When I studied theology, I learned that the architecture, iconography, etcetera of a religious tradition tells us a lot about the way its people view reality and the human relationship with the 'divine.' The 'axis of the world tree,' etcetera, from Mircea Eliade, on vertical religious architecture: soaring cathedrals, bullet-like projectiles around mosques. Recently I've had a renewal of interest and enthusiasm for my Keralan spiritual connection, and I liked this passage from 'Temples and Legends of Kerala" by K.R. Vaidyanathan. He quotes Ronald Bernier in "Splendors of Kerala":
"Kerala temples emphasize horizontal movment as symbolic of the path toward truth. The temple is not a mountain, although it is built around an axis. It is activated by its enshrined 'engine,' a holy power in the form of a sculpture or symbol from which energy and goodness radiate. Mighty as it is, a figural image at the centre of the womb may smile in benevolent, friendly acceptance. Perhaps Kerala's is the most house-like of all the divine dwellings in India. Its materials are natural and clearly earth-derived. The monument touches the masses in terms of earthly experience rather than that of of the worldly grandeur and pomp. At the same time, there is room for preciousness since the temple is after all a heavenly abode. (Yet) it is not for its precious parts that Kerala temple design is best to be remembered, but for its special accomplishments primarily in the use of wood."
Kerala is coastal territory, beaches and wetlands ringed by coastal mountains and the sea. I wonder sometimes if my attraction to this spiritual tradition springs from my ancestors having come from coastal territories so much themselves. It's 'in the blood,' so to speak. My mtDNA J2 ancestors are associated with sea routes from Turkey to Iceland, my father's people lived on the sea-swept west coast of Jutland, I have Irish ancestors from County Mayo, a poor coastal territory that took in its share of survivors from the Spanish Armada, and then my Delaware Moor ancestors were native to the marshlands of southern New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. We also seem to have a certain element of pirate ancestry, as well, which fits with the high scores I had in East African dna matches. At any rate, I love that spread-open, airy, flat 'delta' kind of land wherever I find it.
But there's more to it than that, of course. I love Vedanta and the entire Shankaracarya tradition as it has been lived up to the present day in Kerala. Shankaracarya was a peace-maker who synthesized many different traditions in Kerala. I confess I felt a bit weary of the constant fighting of the middle-eastern traditions from which my Jewish, Christian and Moorish forbears sprang - that fighting just seems to go on and on. Shankaracarya brought resolution to similar fighting among religious factions in his own land, and the peace seems to have lasted pretty much up to the present. So, there must be something to it. I think we really ought to be looking at what they're doing. At any rate, it is one of the most beautiful, lively, colorful, relaxed, joyful, playful, mystical, entrancing religious traditions I've ever come across, and I've come across quite a few. (Sufism, perhaps, comes closest, imo.) Wise and insightful, Keralan spirituality has certainly stood the test of time.
Anyway you can see more examples and read more about Kerala's Temples here.