Tuesday, 16 February 2016


The Nagara or North Indian Temple Architecture:

Basic form of a Hindu temple:

1. Garbhagriha:
• It literally means ‘womb-house’ and is a cave like sanctum.
• The Garbhagriha is made to house the main icon (main deity) which is itself the focus of much ritual attention.

2. Mandapa:
• It is the entrance to the temple.
• It may be a portico or colonnaded (series of columns placed at regular intervals) hall that incorporate 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.

3. Shikhara or Vimana:
• They are mountain like 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.

4. Amalaka:
• It is a stone disc like structure at the top of the temple and they are common in North Indian temples.

5. Kalasha:
• It is the topmost point of the temple and commonly seen in North Indian temples.

6. Antarala (vestibule):
• Antarala is a transition area between the Garbhagriha and the temple’s main hall (mandapa).

7. Jagati:
• It is a raised platform for sitting and praying and is common in North Indian temples.

8. Vahana:
• 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.
Classification of Indian Temples
Indian temples can be classified into two broad orders as
1. Nagara (in North India)
2.Dravida (in South India)
3. the Vesara style of temples as an independent style created through the mixing of Nagara and Dravida orders.

Sculptures, Iconography and Ornamentation :

• Iconography is a branch of art history which studies the images of deities.
• It consists of identification of image based on certain symbols and mythology associated with them.
• The temple is covered with elaborate sculptures and ornament that form a fundamental part of its conception.

The Nagara or North Indian Temple Architecture :

• It is common here to build an entire temple on a stone platform with steps leading up to it.
• Unlike in south India, it doesn’t usually have elaborate boundary walls or gateways.
• Earliest temples had only one shikhara (tower), but in the later periods multiple shikharas came.
• The garbhagriha is always located directly under the tallest tower.

There are many subdivisions of nagara templesdepending on the shape of the shikhara:

1. Latina/ Rekha-Prasada:

• It is the simple and most common type of shikhara.
• It is square at the base and the walls curve or slope inwards to a point on top.
• Latina types are mainly used for housing the garbhagriha.

2. Phamsana type shikhara:

• They are broader and shorter than Latina type.
• Their roof is composed of several slabs that gently rise to a single point over the centre of the building, unlike the Latina ones which looks like sharply rising towers.
• Phamsana roofs do not curve inwards; instead they slope upward on a straight incline.
• In many north Indian temples, the phamsana type is used for mandapas while the main garbhagriha is housed in a Latina building.

3. Valabhi type shikhara:

• These are rectangular buildings with a roof that rises into a vaulted chamber.
• The edge of the vaulted chamber is round, like the bamboo or wooden wagons that would have been drawn by bullocks in ancient times.
• The form of this temple is influenced by ancient building forms that were already in existence.

We can also classify the Nagara Temples on the basis of region as follows:

Central India:

• In the later periods,the temples grew from simple four pillared structures to 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 ancient temples in UP, MP and Rajasthan share many traits and the most visible is that they are made of Sandstone.

1. Dashavatara Vishnu Temple, Deogarh, UP:

• Even though the patrons and donors of the temple are unknown, it is believed that this temple was built in the early 6th century CE.
• This is a classical example of the late Gupta period.
• This temple is in the Panchayatana style of architecture. [Panchayatana is an architectural style where the main shrine is built on a rectangular plinth with four smaller subsidiary shrines at the four corners and making it a total of five shrines – i.e., Pancha]
• There are 3 main reliefs of Vishnu on the temple walls.
• The temple depicts Vishnu in various forms due to which it was assumed that the four subsidiary shrines must also house Vishnu’s avatars and the temple was mistaken for a dashavatara temple.

2. Temples at Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh:

• The temples at Khajuraho were made in the 10th century, about 400 years after the temple at Deogarh and the complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
• The temples were patronized by Chandela kings.
• The temples at Khajuraho are all made of Sandstone.
• The largest temple at Khajuraho is the Kandariya Mahadeva temple which is attributed to king Ganda.
• The Lakshmana temple dedicated to Vishnu was built in 954 by Chandela king, Dhanga.
• All the towers or shikhara of the temple rise high, upward in a curved pyramidal fashion, emphasizing the temple’s vertical thrust ending in a horizontal fluted disc called an Amalaka topped with a Kalasha or a vase.
• The crowning element Kalasha and Amalaka are to be found on all nagara temples of this period.
• The Khajuraho temples are also known for their extensive erotic sculptures (about 10% of total sculptures); the erotic expression gives equal importance in human experience as a spiritual pursuit, and it is seen as a part of the larger cosmic whole.
• Many Hindu temples, therefore feature Mithuns (embracing couples-erotic sculptures) sculptures, considered auspicious.
• [Khajuraho dance festival is organized by MP Kalaparishad and is a one week long (first week of February) festival of classical dances celebrated annually against the spectacular backdrop of Khajuraho]

West 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 12thcentury temple sculptures.
• Among the most important art historical sites in the region is Samlaji in Gujarat.
• A large number of sculptures made of grey schist have been found in this region.
1. Sun temple, Modhera, Gujarat:

• The temple dates back to the early 11th century and was built by Raja Bhimdev I of the Solanki dynasty.
• The Solanks were a branch of later Chalukyas.
• There is a massive rectangular stepped tank called Surya Kund in front of it.
• The hundred square metre rectangular pond is perhaps the grandest temple tank in India.
• A hundred and eight miniature shrines are carved in between the steps inside the tank.

East India :
• East Indian temples include those found in the North-East, Bengal and Odisha and each of these three areas produce a distinct type of temple.
• It appears that terracotta was the main medium of construction.

• An old 6th century sculpted door frame from DaParvatia near Tezpur and another few stray sculptures from Rangagora Tea Estate near Tinsukia in Assam bear witness to the import of the Gupta idiom in that region.
• The post-Gupta style continued in the region well in the 10th
• However, by the 12th to 14th centuries, a distinct regional style developed in Assam.
• The style that came with the migration of the Tais from upper Burma mixed with the dominant Pala style of Bengal and led to the creation of what was later known as the Ahom style in and around Guwahati.


• The style of sculptures during the period between the 9th and 11th centuries in Bengal (including Bangladesh) and Bihar is known as the Pala style, named after the ruling dynasty at that time.
• That style in the mid 11th and mid 13th centuries is named after the Sena kings.
• The Siddheswara Mahadeva temple in Burdwan, W.B, built in the 9th century, shows a tall curving shikhara crowned by a large amalaka, is an example of early Pala style.
• Many of the temples from 9th to 12th centuries were located at Telkupi in Puruta district, W.B.
• They were submerged when dams were constructed in the region.
• The architecture of these temples heavily influenced the earliest Bengal Sultanate buildings at Gaur and Pandya.
• Many local vernacular building traditions of Bengal also influenced the style of the temple in that region.
• The most prominent of these was the shape of the sloping or curving side of the bamboo roof of a Bengali hut.
• This feature was eventually even adopted in Mughal buildings, and is known as across India as theBangla Roof (word Bungalow derived from this).

Odisha (Kalingia Architecture):

The main architectural features of Odisha temples are classified in three orders:
a. Rekhapida/ Rekha deula/ rathaka deula:
·        Rekha means line and it is a tall straight building with a shape of sugar loaf. It covers the garbhagriha.
b. Pidhadeula:
·        It is a square building with a pyramid shaped roof and is mainly found for housing the outer dancing and offering halls.
c. Khakradeula:
·        It is a rectangular building with truncated pyramid shaped roof. Temples of thefemale deities are usually in this form (garbhagriha usually) and will have a resemblance with Dravidian temples of south.
·        The temples of Odisha constitute a distinct sub style within nagara order.
·        In general, here the Shikhara called Deul in Odisha is vertical almost until the top when it suddenly curves sharply inwards.
·        Mandapas in Odisha are called Jagamohanas.

1. Sun temple, Konark, Odisha:
• It is built around 1240 on the shores of the Bay of Bengal.
• The temple is set on a high base, its walls covered in extensive, detailed ornamental carving.
• These include 12 pairs of enormous wheels sculpted with spokes and hubs, representing the chariot wheels of the sun God who, in mythology, rides a chariot driven by 8 horses, sculpted here at the entrance staircase.

2. Jagannatha temple, Puri, Odisha:

• It is also located on the eastern coast, at Puri, Odisha.
• The temple is a part of Char Dham (Badrinath, Dwaraka, Puri, Rameswaram) pilgrimages that a Hindu is expected to make in one’s lifetime.
• When most of the deities in the temples of India are made of stone or metal, the idol of Jagannatha is made of wood which is ceremoniously replaced in every twelve or nineteen years by using sacred trees.
• The temple is believed to be constructed in the 12th century by King Anatavarman Chodaganga Deva of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty.
• The temple is famous for its annual Ratha Yatra or Chariot festival.

1 comment:

  1. Very helpful... Lucid and easily graspable... Thank you Sir...