Eventhough there are many Shiva Temples in India and also in some other parts of the world, Temples in Tamilnadu have special significance. These Shiva Temples, glorified in Tamil Tevaram hymns, are referred as Paadal Petra Shiva Sthalangal. These Shiva Temples have been in existence for more than 1000 years because reference to these temples are found in Tevaram Hymns which were composed and authored by the 3 Nayanamar viz., Thirunavukarasar, Sambandar and Sundarar who lived between 7th and 9th century A.D. These hymns throw more light on Tamilnadu Temples, its art treasures, culture, civilization etc.
Some of these Shiva Temples, glorified and referred as Paadal Petra Shiva Sthalams, are among the greatest in the world and include temples carved in solid rock, huge temples with elaborately sculptured towers, all ornamented with delicate decorative work. Most of these temples are of stone, though a few are of brick. Artists carved the exterior and sometimes the interior with hundreds of figures of Gods, people, animals and plants. Most temples have one or several pillared halls called mandapam. Worshippers pass through the halls to a garbhagraha (sanctum sanctorum) where the idol of the temple's main deity (God or Goddess) is housed.
These temples are the torchbearers of the glorious heritage of Tamilnadu and stand out as architectural marvels. The majestic, ornate and soaring towers (known as Gopuram) are typical of Tamilnadu Temple architecture.
Temples have always been a central aspect of the social and culturual life of the people of Tamilnadu. Temples were not only places of worship, they were also places where people came together to meet, to exchange ideas and socialise. They were the centre of cultural activities of the village or area surrounding them. Apart from that, these Shiva Temples came to be associated with legends and beliefs that have over the years became a part of its historical make-up.
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