Definitions

Gopuram

Gopuram

A Gopuram or gopura (also known as a vimanam), is a monumental tower, usually ornate, at the entrance of a temple, especially in Southern India. This is a prominent feature of Hindu temple architecture. It is topped with the sikhara's amalaka (a bulbous stone finial). They function as gateways through the walls that surround the temple complex.

The gopuram's origins can be traced back to early structures of the Pallavas and by the twelfth century under the Pandya rulers these gateways became a dominant feature of a temple's outer appearance, eventually overshadowing the inner sanctuary which became obscured from view by the gopuram's colossal size. It also dominated the inner sanctum in amount of ornamentation. Often a shrine has more than one gopuram.

Architectural features

A gopuram is usually rectangular in form with ground-level wooden doors, often richly decorated, providing access. Above is the tapering gopuram, divided into many storeys which diminish in size as the gopuram tower narrows. Usually the tower is topped with a barrel vaulted roof with a finial.

Gopurams are exquisitely decorated with sculpture and carvings and painted with a variety of themes derived from the Hindu mythology, particularly those associated with the presiding deity of the temple where the gopuram is located.

Examples

The Gopuram of the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam, Tamilnadu state is the tallest Gopuram in South India. This Gopuram, known as the Rajagopuram (the royal temple tower), rises from the base area of around 13 cents (32500 sq ft) and goes up to , moving up in eleven progressively smaller tiers.

The Gopuram of Sri Andal Temple in Srivilliputtur is the second highest temple tower in Tamilnadu. It is 60 m (192 ft) high and has thirteen progressively smaller tiers. This Gopuram is the centerpiece of the state symbol of the Government of Tamilnadu.

The rajagopuram present in Murudeshwar Temple in Karnataka is 249-feet tall and is taller than the 243-feet gopuram of Sriranganath Swami temple, Srirangam, Trichi and 239-feet long gopuram of Brihadeshwara temple at Tanjore. The brain behind the tallest gopuram, Shetty, managing trustee and founder of Murudeshwar temple town, said the rajagopuram has 21 floors, including the ground floor. This is the only gopuram which has a lift and devotees can go right to the top. The base measures 105 feet in length and 51 feet breadth.

The construction began in 1990. In 1998, the second phase began and has been completed now. Shetty plans to have museums on all the 21 floors so that the gopuram will cater to the needs of not just devotees but also others who are interested in art, culture and history. The magnificent 123-feet long statue of Lord Shiva in the backdrop lends the gopuram a majestic look. Shetty said the Rajagopuram was built under the guidance of Tamil sculptor S K Achar who built “Vivekanada Rock” in Kanyakumari along with his sons Dakshinamurthy and Swaminathan and a big team of 500 Tanjore-based sculptors. Also present on the occasion were Raghaveshwara Bharathi Swami, seer of Ramachandrapura Mutt of Hosanagara and Sadhyojatha Shanakarasharma Swami of Chitrapura Mutt, Shirali.

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