is a great variety in design, build, and access to these top South Indian temples, and while many date back centuries, others are relatively new.  Here are the most famous South Indian temples to explore.  We’ve marked them all on our map and we recommend traveling around India by train, which is both great fun.


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1.     Adi Kumbeswarar, Tamil Nadu

One of the most colorful temples in South India is the temple of Adi Kumbeswarar, located in the city of Kumbakonam. This is an extraordinary construction covered with finely carved and painted sculptures of the deities.

This is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, and it consists of four gateway towers, you’ll find it in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

  • Opening times of Adi Kumbeswarar Temple:  Open daily from 06:00 to 12:30 and from 16:00 to 21:30
  • Address of Adi Kumeswarar Temple:  Thanjavur Main Road, Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu 612001, India
  • Entry Free for Adi Kumeswarar Temple: Free

2. The Great Living Chola Temples, Tamil Nadu

*Credit to Madhurima Chakraborty of Orange Wayfarer

The Living Chola Temples of Thanjavur are some of the finest temples in South India, if not the world! One of the most beautiful and safe places to visit in India, these thousand years old Chola temples are a world UNESCO heritage site and remain off the beaten path of the regular tourist trail. The Living Chola temples are revered among the locals and regular worship takes place.

The Living Chola Temples are a cluster of three temples spread across an area of more than 80 kilometers (50 miles).  Needless to say, countless smaller temples adorn the nearby villages, each astounding with iconic Gopuram (the crowned entrance). However, the three temples mentioned here are the most elegant of them all with an impressively large structure. Together, they are an apostle of iconic Dravidian art and architecture.

Brihadisvara Temple

The Brihadisvara Temple at the Thanjavur is the oldest of the Living Chola Temples. Built by King Raja Raja 1, the temple houses one of the largest Shiva Linga, a Nataraja statue (the dancing pose of Shiva), incredibly detailed inscriptions, murals, and corridors.

The Shikhara of the temple is carved out of a single rock. Brihadisvara temple was one of the largest temples in the world at the time of its construction and contains the tallest Shikhara in South India.

Close to it, there is the Airavatesvara Temple. Though significantly smaller than the first one, Airavatesvara Temple is often termed “Poetry written on the stone” for its beautiful illustrations of the temple wall. Airavatesvara means the Elephant God and you will find multiple elephant motifs here.

Gangaikonda Cholapuramis the last addition to the temple complex, with an enormous Nandi (the Bull worshipped as Shiva’s Bahan) and elaborate design.  

  • Opening times of the Great Living Chola Temples:  Open daily from 08:30 to 21:00
  • Address of the Great Living Chola Temples:  The Brihadisvara Temple Complex, Thanjavur, India
  • Entry Fee of the Great Living Chola Temples:  Free

3.     Ramanathaswamy Temple, Tamil Nadu

Another stunning temple located in the state of Tamil Nadu, Ramanathaswamy is one of the main holy sites for Hindus.

Ramanathaswamy Pilgrims

It is associated with Lord Rama and his wife Sita, who built temples here to atone for Rama killing the demon Ravana, a fellow Brahmin.  You’ll need to wear modest clothing.

  • Opening times of the Ramanathaswamy Temple:  Open daily from 04:30 to 13:00 and from 15:00 to 20:30
  • Address of the Ramanathaswamy Temple:  Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu
  • Entry Fee of the Ramanathaswamy Temple:  Free, but there is a 25 INR Camera fee.

4. Kapaleeshwarar Temple, Chennai, Tamil Nadu

*Credit to Priya Vin of Outside Suburbia

Kapaleeshwarar Temple is located in the middle of the city of Chennai in Tamil Nadu and is easy to get to. It is one of the most visited temples in the city but still a very peaceful place.

The famous Kapaleeshwarar temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is one of the nicest temples in South India and a gorgeous example of Tamil architecture, The temple was built in the 7th century. Built in Dravidian style, it is one of the oldest temples in Chennai. The temple complex consists of several mandapas, gopuras, and halls with carved pillars, and a waterbody just outside the temple walls.

Kapaleeshwarar temple

The temple mandapam features intricately sculptured deities. There are separate temples for Lord Ganesha, Murugan, Shaniswer, and goddess Parvathi inside the complex.

Devotees come for Puja Services which occurs several times during the day – Kala Santhi in the morning, Uchchikala at Mid-day, and Sayamkala in the evenings.  Late nights there is Ardhajama puja performed before the gates are closed. The aarathi consists of the waving of lights and the sounds of bells.

Non-Hindus are not allowed inside the main shrine, if you are visiting as a tourist you can walk in the temple premises admiring the beauty of the temple from outside. You can take photos of the temple from the outside but not inside the shrines.

  • Opening times of the Kapaleeshwarar Temple:  Open daily from 05:00 to 21:00 Tuesdays to Sundays
  • Address of the Kapaleeshwarar Temple:  234, Ramakrishna Mutt Rd, Vinayaka Nagar Colony, Mylapore, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600004, India
  • Entry Fee of the Kapaleeshwarar Temple:  Free

5. Arunachalesvara Temple, Tamil Nadu

*Credit to Wendy Werneth of The Nomadic Vegan

Arunachalesvara Temple is located in the city of Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu and is also known as Annamalaiyar Temple. It’s the largest temple in India that’s dedicated to Shiva, and at this temple, he is worshiped in the form of a column of fire. Every month on the night of the full moon, devotees perform a moonlit pilgrimage where they circumambulate the hill behind the temple at night.

The biggest celebration of all is the Karthikai Deepam festival, which is celebrated during the full moon in the month of Karthikai, which falls in November or December. On this date, a fire is lit on the top of the hill to represent Shiva. According to legend, this is where he appeared in the form of a column of fire to give light to Earth once again after Parvati playfully closed his eyes and inadvertently cast the world into eternal darkness.

Arunachalesvara Temple

Even if you aren’t able to visit during a full moon celebration, it’s worth coming at any time of year to see the impressive temple’s architecture. Its most important features are the four gateway towers (gopurams) standing at each of the four points of the compass. Not many foreign tourists come here, but you are welcome to visit as long as you dress conservatively (cover your knees and shoulders).

Tiruvannamalai is easy to reach by train or by car and makes a convenient stop between Bangalore and Pondicherry.  It’s best to come in the early morning or late afternoon, as the midday heat makes the paving stones unbearably hot on your bare feet, and neither socks nor shoes are allowed in the temple.

  • Opening times of the Arunachalesvara Temple:  Open daily from 05:30 to 12:30 and from 15:30 to 21:30
  • Address of the Arunachalesvara Temple: Pavazhakundur, Tiruvannamalai, Annamalai R.F., Tamil Nadu
  • Entry Fee of the Arunachalesvara Temple:  Free

6. Badami Cave Temples, Karnataka

Religious buildings often pop up in the most inventive locations, and the Badami Cave Temples are (not surprisingly, given the name) carved into sandstone hills. Located in the southwestern state of Karnataka, the caves present some of the earliest known instances of Hindu temples.

The temples date back to the 6th century when they were erected on the banks of a man-made lake. There are four temples in the complex, which means it will take you a while to visit. Cave Four is actually a Jain temple.

Badami Cave Temples

The temples are located about 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) from Badami, which can be reached by train from Bangalore. There are usually lots of monkeys roaming around the temple, so make sure not to carry any food with you and to hold on to your belongings and watch out for your sunglasses!

  • Opening times of the Badami Cave Temples:  Open daily from 09:00 to 17:30
  • Address of the Badami Cave Temples:  Badami, Karnataka 587201, India
  • Entry Fee for the Badami Cave Temples:  500 INR

7. Iskcon Temple, Bangalore, Karnakata

*Credit to Penny Fernandes of Globe Trove

There are many different temples in India and if you have traveled extensively through the country, you will have noticed that the architecture changes according to the region that you are in. You will also notice that the architecture changes depending on when the temple was constructed.

One iconic temple that ranks high on everyone’s itinerary in Bangalore is the ISKCON temple. Located in the heart of the city, this temple has the signature peaked roof that is commonly seen in temples in south India. Unlike the other temples, however, this one is painted white instead of a myriad of colors.

The temple is really large and is dedicated to the Hindu deities Radha and Krishna. You will find separate areas for prayer as you walk up the flights of stairs to the main prayer area.  One intriguing thing that you will notice upon visiting this temple is that it has a mall attached to it. The mall area consists of vendors selling ‘prasad’ or ‘food that has been offered to the Gods’. Everyone and anyone can buy the prasad and you don’t have to be a Hindu to do so.

Like all Hindu temples, you do have to leave your footwear outside or in your car.

  • Opening times of the ISKCON Temple:  Open daily from 07:15 to 13:00 and from 16:15 to 20:20
  • Address of the ISKCON Temple:  Hare Krishna Hill, Chord Rd, Rajajinagar, Bengaluru, Karnataka 560010 Entry Fee of the ISKCON Temple:  Free.

8. Chennakesava Temple, Karnakata

*Credit to Uprooted Traveler

Hidden amongst dense jungle, the town of Belur provides several stunning examples of the impressive craftsmanship and architecture present throughout southern India. One of the town’s finest examples is the extraordinarily photogenic Chennakesava Temple, one of the most beautiful temples in South India.

No visitor here will be surprised that it reportedly took over 100 years to erect the shrine which was completed in 1117 A.D.- every single surface is covered in impossibly intricate carvings into soapstone, with a seemingly endless number of beautiful sculptures flanking each building.

To enter this temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, you will pass through a 100-foot gateway with rows and rows of carved idols soaring above your head. Before you leave, make sure to check out the 645 elephants carved at the bottom of the temple’s outer wall- no two elephants are the same!

  • Opening times of the Chennakesava Temple:  Open daily from 07:30 to 18:30
  • Address of the Chennakesava Temple:  Temple Rd, Belur, Karnataka 573115, India
  • Entry Fee of the Chennakesava Temple:  Free

9. The Bull Temple, Bangalore, Karnakata

*Credit to Nikki of She Saves She Travels

One of the best temples in India is the Bull Temple. Also known as Sri Doddabasavanna Temple, which is dedicated to the Lord Shiva. It’s a unique temple with a massive granite bull inside. It’s also one of the things that Bangalore is known for.

The legend behind this bull is very interesting. Hundreds of years ago, the area was farmland, and a bull was a nuisance to the farmers. It grazed on the peanuts and groundnut crops. So one day a farmer beat it over the head with a stick. The bull sat down, turned to stone, and grew day by day.

Bull Temple Bangalore

Worried, the farmers prayed to Lord Shiva for help. A trident was placed on the bull’s forehead which made it stop growing. A temple was built right on the spot. The impressive bull still rests inside, at 4.5 meters (14.7 feet) high and 6.5 meters (21.3 feet) long.

As you approach the temple, you’ll see a marketplace where many items are available to purchase. Peanuts are a popular item for sale and many visitors purchase them based on their significance to the Bull Temple.

  • Opening times of the Sri Doddabasavanna Temple:  Open daily from 06:00 to 20:00.
  • Address of the Sri Doddabasavanna Temple:  Steps to Bull Temple, Basavanagudi, Bengaluru, Karnataka
  • Entry Fee of the Sri Doddabasavanna Temple:  Free.

10. Hampi, Karnataka

*Credit to Ellis of Backpack Adventures

Hampi is famous for its 14th-century temples when it was the capital of the Vijayanagara kingdom. Hundreds of temple ruins and other impressive archeological sites remain, but the Virupaksha temple stands out. Not only because it is older than most temples in Hampi, but also because it is the only still active temple for Hindus.

Since the 7th century, the temple attracts hundreds of people that come to worship Shiva. Therefore Virupaksha is one of the few temples that predate the Vijayanagara Empire.  It was a small shrine back then and it is not known who exactly built the first structure. Throughout the years different people made it into a large complex.

Hampi Temples

When Hampi was destroyed by Muslim armies in 1565 the temple was also damaged, but even then worshipping continued. Nowadays it attracts both tourists and pilgrims and it is considered the most sacred temple in Hampi

When visiting the temple, dress modestly and beware of the cheeky monkeys and Laxmi, the temple elephant. To avoid the crowds and the heat of the day it is best to visit early morning or late afternoon.

Make sure to also visit Vittala, close to the banks of the Tungabhadra River and dating back to the 15th century. It is famed for its ‘musical pillars’, each of which makes a different musical note when tapped making it one of the most unique temples in India.

  • Opening times of the Hampi Temples:  Open daily from 06:00 to 19:00.
  • Address of the Hampi Temples:  Hampi, Karnataka 583239, India
  • Entry Fee of the Hampi Temples:  500 INR for Foreign visitors

11. Pattadakal Temples, Karnakata

*Credit to Mar Pages of Once in a Lifetime Journey

The cluster of Temples of Pattadakal is a beautiful UNESCO-listed complex in Karnataka that was built in the 8th century. The compound of Jain and Hindu temples sits equidistant between Aihol and the Badami Cave along the banks of the Malaprabha River. The area is considered holy as the river turns upward towards the Himalayas and Mount Kailash.

What makes Pattadakal one of the most beautiful temples in India and most appealing is its architecture which is a blend of Northern and Southern Indian methods and styles and is a really good spot to take some photos. In fact, there are 150 monuments built in red rock to choose from in the spacious and sparse grounds. Some, like Galaganatha temple, are small and in ruins while others, like Virupaksha temple, are well preserved and much larger.

Temples of Pattadakal

Opening times during monsoon season may differ depending on the weather. Due to monsoons in the summer, the best time to visit is during winter from October to March. There are a few facilities in the area like squat toilets (bring your own paper), signs stating the availability of Wifi, and a few stalls outside selling snacks and drinks.

  • Opening times of the Pattadakal Temples:  Open daily from 08:00 to 18:00
  • Address of the Pattadakal Temples:  Pattadakal, Karnataka 587201, India
  • Entry Fee of the Pattadakal Temples:  500 INR for Foreign visitors

12. Babulnath Temple, Mumbai

*Credit to Devashree Sanghvi of The Crazy Indian Foodie

The Babulnath Temple in Mumbai is one of the city’s oldest temples and is home to Lord Shiva, a popular and powerful deity in Hinduism.  Originally built in the 12th century by a Hindu King, this temple was destroyed and later rebuilt after some of its idols were discovered and unearthed. The structure we see today was built in the late 1800s and later revamped over the years. This beautiful temple is located on a small hill in the heart of the city where devotees trek up to seek blessings of the sacred shivling.

The temple itself is adorned with intricately carved walls, massive hallways with paintings depicting the life of Lord Shiva, and ceilings that have magnificent carvings featuring elements of Hindu mythology. It’s a delight to the eyes and will leave you spellbound. There are also other deities like Lord Ganesh and Parvati with small mini temples along the trek to the main shivling.

  • Opening times of the Babulnath Temple:  Open daily from 06:00 to 22:00
  • Address of the Babulnath Temple:  16, Babulnath Rd, Charni Road, Babulnath, Dadi Sheth Wadi, Malabar Hill, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400007, India
  • Entry Fee of the Babulnath Temple:  Free.

13. The Meenakshi Temple of Madurai, Tamil Nadu

*Credit to Elisa of World in Paris

The Meenakshi Temple is a religious complex located in the city of Madurai, in Southern India. The origins of this temple are complex but go back 3500 years ago when the god Indra built a small tower over a natural form with a shape of lingan, as a sign of devotion to Shiva. Other gods followed this worship and witnessing such a miracle the local king decided to build a temple on this site.

Meenakshi Temple

Today the religious complex is as big as a town in India, bordered by high walls and numerous towers. The Meenakshi Temple hosts 2 main sanctuaries and many shrines dedicated to different gods. Even if the origins of the temple are much older, most of the current constructions were built during the 16th and 17th century

At the Meenakshi Temple there are spaces for everyone: quiet corners, busy halls and sacred spaces accessible only to Hindus. There’s also a water tank or reservoir for ritual bathing.

  • Opening times of the Meenakshi Temple:  Open daily from 09:00 to 19:00
  • Address of the Meenakshi Temple:  Madurai Main, Madurai, Tamil Nadu 625001, India
  • Entry Fee of the Meenakshi Temple:  Free.

Map of 13 Temples to visit in South India

You can see the full map of 13 South India Temples to visit here.

13 Famous Temples in South India to Visit map

Final Words on the Top 13 Temples in India

These top South Indian temples are truly glorious to visit.  They encompass a variety of styles and each is very different.  Be sure to explore – go early to avoid the heat and be sure to dress appropriately, always cover your shoulders and knees.  Women should generally take a scarf for their head too.

Stock images in this article are courtesy Deposit Photos.

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