Mamallapuram / Mahaballipuram
A good place to start a temple tour of southern India is at Mamallapuram (foremely known as Mahabalipuram) near Madras / chennai, on the eastern coast of Tamil Nadu.
There are almost seventy rock-cut monoliths, caves and sculptures remaining as well as the famous twin shore temples facing the sea on the villages's beaches.
A little further is the great temple city of Kanchipuram, the capital of the Pallav , from the 9th to 13th centuries A.d., the chola Dynasties. Kanchipuram is honoured as one of the seven sacred cities in India. It has over 150 temples dedicated to various hindu dieties. Among its best -known temples are the KaliashAnatha temple Complex dedicated to shiva Natraj and Durga, and the Ekambareshvara Shiva temple.It is said that five elements (earth, water, air,fire and space) are represented by five temple lingas in southern India.
The first earth linga at Ekambareshvara in Kanchipuram.
The second, the water linga, is locatedin Jambukeshvaratemple on the river island of Srirangam.The water linga is permanently immersed in a small tank that is feb by natural springs.
Fire, the third linga, is worshipped at Tiruvannamalai, one of the largest shiva shiva temples in southern India.
The air or wind linga is at Kalahasti, which lies on the banks of sacred river Svarnamukhi in southern Andhra Pradesh.
The fifth element, space or ether, is represented by the linga in Chidambaram, the great chola temple dedicated to Shiva natraj and his blissful dance, the Ananda Tandava.
Perhaps the greatest Shiva temple in Southern India is the Brihadishvara temple in Thanjavur, which was built by chola dynasty between 9th and 13th century A.D. Its massive linga, 12 feet high, is placed beneath the tallest gateway of any southern temple.