[last updated: 03/Sep/2013]
This article is just to give you a sampling of South Indian style temple architecture. It is not meant to give comprehensive background of each temple, nor a comprehensive list of all temples. Will be adding more of the more prominent temples as time permits :)
The temples of Southern India serve as the defining representation of Hindu temple architecture today. Most of the ancient Hindu temples in South East Asian countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, etc) as well as the many new temples in North America closely follow South Indian style temple architecture.
Note: thousands of Hindu temples were destroyed in the North by waves of radical Islamic invasions (see Hindu Holocaust), and had very little chance of such recovery and resilience as shown in the South. Temples were restored/rebuilt several times by successive Hindu rulers.
Madurai Meenakshi Temple
See also: Meenakshi Temple
Another view: Thiruvannamalai
Srivilliputhoor Andaal Temple
See also: Srivilliputhoor
See also: Periya Kovil
See also: Shiva, Bangalore
Thillai Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram
The home of the now world famous form of Shiva as the Nataraja (the cosmic dancer), representing the Cosmic Dance of the Universe, as well as Shiva in his “space” (akasha) form, as the Akasha Lingam.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Thiruvananthapuram
The Padmanabhaswamy Temple holds the world record as the most richest place of worship in the world, with an estimated $22 billion worth of gold and precious gems, including a 32kg gold idol of Ananda Padmanabhaswamy.
Fun fact: the biggest reserves of gold in the world is in India. It is estimated that Indian temples + Indian households have an estimated 22,000 tons of gold (approximately $1 trillion), of which 4,000 tons is estimated to be held in temples.
This alone should belay any doubts when Hindus tell you that Europe (especially the UK) owes a lot to what it is right now (not just their currency value, but their net worth of land ownership, monuments, banks and insurance companies) because of the amount of gold and jewels they siphoned out of India during their over 200 year inquisition of India. See Indian Economy – Past and Present and Hindu Holocaust.
Did you know that the standard of gold as the currency standard (aka “The Gold Standard”) adopted by the world, originated from about 7 centuries of trade with India (before the British inquistion of India). Gold attained its highly prized value as it is today not because it is just rare item, but because of the high demand from India to be paid in gold (that was the currency back then, and India was not interested in trading anything else as India was self-sufficient and didn’t need anything from the rest of the word (i.e. instead of gold), so that was the only way to pay India for the trade). The demand came from the desire to adorn their temples (and themselves! from kings, queens, to the householder) in gold.
Why such a demand for gold? According to Hindu alchemy, gold is said to posses the ability to ground/earth spiritual energy. Everything in the world is made of matter, which is nothing but condensed energy, which is nothing but condensed consciousness. All of these have very characteristic patterns of energy vibration (which physics will tell you in their dealings with matter and energy). Since in Hindu view of the world, everything is connected, one cannot engage the conscious energy pattern in anything (whether it be gold or the solid crystal lattice structure found in jewels), using mantras. Gold tops the list for its ability “ground/earth/draw” spiritual energy.