Tamil Nadu is packed with history spanning several centuries. The temples in Tamil Nadu have been known throughout history as great markers of the forgotten times. Some of these temples have stood as a testament to their long cultural history, not just as archaeological wonders but as centres of spirituality that have supported generations.
Tamil Nadu has dozens of iconic temples, some dating back to nearly a thousand years. Out of all the other states in India, no other state has matched them in maintaining and restoring these beautiful temples.
Let us look at some of these popular temples in Tamil Nadu and plan a journey with us at Madras Travels and Tours.
The Arulmigu Meenakshi Sundaraswarar is one of the most popular temples in Tamil Nadu. It is known as the Arulmigu Meenakshi Amman Thirukovil and is the most iconic monument in Madurai. Like many temples in Tamil Nadu, especially in the Madurai region, the Meenakshi Amman Temple worships the goddess Meenakshi, an avatar of Shakti and her consort Sundaraswarar.
Built near the end of the 12th Century, the temple was the centre of the cultural moment at the time and boasts an impressive history that was closely tied to the Pandayan royal family. There were times when the temple was destroyed and subsequently rebuilt by the royal family at great expense.
This architectural marvel is also famous for its Central Hall, which has one thousand pillars and many smaller halls within the complex. But the most spectacular sight is the Golden Lotus Pond, which is the sacred water tank of the temple.
The Meenakshi Amman Temple still continues to function as a spiritual centre and caters to thousands of devotees. Be sure to spare an entire day for the visit if you want to thoroughly enjoy the experience and avail all the devotional services offered.
Sun-Sat: 9:00 am – 7:00 pm
The temples in Tamil Nadu are not just spiritual centres, they also serve as heritage centres! A great example of this is the Brihadeeswara Temple in Thanjavur, more popularly known as ‘The Big Temple’. As the name suggests, it is HUGE! One of the biggest temples in Tamil Nadu and definitely one of the oldest, this temple should be part of everyone’s list of temples to visit in the Southern state.
Commissioned by Rajaraja Chola I at the very beginning of the 11th Century and named Rajarajesvaram, it is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the “Great Living Chola Temples”.
This Shaivite temple is most famous for its Vimana Tower, which is one of the tallest in all of Tamil Nadu. Apart from the tower, you can also find beautiful carvings all around the temple. As one of the famous temples in Tamil Nadu known for its stone carvings, it is a must-visit temple for history enthusiasts.
Sun-Sat: 6:00 am – 12:30 pm; 4:00 pm – 8:30 pm
The Bhagavati Kumari Amman Temple is not only one of the most famous temples in Tamil Nadu but is also one of the oldest temples in the nation. This 3000-year-old temple owes its continued existence not to architectural brilliance but to the sheer dedication of its devotees.
Like many temples in Tamil Nadu, this temple is also dedicated to an avatar of Goddess Shakti. The resident deity of the temple, Devi Kanya Kumari, is known as a great protector of the region and lends her name to the district. The fact that the temple has continued to exist for so many years is a clear indication towards the dedication shown by the devotees.
Compared to other temples in this list, the actual history of the temple is not fully known, but the mythos about the Goddess Devi Kanya Kumari directly reference this temple. It is said that the temple was built on the spot where one part of Sati’s spine fell and was consecrated by Lord Parasurama himself.
Dedicated to a virgin goddess, the biggest festivities happen during the Navaratri period, which also happens to be the best time to visit the temple. The temple is situated in a famous tourist town in South India, which makes the trip an exciting one!
Sun-Sat: 4:30 am – 12:30 pm; 4:00 pm – 8:30 pm
As mentioned before, temples in Tamil Nadu are markers of a forgotten age. One of the biggest examples of this is the Thillai Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram, otherwise simply known as the Chidambaram Temple. The ancient temple is the reason why the city itself is known as the ‘stage of consciousness’.
Any person familiar with Indian classical arts should be aware of Nataraja, a form of Shiva in the middle of his iconic dance. This temple pays homage to Nataraja with carvings of 108 karanas from the Natya Shastra by Bharata Muni, which coincidentally forms the basis for Bharatnatyam, the classical dance the state is famous for.
As one of the most famous temples in Tamil Nadu, the Thillai Nataraja Temple has performed its duty as a centre of art and spirituality for over a millennia. The temple was built in the 10th century by the Cholas, back when the place was the capital of their empire and was called Thillai. Ever since then, the temple has been very popular.
They say that the aura of the temple extends throughout the city of Chidambaram and greatly influences your artistic and spiritual side. Visit the temple and experience its spiritual ambience in person!
Sun-Sat: 6:00 am – 12:00 pm; 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Temples are more than architectural structures, they also demonstrate the influences of the empire they were once ruled by. Though in essence, they are still a place of worship and find their roots in religion. The Arulmigu Ramanathaswamy Temple in the island district of Rameswaram is one such temple.
The ancient marvel is known to be the temple where Lord Ram worshipped Lord Shiva before heading out to Lanka. As a temple steeped in Hindu mythology, it has held a special position in the hearts of Hindu devotees.
Most temples in Tamil Nadu worship Lord Shiva, but even among them, this temple is unique. It is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga temples dedicated to Shiva and is also one of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams. To top it off, it is also part of the Char Dham temples, one of the four major pilgrim destinations in India, where Hindu devotees pay their respects to attain moksha.
This makes it not just one of the must-visit temples in Tamil Nadu but also an important destination if one is seeking a wholesome pilgrimage.
Sun-Sat: 4:30 am – 1:00 pm; 3:00 pm – 8:30 pm
The Nagaraja Temple is one of the most unique temples in Tamil Nadu. This temple is incredibly popular for a temple not dedicated to the worship of either Shiva or Vishnu. Temples which worship Nagaraja are mostly seen in South Indian states.
As a temple dedicated to Nagaraja, this place of worship will give you a completely different experience from the standard temples in Tamil Nadu or South India. The unique architecture only adds to the effect. In fact, the unique architecture of the temple has hindered archaeologists and historians from accurately dating the origin of the temple.
Known as the prime temple dedicated to Nagaraja and as the most famous one among them, this temple should always be part of the list of temples to visit in Tamil Nadu if you are going on a more holistic pilgrimage that covers multiple facets of Hinduism.
Sun – Sat: 4:30 am – 12:30 pm; 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm
A legendary temple among the powerful temples in Tamil Nadu, the Kapaleeshwarar Temple in Mylapore, Chennai, is a prime example of Dravidian architecture. Built in the early 7th century, the temple is located in the heart of the capital. As a temple right in the capital, be prepared to tackle the crowd.
It is said that Lord Shiva was once angered by Lord Brahma, forcing him to cut off one of his many heads (kapalams). It was this spot where Lord Bramha offered penance for a long time to appease Lord Shiva’s anger. This is how the name of the temple came to be.
The temple is also a holy site for devotees of Murugan, as this is the place where it is said he received his iconic spear. All in all, this temple has enough weight in Indian mythology to warrant a place in this list.
Sun-Sat: 5:00 am – 12:30 pm; 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Another historical structure that alludes to a different era, the Kanchi Kailasanathar Temple in Kanchipuram, is a temple dedicated to Shiva in Kanchipuram. It is one of the oldest structures present in the district.
Built in the 6th Century, during the Pallava era, this temple is a treat for art and mural lovers. The stone carvings around the temple showcase the best of artistic talents from the Dravidian times and give the temple a surreal feel that takes you on a journey to the distant past.
The entire area around the temple itself is a serene landscape and is much different to the more crowded areas on this list. It is still a temple, and you can feel the spiritual air of the place when you step into the area, but the artistic experience will trump any other feeling you have and let you forget the world around you.
Just for the experience itself, this temple deserves its spot in the must-visit temples in Tamil Nadu. Don’t forget to take some pictures, as you will definitely want to revisit the experience.
Sun-Sat: 9:00 am – 12:30 pm; 4:00 pm – 6:30 pm
A pilgrimage to the temples in Tamil Nadu can never be complete without a visit to one of the most famous temple towns in India. It is said that Brahma’s jug (kumbh), containing all life on Earth, rests here after the dissolution of the universe. This is how this place has come to be known as Kumbakonam. The Tirunageswaram Naganathaswamy Temple is the most famous and most popular temple in the area.
Built in the 10th Century by the Cholas, this is a temple dedicated to Rahu, one of the nine planetary Stalas. Despite being dedicated to Rahu, the temple pays special homage to Shiva like other Chola-era temples. The temple also has a sanctum dedicated to Parvati, the consort of Shiva, like many temples in Tamil Nadu. The mythos behind this temple is about how the God Indra undertook penance here after he was punished by Gautama Maharishi for misbehaving with his wife Ahalya.
The temple may not have the same historical or spiritual magnificence as the other temples on this list, but as the most popular temple in the temple town, the Naganathaswamy Temple is a must-visit destination during any pilgrimage.
Sun-Sat: 6:00 am – 1:00 pm; 4:00 pm – 9:00 pm
As the list has shown so far, the majority of the temples in Tamil Nadu are dedicated to the God Shiva. The Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam in Tiruchirapalli is the exception. As one of the most famous temples dedicated to Vishnu, this popular temple in Tamil Nadu holds a very special place among Vaishnavites. It is also one of the largest functioning Hindu temples in the world.
This temple is considered the most illustrious Vaishnava temple in South India and takes the foremost position among the 108 Divya Desams dedicated to Vishnu. Built somewhere near 100 BCE, this is one of the oldest temples in Tamil Nadu. Beyond that, various allusions in Ramayana and other mythological texts show that this temple could actually be around 2500 to 3000 years old.
According to legend, the temple sprouted up when Brahma was doing a worship of the Cosmic Ocean. It was later brought to Ayodhya and then given to Vibhishana by Ram after the defeat of Lanka. Vibhishana later gifted the temple to a local king named Dharmavarma.
Despite its somewhat illusionary origin, the temple is most famous for its inscriptions and gopurams spread throughout the temple area. This beautiful temple in Tamil Nadu is an absolute treat for art lovers, as you can see ingenious carvings throughout the surface of the temples in a style not found anywhere else.
Similar to many other temples on this list, it was destroyed in the past and later rebuilt. A tradition that was kept up by the current government and local authorities, leading to the temple winning the UNESCO Asia Pacific Award of Merit for cultural heritage conservation in 2017. The local authorities spend a lot of effort and resources on the conservation of this historical site.
Among the many temples in Tamil Nadu, the Ranganathaswamy Temple is a mandatory destination during any pilgrimage. This is due to the detailed artworks and the special position it holds among Vaishnava temples.
Sun-Sat: 6:00 am – 9:00 pm
Another great Chola temple, the Thiruvanaikovil Jambukeswarar Temple in Tiruchirapalli, deserves a place among the most famous temples in Tamil Nadu. Considered as part of the five major Shiva temples in Tamil Nadu and part of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams, this temple has more than enough reasons to garner a visit during your pilgrimage.
The temple is considered to be part of the Pancha Bhoota Sthalams and is dedicated to the worship of Mahabhuta or the five elements, and represents the element of water. The temple, in fact, has an actual underground stream under its sanctum. The mythos of the temple talks about Parvati offering penance in the area and building a lingam made of water. The forest surrounding the temple is also considered to be part of the temple and makes the whole experience more serene.
One of the legends alluding to the temple is about a spider and an elephant. There was once a spider in the forest here, which used to worship the lingam. Seeing that the dry leaves falling on it made it look dirty, it built its web on top of it. Seeing it, an elephant thought it was dust and continued to pour water on it as a form of devotion, which angered the spider. The spider eventually killed the elephant, while dying in the process. Shiva, pleased by the devotion, dedicated the temple in the name of the elephant and caused the spider to be reborn as a Chola king who went on to build 70 temples dedicated to Shiva.
Legends aside, this temple in Tamil Nadu is a must-visit destination for the spiritually inclined as it has continued its worship for centuries and is one of the top places to visit for any devotee of Shiva.
Sun-Sat: 6:00 am – 1:00 pm; 3:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Kanchipuram has always been known as a temple town dedicated to the worship of Shiva. The Ekambareswarar Temple is also a part of the Pancha Bootha Sthalams, dedicated to the worship of the Mahabhuta, this time representing the element of earth, Prithvi.
What makes this temple even more special is that the temple complex covers an impressive area of 25 acres, making it one of the biggest temples in Tamil Nadu. The architecture of the large temple even includes four gopurams in each cardinal direction, acting as four different entrances.
The Pancha Bootha Sthalams are a set of five unique Shiva temples in South India, and four of them are in Tamil Nadu. This unique existence makes this temple an important destination for any pilgrim going on a pilgrimage through Tamil Nadu.
Sun-Sat: 6:00 am – 12:30 pm; 4:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Not all temples are known for their spirituality. The Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram holds a unique position on this list as it is rarely visited for spiritual reasons and is mostly visited by tourists compared to devotees. And, for good reason, it has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You will find rock carvings spread throughout the temple complex, each with its own unique style. As a temple dedicated to seafarers for their safety, the temple is very liberal with the style, which is different from architectural styles that is seen in other temples in Tamil Nadu. The majority of the temple is open to the sky and features very few buildings.
The Pallava-era temple hosts an annual dance festival between December to January, showcasing classical dance forms famous in South India with the temple as a backdrop. This means it is a good period to visit the temple if you do not mind large crowds.
Sun-Sat: 6:00 am – 6:00 pm
The Papanasanathar Temple is immensely popular among the devotees going on pilgrimage through the southern state. Like many others on this list, this temple is dedicated to Shiva and his consort Parvati. Because it is one of the most famous temples in Tamil Nadu and is situated in the Tirunelveli area, this temple is always a part of any pilgrimage tour package.
The name of the temple comes from the legend of Indra travelling the world to find ways to do penance for a sin (papam) he committed and finally attaining it in this location. Because of this legend, this temple is often considered to be a place that is often visited by devotees who want to plead penance for any sin they committed and attain relief from their guilty conscience.
Whether or not you have committed a sin or you want to seek penance, this temple is a good destination for any pilgrim embarking on a spiritual journey.
Sun-Sat: 6:00 am – 1:00 pm; 4:00 pm – 8:30 pm
The ancient temple of Sri Vidhya Rajagopalaswamy is one of the largest temples in Tamil Nadu, with a temple complex spanning over 23 acres. The Vaishnava temple is called the Dakshina Dvaraka, along with the Guruvayoor Temple, making it one of the two most important temples in South India dedicated to Krishna. It also holds the foremost position among the 108 Abhimana Kshetrams.
Among the most famous temples in Tamil Nadu, this is the only one dedicated to Krishna, which makes this temple fairly unique among the temples in Tamil Nadu, where the majority of the temples are dedicated to Shiva or Vishnu. The temple deserves a special mention due to its incredible architecture. For example, the Sacred Temple Tank is one of the largest in India and is named Haridra Nadhi.
Due to its uniqueness and the overall beautiful atmosphere of the Mannargudi area, this temple is very popular among devotees and tourists. For whatever reason, you find yourself on a journey through the temples in Tamil Nadu, the Sri Vidhya Rajagopalaswamy Temple is a good destination to enjoy a serene stop in your journey. Mannargudi itself is a tourist area and will offer a good spot to relax and rewind while you travel.
Sun-Sat: 8:30 am – 12:15 pm; 4:30 pm – 9:00 pm
From powerful temples in Tamil Nadu to breathtakingly beautiful temples, these architectural marvels have seen generations of people and entire eras pass and still stand tall! We hope that this list of famous temples in Tamil Nadu helps you with your spiritual journey through Tamil Nadu.
Witness the grandeur yourself by visiting these temples in person by booking Madras Travels and Tour’s temple tour packages from Chennai. As the best travel agency in Chennai with decades of experience organising pilgrimage tour packages, we are equipped to make your journey an unforgettable one!