Interesting facts of Temple Gopuram , Kalashas - its significance and science behind it

Have you ever wondered standing in front of a majestic temple Gopuram thinking about it . Lets understand about it. Temple gopurams are the tower-like structures that mark the entrance to a Hindu temple. They have a profound significance in the Hindu belief system, as they represent the gateway to spiritual enlightenment and a connection to the divine. Temple gopurams also serve as a receiver of positive energy from the universe and from thunder/lightning, and as a depiction of the culture and art of ancient people. Temple gopurams were also used as landmarks in olden days, as they were visible from far distances.


The word gopuram comes from the Tamil words kō (king) and puram (exterior), meaning the king's exterior or the royal gateway.  Alternatively, it may come from the Sanskrit words go (cow or city) and puram (town or settlement), meaning the cow's town or the city's settlement.

The gopuram symbolizes the feet of the deity presiding over the temple. A devotee bows at the feet of the Lord at the entry as he steps into the temple and proceeds towards the sanctum, leaving behind the world of illusion. ² The gopuram also represents the cosmic mountain Meru, which is believed to be the center of the universe and the abode of the gods. The gopuram is topped by a kalasha, a bulbous stone finial that contains sacred water and symbolizes abundance and prosperity.

The gopuram is adorned with sculptures and carvings of various gods, goddesses, mythical creatures, and scenes from Hindu mythology, especially those related to the main deity of the temple. These sculptures serve as a visual aid for teaching and learning about Hinduism, as well as a source of inspiration and devotion for the devotees. The sculptures also reflect the artistic skills and styles of different periods and regions of India.

Various Styles

There are various styles of temple gopurams followed in different parts of India, depending on the architectural traditions and influences of each region. Some of the major styles are:

Dravidian style gopuram

- Dravidian style: This is the most common and elaborate style of temple gopurams found in South India, especially in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Telangana. This style originated from the Pallava dynasty (6th-9th century CE) and reached its peak during the Chola (9th-13th century CE), Pandya (13th-16th century CE), Nayaka (16th-18th century CE), and Vijayanagara (14th-17th century CE) dynasties. The Dravidian style gopurams are characterized by their pyramidal shape, multiple storeys, tapering tiers, barrel-vault roof, row of finials, ornate sculptures, and bright colors. The Dravidian style gopurams are often larger than the main shrine or vimana of the temple, and sometimes have more than one gopuram in each direction. Some examples of Dravidian style gopurams are Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur, Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam, Tirumala Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati, Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, etc.

Nagara style gopuram

- Nagara style: This is a style of temple gopurams found in North India, especially in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, etc. This style originated from the Gupta dynasty (4th-6th century CE) and continued till the medieval period. The Nagara style gopurams are characterized by their curvilinear shape, single storey, shikhara tower, amalaka disc, kalasha finial, simple sculptures, and plain colors. The Nagara style gopurams are usually smaller than or equal to the main shrine or shikhara of the temple, and sometimes have only one gopuram at the main entrance. Some examples of Nagara style gopurams are Kandariya Mahadeva Temple in Khajuraho, Lingaraja Temple in Bhubaneswar,
Konark Sun Temple in Konark,Somnath Temple in Somnath etc.

Vesara style gopuram

- Vesara style: This is a style of temple gopurams found in Central India and Deccan Plateau, especially in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana, etc. This style originated from the Chalukya dynasty (6th-12th century CE) and was influenced by both the Dravidian and Nagara styles. The Vesara style gopurams are characterized by their hybrid shape, combining the pyramidal base of the Dravidian style and the curvilinear top of the Nagara style. They also have features such as multiple storeys, shikhara tower, amalaka disc, kalasha finial, ornate sculptures, and bright colors. The Vesara style gopurams are usually smaller than or equal to the main shrine or shikhara of the temple, and sometimes have only one gopuram at the main entrance. Some examples of Vesara style gopurams are Virupaksha Temple in Hampi, Kailasanatha Temple in Ellora, Vittala Temple in Hampi, etc.

Significance of Kalasha on top of gopuram and numbers

The kalasha is a pot-like structure that is placed on top of the gopuram. It is made of stone, metal, or clay and contains sacred water and other auspicious items such as grains, coins, gems, etc. The kalasha has a significant meaning in Hinduism, as it represents the source of life and creation. It is also associated with various gods and goddesses such as Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganga, etc.

- They symbolize abundance and prosperity for the temple and its devotees. They also act as a blessing and protection for the temple and its surroundings.
- They act as a lightning rod that attracts and absorbs the cosmic energy from the sky and transfers it to the temple and its surroundings. They also protect the temple from lightning strikes and natural calamities.
- They mark the highest point of the temple and signify the culmination of the spiritual journey of the devotee from the base of the gopuram to the peak of the kalasha. They also represent the connection between the earth and the heaven, or the human and the divine.

The number of kalashas on top of a temple gopuram may vary depending on the size, style and design of the gopuram. However, some general points are:

- The kalashas are usually arranged in an odd number, such as 1, 3, 5, 7, etc. This is because odd numbers are considered auspicious and symbolic of unity and harmony in Hinduism.
- The kalashas are usually placed at the corners or edges of the gopuram roof, as well as at the center or apex of the gopuram. This is to ensure that the kalashas cover all the directions and receive the maximum amount of cosmic energy.

- The elements inside represent the five elements of nature (earth, water, fire, air, and space), which are essential for life and creation. They also correspond to the five metals (gold, silver, copper, tin, and iron) that are used to make the kalasha

- They also signify the different aspects of the deity and the devotee, such as wealth, wisdom, power, devotion, etc. They also correspond to the different planets (navagrahas) that influence human life

Scientific relevance

Temple gopurams have a scientific relevance as well as a religious significance. They are designed and constructed as per the rules given in the texts of Vaastu Shastra, which is an ancient science of architecture and engineering. Some of the scientific aspects of temple gopurams are:

- They are aligned with the cardinal directions (north, south, east, west) to ensure proper orientation and ventilation.
- They are built with specific materials such as stone, brick, lime, sand, etc. that have natural properties such as strength, durability, insulation, etc.
- They are shaped like pyramids or cones that have geometric benefits such as stability, symmetry, harmony, etc.
- They are decorated with sculptures and carvings that have aesthetic benefits such as beauty, proportion, balance, etc.
- They are topped with kalashas that have electromagnetic benefits such as attracting and conducting cosmic energy, protecting from lightning strikes, etc.