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Tamil Nadu is enriched with about 800-2000 years old and 33,000 ancient temples. Tamil Nadu is one of the states with the highest number of Hindu Temples in it. The Tamil Nadu temples depict a typical south Indian culture and the Dravidian style of architecture. The architecture of Tamil Nadu gradually shifted from rock-cut to structural architecture, and this evolution can be seen in the step-like towers of the temples. The evolution can also be seen in the group of temples of Mahabalipuram. The cave temples had extensive construction in south Indian style, with the pillars being square in plan. Not only temple architecture but Tamil Nadu is also having the colonial style of architecture as its imperative part, which can be seen in the capital city of Chennai.
VARIOUS PHASES OF ARCHITECTURE OF TAMIL NADU
The greatest achievements of the early Chola, Chera, and Pandyan kingdoms during the 580BCE – 300CE are the brick shrines and deities of Murugan, Shiva, Amman, and Vishnu. Several such deities have been unearthed near Kaveripoompuharpattinam, Adichanallur, and Mahabalipuram. The Saluvannkuppan Murukan temple, unearthed in 2005, has three layers, with the lowest layer being the brick shrine and one of the oldest of its kind dedicated to Murugan, in Southern India. These findings indicate that the structures were built with burnt bricks.
During their reign between 600CE and 900CE, Pallavas built the iconic single rock temples in Mahabalipuram and their capital Kanchipuram. Pallavan art and architecture depict the Dravidian art and architecture which flourished during the Chola dynasty. They built the first stone and mortar temple in South India and were based on earlier timber and brick prototypes. The UNESCO World Heritage site and a rock-cut group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram are among the greatest accomplishments of Pallavas. This group of monuments included both monolithic shrines and excavated pillared halls, without external roofs except that of natural rock. Some of the famous examples of the Pallavan style are the Kailasanathar Temple at Kanchipuram, the Shore Temple, and the Pancha Rathas of Mahabalipuram.
The significant part of the Pandyan style is the rock cut and structural temples. Vimana and mandapa are features of Pandyan temples. A Group of small temples can be seen in Tiruchirapalli, while a Shiva temple has a Nandi sculpture in front of the maha mandapa. During the later stage of the Pandyan period, they also built gopurams. Some of the famous examples of this period include Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai and Nellaiappar Temple in Tirunelveli.
The Cholas have built over 2300 temples in Tamil Nadu, with Tiruchy-Thanjavur itself having more than 1500 temples. The marvelous Shiva temple of Thanjavur, the Brihadeshwara temple, the Airavateshwara temple, and the Kamapahareshwarar Shiva temple, were all built during this time, among which the Brihadeshwara temple, Airavateshwara temple, and the Kampahareshwarar temple are listed as the Great Living Chola Temples among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Chola architecture is also known for its sculptures and bronzes.
The Vellore Fort was built in 1566 CE by Chinna Bommi Reddy and Thimma Reddy Nayak. It is stated that “there is no such fort on the face of the earth like the one in Vellore. It had a deep wet ditch (moat) where once 10,000 crocodiles swarmed, waiting to grab every intruder into this impregnable fort. It has huge double walls with bastions projecting irregularly, where two carts can be driven abreast”. Spread over an area of 133 acres, and located at an altitude of 220m, this rampant fort is built in granite and surrounded by a moat. The Vellore Fort is considered to be one of the best military architectures in South India.
A fine example of Vijayanagaram architecture, Jalakanteshwara temple, inside the fort, has intricate carvings on its gopuram, stone pillars and large wooden gates, monoliths, and sculptures. The gopuram heights to about 100ft. The temple has a mandapa as well, with a hall supported by carved stone pillars of dragons, yalis (lion-like creatures), and horses.
The main temples representing the Madurai and Thanjavur Nayak styles are:
- The Ranganatha temple at Srirangam – is famous for its large number of enclosures;
- The temple at Rameswaram – is famous for its long corridors;
- The Subramanya temple at the Brihadisvara Temple court at Thanjavur – is famous for its fine vimana with ratha and maha mandapas;
- Meenakshi Temple at Madurai – is famous for the great splendor of its “thousand-pillared” mandapam, and the Thanga Thamarai kulam (“Golden Lotus water pool”).
The Thanjavur Maratha Palace was built by the Thanjavur Nayak Kingdom, but after its fall it served as the official residence of Thanjavur Maratha. The palace complex includes the queen’s courtyard, Durbar Hall, and the Sadar Mahal Palace. It contains a great collection of Chola bronzes. The Sadar Palace has a small bell tower.
The San Thome Basilica, a Roman Catholic minor basilica in Santhome, Chennai, was built in the 16th century by Portuguese explorers and rebuilt again in 1893 with the status of a cathedral by the British. The Madras High Court and Government Museum in Chennai were designed in colonial architecture by Henry Irwin.
The Indo-Saracenic style buildings in Tamil Nadu include Madras High Court, Senate House, Chepauk Palace, Egmore Railway station, the Government Museum (designed by Henry Irwin and completed in 1896), the Presidency College, the Ripon Building (now housing the Chennai Corporation), the War Memorial, Vivekanandar Illam, the Museum Theatre, the Ramakrishna Math temple and the College of Engineering, Guindy.
The Chettinad reign is famous for its 19th-century mansions, having wide courtyards and spacious rooms, embellished with marble and teak. The construction, furnishing, and decoration materials were imported from Europe and East Asian countries. Several mansions were constructed using a type of limestone called karai. It is said that the mansion walls were polished with a paste made out of egg whites to give a smooth texture.
Post-Independence, the state witnessed an increase in the blend of Modern and Traditional styles of architecture.
ARCHITECTURE OF CHENNAI
The architecture of Chennai is a combination of several architectural styles, from Pallavas to the Indo-Saracenic style. Being the first major British settlement in the Indian subcontinent, Chennai, witnessed various earliest constructions built in their styles. The initial structures included utilitarian warehouses and walled trading posts, which gave way to fortified towns along the coastline. Although several European colonists, namely, Portuguese, Danish and French, initially influenced the architectural style of the region, it was chiefly the British who left a lasting impact on the city’s architecture succeeding the Mughals in the country. They followed various architectural styles, with Gothic, Imperial, Christian, English Renaissance, and Victorian being the essentials.
Before the Art Deco style flourished in Chennai, it was the Indo-Saracenic style that dominated the city. Chennai has a combination of Indo-Saracenic and Art Deco styles developed in the University Examination Hall, the Hindu High School, and the Kingston House. Several buildings have been defaced by modern style or completely trashed down to make new constructions. Oceanic Hotel is a such example, which was originally built in Art Deco, and demolished to build an IT park.
The 1930s marked the beginning of the Art Deco style in George Town. Building in Art Deco style was located at road junctions having curvilinear profiles, which is considered a separate style, the Streamline Moderne. Besides Dare House, other buildings that portray these characters are those along the junctions of Mount Road as in the Bharath Insurance building, and shops like the current Bata Showroom.
Agraham architecture is seen in the street occupied by Brahmins, especially surrounded by a temple. Madras terrace, country tile roofing, Burma teak rafters, and lime plasters are the distinctive features of this architecture. The longish homes consist of the mudhal kattu (receiving quarters), irandaam kattu (living quarters), moondram kattu (kitchen and backyard), etc. The houses have a central courtyard called mitham, a private backyard well, and a large platform lining outside the house called the thinnai. The floors are often coated with red oxide and roofs have glass tiles to let in sunlight. Approx. 50 families live in agraharams in Triplicane. Agraham houses with traditional vernacular architecture can be found in Mylapore, Tiruvanmiyur, and Triplicane.
Post-Independence, Chennai saw a rise in Modernism in architecture. The LIC Building of 1959, was the tallest in the country at that time, marking a transition from lime and brick construction to concrete in the region. However, due to the weather conditions in the city, the construction is restricted to 60m in height and 10m in radius. The FAR of CBD is also restricted to 1.5, this resulted in the city expanding horizontally rather than vertically.
Arranged in a Grid pattern, Chennai runs north-south and east-west. Since the 20th century, the city has changed a lot. Many western parts of the city like Ashok Nagar, Anna Nagar, and KK Nagar have been planned with efforts, including several areas of the south of Adyar River like Adyar, Kotturpuram, and Besant Nagar. The prominent features of these places include unusually wide roads and a Cartesian grid layout. The current urban development is concentrated along western and southeastern suburbs, main for the growth of the IT corridor in the southeast and the new ring road in the west. The is also a proposal for the construction of the National Maritime Complex (NMC).
TRADITIONAL DWELLINGS OF TAMIL NADU
The state of Tamil Nadu houses a unique cultural, linguistic and architectural heritage. The traditional Tamil Nadu homes were roofed with red clay tiles, arranged in two levels, one for the porch and the second for the rest of the house. Terracotta pillars having intricate carvings support the roofs. The older Tamil houses were similar to that the older Dravidian-styled houses. The houses consist of central courtyards with rooms surrounding them, and the entrance is tall, arched, and ornamented.
Rowhouses line both sides of the streets in the Agraharam style of architecture, which leads up to a temple. The roads act as a communal space for the Agraharam. Rooms are arranged in linear form, unlike the courtyard-style houses. Glass tiles on the roof lit the house.
The general layout of the traditional dwellings of Tamil Nadu, includes thinnai, a sitting area outside in front of the house, and muttan or open courtyard surrounded by other rooms of the house.
These houses acted as the ancestral houses of the merchants of that time. These are mainly made up of wood, traded by merchants from Myanmar. They are usually used by the upper-class people of society.
These houses come with a temple area, as it is considered that the residents would generally be priests. These houses are generally built of stones.
It is the most famous type of housing which is found in almost every village along the agricultural fields. These houses have large sloping roods and an outside courtyard-like area.
These houses are generally found near river banks, for soil which is favorable for making pots. Usually, the poorest section of the society owns these houses, and thus are made of mud with thatch roofs.
MAKE YOUR HOME LOOK LIKE A TAMIL NADU-STYLE HOME
The traditional Tamil home entrance is flanked by an ornamented archway or terracotta pillars.
Wooden swing and furniture
One of the classic elements of the Tamil home is a wooden swing, generally meant for relaxation.
Athangudi Tiles for Flooring
Tamil houses have beautifully patterned and vibrant Chettinad or Athangudi tiles for flooring. The Athangudi tiles are made of cement with a glass surface over it, having the advantage of being cool in summer and warm in winter.
Spacious Verandahs with Built-in Seating Areas
One of the most common features of Tamil houses is large and spacious verandahs with built-in seating spaces.
Tamil Nadu Artwork
Tamil houses cannot be devoid of Tamil Nadu Artworks like the collection of Tanjore paintings.
Tamil houses generally use natural materials. Exposed brick walls with wooden shelves and vintage artifacts, bring in a rustic and earthy look. Jute rugs on the floor, natural fiber pouffe, bamboo drapes for windows, and metallic elements like copper, brass, and steel for kitchen and dining room, and on handles of doors, flower vases, etc.
Plants, climbers, creepers, and flower pots act as an important elements of Tamil houses.
Furniture is generally made of wood with intricate carvings.
Musical instruments add culture to the traditional Tamil houses.
Warm earthy shades like yellow, red, green, and orange, find predominance in Tamil houses.
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