Friday, July 4, 2008


"The temple city of Madurai is situated at a distance of 307 miles south of Madras on the main railway line. This is decidedly the oldest city of South India, truly representing Dravidian culture. European scholars have compared it to Athens of Greece. It was in the past the seat of the Tamil Academy (the Tamil Sangam) .... It is estimated that there are 33 million carvings in the Madurai temple. The temple stands in the centre of the town and main roads run roughly parallel to the four sides. A writer has described the architecture as follows: "The architecture is almost purely Dravidian - its characteristics being the pyramidal towers of colossal height dominating the surrounding landscape for miles around; the rectangular enclosures one within the other like a China box; the use of the flat roof and the entire absence of the arch or dome; delicate sculpture worked in ponderous material, and finally a partiality for long galleries interspersed with sculptured pillars..." (R .K.Das in Temples of Tamil Nadu)

"Gopuram, in South Indian architecture, is the entrance gateway to the Hindu temple enclosure. Relatively small in the earlier period, the gopuras grew in size from the mid-12th century until the colossal gateways came to dominate the temple complex, quite surpassing the main sanctum for architectural elaboration.." (Gopurams - Encyclopaedia Britannica)

"...Tirumulla Nayak commenced a gopura, which, had he lived to complete it, would probably have been the finest edifice of its class in southern India. It measures 174 ft. from north to south, and 107 ft. in depth. The entrance through it is 21 ft. 9 in. wide; and if it be true that its gateposts are 6o ft. (Tripe says 57 ft.) in height, that would have been the height of the opening. It will thus be seen that it was designed on even a larger scale than that at Sri Rangam, and it certainly far surpasses that celebrated edifice in the beauty of its details. Its doorposts alone, whether 57 ft. or 6o ft. in height, are single blocks of granite, carved with the most exquisite scroll patterns of elaborate foliage, and all the other carvings are equally beautiful. Being unfinished, and consequently never consecrated, it has escaped whitewash, and alone, of all the buildings of Madura, its beauties can still be admired in their original perfection. The great temple at Madura ...possesses...all the characteristics of a first-class Dravidian temple, and, as its date is perfectly well known, it forms a landmark of the utmost value in enabling us to fix the relative date of other temples. The sanctuary is said to have been built by Viswanath, the first king of the Nayak dynasty, A.D. 1520, which may possibly be the case; but the temple itself certainly owes all its magnificence to Tirumulla Nayak, A.D. 1622-1657, or to his elder brother, Muttu Virappa, who preceded him, and who built a mantapa, said to be the oldest thing now existing here. The Kalyana mantapa is said to have been built A.D. 1707, and the Tatta Suddhi in 1770.These, however, are insignificant parts compared with those which certainly owe their origin to Tirumulla Nayak..." (Temple of Madura )

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