Here is a List of Indian Monuments (From Ancient to Medieval India)
1. Asoka Pillars, Early Rock-Cut Caves and Early Temples (250 B.C.E to 700 B.C.E):
Asoka was an independent emperor of Mauryan dynasty who ruled almost all India including present Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. After the severe war over Kalinga (the present state of Orissa) and after witnessing huge number of deaths Asoka adopted Buddhism and started propagating the message of Buddha by inscriptional writings on stones and construction of everlasting structures like free standing pillars.
During this time art of making rock cut caves was also developed by Buddhists and Jains.
These freestanding pillars are remarkable and notable of Asoka period. There are a series of pillars erected throughout north India during 3rd century B.C.E. These pillars are not isolated monuments, but they are part of a complex of stupas and other buildings of Buddhist settlements.
Each pillar circular in section is like a palm tree plain and unadorned measuring 9 meters to 12 meters in height rising straight from the ground without having any base or pedestal. There is gentle tapering towards top, the diameter at which is 0.60 metres. At the top was mounted a large Lion capital. Inscriptions were carved on the pillars. These pillars were built at intervals along the road leading to Buddhist pilgrim places.
The columns averaging between 12 metres to 15 metres long and weighing some 50 tons were carved out of a single block of sandstone from the now famous quarry at Chunnar in present Bihar state. These massive columns were carried unbroken and intact to the sites far away on a specially designed huge timber bullock carts. The column was varnished and polished to give a unique and unbelievable mirror-like luster fantastic finish indeed.
Iron pillars were also made and erected at some places. The quality of iron in these pillars is such that they were not rusted even today and are still lying. Muslim rulers later replaced these iron pillars and erected them in their building compounds. Such of these examples are one at Qutb mosque, Delhi and the other at Purana quila at Delhi.
The pillar has a capital containing a large sculptured figure of an animal usually the lion. And in some cases four different animals like elephant, horse, bull and lion were placed looking into four cardinal directions reflecting a theme of guarding the kingdom in all directions in righteousness.
Lion Capital at Saranath:
It bears an inverted bell shaped or a lotus flower. Over this the disc has the figures of a bull, horse, a lion, elephant and the Asoka chakra (Dharma chakra). Above this disc the four lions are standing back to back. The chakra (wheel) was chosen to place it in the center of Indian national flag. The lion capital is adopted as national emblem of India.
The famous capital of four lions at Saranath had acquired great popularity after it being adopted as a national emblem of independent India. This Lion capital weighing five tones and about 2.10 metres in height was joined to the pillar by a 0.60 metres long cylindrical copper dowel inserted accurately into the pillar and the capital without the use of any binding material.
Examples of Important Pillars:
Pillar at Sanchi is similar to Saranath example having a lion capital.
There are two pillars at Rampura, one with a bull and the other with a lion as crowning capital.
Pillar at Vaishali had a single lion. A Buddhist monastery and a sacred coronation tank exist here. Inscription on the pillars were in Prakrit or Brahmi script.
As works of art these Asoka pillars had high place. They are finely proportioned and well balanced. The purpose of these pillars was solely monumental, as they are just freestanding pillars.
Early Rock-Cut Caves:
The foremost and earlier Rock-cut caves in India are found in following places hills situated to north of Gaya in Bihar state made during 250 B.C.E.
i. Udayagiri and Khandagiri hills in Orissa state, 2nd century B.C.E.
ii. Ajanta caves in Maharashtra state, 2nd century B.C.E
These were the oldest surviving rock cut caves in India dating back to 3rd century B.C.E. These were hewed in a low raised large boulder of granite stone in Babarbar hills near Gaya in Bihar state. On the order of Asoka these caves were made for the use of Ajivika sect, who were the followers related to Jain religion. These chambers are exact copies of existing wood and thatch structures. These caves are situated adjacent to each other.
The configuration of the whale-backed hill has prevented the excavation being made axially. The caves contain two chambers with highly polished stone surfaces with echo effect.
The two chambers are:
i. A barrel-vaulted hall of 10 metres by 6 metres and 3.7 metres high meant for worshipers to congregate.
ii. At the end of this chamber a separate circular cell 5.8 metres in diameter with a hemispherical domical roof 3.70 metres high at the center.
Externally the cave was made to imitate like a thatch hut. It has overhanging shade and perpendicular grooves in imitation of upright posts of wood or bamboo. It is surprising to see that the stone surface has been rubbed until it resembles glass.
The ornamentation that surrounds the doorway of Lomas Rishi is remarkable. It is an exact copy of the gable end portion of a wooden structure chiseled in rock-face. In appearance it looks like carpenter’s work.
A doorway of 2.30 metres high is recessed within a semi-circular archway. Above this is a fanlight with two lunettes. The elephants in the lower lunette and a pattern of latticework in the second lunette were carved exquisitely. Surrounding the gable is a finial of terracotta. Every detail is sharply chiseled and still retains its high polish.
Lomas Rishi and Sudama are the caves in Barabar Hills.
These are the earliest group of Jain Rockcut shelters of 2nd century B.C.E situated near Bhubaneswar city in Orissa state. Udayagiri and Khanadagiri are situated opposite each other divided by a highway road. The caves were patroned and carved for Jain monks as dwellings and worshiping shelters during the reign of emperor Karavela or Karabela of Cheti dynasty who called themselves Maha Meghavahana dynasty of Kalinga kingdom. These are partly cut in rock and partly built.
These hills are lower in height situated in plain grounds. Hence the caves were excavated on top of the hill access to which is provided through steps. The height of the caves is too low less than the height of a human being. The caves open directly into a verandah.
Udayagiri and Khanadagiri has 18 and 15 caves respectively. The caves are now called by local names based on the carvings on the walls of the cave and were numbered by Archeological Survey of India.
Following are important caves in Udayagiri hill:
i. Ranigumpha (Queen’s cave) – Cave No. 1
ii. Hathigumpha- Cave No. 14
iii. Ganeshagumpha- Cave No. 10
Decoration was applied in the form of figures, reliefs and sculptural friezes. Extensive inscriptions in Brahmi script of Prakrit language revealed the information of the name of the king, the time of carving of caves, expeditions and victories of king Kharavela, political and other information. Some inscriptions were made in Devanagari letters of Sanskrit language.
This is the largest and well preserved cave excavated on three sides of a quadrangle having fine wall friezes. The figures depict the images of Dwarapalas (Door keepers), Royal couple with folded hands, Female dancers etc.
In Khandagiri hill, a cave contains images of 24 Jain Apostles on monolith stones. Some additions were made during restoration work.
Early temples in north India were built during Guptas’ regime from 400 to 700 C.E in Madhya Pradesh and some in Rajputana. Temples consisting of basic elements like Square Sanctum and a pillared porch were emerged. These were built in stone masonry and usually had monolithic flat roof slabs.
Portico was supported on 4 pillars having more intercolumniation in the middle than the sides. Ornamentation in pillars is seldom found. But in later temples decoration in geometrical patterns and Vase and foliage motif came to appear.
Examples- Temple No. 17, Sanchi; Temple at Tigawa in Madhya Pradesh and at Ran in Rajputana. Gradually temples having Sikharas (Nagara style) over the Sanctum and pyramidal roof over Mandapa appeared.
Early Examples of Nagara Sikhara are- Gurjar Pratihara temples in Rajputana, 8th century C.E; Temples at Aihole of 5th century C.E. built during the rule of Chalukyas were the earliest temples in south India.
2. Buddhist Architecture (185 B.C.E. to 600 B.C.E):
Buddhism was spread in India as a new spiritual faith and a system of spiritual learning and living. In early years, Viharas (Buddhist Monasteries) were built as temporary shelters for the wandering monks and later developed into learning institutes. Such example is at Nalanda in Bihar state where a University was found which was unfortunately destroyed during Islam ruling.
Initially Stupas were built as memorials and monuments containing Buddhist relics. Later Chaitya temples were added built mostly in timber, hence destroyed. Then cave-temples came into existence. These were established by making caves in hills away from normal habitations.
The caves are good in climate inside. They were cool in summer and warm in winter. Water is served from waterfalls, narrow streams, ponds and ground water. An appropriate place where the need of water is served was chosen to make these habitations. Influence of place served much here.
Monks, learners and aspirers continued and migrated to these peaceful and solitary places. Increase in temple activities and influx of inmates pressed for additional accommodation for learning, sleeping, eating, food making and storage and others.
Early Buddhist period from 2nd century B.C.E to 1st century C.E is called Hinayana period, in which the images of Buddha were not presented. They were presented as symbols like footprints, trees and elephants. Later in Mahayana period the images of Buddha were carved and painted.
Three types of structures that are associated here are:
Stupas are the symbolic monuments of Buddhists. They are the brick mounds in the shape of a hemisphere rising to a height approximately equal to its radius. In the bottom center of this domical mound Buddha’s relics were kept preserved making it sanctified and sacred.
Stupa contains the following elements:
i. A hemispherical mound
iii. Chatrayasti (Umbrella)
The brickwork surface of the mound was plastered thick and recesses were provided at intervals for the reception of small lamps for lighting. A railing was also built encircling the Stupa.
On the summit of the mound is a Harmika which is a stone railing enclosing a small square area. This was made in polished stone in some Stupas. Within this Harmika, a stone umbrella (Chatrayasti) is placed.
Decoration on Stupas was made in the form of tablets, friezes including human figures. Images of Buddha were not presented until 1st century C.E and the same were introduced in Mahayana period.
Sanchi is a historical site where Buddhist institutions and monuments are found. This is now UNESCO’s world heritage site. Out of many Stupas existing in India the following two important examples are selected for description.
i. Earlier Stupa:
Sanchi stupa is the earliest surviving example. It is the largest and famous at Sanchi on a hilltop near Bhopal close to Vidisha, the centre of Sunga dynasty rulers. An old Stupa existed here built during the reign of Asoka. This was a masonry hemisphere of some 21.34 metres in diameter and rising to a height equal to its radius approximately.
A small space was usually left for keeping the relic of the Buddha in the center of the domical mound. On the top of the mound was an umbrella (Chatrayasti) made in polished stone. The brickwork was plastered thick. Recesses were provided at intervals for the reception of lamps for lighting.
ii. Enlarged Stupa:
The existing Stupa was enlarged by building another mound increasing the diameter to 36.5 metres and the height to 16.4 metres. An elevated processional passage (Pradakshina Patha) was built at 4.8 metres high above the ground level, perhaps made for priests. Access to this is made by a double stairway (Sopana) on south side. The whole of this structure was finished with hammer-dressed stones laid in fairly even courses.
The top of the mound was made flattened to make place for Harmika. This encloses a square area by a stone railing with horizontals and verticals. From the center of this rose the three tiered circular stone umbrella (Chatrayasti). The tiers reduce in diameter above. This is the earlier form of Chatri (Umbrella). In the later structures the tiers were reversed and were expanded above tier by tier resembling an inverted stepped pyramid.
The whole of this structure was enclosed and surrounded by a massive stone railing of 3.3 metres high with an entrance at each cardinal point. The railing was the copy of the wooden railing of Vedic villages, but built in stone. Its uprights consist of octagonal posts 2.7 metres high from the ground and placed at close intervals of 0.60 metres gap between each.
Connecting these posts are three horizontal bars, each 0.60 metres wide and separated only by a narrow gap of 8 centimeters. On the top of the railing was placed a large beam, its upper side rounded forming a coping stone.
Ornamental entrance gateways took the form of a ‘Torana’, a special kind of entrance archway made similar to wood and bamboo gates of early Vedic village. There are four gateways each facing the cardinal points. These sandstone gateways consist of two upright posts prolonged vertically and connected above by three separate lintels.
Between these lintels is a row of ornamental balusters. The total height is 10.3 metres with a width of 6 metres. The thickness of these upright posts is only 0.60 metres. They had no struts or similar supports. Carpentry types of joints were employed here in the railings. The two uprights and the cross beams bore the figures of dwarfs, elephants, lions and other symbolism.
A portion of the railing was projected to accommodate the Toranas. The entrance access was staggered here to make a controlled entry and privacy. It is surprising that these gateways lived and withstood the time of over two thousand years and remained intact.
Amaravathi was the capital town of Satavahana Andhras at around 300 C.E situated in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh state. The Stupa is a hemispherical mound of 49 metres diameter. It contains a 4.5 metres wide-open processional passage on the ground around the Stupa.
A stone railing with horizontals and verticals encloses this. A processional passage on the Stupa at height of 6 metres from the ground was built, to which flight of steps were provided on four sides of the Stupa. On the wall adjoining this flight of steps four Aryaka pillars were placed.
The whole of the Stupa was cladded with glazed marble stone slabs. The facing surfaces were overlaid, ornamented and decorated hiding the inner masonry work. But today nothing remains of this grand Stupa except the irregular marking of the brick mound. It was the practice of the Buddhists to carve the designs of the structure in bas-reliefs. A bas-relief is carved on the wall adjoining to the stairway.
Buddhist monks continued to live a peaceful and spiritual life away from urban habitations. To live any type of human life some shelter is required. The thatch shelter dwellings are not permanent and were affected by climate and fire. Hence caves were made in living rock on the hillsides by means of cutting and carving. The design of these caves was a copy and prototype of structural work.
Carpentry joints were shown in stonework. It was a succession of worshipping halls and other living quarters in mountains. Buddhist rock-cut carvers made wondrous caverns in granite hillsides and this may be termed as Cave architecture. In other words this may be treated as sculpture rather than architecture as it involved cutting and carving of stone instead of construction.
The cave settlements of Buddhists are mainly divided into two types:
a. Chaitya halls or worshiping halls
b. Viharas or the hostels
Chaitya hall is the worshipping place and temple of Buddhists. In accordance with growing religious practice Buddhist temples (Chaitya grihas) were made containing stupas inside. The Chaitya halls were cut into the living rock on hillsides by cutting and removing a portion of the hill to make worshiping halls. Excavation was done from top to bottom so that formwork or centering can be avoided. Cutting a portion of the hill produced these caves. These caves date from 2nd century B.C.E to 7th Century C.E.
Group of such examples are found in Western Ghats at Bhaja, Kondane, Pithalkora, Bedsa, Nasik, Ajanta, Karli and Ellora all existing in the present state of Maharashtra.
The Chaitya hall consists of a rectangular hall, the dimensions of which vary from one to other and from place to place. As this is carved in the hill portion, hence there is only one opening in the front and the crust of the hill closes other three sides. The hall contains a central nave and single aisle on either side divided by row of pillars.
The three entrance doorways in the front wall are symmetrically arranged. The central door is the main door, which is meant for scholars, teachers and elders opens into the nave of the hall. The two side doors, which open into the aisles, are meant for disciples and latecomers.
On the other side opposite to the entrance is usually an apsidal end where the Stupa stands which is a monolith and is part of the remains after cutting the unrequisites. The Stupa is a vertical cylindrical solid having its height more than its diameter. On either side of the rectangular hall columned aisles were formed. The aisles were carried behind the Stupa through the apsidal end making a processional pathway. The hall of Karli measures 38 metres long, 14 metres wide and 14 metres high.
In front of side entrance doorways the floor was sunk to form shallow cisterns filled with water to wash the feet before entering into the sacred hall.
Columns divide the nave and the aisles. They were placed very closely and followed the shape of apsidal curve behind the Stupa. Pillars have pot shaped bases, octagonal shafts and a capital with inverted stepped pyramidal mould surmounted by a group of fine statuary.
In the Karli Chaitya hall there are thirty-seven pillars closely placed leaving a narrow space in between, which is little more than the width of the pillar itself. The fifteen pillars on each side were richly carved and decorated, while the seven pillars encircling the apse have plain octagonal shafts.
The ceiling is the central hall is made into a vaulted roof to which closely set wooden ribs were added making it appealing, aesthetic and inspiring. The aisles have a curved or vaulted roof and in some instances it has only a flat roof.
Stupa was placed in Chaitya hall on the other end opposite to entrance. It is elongated and contains a domical top, over which a Harmika and inverted pyramid type umbrella were placed resembling a crown. The portion of the Stupa above the mid-level was recessed inside making an edge to resemble the processional pathway.
In the early Hinayana period, the display of Buddha images was not practiced, hence there were no images of Buddha. In the later Mahayana period, the image of Buddha was introduced and was carved in a recess within the Stupa.
As the chaitya halls are closed on all other three sides by the hill, hence scope of ventilation is only from front side. A large arched window was placed over the main central door. The shape of this Chaitya arch was differed from one to one. The earliest shape of Chaitya arch is a horseshoe type found in the Chaitya hall at Bhaja in Western Ghats in Maharastra state.
In the later examples the lower curves of the arch were turned inwards making the arch highly aesthetic in appearance. The Chaitya arch window had ribs carved in rock itself. The window was covered by wooden trelliswork, which is now disappeared.
Chaitya arch form was derived from vaulted roofs of Vedic houses. The form became more popular after its use by Buddhists inside Chaitya halls and also as a decorative motif. Hence the ogee-vaulted shape attained the name of ‘Chaitya Arch’. It became a popular beauty element and was used for several purposes in- Chaitya arch motif (Kudu) in cornices, pillars, and gable of Gopurams, Roofs of Pallava Rathas, etc.
Chaitya grihas were recessed deep into the hill leaving a space in the front. The projected hill top portion in the front created a canopy giving shade. In some examples a portico containing two decorated pillars was made in front of main door. The exterior portions of the rock is richly decorated containing horizontal bands, exquisitely carved cornices, Pilasters, Chaitya arch motifs, railing motifs, elephants and other figure carvings.
Karli Chaitya hall contains two large Simha Sthambhas (Lion pillars) in front of the central doorway. A freestanding stone column was placed asymmetrically on one side in Karli Chaitya hall, which resembles Asoka pillar.
In the process of cutting, the requisite elements and their shapes are to be well planned and the portion of stone should be kept remained without its cutting to make the preconceived elements like vaulted ceilings, pillars, stupa, apsidal portion, front wall, portico, etc. These were meticulously executed keeping into consideration the main theme.
Best Example- Chaitya hall at Karli, 1st cent. C.E in Borghat hills in Maharashtra state carved in Basalt stone.
Other Examples- Group of Chaitya halls at Bhaja, Kondane, Pithalkora, Bedsa, Ajanta, Nasik, Karli and Ellora in Western Ghats in Maharashtra state.
Viharas are the hostels for Buddhist monks, disciples and preachers. Many Viharas are rock-cut except some structural examples at Takht-i-Bahai near Taxila and at Sanchi.
The rock-cut Vihara mainly consists of the following compartments:
i. A front verandah
ii. A central hall
iii. Cells on three sides of the hall.
In front of the Vihara, a verandah takes place containing pillars giving access into the hall. The front wall of the hall contains a central door and two windows symmetrically placed ventilating the hall. Central hall is a common hall giving access to the cells on three sides. The cells are small rooms for reading, rest and sleep.
In the cells a portion of the rock was left uncut to form a raised platform useful for sleeping and sitting. The cells contain a small recess for its use as a locker. The rooms are small averaging to 2.7 Metres Square. The doorway to the rooms is not in the centre, but kept to one side for inside convenience of space to accommodate the bed. The roof of the halls and the cells is plain and horizontal.
The central hall contains plain octagonal pillars making a colonnade. Number of pillars and their arrangement vary from Vihara to Vihara depending on the need and space. The pillars of the verandah consist of a base, shaft and capital. The base is vase type and the pillars are octagonal in section. Vase and inverted pyramid are the features of the capital, which contains figures of elephants and horses intricately carved.
In the famous Hinayana Buddhist settlement at Ajanta, group of Vihars were found. As the Buddhist community was growing, hence more numbers of Viharas were found necessary and were proceeded in the adjacent rock.
Examples- Group of Viharas at Ajanta, Kondane, Nasik, Bhaja.
Ajanta in India is a celebrated name for its Buddhist cave hermitages. Actual name of Ajanta is Ajunthi. It is a village in Budhana district of Maharashtra state. It is located 99 kilometres from Aurangabad. Location by the side of a vertical gorge in Sahyadri hills where water falls from upper hill into a pool so that the need of water is served. Ajanta has 29 rocks cut caves carved from 200 B.C.E to 650 C.E. Four are Chaitya halls and the others are Viharas. These caves are not known till 19th century until British discovered them on a hunt.
The artisans carefully carved the rock and made the columns, sculpture figures, stairs, benches, screens and decorative elements from out of the rock. They also painted the pictures and patterns. After 7th century, these caves were abandoned due to the decline of Buddhist religion.
Ellora is also a celebrated name for caves of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain religions made from 6th to 12th century C.E as per Archeological Survey of India (ASI). This is located about 30 kilometres from Aurangabad in Maharashtra state. Here the caves were initiated by Buddhists about 400 C.E. Later it was followed by Hindus and Jains.
Hindu Rock cut caves were made during Rastrakuta rulers.
There are 34 important caves, which are numbered by Archeological Survey of India as detailed below:
i. Buddhist caves- 1 to 12 – 12 Nos.
ii. Hindu caves- 13 to 29 – 17 Nos.
iii. Jain caves- 30 to 34 – 5 Nos.
Exact period of making of caves of each religion is not possible as the caves of these religions were made simultaneously as the religions were progressing in parallel. The rooms of Ellora are comparatively smaller and simpler than Ajanta caves.
Some important caves and their dedication is mentioned here:
i. Cave No. 10- Visvakarma
ii. Cave No. 15- Dasavatara
iii. Cave No. 16- Kailasa
iv. Cave No. 21- Rameswara
Both Ajanta and Ellora are UNESCO’s world heritage sites.
i. Bodh Gaya, Patna, Sravasthi, Vaisali in Bihar state
ii. Saranath, Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh state
iii. Nagarjuna Konda in Andhra Pradesh state
iv. Kanheri caves at Borivali near Mumbai
v. Bagh caves in Vindhya Mountains in Dhar district in Madhya Pradesh.
The Art and Architecture of Buddhists spread throughout India and East Asia. But Buddhism disappeared in India after 10th century C.E.
3. Early Chalukyas Architecture:
Chalukyas rose to power from about fifth century C.E and the geographical area of power extended over Deccan region in central India. Aihole is now a small decayed village in the district of Bagalkot in Karnataka state.
Aihole temples were the first originated Hindu structural temples in south India. At this time in north India Gupta’s supremacy was ending and some earlier forms of temples were taking shape at Tigawa, Jabalpur district in Madhya Pradesh state and in Ran in Rajasthan state, which are primitive and smaller.
In south India, Pallavas were the contemporaries who initiated Rock cut Mandapas and built Shore temple at Mamallapuram after some time. Chalukyas built both rock cut and structural temples.
There are some series of rock-cut pillared halls in the neighbouring town of Badami carved in sixth century C.E in sandstone hills. Rock cut halls consisted of a pillared verandah, a columned hall and a sanctum. There are 4 caves here. Caves 1 to 3 belong to Hindus and the others to Jains. The stone columns and Brackets are the distinctive features.
The groups of structural Hindu temples built here were the earliest showing their beginning with their introductory form.
The Aihole village consists of some seventy temples and about thirty of them are lying inside a walled and bastioned enclosure while the remaining were scattered in the vicinity. It means that the art of temple building must have been carried with utmost fervour and energy. Later in the middle of 7th century this activity was moved to the neighbouring town of Pattadkal which became the new capital.
The temple contained mainly a sanctuary and a pillared hall (Mandapa). Aihole temples have flat or slightly sloping roofs. But in the later examples an upper story or a tower (Sikhara) has emerged over the sanctuary. A definite decision was not yet reached in the design of the temple building. The builders and the priests were seeking for a formula for fulfilling their requirements.
Pattadkal is located on the banks of Malaprabha River in Bagalkot district in Karnataka state. The next stage of development of Chalukyan architecture is found in the buildings of Pattadkal, the new capital of Chalukyas 25 kilometres from Badami. The Chalukya dynasty reached its height of power under the kings Vijayaditya (696 – 733 C.E) and Vikramaditya (733 – 736 C.E).
Here in this part of the country a separate form of temple architecture developed, which contains both Dravidian and Indo Aryan temple characters.
The building art was undergoing a course of reformation and evolution especially in the design of Sikharas, where two types of Sikharas- a stepped lined one and a curved one were markedly developed denoting the Dravidian (South Indian) type and Indo-Aryan (North Indian) type Sikharas.
Dravidian Sikhara evolved in horizontal layers like multiple storeys. And Indo-Aryan Sikhara developed into a sky raising structure. This change is seen only in the Sikharas. The plans and arrangement of compartments is truly Dravidian type. Pattadkal is now UNESCO’s world heritage site.
4. Hindu Rock-Cut Architecture (8th cent. C.E.):
Living in Rock cut hermitages away from busy habitations is common in India, especially to the people who want to live a total spiritual life. Hilly areas were preferred for this, where cave shelters were made, which are permanent in nature. This need developed Rock cut art.
Such caves were made by religion groups like Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. These cave settlements are not totally separated as per their religion. They were coexisting in some sites. They are compatible and religious harmony prevailed. Hence exact division of these is not possible.
Some important Hindu rock cut settlements are briefly described here:
i. Udaigiri Caves at Vidisha, 320-600 C.E:
Udaigiri situated 6 km. from Vidisha, which is 15 km. distant from Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh state. The caves were made during Gupta’s reign from 4th to 6th century C.E and belong to Hindus and Jains. The rock formation in this hill is sandstone. Out of total of 20 caves 2 belong to Jain group and the rest are Hindu caves.
Some of the walls in these caves show fine intricate figure carvings. The caves were numbered by Archeological Survey of India. Some of the important carvings are 4 metres tall image of Varaha Vishnu (Boar) in cave No. 5 along with images of river goddesses Yamuna and Ganga and the other is Reclining Vishnu.
ii. Elephanta Caves, 6th To 7th Cent. C.E:
Elephanta is more popular for its situation as an island in Arabian Sea near Mumbai city. It consists of Buddhist and Hindu caves hewn in Basalt rock. Basalt rock is more ideal for rock hewing. The popular cave here is Mahesamurthi cave. This is UNESCO’s world heritage site.
iii. Undavalli Caves, 4th To 5th Cent. C.E:
Undavalli situated near Tadepalli in Guntur District near Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh. There are several caves made in granite hills and a large cave has 4 storeys containing a huge statue of Lord Vishnu in reclining posture in second floor.
iv. Ellora Caves, 6th To 10th Cent. C.E:
The best and outstanding example of Hindu rock cut Architecture at Ellora is Kailasa (Siva’s Paradise).
Hence it is described in detail below:
Kailasa or Kailasanatha is a unique and unrivaled rock cut temple at Ellora located about 30 kilometres from Aurangabad in Maharashtra state. There are 17 Hindu temple caves situated in these hills out of 34 caves and other caves belong to Buddhists and Jains. Kailasa is number 16 at Ellora which is unique example of Indian rock-cut architecture. The temple is dedicated to Lord Siva. Ellora caves including this Kailasa are now UNESCO’s world heritage site.
This was produced in 8th century C.E during the reign of Monarch Krishna I of Rastrakuta dynasty that ruled from Manyakheta in Gulbarga district in Karnataka state.
This is not a constructed temple. A part of the rocky hill was chosen at top of the hill and was made into a temple by cutting and removing carefully the unrequired or extra stone material. It was carefully carved and sculpted in total on a hill side. The part of the solid stone monolith after its cutting remained in the shape of a temple. Hence the temple has got the total external appearance like a structural temple.
Similar monolith examples are Rathas at Mamallapuram which were already made during Pallavas reign in 7th century C.E, but in small size made from rock boulders.
This is a free standing multistoreyed temple complex and is world’s largest monolithic structure carved out from one single rock. This is more closely allied to sculpture on a grand scale than to architecture. This covered an area of double the size of Parthenon of Athens, 450 B.C.E. Excavating work was done from top to bottom.
In making this temple, it necessitated removal of two lakh tons of rock and it took around one hundred years to complete. This was made by hewing rock of 85000 cubic metres starting at top and working down and then hollowing out to form the temple walls, roofs, pillars, figures, decorative mouldings, etc.
The main temple lies on the upper storey. The lower storey is a solid basement. Surrounding the main temple building are the ambulatory spaces cut deep into the rock. The temple was carved in Dravidian style and was modeled in the lines of Virupaksha temple of Pattadkal.
Due to its position on hillside the orientation and the axial alignment of the temple is made from west to east contrary to the convention. The place and location influenced the orientation of the temple. The main temple was placed in the center and there is open space around the temple surrounded by multistoreyed cloisters.
The plan of temple resolves into following four parts:
(i) Entrance gateway
(ii) Nandi shrine
(iii) Main temple
(i) Entrance Gateway:
The entrance is a fine double-storeyed gatehouse. This is approached by steep flight of steps from west side. On the opposite side it is joined to the Nandi shrine.
(ii) Nandi Shrine:
Nandi shrine is a two storeyed pavilion 7.6 metres square standing on a solid high plinth joined to the front entrance. The lower storey is a solid structure decorated with illustrative carvings. On the opposite side it is connected by a bridge to the main temple. There are two freestanding pillars or Dhwajasthambas, one on each side of this Nandi shrine.
(iii) Main Temple:
The main body of the temple is a two storeyed structure approximately measuring 46 metres by 30 metres with projecting sides here and there. Around the base of the Vimana there are five subsidiary shrines each an elegant reproduction of the main temple shrine to a reduced scale.
The main temple consists of a pillared hall from which a vestibule leads to the cella. The pillared hall measures 21 metres by 19 metres having sixteen square pillars in groups of four in each quarter an arrangement that produced great dignity. The pillared hall leads to the cella.
(iv) Cloisters (Galleries):
Encircling the courtyard are the cloisters and chambers containing colonnade of pillars. This is in three storeys. It has numerous alcoves containing figures of deities. Originally stone bridges were connecting the main temple and the galleries, but were now collapsed.
The main body of the temple was raised on a lofty and substantial plinth. It is 7.6 metres high and is giving double storeyed appearance. Above and below of the imposing plinth is heavily moulded while the central space of the side is occupied by a grand frieze of boldly carved elephants and lions. Standing high on this plinth is the temple approached by flight of steps on western side leading to the pillared porch.
Various features such as cornices, pilasters, niches and porticos are definite and sharply outlined. They have been assembled in an orderly and artistic manner to form a unified whole. Above all rises the stately tower (Sikhara) in three tiers with its prominently projecting gable-front and surmounted by a shapely cupola reaching to a height of 29 metres. The Sikhara is a work of Dravidian style.
The Nandi shrine is also standing on a high, solid and richly decorated base, the entire height being 15.2 metres. The two Dhwajasthambas on either sides of the Nandi shrine are the finished works of art gracefully proportioned, strong and stable. Each bore the Trishul or ensign of Lord Siva.
The features of Dravidian order are seen on the pillars and pilasters of the entire scheme, although the vase and foliage motif of Guptas are also present in some instances. Both Siva and Vishnu deities were carved on the walls.
The temple of Kailasa at Ellora as an example of rock-cut architecture is excellent and unrivalled.
5. Dravidian Architecture under Pallavas (600 to 900 C.E):
The building art in southern India had assumed a separate form. The temple development took place mostly in Tamil country known as Dravidadesha, hence has been named as Dravidian style.
The building art in southern India had assumed a separate form. The temple development took place mostly in Tamil country known as Dravidadesha, hence has been named as Dravidian style.
Pallavas are Tamil speaking people whose reign was extended over north Tamilnadu, south Andhra and north Karnataka. They came into prominence in 7th century and continued their paramount until the beginning of 10th century. The capital city was Kanchipuram which developed into a trade center in silks, spices and gems. Mamallapuram near present day Chennai city was a seaport town developed by the king Narasimha Varman I.
Mamallapuram is also called Mahabalipuram. This became an export trade center to distant lands of Java, Sumatra, Combodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. They had trade and cultural connections with China, Korea and Japan also. The king Mahendra Varman initiated the concept of Rock cut mandapas at Mamallapuram.
Chalukyas at Pattadkal in Karnataka state were the contemporaries and the temples at Pattadkal were in course of construction during this time. Rastrakutas in Maharashtra state were the contemporaries to Pallavas. Ellora caves were in course of making especially the great Kailasa temple.
Pallava dynasty maintained its varying forms of architecture for three centuries and its productions may be resolved into two classes:
I. Rock-Cut Examples:
(i) Rock-cut Mandapas
II. Structural Examples:
The rock-cut examples take two forms into Mandapas and Rathas. Mandapas are rock excavated caves and the Rathas are monoliths.
Now these are UNESCO’s world heritage site:
This is an open pavilion excavated in rock takes the form of a columned hall consisting of one or more cells excavated in opposite side. These halls at Mamallapuram near the city of present day Chennai are ten in number and are found on the main hill. None of these Mandapas are large. Approximate dimensions are as follows. Width of façade is 7.5 metres and cella rectangular varying from 1.5 metres to 3 metres.
Exterior presents a façade formed of row of pillars. On the façade there is a roll cornice decorated with Buddhist chaitya-arch motif known as Kudu (Acroteria). The shape of chaitya-arch window is much reduced and converted into an object of decoration. Above is a parapet made of miniature shrines a longer one alternating with a shorter one. Images were carved in pilaster framed niches. In front of mandapa on one side a long narrow receptacle was made in the floor to keep water.
Pillars are the main decorative features. The shafts have chamfered octagonal section in the middle third. The capital is an immense and heavy bracket which is an imitation of wooden beam and bracket order. Pillars are 2.1 metres high and 0.30 metres to 0.60 metres in diameter.
In the later examples the bottom part of the pillar is made into a sedent lion. The lion figure was reformed later into a heraldic beast and it occupied a most prominent place in Dravidian temples. The elements in the pillar are well united to produce a notable pillar order.
The features of the pillars are:
i. Fluted shaft (Sthambham)
ii. Refined necking (Tadi)
iii. Elegant ‘melon’ capital (Kumbha)
iv. Lotus form (Idaie) and wide abacus (Palagai)
Best Examples of Mandapas:
(i) Varaha Mandapa
(ii) Mahishasura Mandapa
A ratha is a chariot for taking processions of the image of the deity. But here these are a series of monolithic stone shrines, which are exact copies of certain structural prototypes in granite. The existing rock boulders were cut and made into the form of Rathas. None of their interiors is finished.
These rathas are not of great size, the largest is about 13 metres, the widest is 10.7 metres and the tallest is 12 metres. They are eight in all and five are Pandava Rathas. They are derived from two types of structures of Buddhishts, i.e. the Vihara and the Chaitya hall.
i. Vihara Type Rathas:
These are square in plan and contain a solid cubical portion in the center with a surrounding narrow passage consisting of front pillars. Over the solid portion the pyramidal sikhara rises.
Sikhara contains finely proportioned and well-contoured tiers, each one possessing a horizontal cornice and over this a row of solid edifices. At the top is the octagonal dome shaped finial elegantly carved. The chaitya arch motif is repeated on the cornice. The whole is perfectly proportioned and carved. The strongly moulded stylobate, the lion pillars casting their deep shadows, the pleasing forms and motifs are the architectural features of these rock-cut models.
They are five in number and varying in size. The largest of the Vihara type of Ratha is Dharmaraja ratha.
Best Examples- Dharmaraja ratha; Arjuna ratha.
ii. Chaitya Type Rathas:
The rathas, which followed the design of chaitya hall are oblong in plan and rise into two or more storeys. Each has a keel or barrel roof with a chaitya arch gable end. Sahadeva ratha is apsidal type. Based on these examples, those great towering pylons (Gopurams) forming the entrance gateways to the Dravidian temples have emerged later.
Best Examples- Bhima ratha; Sahadeva ratha; Ganesh ratha.
iii. Draupadi Ratha:
The smallest, simplest and most finished of the series is the Draupadi ratha, which is an exception in its design. This is merely a cell or Parnasala (thatched hut). Its base is carved with the figures of animals of lion alternating with an elephant.
Dravidian Architecture under Cholas (900 to 1150 C.E):
Out of the struggle for power, the Cholas finally emerged triumphant and proceeded in course of time from about 900 C.E. They extended their dominion as far as Ganga River in the north and included Srilanka in south. The period of Cholas was an age of continuous improvement of Dravidian art and architecture. They made exquisite bronze statues and everlasting temples on the banks of Kaveri River.
The power of Cholas is such that they built over 2300 temples in Kaveri belt between Tiruchirapally-Tanjore- Kumbhakonam. Most of the temples are small in size. But some of them are grander and monumental exhibiting the vigour and glory of Cholas.
This was the period of many temples. Many contemporary temples were taking shape especially in north India in Orissa, Khajuraho, Rajputana, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Gwalior. Belur and Halebid temples were also in course of construction in Karnataka state.
The great Brihadeswara temple of Thanjavur dedicated to Lord Siva was built and completed around the year 1010 C.E by the king Rajaraja Chola I, the great. Thanjavur also called Tanjore. The temple stands within the fort. This is the largest, highest and most ambitious production built in granite.
But surprisingly granite is not available in the surroundings. It was brought from long distances. The temple is a landmark in the evolution of building art in south India. It was completed within a record time of six years.
The inner Prakaram of temple is 241 metres long 122 metres wide with a gopuram on east and three ordinary Torana entrances on other sides. The main structure is 55 metres long and the Sikhara is 60 metres high. From these dimensions some idea of the magnitude of the work and the courage and skill required to build may be realized.
Cloisters encircle on the inner face of the enclosure wall in which number of smaller shrines are accommodated. Surrounding the main temple, subsidiary shrines were built.
The main temple contains several structures combined axially and placed in the centre of a spacious walled enclosure from east to west.
The compartments are:
i. Nandi pavilion
ii. Pillared portico
iii. Assembly hall
iv. Inner Assembly hall
Front hall has four rows of pillars on either side closely set and the inner hall has three rows of pillars. Vestibule is opened on either side having steps down to the outer court. Beyond the vestibule is the sanctum, the holy chamber.
The main feature of the entire temple is the grand tower of the Vimana at the western end over the sanctuary, which dominates everything in its vicinity. The massive pyramidal tower rose to some 60 metres high. This is the first highest Vimana built in India. Other such high structures built later are- Jagannath temple, Puri, 1100 C.E, whose Sikhara rose to 61 metres high. – Gol Gumbaz, Bijapur, 1660 C.E, 61 metres high.
Double walls were built to carry the heavy load of Vimana structure of Brihadeswara temple. These walls combine each other at third tier to support the tower. 50000 cubic metres of granite stone was used in this temple complex. Much of its dignity lies in simplicity of its parts.
The body of the Sikhara may be divided into three main following parts:
i. Square vertical base
ii. Tall tapering body
iii. Graceful domical finial
The vertical body covers a square of 25 metres and rises to a height of 15 metres. The plinth is extensively moulded and engraved with inscriptions. Life size statues of deities like Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Veerabhadra, Natesha, Ardha nariswara were enshrined in wall niches. Over the basement the vertical body is divided into two storeys by a massive horizontal cornice.
The same cornice is repeated over the second tier also. The structure shows strong horizontal and vertical lines. The walls are superbly divided into panels by means of pilaster framing niches. Deep recesses were formed in between pilasters. Every niche was presented with a statue. Other ingenious devices and motifs were combined superbly showing great invention.
From this, the pyramidal body mounts up in thirteen diminishing tiers, until the width of its apex equals one- third of its base. On the square platform thus obtained stands the large bulbous cupola. The effect of this pyramidal mass is enhanced by the rich manner of its treatment. It has multiple horizontal lines in diminishing tiers and rows of ornamental shrines producing a marvelous visual effect of great beauty.
Finally the striking contrast on the top of Sikhara is the rounded cupola. Its winged niches on all sides relieved the solidity of dome. The monolithic octagonal dome stone is weighing 80 tons made from a single rock. The cupola has a recessed neck resting on the pyramidal tower.
It is believed that this block was rolled and carried to the top on a specially built ramp of six kilometers long. The cupola appears to hang in the air. The tower resembles a human being containing body, neck and head. Either close to or from distance the upward sweep of Sikhara is supreme.
There are number of inscriptions on the walls and some are stating the information on the management of the temple and the society.
Unquestionably, the Thanjavur Vimana (Sikhara) is the highest, finest and a daring production of both Chola king Rajaraja Chola I and the Dravidian craftsmen.
Dravidian Architecture under Pandyas (1100 to 1350 C.E.):
Pandyas dominated south India for more than two centuries after succeeding Cholas. They ruled southern Tamilnadu for long time except some breaks in between. They were the Tamil people ruling from Korkai, a seaport town on Deep South and later shifted to Madurai.
It is believed that Pandyas ruled from 5th century B.C.E. and had connections with Roman Empire. Also it is believed that Pandyas are such ancient dynasty that existed and participated in Mahabharata war about 3000 B.C.E. They obscured for some time after their defeat by Cholas. Again they revived in 6th and 12th centuries.
Hoysala kings ruling from Halebid in Karnataka state were the contemporaries and the Hoysala temples in Hassan and Malnad districts were in course of construction at this time. At the same time, some of the important temples in north India were already built or were under construction in Rajputana, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Gwalior and Orissa. Delhi came under Sultanate rule after a century and the Slaves, Khaljis and Tughlaqs were the contemporaries building mosques, tombs and forts.
Most temples were already built from early years and hence some facilities and subsidiary structures were added to the existing temples. Hence by the advent of Pandyas, instead of the sanctuary or the temple building continuing to be the architectural production, the builders’ skill was diverted in order to give prominence to some of the supplementary and outlying portions of the temple complex. The main shrines and images were not altered or disturbed due to their value, sacredness and sentiment. Religious emotion however has to find some expression.
Hence it was done by adding new structures like:
i. High Enclosing walls surrounding the temple
ii. Imposing Entrance pylons called Gopuram
Higher Gopurams were built to give a long distance look of the temple.
Gopuram is an imposing monumental entrance structure built in the temples of south India. These are tall and magnificent, often appearing more than one in important temples. These pylon entrances with their embellishments were introduced frequently into the temple complexes. They became the most striking structures in temples in south India. This pylon is here called the ‘Gopuram’. This was derived from cow gate of early Vedic villages.
Early and elementary prototypes of Gopuram were found at the entrance to Kailasanatha temple at Kanchipuram and Virupaksha temple at Pattadkal of Chalukyans.
Egyptians also built such huge pylons to their temples. Egyptian pylons are wide bodied and Dravidian Gopuram is higher bodied like a tower.
A Gopuram consists of four parts:
1. Rectangular cubical bottom containing entrance doors.
2. Truncated pyramidal part rising tier by tier over the cubical base.
3. Barrel vault above.
4. Row of pinnacles.
A typical example of Gopuram depicts a building oblong in plan. It was entered by a passage from the center of its longer side. The passage is a tall opening giving access into the temple enclosure. On either side of this passage within the structure there are either terraces or dark rooms accommodating a stairway having steep steps leading to upper floors. A huge, solid, thick paneled door made with solid wood, decorated with metal sheets and carvings having two shutters closes the passage.
Externally the Gopuram is a solid masonry structure containing a cubical base and a truncated pyramidal portion above crowned by barrel vault and row of pinnacles. The lower storeys are vertical and were built with solid stone masonry, thus providing a stable base. The superstructure was built of light materials like brick and plaster.
It is a truncated pyramid in diminishing tiers and was often raised over 46 metres in height. The average angle of slope from the vertical is 250. The width at its apex is approximately half of its base.
In the long main side of this structure, rectangular void openings are made from front to back in the center of each upper floor. These openings are diminishing in size proportionately with the reducing mass of the pyramidal structure. These void openings in the center not only give relief in the solid mass of superstructure, but they reduce the weight and act as a devise in reducing the wind pressure and allow the air to flow through the openings.
On the summit is a kind of elongated roof with gable ends. The vaulted roof is similar to the keel roof of Buddhist Chaitya hall. The roof is more ornate and is a fantastic production with its gables. Metal Kalashas (Vases) were placed in a row on top in between the gables. The ridgeline breaking out into a row of pinnacles created an appropriate climax to the fretted mass below.
Every part of the Gopuram was moulded and sculptured with polychrome gods, Apsaras and Demons. The mystic and many weapon deities of Lord Siva were infinitely multiplied, repeated, reduced and carried in rising ranks up to the horns of the topmost roof. Over a period of time, number of such towers rising around the temple became a familiar skyline.
Gopuram may be resolved into two classes by their external appearance:
i. In which the sloping sides are relatively straight, firm and rigid in their contours and appearing in their mass strictly to the pyramidal figure.
ii. In another class, the sloping sides are not straight but curved and concave.
Gopurams stood taller in Dravidian temples and became monumental ever inviting and inspiring the visitors.
1. Sundara Pandya Gopuram to the temple of Jambukeswara, Tiruchirapally built about 1250 C.E
2. Gopuram to the temple of Chidambaram
3. Gopuram to the temple of Madurai and Tiruvallur
4. Gopuram to the temple of Kumbakonam, 1350 C.E.
6. Hoysala Architecture (1050 to 1300 C.E):
Hoysala Empire was prominent in South India in Karnataka state embracing the delta areas of Tamilnadu and south west Andhra Pradesh flourished in between 11th to 14th centuries. Hoysala kings originally hail from Malnad district in Karnataka state. Belur was the initial capital town and later moved to Halebid in Hassan district. Nripa Kama was the founder of Hoysala dynasty. There were active, social, cultural, economic and political activities.
Pandyas in Tamilnadu, Gurjars in Rajputana, Solankis in Gujarat (west), Yadavas in Maharashtra (central and Deccan) and Ganges in Orissa were the contemporaries and construction of temples in these areas were in progress. In 13th century C.E Delhi was under the reign of Sultans of Slave dynasty and Islam constructions were in progress.
Religious trends influenced vigorous temple building activity in this area. About a hundred temples were now surviving in Malnad district.
The building art was already much nurtured early under Chalukya kings from 5th to 8th centuries. Under the patronage of Hoysala kings richly decorated and unique temples were built. However these temples resemble much like Dravidian temples, as the country is lying in South India, which is Dravidadesha. As the Dravidian temple structures mostly confined to present day Tamilnadu state, likewise the Chalukya Hoysala structures confine to Mysore state.
The temple architecture in this country is too distinctive, original, separate, decorative, creative and unique. The building craftsmen in these temples have created fine, most intrinsic, minute carvings and mouldings. The stone used in these temples was a greenish or bluish-black stone, which is a close textured stone, very tractable under the chisel and specially suitable to make minute carvings.
The distinct characters of these Hoysala temple structures are described here item wise:
1. Temple plan
2. Wall surfaces
3. Sikhara or tower
4. Order of pillars.
The temple layout comprises a central structure within an enclosure. The surrounding walls support the pillared cloisters inside the compound.
The typical temple building is not rectangular in plan comprising row of compartments in an axis, which is usual and common in most Indian temples. Some temples have multiple sanctuaries. Hence, the shapes of plans are varied much. The temple stands on a high raised terrace called Jagathi 2.7 metres in height. The basement terrace is much wider and spacious all-round the temple useful for processions and circumambulations.
The plan of these temples is distinctive and different. The walls of compartments intensely project or recede. They are elaborated into the shape of a star by means of a series of recesses and offsets. The Asthabhadra or stellate (like a star) plan is made by means of a geometrical combination of equal size squares, each with a common center but their diagonals vary by several degrees.
The main building has three compartments namely:
i. Mukhamandapa – an open pillared pavilion
ii. Navaranga – pillared hall
iii. Garbhagriha – cella
The walls are not at all plain. They are fully immersed, soaked and intoxicated in a carving world. It is all an elation, ecstasy and trance.
The horizontal emphasis in the treatment of walls is most striking. The basement terrace wall is not made of solid mouldings, but made up of number of bands containing continuous animated designs.
These carved borders contain the following in rank:
i. The lowest on the ground, a procession of elephants
ii. Then a border of Horsemen
iii. A band of spiral foliage
iv. Kirtimukh or sun-face (a grotesque mask).
Next in order is the most interesting of all, a continuous row of events selected from great epic stories. It is a picture-gallery in stone executed in great fine details.
Then above is the border of Yalis, scaly hippopotamic monsters.
While at the top is a running pattern of Hamsas, a kind of goose or legendary bird.
An Asana or sloping seat back above terminates the basement of the pillared hall. Rising above this are the exterior pillars of the hypostyle hall, the spaces in between the pillars filled by perforated stone screens fixed at a later stage. The Vimana structure has prominent stringcourse, one of the most typical features of the style.
The Sikhara is separated from its substructure by a wide projecting cornice or eave. The stellate projections were carried into the Vimana producing fluted effect in the tower. The upward swing is balanced by horizontal mouldings by means of diminishing tiers terminating at the apex in a low parasol-shaped finial.
The horizontal and vertical pattern of the Sikhara consist of a complex grouping of miniature shrines and niches, each tier separated by sunk mouldings or ornamental string courses. The shape of the tower is slightly parabolic. It possesses fine beauty and rich sculptured texture.
The order of pillars relates in many respects to Dravidian order. But the pillars took a special form owing to the mechanical process of monolithic long stone blocks by turning them on a large lathe, which has conditioned the design. This practice was most in use in this region. The stone was first roughly shaped to the required size and proportions and then mounted in an upright position on a wheel, on which the block was rotated against a chisel, set as a turning tool.
A wondrous baluster like appearance was the result. Hence the pillar shafts are a series of rounded horizontal mouldings. The base and the pedestal are left square. In the capital, the strut-like brackets were carved into images, here termed as Madanakai figures elaborately and richly carved.
7. Indo-Aryan Architecture-Orissa (800 to 1250 C.E.):
Orissa has distinct and definite culture of its own. The other names to Orissa are Kalinga and Orissa. Bhaumakaras and Somavamsis played a major role in cultural development of Orissa upto 11th century. Ganges took over the country after Somavamsis. Ganges had their capital city at Cuttack in 12th century. They followed Vishnu faith. Orissa temples were out of threat from Islam rulers.
Simultaneously at this time, the temple buildings were in course of construction in other parts of north India at Khajuraho, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra and in south temple constructions under Cholas and Pandyas in Tamilnadu and Hoysala temples in Karnataka were in progress.
Orissa had developed a separate architectural movement with defined characters. The main group of temples is concentrated in the city of Bhubaneswar, the present capital city of Orissa state, where there are over thirty temples.
At some distance away from this city, are the most important and large temples namely Jagannath temple at Puri and the remains of the temple of Sun at Konark. The temple building activity persisted for about 4 ½ centuries from 9th century to 13th century C.E.
They were built in sandstone around an inner core of laterite. Sandstone was quarried in nearby Udaigiri and Khandagiri hills.
Orissa temple architecture was largely of an independent nature and the building art has separate and distinct nomenclature of its own. All the structures were built in stone. The temples are moderate in size except a few.
The temples are rectangular consisting of row of compartments standing in an axis with their sides parallel.
The temple mainly consists of the following two compartments:
i. Mandapa or Jagamohan – a square assembly hall in the front called Pida Deul.
ii. Garbhagriha or Deul on the rear side, which is the sanctuary called Rekha Deul.
The word Deul is employed to the shrine over Garbhagriha. These two edifices constitute the essentials of Orissa temples. As the style progressed and as the temple rituals were increasing, hence additional accommodation was found necessary and was added to the front of the assembly hall.
These additional structures are:
i. Natmandir or Natya mandir – Dancing hall or a festival hall
ii. Bhogmandir or Bhog mandapa – A hall of offerings.
Names of few important temples which have the four compartments are:
i. Lingaraja temple, Bhubaneswar
ii. Jagannath temple, Puri.
Externally the walls of these temples are made projected and recessed into offsets symmetrically. These offsets are carried from ground to the top in elevation as vertical segments. Inside the hall, the walls are plain.
Each vertical segment is named as follows:
i. Rahapaga – The main middle or central projection
ii. Anardhapaga – The projection adjacent to Rahapaga
iii. Konakapaga – Corner projection
These segments are repeated symmetrically on the external sides of compartments and are skillfully adjusted at the juncture of compartments by adding a vestibule, so that the beauty, composition and symmetry are not disturbed.
These structures were of one storey only and contain the following divisions from ground to the top.
i. Pista—the lower portion or basement or plinth
ii. Bada—the cubical vertical portion above Pista
iii. Pida—the pyramidal portion or the roof above Bada
Natya mandapa and Bhog mandapa also followed the same divisions.
In the same way, the Deul or Rekha Nagara tower contains – Pista and Bada and in addition it contains the following in its Sikhara-
i. Chhapra—the middle paraboloidal portion
ii. Amla—the flat fluted solid disc at the summit
iii. Kalasha—the finial over Amla.
The Sikhara is made of cluster of vertical bands that bend inward making a tapering curve. It has the vertical panels of recessed offsets and was decorated by means of horizontal moulds and deep grooves.
A most remarkable characteristic feature of Orissa temple is the plain and unadorned interior walls contrasting with profusely ornamented walls of exterior. This difference can only be accounted for by the existence of some doctrine tradition, which the builders either followed or were compelled strictly to observe.
Pillars are being notable by their absence. However some such structural support is necessary to sustain the heavy load of the pyramidal roof. Hence accordingly a group of four solid piers making a square in the hall and roof beams were laid.
8. Indo-Aryan Architecture-Khajuraho (950 to 1050 C.E):
The most refined, elegant and excellent style of Indo-Aryan architecture is found in a group of temples at Khajuraho situated in Chatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh state in central India. Khajuraho is situated some 150 kilometres southeast of Jhansi. Actual name of Khajuraho is Khajur vahaka. Khajur means date palm.
These temples have with stood the effects of climate, threat from Mohammedan rulers and neglect for about thousand years. Even then they are standing in solitude in good condition. Important temples are spread within an area measuring around one and half kilometers. They were built within 100 years from 950 to 1050 C.E during the supremacy of Chandela Rajaputs, a dynasty notable for its structural productions.
Chandelas’ capital city was Kalinjar and later moved to Mahoba. There is no regular worshipping in most of these temples except a few. The temples are standing mute to the regular international visitors. Out of a total of 80 temples some 22 temples remained now.
The temples are the pinnacle of Hindu art and sculpture. They inspire the emotions of awe and wonder. Every surface is sculpted and ornamented. The figures on the walls are sinuous, twisting, voluptuous, human and divine, hunt, feast, dance and love without any false modesty. There are some erotic figures to which various theories have been explained. One such theory is to show the dispassion, detachment and emptiness of human desire.
The contemporary temples under construction were in Tamilnadu, Orissa, Rajaputana, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Gwalior.
Khajuraho is now an important UNESCO’s world heritage site.
The temples of Khajuraho show definite individual architectural characters different from that in any part of the country. Instead of being contained within a customary enclosure wall, each temple stands on a high solid masonry terrace. There were no enclosure walls. None of the temple is of any great size. The largest is only slightly over 31 metres in length. The temples are like solid sculptural showcase pieces carved in fine details.
On the ground, the compartments were built in an axis from east to west, the sole entrance being on east and the temple looking towards east in most cases. But some temples have entrance on west.
The temple has three main compartments from front to rear:
1. Portico or Artha Mandapa
2. Assembly hall or Mandapa
3. Cella or Garbha Griha.
The temple has only one entrance approached by a single tall flight of steps raising steeply owing to the excessive height of the plinth but increasing its dignity. Through the door way one entrance porch expands into a rectangular portico (Artha Mandapa) the whole with open sides. The roof was carried on pillars. It contains sloping seat backs (Asana).
Next one is Mandapa a square compartment with four pillars in the center connected with balcony windows opening outside. Next is the vestibule or Antarala leads to the Cella door. The more developed temples have the transepts or Mahamandapa together with a processional passage surrounding the Cella.
The intention of the builders is to raise the building to a more height.
The building resolves vertically into the following three main parts:
1. High solid Basement
2. The dark intermediate portion
3. Grouping of roofs.
The high solid basement contains continuous horizontal moulded layers projected or recessed following the offsets of the basement. Over this basement at a higher level the intermediate portion consists of a range of horizontal window openings. These are bringing in light and air making a vivid band of dark shadow around the whole temple. Above these openings a wide eave or chajja overhangs the whole.
The intermediate dark and void portion has been striking in between the solid top and bottom portions. Interior as well as exterior was too richly decorated with statuary moulds in dimensions rather less than half life-size. In Kandariya Mahadev temple there are some 650 statues.
A separate roof distinguishes each compartment. The smallest and the lowest is the portico. Next in height came the central hall. Next one is the tallest Sikhara in a raising line. Unlike the Orissa roof which is pyramidal, these roofs are domical in contour.
The Sikhara has projections and recesses called Urusringas (Miniature Sikharas or Sikhara stripes) added to the main shrine, which are the principal elements of beauty to the shrine. Urusringas are the decorative vertical offset bands attached to the main central body of the Sikhara each crowned by Amalasila ans Kalasha. They act as buttresses supporting the Sikhara. Best example- Kandaria Mahadev temple.
The largest and finest temple of Khajuraho group is Kandaria Mahadev temple, a Siva temple standing in a row on western line with entrance on east side.
The temple measures 33 metres long, 20 metres wide externally at its floor. It has the compartments namely the portico, main hall, transepts, vestibule, sanctum and ambulatory.
The structure stands on a high broad terrace with space all round which is approached by single tall flight of steps rising steeply. The base of the temple is 3.9 metres high rose upwards steeply in slope and was terminated by a parapet. On the inner side of the parapet are the inclined seat backs (Asana). Above this there are horizontal window openings presenting a dark void portion in the solid mass of the temple.
A wide eave or chajja projects above these openings overhanging the whole. The gable roofs rise over these eaves. A separate roof distinguishes each compartment raising in a row upto the Sikhara. The lowest is over the portico and the highest is over the Sikhara rising to a height of 36 metres above the ground. Some of the turrets that rise from the base are carried up to the roof. There are two transepts projected in the form of balconies to the ambulatory.
The arrangement of compartments affected the shape and appearance of the exterior, which is an effective combination of lines, masses, bold projections and receding’s.
The walls are too richly decorated and immersed in statuary moulds less than half size. There are over 650 statues in this temple. The combinations of horizontal and vertical elements, the dark intermediate portion, the projecting eaves and the turrets (Urusringas) are all superbly combined.
Sikhara is unique in its design raising high from the body of the temple. It is Nagara type having curved surfaces added with Urushringas making it excellent in beauty. Above the Sikhara at the apex are Amalaka and Kalasha making an end.
The following temples were built in two lines both Vaishnavite and Sivite shrines standing side by side.
1. Viswanath Temple:
Measuring on the ground 27 metres by 14 metres having double transepts and has small supplementary shrines at each of four corners making it Panchayatana or five-shrines type of temple.
2. Chaturbhuji Temple:
Measuring 26 metres by 13 metres built in 1080 AD. And has small supplementary shrines at each corner of the platform, making it an example of Panchayatana or five-shrived type of temple.
3. Devi Jagadambi Temple:
Measuring 23 metres by 15 metres has only one pair of transepts and has four compartments, the Ardha-mandapa or portico consisting of only one chamber and there is no processional passage round the cella.
Dedicated to Surya, the Sun god measuring 27 metres by 18 metres, has only one pair of transepts.
5. Lakshman Temple:
Built on a terrace and having shrines at four corners.
6. Jain Temples:
They were grouped together and they are six in number. These temples are usual type and are standing on plinth of normal height and has enclosure wall. They do not have the intermediate void portion.
9. Indo-Aryan Architecture-Rajputana (8th to 13th Century C.E):
A development of great beauty in the art of temple building expressed in parts of Rajaputna and central India from 8th to 11th century C.E at osian. Osian is situated some 60 kilometres northwest of Jodhpur city in Rajasthan state. It was a major religious center during Gurjara Pratihara dynasty. During this time other contemporary temples in south and north India were in course of construction.
Unfortunately much of the fine form of architecture lay in that part of the country which suffered most from the earlier invasions of Mohammedans. So the examples are rare, fragmentary and destroyed. Fine quality of carvings and pillars produced in the temples during this period may be seen in the buildings of Qutb Mosque at Delhi and Arhai-din ka Jhompra mosque at Ajmer.
The temples show originality and individuality in their design, spirit of progressiveness and innovation. They were built in locally available stone.
The temples of this region are moderate in size and pleasing in their design. Some temples are of the Panchayatana class containing four additional shrines at each corner. With these they formed a very attractive composition.
In general these temples consist of the following three compartments:
1. Nal Mandapa:
Nal Mandapa is the portico built over the Nal meaning stairs leading into Mandapa of the temple. Two pillars support this portico. Entrance is from east through this pillared portico.
2. Assembly Hall or Mandapa with Low Pyramidal Roof:
The Mandapa is an open pillared hall with the lower part of the pillars supporting a characteristic sloping seat back or Asana.
3. Cella with its shrine. E.g. – Sun temple at Osian.
The Mandapas of some of the temples of 8th century are octagonal in plan with their eight pillars elegantly carved. The pillars with their capitals supporting the carved ceiling are the principal architectural features. In some of the temples of osian, the distinctive motif vase and foliage order of Gupta period attained its supreme form.
However, in the later temples of 10th and 11th century, the vase and foliage capitals are rare and the shafts of the pillars are not fluted but octagonal in section.
In Qutb mosque at Delhi the temple pillars appear to have been mainly those of 8th and 9th centuries. The beauty of some of the capitals is highly remarkable indicating that they were excellent examples of post Guptas’ architecture. A great rhythm and harmony is seen in the structures.
Reference to the shrine doorways is a must in these temples. It was here that the artist had put his entire imagination. Figures of Navagrahas (nine planets), coils of the snake (Sesha) the river goddesses of Ganga and Yamuna at the base of the jamb were moulded and decorated on the shrine doorways.
The shrine of the temple is in Nagara style having strong horizontal groove gaps catching dark shade. Mandapa has simple flat roof supported on pillars.
10. Indo-Aryan Architecture-Gujarat (940 to 1300 C.E):
One of the most refined and prolific developments of Indo-Aryan architecture are that which prevailed in western India built during early centuries of 2nd millennium. Solanki rulers a Saivite sect were the patrons who undertook many of the building undertakings, whose power extended over a large area centering on Gujarat, Kathiawar and much of Rajaputana.
Solankis were Hindu Agnivamsh Rajputs. They were the descendents of Gurjars. Solankis ruled western and central India from 10th to 13th century C.E. The capital city was Anhilwara, which is now the modern town of Siddhapur Patan in Gujarat state.
Gujarat was a major center for overseas trade. They faced severe fights and threats from Mahmud of Ghazni around 1026 C.E. The city of Karnavati was built by king Karandev on the banks of Sabarmati River. It is now the modern Ahmedabad.
Simultaneously the temples under Cholas and Pandyas in Tamilnadu, Hoysala temples in Karnataka in south and temples in Orissa, Khajuraho, Rajputana, Maharastra and Gwalior were under progress.
Gujarat temples are similar to Hoysala temples in their intricate and plastic embellishment in basement and main wall decoration.
The general layout of the temples of this western group consists of the same system of compartments as in most of the Indian temples namely the shrine with its Cella and a pillared hall (Mandapa).
The plans of these temples may be divided broadly into two kinds:
In this case the two compartments are joined so as to unite the entire building within a parallelogram. Eg- Sun temple at Modhera, 11th cent.
In this case the two compartments are attached diagonally in which each compartment forms a separate rectangle. Eg- Somanath temple, Kathiawar, 12th cent.
In all the above instances the walls have their sides interrupted at intervals by projected or recessed chases making angles. These were carried up into the elevation. This has produced a strong vertical effect of light and shade. These angles are of two kinds. In one class of building they are straight sided and in other class they are rounded and foliated. Some of the larger temples appear to have been in two or three storeys.
The interior of these temples display several notable characters. The columns are placed geometrically making an octagonal nave in the centre of the main hall and leaving surrounding space into aisles. The shaft of the pillars is divided horizontally into decorative zones diminishing by stages to finish in a bracket capital.
The central pillars carry the architrave above raising the height of the nave. They support the central dome, which consists of a shallow shaped ceiling formed by a succession of overlapping courses.
The significant feature of the temple interior is the shrine doorway designed so that its decorative scheme matches with that of the pillars. It consists of horizontal bands of figures and foliage.
The building elevation may be divided horizontally from bottom to top into three main sections.
i. Pitha – the Basement
ii. Mandovara – the wall face up to the entablature
iii. Sikhara – the superstructure
The Pitha contains a series of carved mouldings and stringcourses.
The respective mouldings from bottom to top are shown below:
i. Garaspatti – A row of horned heads (Rakshas)
ii. Gajapathi – A row of elephant fronts
iii. Aswathara – A row of horses
iv. Narathara – A row of human beings
Such series of figure carvings on basement walls are also found in Hoysala temples in Karnataka.
Above the basement is the second or middle portion called Mandovara, the most significant portion of the entire elevation of the building. It is the main vertical wall face reserved for figure sculpture. The images of deities and saints were carved in niches on these walls. The Chalukyan and Hoysala temples also had such figure carvings exhibited on main walls.
And however the Sikhara (spire) is no longer one single member but formed into a group of members surrounded by turrets or Urushringas arranged symmetrically, each a replica in miniature of the large central structure.
The roof of the assembly hall is a low pyramid composed of horizontal courses diminishing as they rise and terminating in a usual vase-shape finial.
The Sun temple at Modhera in Gujarat was built during the reign of the king Bhimdev I of Solanki dynasty. This was built in an arrangement of rectangular platforms and terraces on the western side of an ornamental tank.
The temple is resolved into two separate structures connected by a narrow passage.
It consists of:
i. Sabha mandapa or an open pillared hall in the front
ii. The main enclosed temple building consisting of Mandapa and Garbhagriha.
On plan the front structure Sabha mandapa is a square compartment of nearly 15 metres wide placed diagonally within the axial line. Its sides are interrupted at regular intervals by recessed chases. There are pillared entrances with an archway at each of the four corners and two small pillars at recessed angles. The dwarf wall was richly paneled with figure subjects and has a leaning seat back inside.
The interior of the hall has two rows of pillars crossing each other at right angles. The central pillars at the junction of the passages were omitted to make an octagonal nave in the center. Over this nave rises a domed ceiling elevated higher than the aisles by means of attic pillars.
This is more a closed rectangular structure consisting of the following two compartments:
i. Mandapa (Assembly hall)
ii. Garbha Griha (Cella)
The main temple building is on the rear side to Sabha mandapa and measures externally 24 metres in length and 15 metres in width. It is having its long sides not diagonal as in the case of Sabha mandapa but parallel to the axis of the whole. The main entrance is on eastern side through a pillared portico where it connects to the western doorway of Sabha mandapa. The walls of this mandapa were also interrupted at regular intervals by recessed chases.
The interior of the Mandapa contains eight columns around a central octagonal nave, above which rises a highly ornamental ceiling. However the interior is plain except the images of Sun god in every bay.
A four-pillared vestibule connects the square cell with a processional passage around it. The shrine doorway has its jambs and lintel divided into sections each crowded by figures.
The building was elevated on a high plinth.
Elevation consists of the following three main sections from bottom to top:
i. Pitha (Basement) consisting of range of carved mouldings and string courses
ii. Spacious Mandovara richly carved with figure subjects
iii. Superstructure or the roofs
The roof of Mandapa is a traditional arrangement of a low pyramidal roof and a tall turreted Sikhara built over the cella. In both these structures the recessed chases were carried upward into the Sikhara giving a striking vertical effect in its elevation.
An exquisitely carved and fluted archway or Torana was built to the main entrance of temple. From this wide flight of steps ascends to the temple. But the arch Torana was now disappeared and only the two fine pillars are remaining.
The colossal tank in front of the temple is called Suryakund. It has a series of carved steps reaching down to the water. Mini shrines adorn the steps of the tank. It is the general practice in Gujarat to build such tanks and wavs with decorated carved steps which are superior in design and beauty.
Common and similar features are found in Mukteswara temple in Bhubaneswar city of Orissan Indo Aryan architecture. Both these temples have in common an ornamental tank and a Torana. But the Torana of Mukteswara temple is too solid and is still remaining.
In view of aesthetics, elegance and proportions as a whole the Sun temple at Modhera is fine and superb.
i. 10th cent – Temples at Sunak, Konoda, Delmel and Kasara in Gujarat
ii. 11th cent – Navalakaha temples at Ghumli and Sejakpur in Kathiwar
iii. 12th cent – Rudramala at Siddhapur in Gujarat
iv. Somanath temple at Kathiawar
There are other structures of semi-religious or civic character and they are:
i. Kirthi Sthambas
ii. Temple archways
iii. City gateways,
v. Wavs or public wells
11. Indo-Aryan Architecture-Maharashtra (11th to 13th Century C.E.):
The Deccan area lying between the river Tapti on north and the Krishna River on south has produced some fine temples of different character in the medieval period during Yadava’s ruling. The Deccan temples and the Hoysala temples have some similar features in their fine and plastic embellishments in basement and main walls. But the Deccan temple Sikharas had different and distinctive features. Some such important temples are seen in Maharashtra state.
The plans of these temples are laid diagonally within the axis. The walls have sharp projections and recesses carried upwards to the top. They catch the light and retain the shade creating a strong light and shade effect in buildings.
The upward trend was countered by closely set horizontal grooves (gaps) carried across the entire composition. These mouldings have a knife edged section called Kani. These Kani mouldings were carried in pillars also.
Design of Roofs:
Some of the distinctive and prominent features are seen in the design of Sikhara, which are different from the temples of other regions.
The two distinctive features of Deccan Sikhara are:
i. Strong Vertical Bands like a Spine or Quoin:
The turrets or Urusringas instead of being grouped around the Sikhara the Deccan Sikhara has strong vertical bands carried upwards at each of its angles taking the form of a spine or quoin. This feature extends from the lower cornice right up to the finial.
ii. Row of Mini Sikharas:
The spaces between these quoins are filled in by a vertical row of mini Sikharas placed one above the other, each supported on a pedestal.
The contrast between strongly marked repeating pattern and the delicate plain quoins had produced great effect. The plain quoins are like photo frame enframing the rows of mini Sikharas. The combination and their execution is superb. Similarly the roof of the Mandapa was made of diminishing rows of miniature multiples of small pyramidal edifices.
The pillars have decisive features apart from use of Kani moulding. Struts or brackets were not used in the capitals. A scroll or volute support was used in the uppermost mouldings. The vase and foliage motif is absent but occasionally visible. The pillar shaft was richly moulded but the lower third part is left plain as a square block.
In some examples the lower part of pillar was profusely carved with figures. Similar designs were carried in the jambs of the shrine doorways in the form of pilasters.
A unit determined the proportions of the building. This unit is the height of the monolithic shaft of the pillar, which in turn depended on larger length of stone economically possible to extract from the quarry. The pillar shaft served as a standard of measurement. Entire design was carried to that scale. All the parts of the temple were proportioned according to the unit, each member being in a fixed ratio to the other.
12. Indo-Aryan Architecture-Gwalior (11th Century C.E.) Brindaban (16th Century C.E):
Gwalior is situated in extreme north in Madhya Pradesh state. It is popular for its Hindu fort. There are some eleven structures within the perimeter of the rock-bound fortress of Gwalior, including palaces and temples.
The temple structures were differed in their design and order. They are not mere copies of other Indo-Aryan temples, but they show individual characters in their designs. The central hall of temple has transepts on either side which provide ventilation to the nave. The transepts and the roofing are new in their design.
The exterior appearance of the largest temple of this group is in three stories, which takes the form of open galleries surrounding the building on all sides. The elevation was made by a massive architrave with the spaces between occupied by pillars and piers. The columns interrupt the planes by alternating at regular intervals with openings. This has made solids and voids producing a passage of light and shade. This made the exterior from all points of view, a composition of more than ordinary significance.
The most marked departure from the orthodox design of the temple tower is the Sikhara of Teli ka mandir or Oilman’s temple. The Sikhara of this temple is a vaulted roof of Buddhist Chaitya hall.
Brindavan is an important town near Mathura in Uttar Pradesh state. This is associated with Lord Krishna and is a most sacred place to Hindus.
The temples of Brindavan built in 16th century consist of specially localized order. All were built in red sandstone and in a style of architecture different from any others of their kind. A change had taken place in this part of the country owing to the condition brought by Islamic domination. By this time, Islamic architecture had already established a strong hold and the buildings were confined to that creed. But however owing to Akbar’s religious tolerance, a few temples were allowed to be built at Brindavan.
The typical temple consists of only two compartments- Assembly hall and a Cella. A noticeable fact in this temple is entire absence of figure carving and sculptures.
The Gobind Devi temple consists of balconies, loggias, bracketed archways, moulded buttresses, wide eaves and ornamental parapets, all carefully disposed so as to be in perfect accord with one another. There is at the same time absence of quality and fineness. The roofing shows the influence of contemporary construction of Mughals. The temples lacked full fervour, zeal, religious emotion, faith and freedom as proper patronage and encouragement was missing.