While the Muslim architecture continued to flourish during the Medieval period the Hindu art also continued to receive patronage at the hands of Hindu princes. The Hindu princes constructed temples, mighty fortresses in the traditional Hindu style.
However, they did not pay much attention to the construction of palaces. As a result a number of Hindu schools of architecture flourished in different parts of the country. The distinctive features of the Hindu architecture were narrow pillars of circular section with base and capital, pilasters, courbal brackets, cornice or chhajja, graceful tapering arch, lavish decorative designs and attractive well-proportioned figures.
During the initial period of the Muslim rule in India the Hindu architecture remained immune from the Islamic architectural ideas. However, during the times of the Mughals the Islamic architectural ideas found their way into Hindu architecture. For a fuller understanding of the Hindu architecture during Medieval times it is desirable to make a detailed study of the various monuments of the period.
The most outstanding example of the medieval Hindu architecture is provided by the temples in Orissa. These temples have been divided by Percy Brown into three groups. The first group consists of temples constructed between 750 and 900 A D.
The second group of temples were constructed between 900 and 1100 A D. and the third group of temples were built between 1100 and 1250 A.D. The prominent temples in Orissa include Parasurameswara, Muktewara, Linga Raja temple at Bhubaneswar, Sun temple of Konark, Jagannath temple at Puri etc.
The temple of Parasurameswara consists of a duel, a Jagamohan, and a beehive spire forty four feet high. The Mukteswara temple has a distinct gateway known for its wonderful execution and elegant design. The Linga Raja temple has a spire 180 feet high.
Its structure is conical and beehive-shaped. According to William Curtis, “Bhubaneswar is a perfect example of sculpture conceived as an integral part of architecture; no stone here is left unchiselled—but many other temples are nearly as ornate. The Sun temple of Konark represents the culmination of Orissa architecture.
The Sun temple of Konark also known as Black Pagoda is a representation of Surya’s mythical chariot. There are twelve pairs of intricately carved and decorated stone wheels at intervals round the base of the building, the diameter of the wheels being 9 feet 8 inches.
Seven colossal monolithic curveting horses on either side of its entrance rear at burned white sky. According to G. Venkatachalam, “The Black Pagoda is a pyramidal structure rising in three terraces, with a lotus crowned pinnacle, and is elaborately carved with figures of elephants, horses, warriors, chariots, in regular procession and with amazing life-likeness.”
The Pagoda is supported by eight richly carved wheels, which are, in themselves, gems of art.”
The temple at Jagannath is another world renowned piece of Orissa architecture. It was built by Raja Ananga Bhimadeva of the Ganga dynasty in 1174 A.D. The temple is a massive structure standing within an enclosure measuring 440 feet by 350 feet. Although this temple has been built on the model of Linga Raja, it does not possess the grandeur and plasticity of the same.
Another notable piece of Hindu architecture during medieval India is the temple group at Khajuraho. It is said that in all 85 temples were constructed but only 20 of them have survived. The Khajuraho sculptures contain the female figures in flexuous attitudes which are masterpieces of plastic modelling. Life-like carvings of men and women are a tribute to the sculptor for minute details.
According to Prof. A. L. Basham, ”The style of Khajuraho sculpture lacks the solidarity and vigour of the best of Orissa, but the wonderful friezes of statuary contain figures of a graceful vitality, warmer and more immediately, attractive than those of Orissan temple.”
In Gujarat, an ornate and florid architecture grew under the patronage of Solanki kings of Anhilvad. They built a Sun temple at Mundera in Baroda in 1150 A.D. Though the temple is now in ruins, its remnants testify to the quality of its sculpture. At Mount Abu in Southern Rajputana and at Girnar and Satrunjya in Kathiawar also we find outstanding pieces of medieval Hindu architecture.
Vimala Shah and Taj Pal constructed the temples at Dilwara. These temples are built of pure white marble and have been greatly appreciated by art critics. The exterior is plain but the assembly halls are ornate. The sikhra over the shrine have been decorated with a large number of miniature towers.
According to A. L Basham, “The shrines of Mount Abu, made of cool white marbles, are covered with the most delicate and ornate carving, especially in the interiors: it is, however rather flaccid and repetitive. In comparison with Bhubaneswar, Konark and Khajuraho, the rich decoration of Mount Abu has a flavour of cold lifelessness. Like Hindu civilization itself, the temple was at once voluptuous and austere, rooted in earth, but aspiring to heaven.”
Another outstanding piece of Hindu architecture during the medieval period is the palace of Raja Man Singh at Gwalior. This palace though quite small (its floor space is only 150 ft. by 120 ft.) is a perfect piece of architecture. The ensembles marked by turrets, copper gilt flat domes raised from the sloping chhajjaa by round bands, and rounded bastions.
Many of the walls have been decorated with a profusion of coloured tiles with representations of ducks, elephants and peacocks in blue, green and gold, while the towers are connected at the top by beautiful jalis. The other prominent piece of architecture at Gwalior– are the temples of Sas-Bahu and Teli-ka Mandir which were constructed in the 11th century.
These temples impress not only by their grand but also by the patiently worked details.
In Mewar, Rana Kumbha built a temple in 1439 A. D. which is square in plan and erected on a lofty basement. This represents the newly acquired love for plain surfaces, as there are no decorations except a’ few horizontally continuous string courses. The pillars of the temple are similar to those of the Jami Masjid of Ahmed Shah.
Another outstanding piece of Hindu architecture is the Kirti Stambha or Jay Stambha at Chittorgarh. It is built partly of grey sand-stone and partly of white marble. It is embellished with beautiful collerings and latrice work. In addition to this two monuments, there are numerous other palaces at Chittorgarh which represents a model of the medieval Hindu architecture.
During the times of Akbar, a fusion of Hindu-Muslim culture took place which greatly effected the system of architecture. The Hindu architecture absorbed some of the features of the Muslim architecture. In 1590 AD. Raja Man Singh built a temple at Govinda Deva.
It had a vault with radiating arches, a truly Muslim feature. Similarly, the temple of Hari Deva built by Raja Bhagwan Dass as Goverdhan possessed many features of Muslim architecture. The Jugalkishore temple built at Brindaban in 1627 A.D. was also greatly inspired by the Muslim ideas of architecture.
The influence of the Muslim architecture is also not able in the buildings constructed at Amber, Udaipur, Bundi etc. The palace at Amber which were started by Raja Man Singh and completed by Jai Singh is a great Rajput monumental piece of architecture. This monument is known for the figure sculpture and use of colours and mirrors.
According to Prof. Sherwani, “The Diwan-i-‘Am at Amber is a masterpiece of Rajput- Mughal art with a double row of columns supporting a massive entablature. There is, significantly, a series of beautiful latticed galleries for the ladies of the ruling House.”
At Udaipur, Amar Singh built Bari Mahal in 1597 A.D. It is a five storeyed building built of corbelled windows of marble and trellis screens, on the verge of Pichola lake. Another building Jag Mandir was built by Rana Karan Singh for the residence of Shah Jahan when he revolted against his father. It combined the features of Hindu and Muslim architecture.
The palace at Bundi built by Raja Bir Singh Deo, has seven storeys, two underground and five over ground.
It is one of the grandest buildings. The main entrance, which is in the pillar-lintel style, is superimposed by a fine four centred arch with a series of small alcoves round the margin of the gateway. Prof. Sherwani says “One of the features of the palace wall is a number of projecting arched opening crowned by cupolas and a continuous projecting cornice on brackets. At each of the four corners of the uppermost storey of the palace are other cupolas surrounded by four chhatris each, while above the centre is a large dome mounted on a platform with chhajjas resting on brackets.”
The other specimens of architecture which combined the Hindu and Muslim features are the temple of Ahalya Bai, the palace of Raja Jai Singh it Jaipur, palace of Raja Suraj Mal at Dig, temple of Kantanagar in Bengal and the various temples built by Prithvi Raj at Rai Pubaura which has since been destroyed.
The Mughal architectural influence is also found in the temples of South India. For example, Triumala Nayak’s palace at Madura built in 1645 A D. betrays Hindu, Mughal and even English characterstics. Prof. Sherwani has observed, “Just like the fully developed Mughal architecture, where it is difficult to differentiate the Mughal from the Hindu, here also the Hindu and the Indo- Persian styles are so well dovetailed that it is difficult to say where one ends and the other begins.”
The rulers of Vijay Nagar in the South also built numerous palaces, public offices, temples which were specimens of medieval Hindu architecture and earned the admiration of foreign travellers. Although most of these monuments have since been destroyed by Muhammedan invaders but whatever remains is illustration of the most symptuous phase of the South Indian architecture.
Some of the temples built by Vijay Nagar rulers include the temples of Pampapati-Vitthal Swami, Hazara Rama etc. These temples were exquisitely ornamented and are more spacious than the temples of Northern India.
From the above survey of the architecture in medieval India it is evident that like other forms of art medieval architecture passed through three stages—confrontation, toleration, and assimilation “Confrontation naturally entailed a certain amount of destruction, but that stage was soon passed, especially when both the sides found that it was impossible to obliterate the other and they had to exist side by side. In the art of the builder, the conquerors had to requisition the services of the Indian mason with ancient Hindu traditions, and however much the architect superintend their work they did not fail to introduce their own motifs and ideas in the constructions for which they had been commissioned. In course of time mutual toleration gave place to assimilation and the formation of a composite system was the result, which spread its wings throughout the length and breadth of India.”