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Temple Architecture in India

Temple Architecture in India

Introduction   [Temple Architecture in India]

  • Most of the architectural remains that survive from Ancient and Medieval India are religious in nature.
  • In different parts of the country, distinct architectural style of temples was result of geographical, ethnic and historical diversities.
  • There are basically 3 kinds of temple architecture in India:
    • Nagara Style (North India)
    • Dravida Style (South India)
    • Vesara Style (Mix of Nagara and Dravida style)
  • As temples grew more complex, more surfaces were created for sculpture by adding more and more rhythmically projecting, symmetrical walls and niches, without breaking away from the fundamental plan of the shrine.           [Temple Architecture in India]

Basic form of a Hindu temple    [Temple Architecture in India]

  • Shikhara or Vimana:
    • They are mountain like the spire of a free-standing temple.
    • Shikhara is found in North Indian temples and Vimana is found in South Indian temples.
    • Shikhara has a curving shape while vimana has a pyramidal-like structure.
  • Garbhagriha:
    • It literally means ‘womb-house’ and is a cave like a sanctum.
    • In the earliest temples, it was a small cubical structure with a single entrance.
    • Later it grew into a larger complex.
    • The Garbhagriha is made to house the main icon (main deity) which is itself the focus of much ritual attention.
  • Amalaka:     [Temple Architecture in India]
    • It is a stone disc like structure at the top of the temple and they are common in North Indian temples.
  • Mandapa:
    • It is the entrance to the temple.
    • It may be a portico or colonnaded (series of columns placed at regular intervals) hall that incorporates space for a large number of worshippers.
    • Dances and such other entertainments are practiced here.
    • Some temples have multiple mandapas in different sizes named as Ardhamandapa, Mandapa, and Mahamandapa.
  • Antarala (vestibule):       Temple Architecture in India
    • Antarala is a transition area between the Garbhagriha and the temple’s main hall (mandapa).
  • Kalasha:
    • It is the topmost point of the temple and commonly seen in North Indian temples.
  • Vahana:     [Temple Architecture in India]
    • It is the mount or vehicle of the temple’s main deity along with a standard pillar or Dhvaj which is placed axially before the sanctum.
  • Jagati:
    • It is a raised platform for sitting and praying and is common in North Indian temples.

Nagara or North Indian Temple Style   [Temple Architecture in India]

  • In North India it is common for an entire temple to be built on a stone platform with steps leading up to it.
  • Further, unlike in South India it does not usually have elaborate boundary walls or gateways.
  • While the earliest temples had just one tower, or shikhara, later temples had several.
  • The garbhagriha is always located directly under the tallest tower.
  • There are many subdivisions of nagara temples depending on the shape of the shikhara.
  • There are different names for the various parts of the temple in different parts of India; however, the most common name for the simple shikhara which is square at the base and whose walls curve or slope inward to a point on top is called the ‘latina’ or the rekha-prasada type of shikara.
  • The second major type of architectural form in the nagara order is the phamsana, which tends to be broader and shorter than latina ones.          Temple Architecture in India
  • Their roofs are composed of several slabs that gently rise to a single point over the centre of the building, unlike the latina ones which look like sharply rising tall towers.
  • The third main sub-type of the nagara building is generally called the valabhi type.
  • These are rectangular buildings with a roof that rises into a vaulted chamber.

Central Indian Temples  [Temple Architecture in India]

  • In the later periods, the temples grew from simple four pillared structures to a large complex.
  • This means that similar developments were incorporated in the architecture of temples of both the religions.
  • Two such temples that survive are; temple at Udaygiri which is on the outskirts of Vidisha (it is a part of a large Hindu temple complex) and a temple at Sanchi, which was a Buddhist site.
  • The early temples were modest looking shrines each have four pillars that support a small mandapa before an equally small room that served as garbhagriha.        Temple Architecture in India
  • Some of the oldest surviving structural temples of Gupta period are in Madhya Pradesh.
  • The ancient temple sin UP, MP and Rajasthan share many traits and the most visible is that they are made of Sandstone.   [Temple Architecture in India]
  • Dashavatara Vishnu Temple, Deogarh, Up and Temples At Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh are some of the important temples.

The Dravida Or South Indian Temple Style  [Temple Architecture in India]

  • The dravida temple is enclosed within a compound wall and the front wall has an entrance gateway in its centre, which is known as a gopuram.           [Temple Architecture in India]
  • In the South Indian temple, the word ‘shikhara’ is used only for the crowning element at the top of the temple which is usually shaped like a small stupika or an octagonal cupola— this is equivalent to the amlak and kalasha of North Indian temples.
  • It is common to find a large water reservoir, or a temple tank, enclosed within the complex.
  • Subsidiary shrines are either incorporated within the main temple tower, or located as distinct, separate small shrines beside the main temple.   [Temple Architecture in India]
  • There are subdivisions also of dravida temples. These are basically of five different shapes:
    • Square, usually called kuta, and also caturasra;
    • Rectangular or shala or ayatasra;
    • Elliptical, called gaja-prishta or elephant backed, or also called vrittayata, deriving from wagon vaulted shapes of apsidal chaityas with a horse-shoe shaped entrance facade usually called a nasi;
    • Circular or vritta;
    • And octagonal or ashtasra.

West Indian Temples  [Temple Architecture in India]

  • There are too numerous temples in the northwestern parts of India, including Gujarat and Rajasthan, and stylistically extendable, at times, to western Madhya Pradesh.
  • The stones to build temples ranges in colour and type.
  • While sandstone is the commonest, a grey to black basalt can be seen in some of the 10th to 12th-century temple sculptures.
  • The most exuberant and famed are the manipulatable soft white marble which is also seen in some of the 10th to 12th-century Jain temples in Mount Abu and the 15th-century temple at Ranatpur.
  • Among the most important art, historical sites in the region are Samlaji in Gujarat.
  • It shows how earlier artistic traditions of the region mixed with a post-Gupta style and gave rise to a distinct style of sculpture.      [Temple Architecture in India]
  • A large number of sculptures made of grey schist have been found in this region.
  • Sun temple, modhera, gujarat is one of the important temple

Vesara Temple Style   [Temple Architecture in India]

  • It is a hybridised style of nagara and dravida style that became popular after the mid-seventh century in the southern part of the Deccan, i.e., in the region of Karnataka.     [Temple Architecture in India]
  • Perhaps the most characteristic feature of these temples is that they grow extremely complex with so many projecting angles emerging from the previously straightforward square temple, that the plan of these temples starts looking like a star, and is thus known as a stellateplan.
  • Since they are made out of soapstone which is a relatively soft stone, the artists were able to carve their sculptures intricately.

Hill Temples  [Temple Architecture in India]

  • A unique form of architecture developed in the hills of Kumaon, Garhwal, Himachal and Kashmir
  • Kashmir’s proximity to prominent Gandhara sites (such as Taxila, Peshawar and the northwest frontier) lent the region a strong Gandhara influence by the 5th century CE.
  • This began to mix with the Gupta and post-Gupta traditions that were brought to it from Sarnath, Mathura and even centres in Gujarat and Bengal.                                           [Temple Architecture in India]
  • Brahmin pundits and Buddhist monks frequently travelled between Kashmir, Garhwal, Kumaon and religious centres in the plains like Banaras, Nalanda and even as far south as Kanchipuram.
  • As a result both Buddhist and Hindu traditions began to intermingle and spread in the hills.
  • The hills also had their own tradition of wooden buildings with pitched roofs.
  • At several places in the hills, while the main garbhagriha and shikhara are made in a rekha-prasada or latina style, the mandapa is of an older form of wooden architecture.
  • Sometimes, the temple itself takes on a pagoda shape.
  • The Karkota period of Kashmir is the most significant in terms of architecture.
  • One of the most important temples is Pandrethan, built during the 8th and 9th centuries.
  • In keeping with the tradition of a water tank attached to the shrine, this temple is built on a plinth built in the middle of a tank.      [Temple Architecture in India]
  • Like the findings at Samlaji, the sculptures at Chamba also show an amalgamation of local traditions with a post Gupta style.      Temple Architecture in India
  • The images of Mahishasuramardini and Narasimha at the Laksna-Devi Mandir are evidences of the influence of the post-Gupta tradition.         [Temple Architecture in India]
  • Of the temples in Kumaon, the ones at Jageshwar near Almora, and Champavat near Pithoragarh, are classic examples of nagara architecture in the region.
  • Temple Architecture in India


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