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EVOLUTION OF INDIAN HINDU TEMPLE ARCHITECTURE

Updated on December 31, 2010

EVOLUTION OF INDIAN TEMPLE ARCHITECTURE

Indian temples have been a source of attraction, not only as a place of worship for the devout, but also as an architectural marvel for the curious tourist. Indian temples with its imposing towers, intricate carvings and awe inspiring size were in fact the result of a gradual evolution over time. In the Vedic period (1500 to 500 BC) there were actually no temples as such. They propitiated the Gods by performing yagas using sacrificial altars. Details of how such altars may be constructed where meticulously mentioned in The SULVASUTRA (literally meaning ‘the rules of the cord’). These YAGASALAS later got transformed to temples.

Earliest temples were made of timber and clay, and though they were later replaced by the more enduring granite, there are still temples in Kerala and Dakshina Karnataka made with timber and which has withstood the ravages of time. Cave temples which are found in profusion particularly in Central India, were a later innovation. Though the basic temple patterns are the same, temple styles fall into two categories. North Indian style called NAGARA and southern style called DRAVIDIAN. There is a derivative of the above two styles which is called VESARA.

NAGARA STYLE

NAGARA style temples have curvilinear towers as against DRAVIDIAN temples which have truncated pyramids. The derivative style VESARA is a combination of both NAGARA and DRAVIDIAN type of architecture.

NAGARA style temple architecture originated during the Gupta period (320 -650 AD) and is found mostly in North and Central India. The temple complexes at TIGAWA (In modern MADHYA PRADESH), NACHNA in RAJASTHAN and DEOGARH in UTTAR PRADESH are examples of this. The major developments in temple architecture were during the following periods.

750 – 1250 AD in Orissa

950 – 1050 AD in Central India

10th to 11th Century in Rajasthan and

11th to 13th Century in Gujarat.

Some of temples worth seeing are LINGARAJA temple at Bhubaneshwar, JAGANNATHA temple in Puri, SURYA temple at Konarak.

DRAVIDIAN STYLE

The southern style DRAVIDIAN temples had its genesis during the age of the PALLAVAS of Kanchipuram (600 -850 AD) and later developed by the CHALUKYAS of Badami and PANDYAS of Madurai. The temple complexes at MAMMALAPURAM (earlier known as MAHABALIPURAM) IN Tamil nadu, LAKDHAN temple in Aihole and Kasinatha temple in Pattadakkal are examples of this style of architecture. The evolution of Southern temples were as follow:

600 -850 AD in Tamil nadu during the period of the Pallavas ( rock cut and RATHA style temples of Mahabalipuram, Kailasanatha and Vaikunta Perumal temples of Kanchipuram)

900 – 850 in Tamil Nadu during the Chola dynasty ( Brihadeeshwara and Srirangam temples)

1336 – 1565 during the period of the Vijayagara empire in Karnataka (Pampavati and Sri Vithala temples at Hampi)

1600 to 1700 during the Nayaks of Madurai. (Enlarged the existing Meenakshi temple complex by making it ornate and adding pillared corridors)

The VESARA style temples were influenced by the Buddhist apsidal chapels and evolved during the period the Later CHALUKYAS.

If the ancient YAGASALAS or RIG VEDIC times were based on the SULVASUTRAS the later temple complexes were based on VASTU SASTRA which had it sources from such diverse scriptures as the SUTRAS, PURANAS, AGAMAS and TANTRIC literature.


INDIAN TEMPLES

Konarak sub Temple
Konarak sub Temple
Lingaraj Temple Bhubaneshwar, Orissa - Nagara style
Lingaraj Temple Bhubaneshwar, Orissa - Nagara style
Vesara style temple
Vesara style temple
Brihadeshwara Temple - Dravidian style
Brihadeshwara Temple - Dravidian style
Cave temples of Ajanta
Cave temples of Ajanta
Five Rathas of Mahabalipuram
Five Rathas of Mahabalipuram
Mahabalipuram plan
Mahabalipuram plan
Mahabalipuram
Mahabalipuram
Kerala style architecture - Triprayar Sri Rama Temple
Kerala style architecture - Triprayar Sri Rama Temple
Books on Temple architecture - Medieval period
Books on Temple architecture - Medieval period

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    sreelakshmi 4 years ago

    thaks for the information but i need more references on temple architecture plezzz provide som useful suggesions

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    FAITS 5 years ago

    HEY GR8 INFO...CAN YOU HELP ME BY POSTING ABOUT THE PLAN OF A HINDU TEMPLE.I WANT TO LEARN ABOUT THE PLANNING

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    ram_m 5 years ago from India

    I'am honoured by your comment Mountain Blossoms. Thank you

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    Marianne Kellow 5 years ago from SE Thailand

    Such good information and the photos are brilliant! Truly inspirational. As I read each of your hubs I feel I must do more reading, India has such beautiful architecture, culture and learning. Thank you once again. MB

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    ram_m 5 years ago from India

    thank you aaquib

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    aaqib 5 years ago

    awesome very useful for my studies

  • ram_m profile image
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    ram_m 5 years ago from India

    thank you shamila

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    shamila 5 years ago

    awsum jod this is very useful for my studies

  • ram_m profile image
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    ram_m 6 years ago from India

    Thank you lex123

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    ram_m 6 years ago from India

    Thank you Soumysrajan

  • lex123 profile image

    lex123 6 years ago

    Great hub on Indian temples. Very good information. Thanks for writing this.

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    soumyasrajan 6 years ago from Mumbai India and often in USA

    Quite amazing picture Ram. Breathtaking! I liked your description of classification too.

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    ram_m 7 years ago from India

    Thank you Ben

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    ben 7 years ago

    good work!

  • ram_m profile image
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    ram_m 7 years ago from India

    Thanks Rmnathan

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    Rmnathan 7 years ago from Sharjah

    Very good hub on Indian temple architecture. Thanks.

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