The Chalukyas who ruled over Upper Deccan (7th Century AD.) were greatly interested in temple architecture. Followers of Hinduism, they built a number of rock-cut cave-temples and structural temples of brick dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. The important stone temples are the Vishnu temples at Badami and Aihole and the Virupaksha or Shiva Temple at Pattadakal in Bijapur District. The Vishnu temple at Badami was built by Magalesa of the Chaluya Dynasty and contains the Aihole inscription of Vikramaditya II which gives us a lot of information about the Chalukyas. The cave temples especially those at Badami contain fine sculptures of Vishnu reclining on Sesha Nag, Varaha the Boar, Narasimha or the half-lion and half-man and Vamana the dwarf.
The temples at Aihole are closed square mandaps standing on a basement. They have a hall with four central pillars supporting a flat roof. The sloping periphery of the roof is supported on two rows of pillars, the one on the periphery shorter than the other. The space between the two rows of pillars is closed by perforated stone-slabs. The main mandap contains a Nandi. The flat roof has another shrine, the walls of which are made of slabs. The sloping roof helped
The Virupaksna temple at Pattadakal is the earliest temple complex of the Chalukyas. It consists of a high vimana, mandaps and smaller shrines around the courtyard enclosed by a wall. The front and rear walls have large gopura entrances. The smaller shrines are two-storeyed and have vaulted halls. The main square structure has a tall four-storeyed vimana. The mandapa pillars are richly sculptured. The temples at Pattadakal represent both the Northern and Southern style of architecture. .
The large cave temples excavated by the early Chalukyas are located in Badami, Aihole, Ellora and in the Guntur and Krishna districts of Andhra Pradesh. Of the three brahmanical caves at Badami two are dedicated to Vishnu and one to Shiva. These temples consist of a rectangular pillared verandah, a square pillared hall with a small shrine cell at the back. Excavated in an axial plane, they have flat roofs like the mandapa type temples. Wide entrances, tall pillars with cushion type capitals supporting the roof and overhanging eaves are the main features of these cave temples. Figures of animals, humans and divine beings adorn the brackets.
The two cave temples at Aihole are dedicated to Shiva and have rock-cut lingas in them. The cave temples at Ellora are also dedicated to Shiva and contain images of Mahesa, Linga and Nandi. One of the caves is double-storeyed.
The cave temples in Andhra Pradesh contain relief sculptures of Ganesha, Brahma, Vishnu, Linga and Nandi.
Pandya architecture includes both rock-cut and structural temples. The early rock-cut temples have monolithic vimanas. The structural ones are small stone temples and have all the features of bigger temples i.e. vimana, mandapa and sikhara. Groups of small temples are to be seen at Tiruchirapalli district of Tamil Nadu. The Shiva temples have a Nandi in front of the maha mandapa.
The period of the latter Pandya rulers saw the development of elegant vimanas with finely sculptured idols and the gopurams or portals of the temples. The rectangular entrance or portals of the temple are called the gopurams. The portions above the entrance are pyramidal in shape. Gradually the gopurams were given more importance than the sikharas. While the former were higher and more imposing, the latter declined in height. Lofty gopurams of great proportions with lavish decoration were constructed by succeeding dynasties.
The famous Meenakshi Amman temple in Madurai was built initially by the Pandyas in the 6th century and subsequently, rebuilt from ruins between the 16th and 18th centuries by the Nayaks. The most noticeable feature of this Dravidian style temple is the presence of twelve gopurams or towers.
Built by a Pandya king in the 12th century, the Ramanathaswamy Temple has the longest corridor among all Indian temples. Located on an island in the southernmost tip of the Indian peninsula, it’s a place of pilgrimage for both Shaivites and Vaishnavites.
The Chera style of architecture is only one of its kind in Dravidian architecture. The Thirunelli Temple, the Vadakkunnathan Temples, Kodungallur Bhagavathy Temple and Kandiyur Siva Temple are its examples.
The Rastrakutas ruled in the period 753 – 973 CE. They built beautiful Dravidian monuments at Ellora and Elephanta (now known as Maharashtra), such as the Jaina Narayana Temple, Navalinga Temple and the Kailasanatha temple, in the rock cut architecture style. The Rastrakutas constructed 34 temples; all in the rock – cut style. The walls of the temple have sculptures from the Hindu mythology depicting the Dravidian art. The ceilings, too, have beautiful paintings.
Vijayanagara architecture can be broadly classified into religious, courtly and civic architecture, as can the associated sculptures and paintings.The Vijayanagara style is a combination of the Chalukya, Hoysala, Pandya and Chola styles which evolved earlier in the centuries when these empires ruled and is characterised by a return to the simplistic and serene art of the past.
As the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire from the 14th to 16th centuries, Hampi has several temple complexes. The best known of this is the Virupaksha Temple, with its Dravidian style entrance tower that predates the foundation of the empire. The Vittala temple, with its monolithic stone chariot and musical pillars, is another attraction.