A Gopuram or Gopura, is a monumental tower, usually ornate, at the entrance of any temple, especially in Southern India. This forms a prominent feature of Koils, Hindu temples of the Dravidian style.They are topped by the kalasam, a bulbous stone finial. They function as gateways through the walls that surround the temple complex.
They can be traced back to early structures of the Tamil kings 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. They also appear in architecture outside India, especially Khmer architecture, as at Angkor Wat.
A koil may have multiple gopurams, typically constructed into multiple walls in tiers around the main shrine. The temple’s walls are typically square with the outer most wall having four gopura-vimanas, one each on every side, situated exactly in the center of each wall. The sanctum sanctorum and its towering roof (the central deity’s shrine) are also called the vimanam. Generally, these do not assume as much significance as the outer gopurams, with the exception of a few temples where the sanctum sanctorum’s roofs are as famous as the temple complex itself. The Ananda Nilayam gopuram-vimanam of the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple is a famous example where the gopuram of the main shrine occupies a very special place in the temple’s history and identity.