Dravidian style of architecture is mainly found in Temple architecture of south India. It developed in the late mediaeval times and came to be noted for its enormity and design. It was propagated by kings in the south who succeeded one another. This last style came to be cultivated by the kings of the Pallava dynasty, the Cholas, the Pandyas, the Vijayanagara Kings and by the Nayaks of Madura.
Mahabalipuram (also Mamallapuram) struck out altogether a new line by raising structures, called the rathas: the five Pandavas and the Draupadi. Among the five Pandavas Trimurti, Varaha and Durga are the most important.
Likewise the Shore Temple, raised in the 8th century by Rajasimhesvara at Mahabalipuram or Kailasanathar Temple at Kanchi have no parallel.
Chola Architecture: The Cholas were equally great builders and the stupendous vimana at Tanjore built by Rajaraja Chola I and by his son Rajendra Chola at Gangaikonda Puram are some of the wonders of the style. The temple proper has two gopurams. The vimana is of an enormous size: a pyramid of tiers rising up to fourteen storeys, each decorated beautifully, and the entire unit surmounted by a dome. A large abacus, simple brackets, plasters between niches and makara-toranas with foliated tails fill the prospect at this stage of the Dravida style.
Pandya Architecture: The Pandya temples are about as great. Those at Srirangam, Chidambaram, Kumbakonam, and Tirumala Manai possess gigantic towers and vimanas as large as the Chola temples. But the actual Pandya shrines are dwarfed by the walls and gates.
Vijayanagara Architecture: Vijayanagar during its hay day became a great centre of worship and gigantic temples were erected to the glory of its kings. At Kanchipuram, the Ekambaranathar temple there are great pillared mandapas. At Vijayanagar itself there stands the great Vittala-swamy temple. Magnificent shrines, now deserted, were erected by king Krishna Deva Raya and Achuta Raya.
Nayak Architecture: The Nayakas of Madura established their kingdom and became the leading builders in the land. The most important kind and builder among them was Thirumalai Nayak. Temples now came to be erected in the pure Dravidian style and tradition unaffected by outside influence. The well-known Vasanta and Padu Mandapam is front of the Minakshi temple has flat-roofed corridor with three aisles.
The Minakshi temple is an amazing specimen of Dravidian architecture. Its decorating pilasters now become a kumbha. The Subrahmanya shrine at Tanjore has adorable decoration. It is like a goldsmith’s handiwork executed in unresponsive inert stone. The greatest of the temples is Brihadisvara at Tanjore. The verandah at Rameshwaram is about 4000 ft long.
The Brahmanical caves of Ellora came to be dug out and formed into shrines as the Rashtrakutas succeeded the Chalukyas in western Deccan in A.D. 753. This series of shrines struck out a distinct plan of their own.
Temple of Kailasa: The spectacle of the famous Brahmanical temple of Kailasa is unprecedented in temple history. It is a double-storied structure with Dravidian Shikhara and is flat-roofed. There is a mandapam with a flat-roof supported by sixteen pillars of exquisite carving and a separate porch for the Nandi. It is surrounded by a court entered from a low gopuram. There are two dhwaja stambha, the northern columns done elaborately in the Dravidian style. The temple of Kailasa is a wonder in stone workmanship. It is decorated with some of the most exquisite sculptures in India. The most conspicuous in Ravana’s attempt to throw down Mount Kailasa. ‘Parvati grapples with Shiva’s arm in fear, her maid takes to flight. But Siva is unmoved. He holds all fast by pressing down his toe’. The scene of Gangavataranam and Siva Tripurantaka are vivid. The pillars are fascinatingly decorated and it seems that when the stone-dressers were at a loss to find the use of the quantity of pearls saved from decking the celestial damsels, they scattered them over these pillars.