MADURA STYLE or ARCHITECTURE OF THE NAYAKS
The culmination of the Dravidian style is to be seen in the period of the Nayak Rulers of Madurai who continued the building style and technique of the Pandyas and improved on it. The notable features of the Nayak architecture are the hundred pillared mandapas, the lofty gopurams embellished with figures in their minute detail, the closed prakarams with huge pillars on either side, the beautiful corbel brackets as in Ramanatha temple in Rameshwaram and full-sized figures of animals and riders on rearing horses in the Srirangam temple.
East Gate, Meenakshi Temple, Madurai
The best examples of this style is seen in the temples of Madurai and surrounding areas. The Madura style as it is called is marked by high concentric boundary walls around the temples, intervening courtyards called prakarams which contain pillared halls, store rooms, other smaller shrines and square water tanks for ritual baths. The tank is surrounded by a pillared cloister and has steps leading down to the water.
Famous temples of this type are the temple of Vishnu or Ranganath at Srirangam near Tiruchirapalli, the Shiva temple at Chidambaram and the temple at Rameshwaram.
The Meenakshi Temple at Madurai built by the Nayak Rulers is the most beautiful example of 17th century style of temple architecture. Containing two separate sanctuaries – one dedicated to Sundareswara and the other to his consort, Meenakshi, the temple is a massive structure and is enclosed by four walls with four large gopurams. The gopuram of nine storeys is ornamented with elaborate sculptures. On the top is a vaulted roof. A water tank in front and large pillared halls are its other features.
The Rameshwaram temple has richly carved pillared corridors.