10 Famous Ancient Temples in Tamil Nadu – Religious Places

Tamil Nadu is renowned for its rich culture, heritage, and marvellous temples. Temples in Tamil Nadu, the southern state of India are the finest example of our cultural heritage, architecture, and skills of sculptors and artists of that era.

Most of the temples in Tamil Nadu are built in medieval times. Devotees and tourists from all around the world visit these temples in large numbers throughout the year.

Most Popular Temples in Tamil Nadu

  • Shore Temple – Mahabalipuram
  • Ekambareswarar Temple – Kanchipuram
  • Kanchi Kailasanathar Temple – Kanchipuram
  • Adi Kumbeswarar Temple – Thanjavur
  • Arunachalesvara Temple – Thiruvannamalai
  • Srirangam Ranganathaswamy Temple – Srirangam
  • Brihadishvara Temple – Thanjavur
  • Chidambaram Nataraja Temple – Chidambaram
  • Meenakshi Amman Temple – Madurai
  • Ramanathaswamy Temple – Rameswaram

1. Shore Temple – Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu (7th century)

The Majestic Mahabalipuram Shore Temple is a beautiful complex of shrines and temples in Tamil Nadu.

Shore Temple is locally called Alaivay-k-kovil and was built during the 7th century AD. It is the finest early example of medieval southern Indian temple architecture.

The temple complex consists of three separate shrines, two are dedicated to Lord Shiva and one to Lord Vishnu. The Vishnu shrine is the oldest and smallest of the three shrines.

Shore Temple - Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu
Shore Temple (Image Source: Wikimedia)

The Pallavas and Cholas made significant contributions in the construction of the temple but the main credit for the architectural elegance of the temple complex goes to Pallavas King Narasimhavarman II.

Shore Temple has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984.

Indian Dance Festival-Mamallapuram

The Mamallapuram Dance Festival is held every year from Dec-Jan in Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu, organized by the Department of Tourism, Govt. of Tamil Nadu.

This month-long vibrant festival of dance is enjoyed by a large audience and artists of Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Odissi, Mohini Attam, and Kathakali from all around the country take part in this festival and perform against this magnificent backdrop of the Pallava rock sculptures.

Temple Timings: 06:00 to 18:00 Hours

The best time to visit the Shore temple is during the months of October to March. Sunrise and sunset add scenic charm to the temple and therefore it should be visited during dawn and dusk.

How To Reach Shore Temple

Hiring regular buses or taxis from anywhere in Tamil Nadu will easily get you to Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram.

Mahabalipuram is well connected to Kanchipuram, Pondicherry, and other nearby tourist areas.

2. Ekambareswarar Temple – Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu (7th century)

Ekambareswarar Temple is one of the Pancha Bhuta Sthalam temples. The Pancha Bhuta Sthalam means the five temples of the god Shiva, each of which represents one of the five elements of Nature – Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Ether.

Ekambareswarar Temple - Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu
Ekambareswarar Temple (Image Source: Wikimedia)

The temple represents the element earth or Prithvi and the god  Shiva is worshiped as Ekambareswarar or Rajlingeswaram. It is one of the oldest temples in South India located in the town of Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu.

The God Shiva here came to be known as Ekambareswarar or “Lord of Mango Tree”. The sacred mango tree, believed to be more than 3,000 years old, can be seen on the temple premises.

History and Architecture

The Ekambareshwarar Temple is one of the most ancient temples in India and is believed to be in existence since at least 600 CE. The temple finds its mention in the classical Tamil Sangam literature dated 300 BCE.

Initially, the temple was built by Pallavas and rebuilt by the later Chola Kings. During the 15th century, the Vijayanagar kings made a lot of contributions to the temple. 

The temple complex is spread over an area of 23 acres. The innermost precinct is decorated with an array of Shivalingam, one of which is a Sahasra Lingam with 1,008 Siva lingams sculpted on it.

The eleven-storied Raja Gopuram, the entrance tower to the temple is one of the tallest gopurams in India.

Temple Timings- 6:00 am to 12:30 and 4:00to 8:30 pm

💡 Read More: Ekambareswarar Temple – Kanchipuram – Tamil Nadu

How To Reach Ekambareswarar Temple

Chennai International Airport is the nearest airport to the holy city of Kanchipuram, local transport and private taxis can easily be hired directly from the airport. Kanchipuram is well-linked with all major cities via rail and roads.

Regular bus services are available from Chennai (64km), Tirupati (128km), Pondicherry (127km), and Tiruchchirappalli (290km)

3. Kanchi Kailasanathar Temple – Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu (7th century)

The Kailasanathar temple means ‘Lord of Kailasha’ and is also referred to as the Kailasanatha temple. The Pallava-era historic Hindu temple is one of the oldest surviving temples in Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu

Kanchi Kailasanathar Temple - Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu
Kanchi Kailasanathar Temple (Image Source: Wikimedia)

The temple reflects the Dravidian architecture and was built under the reign of the Pallava Dynasty in 700 CE by Narasimhavarman II with additions by Mahendravarman III. 

It is believed that Raja Raja Chola I visited the Kanchi Kailasanathar temple and drew inspiration to build the Brihadeeswara Temple.

The circumambulatory path in the temple is symbolic of life and death, one has to crawl inside the passage and climb several steps to reach the exit.

Earliest Specimen of Hindu Mural Art

The temple is famous for its one of the earliest and finest specimens of Hindu mural art in Tamil Nadu. The same style of murals is also found in the historic paintings in the 8th-century Vaikunthaperumal temple, also in Kanchipuram, and the Ajanta Caves.

Temple Timings: Morning from 6:00 AM – 12:00 PM and Evening from 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM

4. Adi Kumbeswarar Temple – Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu (9th century)

Adi Kumbeswarar Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Shiva and Devi Parvati is depicted as Mangalambigai Amman. The temple is located in the town of Kumbakonam in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu.

The temple has numerous shrines with those of Kumbeswarar and Mangalambigai Amman being the most prominent.

Adi Kumbeswarar Temple –  Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu
Adi Kumbeswarar Temple (Image Source: Wikimedia)

The Adi Kumbeswarar Temple was built by the Chola dynasty in the 9th century and the later expansions are attributed to Vijayanagar rulers of the Thanjavur Nayaks of the 16th century.

The temple complex covers an area of 30,181 sq ft and houses four gateway towers known as gopurams. The tallest is the eastern tower, with 11 stories and a height of 128 feet (39 m)

The temple complex houses many halls; the most notable is the sixteen-pillared hall built during the Vijayanagar period that has all 27 stars and 12 zodiacs sculpted in a single stone.

Mahamaham Festival

The Mahamaham festival takes place once every twelve years during the Tamil Month of Masi (February–March) when lakhs of pilgrims from various parts of India visit Kumbakonam to take a holy bath in the sacred Mahamaham tank which is located in the heart of the town. 

Temple Timings: 6:00 am – 12:30 pm and 4:30 pm – 8:30 pm

How to reach Adi Kumbeswarar Temple

Adi Kumbeswarar Temple is situated on Thanjavur’s main road in Kumbakonam City. It is just 2 km from Kumbakonam Bus Terminal and 2.5 km from the railway station.

Tiruchirappalli International Airport is the nearest to Kumbakonam from where you can get a bus or cab to reach the city easily.

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5. Arunachalesvara Temple – Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu (9th century)

Arunachalesvara Temple also known as Annamalaiyar Temple is one of the Pancha Bhoota Stalas and the temple is associated with the element of fire, or Agni. The temple is dedicated to Shiva and is located at the base of Arunachala Hill in the town of Thiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu.

Arunachalesvara Temple - Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu
Arunachalesvara Temple (Image Source: Wikimedia)

Shiva is worshipped as Arunachalesvara or Annamalaiyar and is represented by the lingam, with his idol referred to as Agni lingam. His consort Parvati is depicted as Unnamalai Amman.

The present structure was built during the Chola dynasty in the 9th century, while later expansions are attributed to Vijayanagara rulers of the Sangama Dynasty (1336–1485 CE), the Saluva Dynasty, and the Tuluva Dynasty (1491–1570 CE)

Ashtalingams (Eight Shiva Lingams)

Arunachaleswarar Temple has eight lingams known as Ashtalingams. Each lingam signifies different directions of the earth and is believed to bless the devotees who undertake Girivalam, a popular religious ritual, with different benefits.

These lingams are named Indralingam, Agnilingam, Yamalingam, Niruthilingam, Varunalingam, Vayulingam, Kuberlingam and Esanyalingam.

Temple timings- Morning from 5.30 am to 12:30 pm and Evening from 3:30 pm to 9:30 pm

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How to reach Arunachalesvara Temple

The nearest town to reach Arunachalesvara Temple is Thiruvannamalai which can be reached by all three modes of transportation from air to rail to the road easily.

Many bus services are also available from Chennai, Salem, Madurai, Tirupathi, and other important cities of Tamil Nadu.

6. Srirangam Ranganathaswamy Temple – Srirangam, Tamil Nadu (10th century)

Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple is one of the largest functioning Hindu temples in India. The temple is dedicated to Ranganatha, a form of Lord Vishnu, and is located in Srirangam, Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu, India.

Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple
Ranganathaswamy Temple (Image Source: Wikimedia)

The Ranganatha Swamy Temple is mentioned in the epic Silapadikaram and Tamil literature of the Sangam era (6th century BCE to the 4th century CE) and is known by different names Periyakovil, Srirangam Tirupati, Thiruvaranga Tirupati, Bhoologa Vaikundam, and Bhogamandabam.

The temple is foremost among the 108 Divya Desams dedicated to the god Vishnu.

The Srirangam temple was first built by the Chola ruler, Dharmavarma, and occupies an area of 155 acres. Later, the temple was rebuilt by Chola King Killivalavan as the Kaveri River flood destroyed the temple Vimanam.

💡 Read More: Largest Hindu Temple in India – Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple


The temple celebrates many festivals and processions throughout the year. Vaikunda Ekadasi a 21-day festival celebrated in the Tamil month of Margazhi (December/January) is one of the most important festivals in the temple.

Temple Timings – 6:00 am to 12:00 pm and 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm

The Sri Ranganathaswamy temple complex has been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is on UNESCO’s tentative list.

How to reach Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple

Public transport or private taxis/cabs can be hired from Mysore. The distance between Mysore and the temple complex is 16 km.

The Srirangapatna Railway Station is just behind the temple complex. Devotees can walk from the station to the temple.

7. Brihadishvara Temple – Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu (11th century)

Brihadishvara Temple also known as Rajarajeswaram temple is a Hindu Dravidian-styled temple located on the banks of the Cauvery River in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu. The glorious temple is one the largest Hindu temples in India.

Brihadishvara Temple - Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu
Brihadishvara Temple (Image Source: Wikimedia)

Dedicated to Shiva, the temple was built by Chola emperor Rajaraja I between 1003 and 1010 CE, the temple is called Dakshina Meru or the Meru of the south. The temple is one of the most visited temples in Tamil Nadu.

The temple is built using granite and the Vimana tower above the shrine is one of the tallest in South India.

Temple Timings – 6:00 am to 12:30 pm and 4:00to 8:30 pm

The temple is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the “Great Living Chola Temples”, along with the Chola dynasty era Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple and Airavatesvara temple.

Brahan Natyanjali Festival – Brihadishvara Temple – Thanjavur

The Brihasdishvara Temple is the site of the annual dance festival Brahan Natyanjali, held every year in February around the Hindu Festival of Mahashivratri.

Prominent Indian classical dance form artists along with some regional teams and artists perform at this Brahan Natyanjali festival for over 10 days.

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How To Reach Brihadishvara Temple

Thanjavur is well-connected to many cities of Tamil Nadu by rail and road. Regular buses and taxes can be hired from cities like Tiruchirapalli, Coimbatore, Pudukottai, etc. Superfast and Express trains along with Jan Shatabdi have stoppages in Thanjavur.

8. Chidambaram Nataraja Temple – Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu (12th century)

The Chidambaram Nataraja Temple is dedicated to Nataraja as the main deity – a form of Lord Shiva – as the lord of the dance. The ancient surviving Hindu temple is located in the town of Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu.

 Chidambaram Nataraja Temple - Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu
Chidambaram Nataraja Temple (Image Source: Wikimedia)

The Chidambaram Temple also referred to as Thillai Nataraja Temple was built in the 10th century by the Chola dynasty. Most of the current structures and plans in the temple complex are from the 12th and 13th centuries, attributed to the late Chola and early Pandya kings.

The architecture of the Chidambaram Temple illustrates a great relationship between the arts, spirituality, creative activity, and the divine.

The wall carvings of Chidambaram Nataraja Temple display all the 108 karanas from the Natya Shastra by Bharata Muni, and these postures form a foundation of Bharatanatyam an Indian classical dance 

Religious Significance of the Temple

The Chidambaram Temple is one of the Pancha Bhuta Sthalam temples where Lord Shiva is represented by an anthropomorphic murti rather than the classic, iconic Lingam.

Lord Shiva is worshipped as “Akasha Lingam” signifying that God is divine and beyond human comprehension. Shiva is portrayed as the master of Koothu-Bharata Natyam in the golden hall of the shrine Pon Ambalam performing the Ananda Tandava (“Dance of Delight”)

Temple Timings – 6.00 am to 12.30 pm and from 4.30 pm to 10.00 pm

💡 Read More: Chidambaram Nataraja Temple – Journey to the Abode of Nataraja

How to reach Chidambaram Temple

Tiruchirappalli is the nearest airport to Chidambaram. You can easily hire a taxi from the airport. It is also well connected by rail and road from the temple towns of Rameswaram, Thanjavur, and Kumbakonam

9. Meenakshi Amman Temple – Madurai, Tamil Nadu (12th century)

Meenakshi Amman Temple is dedicated to the goddess Meenakshi, a form of the Devi Parvati, and her consort, Sundareshwarar, a form of Shiva unlike most Shiva temples in South India where Shiva is the principal deity.

Meenakshi Amman Temple - Madurai, Tamil Nadu
Meenakshi Amman Temple (Image Source: Wikimedia)

It is one of the most famous temples in Tamil Nadu and is visited by devotees and tourists from all around India and the world.

Though the temple has historic roots, most of the present campus structure was rebuilt after the 14th century AC, further repaired, renovated, and expanded in the 17th century by Tirumala Nayaka.

In the early 14th century, the armies of Delhi Sultanate led by Muslim Commander Malik Kafur plundered the temple, looted it of its valuables, and destroyed the Madurai temple town along with many other temple towns of South India

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Aayiram Kaal MandapamThe Hall of Thousand Pillars

The Hall of Thousand Pillars, or Aayiram Kaal Mandapam is an architectural marvel. The Aayiram Kaal Mandapam literally means ‘hall with a thousand pillars’ and is believed to be built out of a single rock.

Aayiram Kaal Mandapam
Meenakshi Temple, Madurai (Image Source: Wikimedia)

Every pillar is sculpted with the image of Yali, a Hindu mythological creature portrayed with the head and the body of a lion, the trunk, and the tusks of an elephant.

The Aayiram Kaal Mandapam is the largest hall in the temple and has huge statues of Nataraja and Sivakami in the centre of the hall.

Temple Timings – Morning 5.00 am to 12.30 pm and evening from 4.00 pm to 09.30 pm

How to reach Meenakshi Temple

Madurai Airport is located around 12 km away from the city centre. You can easily find a taxi that will drive you to the temple. Many direct trains connect Madurai with major cities and towns of the country. 

Inter-city and inter-state buses ply between Madurai, other major cities of Tamil Nadu, and nearby states on a regular and frequent basis.

10. Ramanathaswamy Temple – Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu (12th century)

Ramanathaswamy Temple is a famous Hindu temple dedicated to god Shiva. The temple attracts millions of devotees and pilgrims every year and is of immense importance to Hindus.

The temple is one of the ‘Char Dham’ four pilgrimage sites every Hindu should visit during their lifetime as defined by Adi Shankaracharya. It is located on Rameswaram island in Tamil Nadu.


According to the Hindu epic Ramayana, Lord Ram prayed to Lord Shiva here to absolve his sins of killing the demon-king Ravana who was also a Brahmin and a great scholar.

Ramanathaswamy Temple - Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu
Ramanathaswamy Temple (Image Source: Wikimedia)

The temple has two lingams, Ramalingam the one built with sand by Devi Sita herself and worshipped by Lord Ram, and Viswalingam the one brought by Lord Hanuman from Kailasha.

The Ramanathaswamy temple is also counted amongst the 12 sacred Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva.


The construction of the temple has been contributed by several rulers over the centuries. The Pandya dynasty in the 12 century made expansions of the temple. The construction of the temple is said to be sanctioned by King Kizhavan Sethupathi or Raghunatha Kilavan. The present structure of the temple is believed to have been built in the 17th century. 

The Ramanathaswamy Temple was constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture. The temple is enclosed by a tall compound wall on all sides and is made of limestone and granite.

The temple has a long set of corridors and the total length of these corridors is thus 3850 feet. The outer corridor of the temple is lined with 1212 carved pillars each with a height of 30 feet and unique compositions.

Temple Timings: 5:00 am to 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

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How to Reach Ramanathaswamy Temple

Rameswaram is well connected by roads to other cities of Tamil Nadu. Regular buses ply from Chennai, Kanyakumari, Madurai, Trichy, and other cities to Rameswaram.

Trains from Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore, Trichy, Thanjavur, Palakkad, and Bengaluru halt at the Rameswaram railway station.

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