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Temple Architecture
 


1. Indian Architecture
•  Indus Civilization
•  Buddhist Architecture
•  Temple Architecture
•  Indo-Islamic Architecture
•  Modern Architecture
 
2. Indian Sculpture
•  Indus Civilization
•  Buddhist Sculpture
•  Gupta Sculpture
•  Medieval School of Sculpture
•  Modern Indian Sculpture
 
3. Indian Painting
•  Wall Painting
•  Miniature Painting
•  Modern Painting
 

 

The Mauryas were famous for their art and architecture Evidence of the earliest known structural temples has been recovered through excavations. A circular brick and timber shrine of the Mauryan period of 3rd century B.C., was excavated at Bairat District of Jaipur, Rajasthan. The shrine measures 23 meters in diameter and was made of lime-plastered brick work, alternating with 26 octagonal pillars, of wood. It was entered from the east through a small portico, supported by two wooden pillars and was surrounded by a seven feet wide ambulatory. A second example of a Maurya temple uncovered by excavations, Temple 40' at Sanchi, has a similar plan, it was a stone temple on an apsidal plan enclosed by an ambulatory, and raised on a high, rectangular scale, approached by two flights of steps from diagonally opposite sides. The super-structure was possibly built of wood, and has disappeared. In the following centuries the temple underwent a series of changes making it difficult to recognise from the original plan.

Temple 18 at Sanchi also was an apsidal stone temple probably with a timber superstructure, originally dating from the 2nd century B.C. The present remains of the apsidal temple with its stately pillars and pilaster dates from about the 7th century A.D. though the temple remained in use till the medieval period.

Perhaps the earliest structural temple still standing in its original condition is the one constructed at Aihole in Karnataka. This is a little structure built of huge almost boulder-like blocks of stones. The temple consists of a simple square cell the garbhagriha or sanctum sanctorum, in front of which there is a coveredverandah, a portico, which consists of four heavy pillars supporting a stone roof. The pillars as well as the entire structure is as simple as can be, except for a small frieze-like motif on the small parapet that runs on two sides of the ground length of the portico.

 

Temple 18 at Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh

It is interesting to observe that the architect who built this edifice had not yet discovered that the two pillars nearest the cell need not have been built standing clear away from the wall but that they could easily have been pilasters, half pillars, half jutting out of the back wall of the verandah. Nor had he taken the climate into consideration and did not provide gargoyles to allow the rain water to run off the roof. The entire structure is heavy, bulky and clumsy. Probably, this was constructed near about 300 to 350 A.D.


 

Temple No. 17, at Sanchi is a small temple built about 400 A.D. and everything attempted earlier, is done much better here. The stones are smaller and laid out in regular neat rows; the roof has been separated so that the portico has a slightly less prominent height - the Sanctum-Sanctorum being the main house of the God. Gargoyles have been thoughtfully provided to drain off rain water and the four back pillars are more slender and beautifully carved. This temple truly belongs to the Classical Period and is marked by elegance, harmony, balance and dignity. Decoration is minimal and is only used where one structural form joins another.

An inverted lotus is placed where the top of the shaft joins. The capital and little lions, seated back to back, act as support where the roof rests on top of the pillar. The entire structure is simple, with no complication. However, in the course of time the extremely plain and simple temple architecture becomes increasingly complicated, from a simple quadrangle it evolves into salient and re-entering angles, protrusions are added, making the outline more and more involved, till eventually it becomes almost like a star with more than a hundred little corners on the ground level.

Temple 17 at Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh


Lad Khan Temple, Aihole, Karnataka

The Ladkhan temple of Aihole belongs to about 5th century A.D. Here the architect has tried to give attention to the circumambulation path which is enclosed by means of a wall allowing devotees to havepradakshana or cirumambulatory of the holy of holies. Obviously when a large number of people would be going round in a dark gallery the consideration of light and ventilation would naturally arise and for that purpose the architect has provided perforated jallies. The entrance portico is in this particular case kept relatively small and not too much stress is laid on it. After all, it is only the entrance gateway. The structure still reminds us of a wooden prototype with stone walls, supporting a slanting roof made of large boulders of stone slabs. Cleverly enough the roof has been given a slant and provided with gargoyles to allow rain water to run off and on the sanctum sanctorum proper the roof is a little higher, and very rightly so, for that is the, abode of the God. On the top of the structure is the very first attempt to raise a turret, a precursor to the future loftier spire, the Shikhara. The idea behind it must have been that, a temple being the home of the God must be seen from far and near, from different parts of the village or town so it must be tall and higher than the surrounding buildings.


 

The Durga temple at Aihole is an apsidal temple of about 550 A.D. in which the architect has made immense improvements upon his previous attempts. This temple is provided with a high pedestal, an open pillared verandah serving as pradakshanapatha, in place of a dark, ambulatory passage as in the case of the Ladkhan temple. Instead of perforated jallies is a pillared verandah running round the shrine, open, well ventilated and well lit. There is a high entrance with steps leading up to a tall base; the roof is almost double in height and in this particular case the turret is beginning to take the shape of a little spire, which, during the course of the next centuries; evolved into a towering Shikhara. The pillars would have looked very dull had they not provided an opportunity to the sculptors to carve with beautiful figures. Carving is also done under the row of pillars and for the first time we come across brackets supporting the beam of the roof across the wide opening of the temple. This again reminds us of the practice followed by the architect working in wood, who wanted to make either a house or a shrine by putting up pillars or posts of bamboo or wood on top of which he put horizontal beams so as to hold the roof. To make this construction doubly strong, he hit upon the 'idea of making brackets, an essential element in Hindu and Buddhist architecture in India and used much earlier in China; a slanting piece of stone emerging as it were from the pillars or posts, reaching out like an arm to hold the lintel or beam steadily. This kind of construction is known by the architectural term, trabeate, as distinct from accurate which was later made use of by the Muslims.

Apart from structural temples the other variety of temples are rock cut, found at Mahabalipuram, about 38 miles down south of Madras on the sea shore, datable to the 5th century A.D. In local parlance they are known as Ratha or chariots and are named after the five Pandava brothers and Draupadi but they neither have anything to do with chariots nor probably with the Pandavas and these associations are purely of a local character. The great Pallava rulers of Kanchipuram, were great builders and the Pallava craftsmen, seized upon the long outcrop or rocks and boulders available on the sea shore, carved them and gave to them the shape of temples (monolithic) as well as colossal statues of lions, elephants and bulls, etc. carved out of smaller boulders.

One of these rock cut temples is known as the Draupadi Ratha.  It is a rock ­cut imitation of a mud hut, supported by wooden posts, crowned by an imitation of a thatched roof. The Draupadi Ratha consists of a square cell, with not even a portico, surmounted by a. hanging roof suggestive in its shape of a Bengali hut. There is every reason to believe that this, like so many other forms of structural Indian architecture is an imitation of a proto-type construction of bamboo and thatch. Two lovely girls adorn the entrance, each carved in a small niche provided for the purpose on either side of the entrance. A floral decoration runs along the edge of the roof which, according to some, is nothing but a rock cut representation of the original brass or copper edging over the thatching to keep it in position.

Durga Temple, Aihole, Karnataka


Draupadi and Arjuna Ratha, Stone, Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu

In shape and appearance the rest of the rathas seems to have evolved out of a building composed of cells arranged round a square courtyard. As the community of monks occupying the monastery increased another storey was added, and then another and still another, the whole structure eventually being topped with a domical roof. These are square in plan and are surmounted by a pyramidal tower such as Arjuna's ratha and the Dharmaraja ratha.

There is another type of the Ratha which has a longitudinal and barrel vaulted roof, i.e., they have a roof of the so called elephant-back type (Gajapristhakara). The Durga temple at Aihole, and the Vaital deul at Bhubaneswar are examples. The roof, in the case of the square shrines consists of a simple multiplication of hut roofs, very much the way we can see them in Buddhist monuments and other little huts. Though these are carved in rock they show a so-called Buddhist chaitya window with a little Buddha head. In the case of Arjuna's ratha and Dharmaraja ratha, their wonderful proportions, magnificent disposition of mass of light and shade reveal their classic character. The simple upright posts imitations, of wooden pillars support brackets and the pilasters have small animal bases. Whereas earlier at Sanchi the animals were used for the capital, here they are used as a base.


 

A temple, named after the twin heroes, Nakula and Sahadeva, is an apsidal one, with ornamental features as in the Dharmaraja, Arjuna and other rathas. There is a slight forward extension of the roof to form a porch supported by two lion pillars. There are no figure-carvings on this temple. Close to this is a monolithic elephant suggesting theGajapristhakara (elephant back) shape of the apsidal temple.

The Ganesh-rath is one of the finest monolithic temples at Mahabalipuram. Though three-­storeyed and of better workmanship, it resembles the Bhima-ratha in roof form. The gable-ends of the wagon-roof have a finial showing a human head decorated by a trident shaped head-gear, the slide prongs suggesting the usual horns in the dvarpala-figures and the central one long and narrow crown. This motif is repeated in the finials of the decorative gables along the wagon-roof. There is, as usual, the pavilion and Kudu ornamentation. The elaborately worked roof has nine vase-shaped finials and is the precursor of the later gopuram. A row of pilasters decorates the sides and the back, while the main opening is to the west. Between the dvarapalas at either end are two lion pillars in the centre and two pilasters.

Nakula and Sahadev Temple, Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu


Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu

The Shore temple at Mahabalipuram datable to late 7th century is specially known because of its location on the sea-shore. This temple though very similar stylistically to the Dharmaraja ratha, differs from it in an important respect that it is a structural temple and not a rock-cut one. It is about 3 to 4 times the size of the Dharmaraja ratha and is made a triple structure by adding a shrine at the back and slightly jutting out in the front. There are two spires, much loftier than in the case of the previous temples, the higher spire has more storeys than the Dharmaraja ratha and the pinnacle is higher and pointed. It is much more complicated, enlarged and enriched. The shrine is enclosed by a massive wall, having the typical Pallava rampart lion pilasters at regular intervals. On its outer side, the wall is surmounted by seated bull figures.

The Kailasanath temple at Kanchipuram was built by Raja Simha shortly after the Shore temple in the 8th century A.D., and compared to the latter, is larger in dimensions and more majestic in appearance. The Kailashnath temple is situated in a rectangular courtyard surrounded by a peristyle composed of a continuous series of cells resembling rathas. But there the Pallava style is further evolved and more elaborate. It consists of the sanctum (garbha griha), a pillared hall (mandapa), the ambulatory, the vestibule in the shape of a hall. The flat roofed pillared mandapa, which was a separate building originally, was connected with the sanctum by a vestibule.


  An interesting feature of this temple is that on the three sides of the garbha griha, there are nine shrines. The pyramidal tower, having graceful contours, is a storeyed elevation, each having heavy cornices and stupikas. The shikhara is well-proportioned, substantial, yet at the same time rhythmic in its mass and elegant in its outlines.

 

The Dhamekh stupa at Sarnath is an imposing cylindrical structure (ht. 43.5 m., dia at base 28.3 m.) of the Gupta age, partly built of stone and partly of brick. Its stone basement has eight projecting faces with large niches for statuary and is further adorned with delicately-carved floral and geometrical patterns. Making the holy spot of the enlightenment of the Master, this site is looked upon with, greatest sanctity and became a flourishing Buddhist establishment with numerous temples, stupas and monasteries. According to tradition a large number of shrines and memorials were created at the site to commemorate the incidents before and after enlightenment.

The main brick built shrine known as the Mahabodhi temple which appears to have been originally erected in circa 2nd century A.D. is encumbered with heavy renovation, the four corner-towers being an arbitrary addition of circa 14th century A.D. Its central tower, standing on a high plinth, is about 55m. high and is a straight-edged pyramid of seven storeys, by pilasters and chaitya niches.


Dhamekh Stupa at Sarnath,
Utter Pradesh


Mahabodhi Temple, Bodh Gaya, Bihar

According to literary tradition, Nalanda, 10 kilometres north of Rajgir and a suburb of the ancient city, was visited by Buddha and Mahavira. Ashoka is said to have worshipped at the chaitya-niches of Sariputra, Buddha's disciple, and erected a temple. By the time of Harsha  A.D. 606-648, Nalanda had become the principal centre of Mahayana learning and a famed University town with numerous shrines and monasteries which attracted scholars from far and near. The Chinese Pilgrims Huien Tsang and Fa-hien studied at Nalanda and have left account of the settlement and its life.

Temple 3 was more than 31 m. high and consisted of seven successive accumulations of which the two latest belonged to the 11th and 12th centuries and the fifth one, dating from circa 6th century, was notable for its sculptural wealth. The monasteries were imposing rectangular buildings, each with an open courtyard, enclosed by a covered verandah which leads into cells, arranged on the four sides. The cell facing the entrance served as a shrine. Nalanda was an important centre of Pala sculptures and bronzes and has also yielded seals and sealings of great historical significance.



 

Let us now turn to a region where the north Indian style of temple architecture developed in an interesting direction.

Till about the 6th century A.D., the style of temple architecture was similar both in the north as well as in the south. It is only after this date that each began to evolve in its own different direction. For the present let it be understood clearly that the two areas where temple architecture developed most markedly were the Deccan and Orissa and in both these areas the northern and southern style temples can be found side by side. The Vimana, the temple tower over the main shrine in Orissa is one of the most glorious inventions of architecture in India and is functionally a much finer conception than the south Indian Gopuram, where the barrel-shaped tower does not crown the sanctum sanctorum or thegarbha-griha but is a glorified entrance gate. We had suggested in our introduction that the architect wanted to impart to the temple more importance, prominence than the other buildings in the neighbourhood, because here lived his God in the garbha griha or the womb-house. The Orissan spire does precisely this, proclaiming the presence of God far and wide, from its lofty and imposing structure as at the Jagannath temple at Puri or the Lingaraja at Bhubaneswar; driving awe and respect into the hearts of the faithful and impressing all who approach it. The temple tower or the vimana, as it is called in Orissa, is thus, a mighty expression of the religious faith of people. It is interesting to study the temple projected here which is the Vaitala Deul at Bhubaneswar, a barrel­ roofed shrine of the Sakti cult, datable to the 8th century A.D. The facade or outer side of the temple is divided by ribbon like elements that run down the base from under the barrel roof. These ribbons project slightly and contain niches with sculptures, while the actual barrel shaped roof is resting on a number of regularly diminishing highly decorated mouldings, one on top of the other. The barrel roof itself is an imitation in stone of a thatched roof of an ancient hut, going back to very early times and still found over bullock carts in Bengal and other regions of the east.

Jagannatha Temple, Puri, Orissa


Shikhara, Vaital Deul Temple, Bhubaneswar, Orissa

It is interesting here to remember that there is a definite pattern in the elaboration, complication and ornamental decoration evolving out of the dignified simplicity and harmony of the classic period such as seen in the Sanchi temple, gradually giving place to every increasing ornamentation and decoration.

We have already seen that in India the sculptor and the architect were often one and the same person and it would be highly misleading to treat sculpture and architecture separately. As a matter of fact, sculpture was introduced as a decorative element over the facade on outer walls of a temple. To recapitulate let us look back at the great Sanchi temple of about the 5th century and .see how very simple the structure is and how bare and undecorated the walls are. Then you might have observed that on the walls of the Ladkhan temple, by providing a variety of perforated screen windows, some variation was introduced by about the middle of the 5th century and about a 100 years later in the Durga temple at Aihole, sculpture were added at the base of the pillar round theverandah and gradually in the Vaitala Deul, datable to about the beginning of the 7th century, the sculptor has made rich use of the niches in the ribbon like projections to embellish and decorate the temple.

By about the year 1000 A.D. the temple was treated with decorative elements. The Raja Rani temple of Bhubaneswar, is superbly decorated, showing sensuous and graceful figures of Yakshis and Vrikshikas standing amidst luxurious natural surroundings.


 

The early Indian temple was provided with a flat roof and there was a problem of letting out accumulated rain water. In the Aihole temples of Ladkhan and Durga, the roof slabs have been given a slant and these slabs of large stones which were used in the early Orissan temples datable to about the mid 7th century, namely the Parasurameshvara temple at Bhubaneswar. In this case there are two roofs of slanting slabs, one above the other, providing in between, small skylights allowing light to penetrate inside the shrine. Gradually these slanting slab-roofs begin to increase from one to two and from two to three and gradually by multiplying these roofs, a pyramidal roof results over the shrine, called Jagamohana in Orissa, which precedes the main shrine.

A masterpiece of Indian architecture is the Rajarani temple of Bhubaneswar, a work of exquisite grace in which the masses of the Jagamohana and the Vimana are admirably combined to express perfection. There is a very lovely beehive shaped tower rising from the ground with a gentle curvature over the sanctum sanctorum. Shikhara onShikhara, miniature temple towers, one on top of the other, mount higher and higher to ever loftier heights like the great Mount Everest surrounded by smaller crags. It is possible that the architect conceived the idea of the ever rising succession of these miniature Shikharas and was inspired by the great mountain range and the highest peak in the Himalayas which is surrounded by lesser peaks and might well symbolise the aspirations of the human soul to reach up till it merges and mixes with the Eternal and the Almighty Spirit. The Orissan temple stands as a great monument to the infinite patience and loving care and perseverance that moves these architects and the kings who carved ornaments and distinct from the severely simple pyramidal roof of modest height over Jagamohana or themandapa. The multiplication of the slanting slabs has been carried to 13 horizontal elements, diminishing as they reach towards the pinnacle on the top of the pyramid. But even this pinnacle is dwarfed by the importance of the lovely round stone, the amlaka, the chhatra or the crown on top of the spire or tower. The Jagamohana and theVimana are connected by means of miniature spires emerging from the pyramidal roof of the Jagmohana towards theShikhara of the sanctum sanctorum, making a transition a kind of step that leads the eye towards the height of the tower.

Parasurameswara Temple, Bhubaneswar, Orissa


Surya, Vital Deul Temple, Bhubaneswar, Orissa

We have seen that the evolution of temple architecture in Orissa is towards the greater elaboration of the plan and pronounced ornamentation over the outside of the walls, with decorative elements, including human figures, gods and goddesses, flora and fauna. Early temples of modest size and somewhat smallershikharas such as the Parasurameswara temple at Bhubaneswar datable to the middle of the 7th century, with a squat and heavy shikhara over the sanctum sanctorum and a low flat roofed mandapa, embellished with a relief of dancers and musicians of great charm, gradually matures into an elaborate structure of towering height, embellished with sculptural decorations.

Then comes the Vaitala Deul which is known for its sculpture grace and exuberance of decoration, with a rectangular sanctum with wagon-vault roof similar to that of the Parasurameswara temple, and is datable on the basis of its decorative motifs and designs, which are mature, expressive and dynamic, to the close of the 8th century.

Then comes the Mukateswara temple regarded as a gem of Orissan architecture.

The Brahmesvara temple is a panchyatana temple securely dated by an inscription, to about 1060 A.D. This is a temple in which the central shrine is surrounded by four small shrines in the four corners of the compound. Though a very beautiful shrine, the spire or shikhara appears to be curving rather abruptly under the amlaka, unlike the spire of the Rajarani which is perfect and admirable for its style and decoration. The Jagamohana has a rather top heavy pyramidal roof, unlike the Rajarani which is of modest height and much simpler.


 

The Lingaraja temple, datable to about 1000 A.D., is perhaps the most marvellous temple ever erected in this century, the grandest and the loftiest (above 36.50 m. high) marking the culmination of the architectural activities at Bhubaneswar. This temple consists of the sanctum sanctorum, a closed hall, a dancing hall and a hall of offerings, the last two being later additions. The Lingaraja is surrounded by a large number of additional shrines which clutters up the entire compound. The enormous height of the spire, 5 times the height of the Rajarani, dominates the entire surroundings by its soaring loftiness and volume, emphasised by the deeply incised vertical lines of the rathas, a pair of which flanking the central ratha, carry four diminishing replicas of the spire itself as a decorative pattern. The Jagamohana and the spire match each other splendidly and both express the greatness of the Lord. The nine lower roof and seven upper roofs of the Jagamohana are exquisitely adorned with friezes representing a procession of infantry, cavalry, elephants and miscellaneous other scenes that break the monotony of the rising pyramid and a great shikhara surface too is elegantly varied by the introduction of corner miniatureshikharas and flying lions. The elegant and lovely female figures, loving couples in embrace, and other gods and goddesses decorating the surface are all carved with sensuous charm, beauty and delight in fine form. The mature planning of the whole structure, the proportionate distribution of its part, the graceful curve of its shikhara and its elegant architectural and plastic decoration, together with its impressive dimensions make the Lingaraja, at Bhubaneswar, one of the greatest creations of Indian architecture. Technically speaking it is a marvellous architectural feat to build a tower and a shrine of such enormous size, of the fashioned stone.

It may be mentioned at this juncture, that in the later temples of Orissa, including the Lingaraja, there are two additional shrines attached along one axis - in front of the Jagamohana, natamandapa, or a hall of dance and music, and a bhogmandapa, a hall of offerings. As a matter of fact, the temple was a total work of art in which we have not only sculptures and painting, but music, dancing and theatrical performance, making it a true civic centre for artistic and cultural activities, somewhat like the modern community halls, which are places for social and cultural gatherings. In the olden days the temple performed this task and was truly the hub around which all civic and religious life of the community revolved.

Lingaraja Temple, Bhubaneswar, Orissa


Surya Mandir, Konarak, Orissa

Among the later shrines of Bhubaneswar the Ananta Vasudeva temple, founded in 1278, is remarkable in more ways then one. It is the only temple dedicated to Vaishnava worship at this predominantly Shiva site and stands on an ornate platform terrace. It continues with the developed plan and decorative scheme of Lingaraja, but the grouping of the roofs over the four compartments in a gradual ascent is more spectacular here. Further, the walls of the sanctum and the Jagamohana display images of the Regents as well as those of their consorts.

The last great temple, the grandest achievement of the artistic and architectural genius of Orissa is the Sun temple at Konark which was constructed by the eastern Ganga ruler Narasimha Varmana, about 1250 A.D. It is a vast and wonderful structure, magnificently conceived as a gigantic chariot with 12 pairs of ornamental wheels, pulled by seven rearing horses. The colossal temple originally consisted of a sanctum sanctorum, with a lofty curvilinear shikhara, Jagamohana and a dancing hall, built on the same axis, and an extensive compound wall with three entrance gateways. The sanctum sanctorum and the dancing hall have lost their roofs and it is only the Jagamohana which has remained intact with its roof. The sanctum sanctorum and the Jagamohana together stand on a lofty platform, richly ornamented by friezes of elephants, decorative ornaments interspersed with figures sculptures, often of a highly sensuous character. Over the stupendous roof of the Jagamohana consisting of horizontal tiers, grouped in three stages, stand life size female sculptures of great charm, dancers, cymbal players and others adorning each stage. The whole structure of the Jagamohana unparalleled for its grandeur and structural propriety, is surmounted by an effective contrast of light and shade.


 

Udaipur, about 40 miles from Bhilsa in Madhya Pradesh, is yet another ancient and remarkable site. The finest and best preserved temple is the Nilakantha or Udayesvara at Udaipur, built by Udayaditya Paramara between 1059 and 1080. It has a covered porch, a pyramidal roof and a tower or Shikhara ornamented by four narrow flat bands running from base to summit, the intervening spaces being occupied with repeated ornaments consisting of reduplication in miniature of the main tower. The whole is carved with particular precision and delicacy, and both tower and mandapa are in perfect preservation, the former surmounted by an amalasila or a vase.

The most important of the temples at Pattadakal date from the first half of the 8th century and show the strongest possible evidences of Pallava influence. The great Virupaksha temple, dedicated to Siva as Lokesavara, by the queen of Vikramaditya II datable to 740 A.D., was most likely built by workmen brought from Kanchipuram, and in direct imitation of the Kailasanath at Kanchipuram.

The main shrine is distinct from the Mandapam, but has a pradakshana passage, the pillared mandapamhas solid walls, with pierced stone windows. The square shikhara consists of clearly defined storeys each of considerable elevation. Chaitya window motifs are much used and there are many sculptured lintels, slabs and monolithic pillars. It is built of very large, closely-jointed blocks of stone without mortar, in keeping with early Dravidian temple building practices. One of the noblest structures in India, this is the only ancient temple at Pattadakal still in use.

Virupaksha Temple, Pattadakal, Karnataka


Brihadeshvara Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu

Let us turn our attention once again towards the South of India, where the Dravidian style of temple architecture flourished roughly from the 8th century to about the 13-14 century A.D. Unlike the North, the South is literally dotted with thousands of temples, having been relatively free from repeated foreign invasions to which the North was subject. Behind the architectural achievements of the country, lay the urge of the Hindu mind to give vent to its religious and spiritual hopes and aspirations, and the construction and maintenance of a temple became an act of merit or Dharma both here and in the hereafter for all - Kings, nobles and laymen alike. It was the centre of all cultural and social life, the hub around which all activities revolved. Its influence extended beyond the purely religious and spiritual realms and made the temple an important centre. The temple was a leading landowner, thanks to the frequent donations from kings, nobles and lay-devotees. The construction of a temple usually took many years and it gave employment to hundreds of artists and engineers. The finest craftsmen from neighbouring provinces found employment and a whole generation of talented sculptors were trained by them during its construction. The daily routine gave assured employment to a large number of people, priests, musicians, dancing girls, teachers, florist, tailors, etc. In course of time the simple unostentatious temple became a vast conglomeration of structures, consisting of subsidiary shrines, Natamandaps and Bhogamandapas, or a dance hall and hall of offerings. Poet pavillions, confectioners and others were allowed to become part of temple complex. In other words the temple almost embraced and enveloped the town or the town embraced and enveloped the temple. With the increase in all these additional structures, more compounds were added to the original temple compound, one inside the other, like Chinese boxes.


 

The present South Indian temple, therefore, consists of walls, quadrangles, one within the other. The inner most wall in the area contains the temple proper, a much smaller and unpretentious structure than the other larger gateways which now began to attract the attention of architects, sculptors and carvers. The Brihadesvara temple which was erected about 1000 A.D. is a contemporary of the Rajarani temple of Bhubaneswar. The temple is a magnificent and dignified edifice consisting of a pyramidal spire, made up of ever diminishing tiers, regularly tapering towards the top surmounted by a domica1 pinnacle. In many respects this shrine resembles the Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram. The domica1 pinnacle, however, is different in conception and execution from the amlaka of the Orissan Shrine. The highestshikhara rises straight over the garbha griha from the sanctum sanctorum. The structure is adorned with beautiful sculpture and paintings; inside as well as outside. The Brihadesvara Temple, dedicated to Shiva, stands in a courtyard 500 ft. by 200 ft. and consists of the sanctum sanctorum, large hall a pillared hall and a Nandimandapa arranged on the same axis. The pyramidal vimana is about 190 ft. high consisting of 13 zones in diminishing order and has been so conceived that at no time during the day does the shadow of its pinnacle fall anywhere outside the temple base.

The famous Kailasa temple at Ellora is in a class by itself because it is a rock-cut temple complex, which in many respects resembles the various rathas at Mahabalipuram. This temple was constructed during the reign of the Rashtrakuta King Krishna and belongs to the middle of the 8th century A.D. The carvers at Ellora cut three trenches down into the rock and then began to carve the rock from the top downwards. Even though it is carved on the model of a structural temple, the Kailashnath temple is a rock-cut shrine within a rectangular court. The different parts of the temple are the entrance portico, the vimana and the mandapa as well as a pillared shrine for Shiva's bull, Nandi. Both inside as well as outside the temple, there are beautiful, graceful and dignified sculptural decorations, largely pertaining to the theme of Shiva and Parvati, Sita's abduction and Ravana shaking the mountain.

Kailash Temple, Ellora, Maharashtra


Temple Complex, Madurai, 
Tamil Nadu

The gopuram, is the tower, an oblong quadrangle, sometimes a square, with a passage through the centre and is situated on the entrance gateway unlike in the north, or even at the Brihadesvara temple in Tanjore, where the tower-like structure was on the top of the sanctum sanctorum or garbha-griha. In many ways the gopuram could have descended from the Buddhist gateway such as we have already seen at Sanchi and Bharhut, etc. It is crowned by a barrel-vault roof over which a large number of pinnacles rise which remind us once again of a barrel roof on a longitudinal hut which used to be made of timber. As stated earlier these gopurams are towering structures, some having 9 storeys, others even 11. The gopuramprovided an excellent opportunity to the sculptor to practice his craft and contain some of the finest sculptures produced in the country. The gopuram at Chidambaram has a series of sculptures showing dance poses of Bharatanatyam. At night time, lights used to be lit in each storey of the gopuram tower and these acted as a sure guide to the nocturnal traveller, acting like a light house or beacon. As a rule the highest gopuram tower was the latest, the earliest being the least high size as in the gopuram of the Meenakshi temple at Madurai. Visitors can climb into these towers to appreciate the carvings at close quarters and incidentally get a marvellous view of the temple complex. South Indian temples of this period are remarkable for the great size of their structures, mandapas and gopurams. In addition elaboratemandapas of hundred pillared type are also constructed during the period of late Vijaynagar and the period of the Nayakas in the 16th century A.D. This is an interesting departure from the evolution of the temple from early times. These pillared halls now become more and more elaborate with pillars showing donor couples, kings, queen, mythical animals with fantastic shapes and size. The paintings over these as well as over the pillars and ceiling are very colourful.

In some temples there are tanks surrounded by elegant pillared halls which are functionally and architecturally admirable structures. The temples built in the 12-13th centuries under the patronage of the Hoysalas of Mysore, are at Somnathpur, Belur and Halebid. The well-known Kesava temple at Somnathpur, and the Hoysala temple at Halebid and Belur are veritable treasure houses of ornamental and decorative elements, carved in niches, and intricate vegetal and floral carvings. The vimana is of a star shaped plan with salients and reentering angles with mouldings, multiplication and over-decoration. Not an inch of space is left uncarved and there are animals and other denizens of the forest shown on the lower most three or four mouldings, interspersed with floral and creeper designs and, above them all, in more than life size, are shown huge sculptural representations of gods and goddesses, completely covered with by lavish decorations and rich ornaments.


 

Khajuraho, twenty five miles North of Panna and twenty seven miles of Chhatarpur in Madhya Pradesh is an important place because of the exquisite temples built there by the Chandellas.

The Khajuraho temples are cruciform in plan with the long axis from East to West. Built of buff sandstone from the quarries of Panna, these temples have a soft texture and a most pleasing colour. The temples have usually been made on high terraces. Almost all the temples have an inner shrine an assembly hall or mandapa, and an entrance portico. The temples at Khajuraho have a circumambulatory passage also. Some of the temples at Khajuraho are a cluster of five shrines - the main temple surrounded by four others at each corner. In architecture, these types of temples are known as Panchayatana - a temple that has a central shrine surrounded by four other shrines.

The Kandariya Temple, the Mahadeva Temple, the Devi Jagadamba Temple, the Chitragupta Temple, the Vishwanatha Temple, the Parvati Temple, the Lakshamana or Chaturbhuja Temple; the Varaha Temple; the Chaunsat Yogini Temple (the only temple made entirely of granite and dedicated to sixty fouryoginis) are some of the very famous and worth studying from the art and architectural point of view.

These temples were built between tenth to late twelfth centuries. The South-East of Khajuraho is famous for Jain Temples. The Parsvanatha Temple is most important one whereas the Ghantai Temple is named because of the bell and chain ornaments at its pillars.

 

Vishwanath temple, Khajuraho, 
Madhya Pradesh


 

PALA AND SENA KINGS

From the eighth to twelfth centuries, the eastern portion of India was host to a florescence of artistic activity. Under the Pala dynasty, which ruled large portions of Eastern-South Asia for nearly four hundred years span, many centres of Buddhism and Hinduism flourished.

The Pala dynasty came to power around 750 A.D. The Pala school of art first flourished in the Magadha region of Southern Bihar, the homeland of Buddhist religion. Not surprisingly, the majority of early Pala-period remains are Buddhist. Due to intense religious activity during Pala­ Sena period, many religious structures were built or renovated. Most of these buildings have vanished leaving no extant architecture from this period and making it very difficult to reconstruct a systematic overview of the architectural development. Inspite of non-availability of any building, a huge corpus of sculpture and a few paintings survive from this period.

During the Pala-period, a number of monasteries and religious sites that had been founded in earlier periods grew into prominence. The large cruciform stupa at Paharpur (ancient Somapura) in Bengal (now Bangladesh), for example, measures more than one hundred meters from North to South. It was built around the late eighth or early ninth century. The walls of the courtyard contain 177 individual cells that served as shrines.

Although the first two hundred or so years of Pala-period art were dominated by Buddhist art, the Hindu remains also exist in some quantities in that phase and clearly dominate in the last two hundred years of the Pala-period.

The remains, though damaged, suggest that Bengali architecture styles in particular shared many features with other northern schools especially that of Orissa. The surviving examples from Bengal later than Pala-Sena period especially from the sixteenth century and later show greater Islamic influence. Thus, for an understanding of the Hindu artistic development from the eighth to twelfth centuries, the greater attention must be placed on the surviving sculptures.

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