Read this article to learn about the 24 Ancient Temples in India.
This is a primitive and oldest temple of the group built at Aihole in Dharwar district in Karnataka state built around 450C.E. The present appearance of the temple is not impressive. It is a low flat roofed building and its plan being 15 metres square inside.
It is believed that this edifice was originally built for secular and civic use meant for Santhagara, the village mote or meeting hall. The building originally contains an open Square hall and a front portico. At a later stage the spaces between the outside pillars were filled with masonry walls and perforated windows.
Hence the pillars now look like pilasters. The rear side is completely enclosed by walls and the walls on either side are relieved by perforated stone grilles. On the fourth and front side there is a projected open-pillared porch making its eastern entrance.
The Interior is a hall of pillars containing two square groups of columns one within the other, thus making a double aisle all round. There are sixteen columns in these two squares. A large size stone effigy of a bull (Nandi) almost fills the central square bay, while at the end is the cella within the hall, in which Shiva lingam was placed at a later stage.
The pillars are simple in their design. They have plain square shaft and bracket capital. The shafts taper slightly at the upper ends above which is a cushion capital with an expanded floral abacus supporting the bracket. This design afterwards became universal in Dravidian architecture. Sloping backrest or Asana was provided in the portico.
The roof of this structure resembles thatch hut. The temple has two tiered roof imitating wood construction in stone logs. A flat roof with flat stone slabs covers the central nave. The surrounding aisles had a tapering stone roof laid lower than the nave roof leaving in between a clearstory for ventilation.
The plan of this temple is like Buddhist Chaitya hall probably built in 6th century. This is an apsidal-ended structure measuring externally 18 metres by 11 metres. There is an addition of portico on its eastern front 7.2 metres in depth making the total length to 25.2 metres.
It is believed that this temple was once used as a military outpost (Durg- meaning fort). It is not known to which god the temple was originally built.
The temple consists of a hall of 13.4 metres long and divided into two rows of four pillars into a nave and two aisles with an apsidal shaped cella at the far end. The aisles are continued round the cella as processional passage (Pradakshina patha). Inside is a pillared vestibule within which a door was located. Light is admitted to the hall and passages through stone grilles elegantly carved with perforated patterns.
The structure was raised on a high and heavily moulded plinth. The height of the structure up to the flat roof of the aisles is 9 metres from the ground. A passage was carried round the building joining with similar pillars comprising the portico. The portico is approached by two flights of steps, one on each side of the front.
The roof of the nave is higher than the side aisles. A straight-sided pyramidal Sikhara was added over the cella at a later stage, which is significant and earliest mark of a Sikhara.
Papanath temple dedicated to Lord Mukteswara is a long and low height temple of some 27.4 metres long. This is a north Indian type (Indo Aryan) of temple.
It consists of the following in its axis from east to west:
i. Entrance porch – Mukha mandapa
ii. Assembly hall – Sabha mandapa
iii. Supplementary hall – Ardha mandapa
iv. Cella – Garbhagriha
The Mukha mandapa is a simple portico having two pillars in front of Sabha mandapa. The Sabha mandapa is a large hall with window openings on three sides. There are sixteen pillars arranged in four squares each square containing four pillars slightly set aside to corners thus making the central bay wider and spacious.
The hall gives access into Ardha mandapa which is a square room containing four pillars. This is an anti-chamber. There is no separate vestibule. It seems that during construction there were some modifications in the structure of Ardha mandapa. Hence the external walls of Garbhagriha (Vimana) are concealed and obscured into Ardha mandapa. The last one is the cella having a narrow processional passage surrounding it.
There is no Nandi (Bull) mandapa. But image of an ornate Nandi is placed in east wall of Sabha mandapa.
The lower part of the structure is a substantial basement formed by bold stringcourses decorated with animal motifs, floral designs and Kudu. Above this, the central broad space of the wall is decorated with niches, each niche carrying two pillars, a cornice and a traceries canopy of Indo-Aryan type repeated throughout. These niches housed Siva and Vishnu deities depicting episodes from Ramayana. There is much solidity in the overall treatment of the walls.
The Sikhara is separated from its substructure. It is the simplest form of Indo-Aryan spire (Rekha nagara) appearing over the flat roof. It has the convex type curve turning inward and has horizontal grooves and contains elaborately carved Chaitya arch enshrining Nataraja on its front. Amalaka and Kalasa are missing.
Virupaksha temple was built at Pattadkal by queen Lokamahadevi to commemorate her husband’s (Vikramaditya 2) victory over Pallavas of Kanchi. The temple has a walled enclosure entered by an appropriate gateway from eastern side. It measures about 36.5 metres long.
It consists of the following usual compartments:
i. Detached Nandi Pavilion in front
ii. Mandapa having three elegant porches
iii. Garbhagriha on the rear side having a processional passage
Mandapa has 16 square pillars symmetrically laid inside and there are two more pillars in line in front of vestibule.
It is much pleasing owing to its balanced composition. There is of course still solidity in its appearance and it was partly relieved by the sculptured ornamentation. The temple contains the mouldings, pilasters, cornices, brackets, the floral scrollwork, perforated windows and ornamental carvings.
Embellishment was mainly concentrated in the main wall between the basement and the cornice. The wall was divided by means of pilasters into well-proportioned spaces alternating with perforated windows. The intervening panels were enriched by the introduction of niches. The niches contain full size statuary.
Lavish ornamentation and figure sculptures are skillfully coordinated in the entire building. The canopy parapets and the sikhara were ornamented with Chaitya-arch motif. Elegant Dravidian sikhara in three tiers is separated from its substructure and having a prominent projecting gable front.
The upper end of the shaft of the pilaster was narrowed where it joins with the capital.
Earlier form of Gopuram:
A notable structure that is rising above the parapet at the back of its porches is an embryo Gopuram. Inspired from this small monumental gate head further new designs were evolved, developed, modified and had attained remarkable shapes and sizes into large Gopurams which have dominated all the approaches of the Dravidian temple complexes built later.
5. Shore Temple, Mamallapuram, 700 C.E:
The first Pallava building to be constructed of dressed granite stone was the Shore temple at Mamallapuram so named as it stands on the foreshore of the sea of Bay of Bengal. This was built by the king Narasimha Varman II.
The temple is plainly visible to those approaching the harbour in ships like a lighthouse. Pallavas, the sea-faring people conducted worship of water in this temple. There are shallow cisterns on the ground, which could be flooded on occasion. Canals, conduits and receptacles were arranged to feed water to the cisterns.
The temple is a rare example having two main shrines placed asymmetrically not in axis one behind the other, one on east and the other on west. This part is surrounded by a heavy outer wall with little space between for circulation. These two shrines were built at the extreme end on east side of the complex. As there was no space in front of the cella on east side, hence all the additional structures were added on the rear side of the shrine on west.
A massive enclosure wall surrounds the buildings and western side was left entirely open. Entrance through richly ornamented doorway leads to a corridor, which contains figure-subjects of striking mythological contents. Inside the enclosure foundations of an outer mandapa were found.
In design and principle, the monolithic Dharmaraja ratha and the Shore temple are the same. There is the square lower storey and a pyramidal tower in diminishing tiers above. Sikhara of Dharmaraja ratha is short in height and the same for Shore temple is more elongated, graceful and fine.
The most remarkable are the rampant lion pilasters, which were multiplied wherever an upright support is required. As the style progressed this Leogriff motif became more frequent and more characteristic symbol in Pallava structures.
The enclosure wall was an imposing structure, its parapet and coping crowned by the figures of kneeling bulls. Boldly carved lion pilasters are projected at close intervals all around the exterior of the wall.
6. Temple of Gangaikonda Cholapuram 1033 C.E:
This monumental structure was built by the king Rajendra I, the son of Rajaraja Chola I to commemorate the victory of his empire spread up to Ganga River who ruled during 1018 C.E to 1033 C.E. He commissioned this structure with an intention to excel in richness and grandeur than its predecessor structure Brihadeswara temple of Thanjavur. The temple was situated 28 kilometres from Kumbhakonam in Tamilnadu state. This temple also is called Brihadeswara temple.
The temple is large in plan than its predecessor temple, but less in height as the Vimana measures only 46 metres high. The temple building was placed in the middle of an immense walled enclosure. The plan of the temple building makes a rectangle of some 104 metres long 33 metres wide having main entrance on east.
The compartments in this temple are:
i. Detached Nandi pavilion in the front
ii. Assembly hall
In front of the main temple building is a detached Nandi pavilion within the axis with a colossal image of Nandi (Bull).
The main doorway gives access to an Assembly hall, which is a low structure containing over 150 pillars of slender and simple design. The pillars are closely set on either side, but leaving a wide gap in the center axially making a spacious way to the sanctuary.
In between pillared hall and sanctuary there is a vestibule or transept (Antarala) running at right angles to the axis of the building leading to north and south doorways. There are deeply recessed side entrances approached by flight of steps from outside on both sides to the vestibule. There are eight massive piers in this vestibule. Beyond this at the far end is the holy place, the Garbhagriha.
The front mandapa bears a simple appearance with its plain pillars. The pyramidal vimana, which rises over the sanctuary on western end, is massive and superb achievement.
On its plan it is a square of 30 metres side and vertically it resolves into the following three levels:
i. Vertical ground story
ii. Tapering body, and
iii. Domical finial
The tapering body is in tiers with eight diminishing zones. The contours of the tower are not strong straight lines, as was done in its predecessor example of Tanjore Vimana. But here concave curves are made making the tower smooth. The domical finial is directly placed on the square platform almost without neck. Whereas the grand finial of the Tanjore temple is separated from the tapering body and placed over a neck giving a graceful appearance of neck and head.
The main vertical body is embellished with statuary. Single figure statues occupied the niches as a whole. The figures of the god of Nataraja, Ganesh, Apsaras, Ganadevatas, Yakshas were depicted at appropriate places.
Under the supremacy of Cholas, the art and architecture in south India attained a new peak.
This is the prime temple at this site dedicated to lord Siva and is now completely intact. This ancient temple exists since 7th century and is enlarged into a temple complex during this period.
It has two Prakarams:
i. Outer Prakaram:
Outer court is entered through a large Gopuram from east side. This is bounded by a high enclosure wall, the inner side of which has pillared cloisters and also contains small shrines.
ii. Inner Court:
This contains the main temple and other edifices and is entered through a small gopuram from east side. This is mostly covered by halls, corridors on all sides. Main temple is placed in the center at the extreme western end.
Main temple consists of the following compartments:
i. Front open large pillared hall also called Rang mandapa
ii. Anti chambers 3 Nos
iii. Sanctum sanctorum on west having a processional passage.
Pillared hall is the most ornate structure and it is believed that emperor Sri Krishna Devaraya commissioned this in 1510 C.E. Pillars are the main attraction and has rampant lion like mythical creatures (Yalis) standing on aquatic creatures like crocodiles (Makara). The hall has two rows of surrounding pillars leaving a nave in the center. It has three entrances and the main entrance is on east.
Outside the enclosure and on north side there is a large water tank and number of smaller shrines were built.
Vithala temple is the most exquisitely ornate temple building in Hampi Vijayanagar. It was begun by the emperor Sri Krishna Devaraya in 1513 C.E, but could not be completed owing to its elaborate character.
It stands within a rectangular courtyard of 152 metres long by 95 metres wide, which is surrounded by cloisters containing triple row of pillars. Entrance is made through three gopurams, those on east and south being more important. There are six separate structures, mostly in the form of pillared halls.
The largest is the main temple occupying the center. The central building is dedicated to Lord Vishnu in the form of Vittala (Panduranga) and is a low structure of one storey averaging 7.5 metres in height and 70 metres in length aligned from east to west.
It consists of the following three compartments:
i. Ardha-mandapa or open pillared portico in the front
ii. Mandapa or closed Assembly hall in the middle
iii. Garbha-griha or sanctuary in the rear
The compartment which first attracts is Ardha-mandapa or a columned pavilion measuring 30 metres side with deeply recessed sides. This stands on a moulded plinth, 1.5 metres high with flights of steps elephant guarded on its three free sides. The whole is heavily shadowed by means of an immensely wide eave and above the parapet raises an irregular outline of brickwork turrets.
The chief feature of this columned hall is its range of pillars, 56 in numbers each 3.6 metres in height. Each pier comprises an entire sculpted group, being fashioned out of one large block of granite. Cluster of delicately shaped columns form the central portion of these broad supports, while interposed between them is the rearing animal motif, half natural half mythical but wholly rhythmic.
This cluster design is united with a single capital above and a moulded pedestal or base below. Over these piers are bracket supports of large size combined with profusely carved entablatures and above all a flat ceiling ornamented with sunken lotus flowers.
The mandapa and sanctuary combined is a rectangle of 41 metres long and 21 metres wide. This is entered from east. In addition it has two side entrances each having steps and a porch. This is a square hall of 16.80 metres side. It has sixteen pillars in all.
At the other end is the Garbhagriha measuring externally 23 metres side. A processional passage in the cella is adjusted during alterations in construction. Due to some reasons this ambulatory was built down to the ground level.
The exterior walls of the remainder building were conventionally built with pilaster niche and alcove combination. The Vimana was rather unusual. It has a processional passage down with the level of the courtyard with two flights of steps.
Out of the remaining structures of the enclosure more ornate is Kalyana Mandapa, placed on southeast side to the temple. It is an open pavilion resembling the Ardha-mandapa. This has a high plinth with deeply recessed sides and flights of steps in the centre of three of them. There are 48 piers all of which were exquisitely carved.
Within the main axis of the temple and in front of Ardha-mandapa is a Ratha or a chariot of God built in stone containing wheels and elephant guards at the steps. Every feature is imitated in granite and upper part like Sikhara was in brick and mortar, which is now disappeared.
Within the walled citadel, small but richly ornamental temple is Hazara Rama temple, in which the royal family and members of the court worshipped. A higher wall of 7.30 metres high encloses it. It is believed that Emperor Srikrishna Devaraya began its construction in 1513 C.E.
The main building is in the centre of a courtyard.
It is entered on east through a flat roofed porch and consists of the following compartments:
i. An assembly hall with four massive black stone pillars, one at each corner of a central square. Two more entrances are there to this hall through a porch.
ii. Garbhagriha or sanctuary at the far end with the image of Lord Rama.
The Vimana is remarkable with its lower storey of stone and pyramidal Sikhara in brick. It consists of a grouping of replicas of itself in three tiers surmounted by a cupola. The whole height is about 15 metres.
To the side and rear of this temple is the Amman (consort) shrine which is a smaller reproduction of the main structure to which on the Sikhara, a keel roof of Buddhist chaitya hall was added in the place of cupola. Brick and plaster superstructures of these buildings was finished in bright colours.
Layout and Planning:
One of the larger and greater temple of Dravidian architecture is the Meenakshi temple, Madurai of 17th century mostly built in one time. It is a double temple, as it has two separate sanctuaries, one dedicated to Lord Siva (Sundareswara) and the other to his consort the goddess Meenakshi.
These two shrines are temple within a temple. The temple is popularly called Meenakshi temple. It was built is Mandala plan having courts (Prakarams), pillared halls and enclosure walls. As the temple is major and more prominent in Madurai, hence it is also called Madurai temple.
The outer wall of this temple surrounds an area of 259 metres by 221 metres, with four large gateways one each in the centre of four sides. Admission is through the Gopuram on east. This is connected to a fine-pillared avenue of over 61 metres long and about 31 metres wide, which is called Viravasantaraya mandapam in which a Nandi pavilion was placed.
This leads to a smaller Gopuram forming the eastern entrance to the second Prakaram. This is a rectangular enclosure of 128 metres by 94 metres also having four gateways (Gopurams) one in the middle of each side but smaller than the preceding.
Most of this second enclosure is covered with a flat roof, but partly open on north side. This enclosure has the nave and transepts with most intricate grouping of pillars. Within this there is again another covered court with only one entrance on east. This is Siva’s enclosure.
Inside the last enclosure the sacred shrine is situated.
This contains three compartments:
i. An assembly hall
ii. A vestibule and
iii. A Cella
All the courts, corridors and halls have flat roofs supported on pillars. The pillars are exquisite, beautiful and wondrous in their design. At the other end the Cella was placed. This was surmounted by a small Sikhara, which penetrates through the flat roofs of pillared halls.
The other temple of this complex is that of the consort or associate deity, Minakshi- the fish-eyed. This enclosure is attached to the south of Siva temple to the rear. This is a half-size production having one compartment within another. It is entered through two Gopurams one on east and the other on west and that on the west is larger. The enclosure is mostly covered with pillared halls and corridors. Rising above the flat roof is the cupola of the shrine.
Lying towards the front of Minakshi enclosure and in an angle to the south is a large rectangular water pool surrounded by steps and pillared corridors on its four sides. This is the pool of Golden lotuses, an artificial reservoir measuring 50 metres by 36 metres. Its picturesque appearance is enhanced by the great mass of southern Gopuram raised over 46 metres high, the image of which is reflecting in the pool waters.
In the northeast corner of the tank there is a fair-sized Gopuram placed across the line of Minakshi- sanctuary. There are 11 Gopurams in total and it counts to 12 if the newly added Gopuram in the extreme eastern wall opposite to Minakshi shrine is added.
In the northeast portion of the outer enclosure, there is a spacious structure containing some thousand pillars added by Arianayakam Mudali, minister and founder of Nayak dynasty. It is entered from south. The interior consists of central passage with a double row of columns on either side leading to a small shrine at its northern end meant for Sabhapati.
Behind the colonnades forming the aisle are row upon row of pillars grotesquely carved making the total to 985 in all. The exterior of the hall is merely a low flat roofed structure.
In front of the temple and opposite to eastern gopuram leaving a thoroughfare is a large hall called Pudu Mandapam also known as Tirumala’s choultry. It measures 100 metres by 32 metres. It is a reception hall or temporary residence for the deity during the festival season. It is divided into a nave and two aisles by four rows of pillars elaborately carved.
The temple has some more additional edifices, shrines, pillared halls, corridors and open areas built for specific purposes. As a whole the temple is unique standing amidst large number of pillars and flat roofs.
The largest temple of south India dedicated to Lord Sri Ranganatha Swamy is the temple of Srirangam near Tiruchirappalli in Tamilnadu state. Srirangam is an island area surrounded by Kaveri river waters. The temple complex occupies a land of 156 acres of land. Length of seven prakaram walls is 9934 metres nearly 10 kilometres. Exact date of inception of temple is not known, as the temple exists since much long time in some form.
The temple has only one sanctuary. Its construction extended over a long period of centuries. This temple was a small village shrine consisting of a sanctuary and a Mandapa at the time of its inception during Chola’s time. For various reasons it gained much religious popularity.
The space between the walled enclosures is not enough for conducting increasing ceremonies and to accommodate the growing pilgrims. The necessary additional structures were built outside the enclosure and these new structures required an enclosure wall to provide safety.
In the centre of each enclosure wall a Gopuram was added much bigger and grander than the earlier. All the kings including Cholas, Pandyas, Hoysalas, Nayaks contributed to this temple. Like this the temple acquired several concentric rings of growth over a period of time. Therefore the temple city had acquired its shape out of necessity and followed Mandala plan having courts and concentric square rings.
Mandala is an interpretation of cosmological grid diagram having concentric rings and central shrine in the center. Access to each enclosure inside is obtained through gateway structures called Gopurams.
Unusually this temple is laid out from south to north instead of usual orientation of east to west. It measures a huge size rectangle of 950 metres by 816 metres enclosing an area of 0.77 square kilometer. It is having 21 Gopurams including large, small and unfinished, 13 of which are in axial line. There are six prakarams making in all seven concentric walls, with the shrine in the centre.
The three outer prakarams contain town, streets, houses and shops. From the fourth court the sacred and religious zone starts. This enclosure possesses a Gopuram on the middle of three sides on south, north and east that on the south is the fine and larger.
Within this court northeast corner occupies a thousand-pillared hall with flat roof measuring 152 metres by 49 metres built by Cholas. There are over 900 carved granite monolith pillars in this hall. Pillared pavilions of ordinary type covered other areas.
In the third enclosure, there are two Gopurams on south and north and opens into Garuda Mandapam having flat roof.
Within this court there are two pools:
i. Surya Pushkarini (pool of Sun)—a covered tank
ii. Chandra pushkarini (pool of Moon)—horseshoe shaped water pool at northern end.
The second court is entered through a Gopuram each on south and north sides. Pillared pavilions mostly covered this court. Within this is the first or innermost enclosure having its entrance on south side with a Gopuram. The sanctuary is a square compartment surrounded by flat roof, over which a golden Sikhara rises. The view of the 13 Gopurams in south to north axis is impressive.
The temple as a whole achieved sacred and profound religious atmosphere.
Dravidian temples have certain common similarities and at the same time some of them possess some special characters to distinguish them from others. Such notable example is the temple of Rameswaram in Tamilnadu state in which distinguishable features are the pillared corridors. Temple enshrines Lord Siva in the form of Siva Lingam.
This temple consists of double shrines enclosed within three concentric perimeter walls, the outer of which measures 268 metres long and 205 metres wide. The temple was planned and built within one period.
All the greatness and glory of the temple lies in its long avenue corridors whose length was extended over 914 metres, a few metres less than a kilometer. The width of the fine columned corridors varies from 5 metres to 7.6 metres. The columns rise to 3.6 metres in height from a moulded stylobate of 1.5 metres high.
Richly decorated and closely set pillars of good proportions continue along the entire length of corridors in linear and lateral directions. There is a long impressive perspective of columned corridors, those on the north and south side being more effective and they are over 213 metres in length. Each column contains massive, expansive foliated bracket capital. Individually each pillar bracket is impressive and especially when viewed in a perspective, they are utmost pleasing and dramatic.
The roof over the halls and corridors is flat. The corridor ceilings have inlaid painted circular patterns in each bay. There are simply moulded shrines over the sanctuaries. Externally the temple was enclosed all round by a solid plain wall of 6 metres high. The Gopurams are unfinished and show straight and strong lines with no figure work.
i. Jambukeswara temple near Trichinapally.
ii. Tiruvarur temple
iii. Chidambaram temple
iv. Tirunelvely temple
v. Tiruvannamalai temple
vi. Srivilliputtur temple
13. Chennakesava Temple, Belur, 1117 C.E:
The temple of Belur exhibits unusual artistic merits, the construction of which was commissioned by the king Vishnu Vardhana in 1117 C.E. The temple was dedicated to lord Vishnu. It was built on a high and wide platform measuring 54 metres long by 48 metres wide.
It consists of the following compartments:
i. A Hypostyle hall called Navaranga having deeply recessed angles.
ii. A stellate Vimana with a small square vestibule connecting the two compartments.
The Hypostyle hall has three entrances, one each on three free sides approached by flight of steps flanked by a pagoda-like shrine. Inside dimensions of Navaranga hall are 28 metres by 24 metres. The main colonnades in the hall made two passages crossing each other in the middle of the hall forming a central nave. The cruciform passages leave spaces in the angles of the hall, in which smaller pillars were placed. The roof of the hall is plain. Wide inclined eaves surround the whole building.
The pillars are closely set and every part was overlaid with carving. Each group of four pillars supports beams above and created a sunken-coffered ceiling above, where the sculptors exhibited their great artistic ability. The total number of pillars is forty-six. Each pillar is different in its design. The variety of designs and complexity is astonishing. Each sculptor had created and contributed to the temple a specimen of his own design and handwork.
One column in the middle of the hall is so unique in character that it was distinguished by the name Narasimha, the sculptor that made the pillar. The sculptor has carved its capital, shaft and base into a repeating pattern in niches in each of which is enshrined an image and has skillfully devised that the whole pillar could be rotated at will.
The figure-subjects are elaborated and are made on perforated screens between the exterior pillars of Hypostyle hall. Such elaboration was not found elsewhere. There are 20 such screens, ten of which bear the illustrated stories from the Epics (Puranas) and the rest were carved geometrically treated in common.
Three elegant exterior shrines were attached to three projecting sides to the Vimana, which were now lost.
This is an outstanding temple monument situated within the walls of the ancient city of Darasamudra, which flourished as the capital City of Hoysala Empire for about three centuries. It is now declined into a small hamlet called Halebid in Hassan District in Karnataka state, some 75 kilometres northwest of Mysore. The temple was built by king Vishnu Vardhana.
In this temple, adjacent transepts connect two complete temples. The length of each is 34 metres and width about 30 metres with each a Nandi pavilion in the front. The main temple structure stands on a broad platform having angles corresponding to the buildings. The platform encircles the whole structure useful for processions.
The temple has usual compartments of pillared hall and attached sanctuary. The junction between the sanctuary and assembly hall is well built skillfully by profusely decorated buttresses. The sanctuary is stellate in plan with acute angular projections. The walls of main hall are at right angles.
The interior is congested and complex owing to closely set pillars. It is a four square group of pillars making nave and aisles by intersection. The shaft of the columns were carved and fluted. The capital supports a heavily figured Madanakai brackets.
The entire exterior has continuous mouldings, borders, friezes, cornices and bands of statuary carried round the whole building. The average height of the exterior is only 7.5 metres.
The plinth wall was carved into horizontal bands containing numerous figures like elephants, cavaliers and mystical motifs. Above this on the walls is the remarkable exposition of the whole company of Indra’s heaven portrayed one after the other enshrined in niches and canopied by hanging foliage.
The divine beings in the centre are framed with rich ornamental borders comprising repeating patterns of natural forms, conventional animals, scenes from myth and legend with infinite details. The central space of the wall is the main sculpture gallery each occupied by a minutely wrought, splendidly appareled, each figure half-life size in height.
On either side of the main entrance the statues of Dwarpala or doorkeepers in life size were elaborated into extravagantly fanciful creations. There are no words of any language that can describe the beauty and fineness of these intricately and richly decorated carvings of this temple. One must see, enjoy and understand the great designs made by the artisans, who dedicated their lives and left their mighty and tiresome work.
As a whole the temple of Halebid is the supreme climax of Indian temple architecture in its most plastic manifestation.
This is best preserved temple of Hoysala architecture. It was built by Somnatha a general in the army of king Narasimha III.
This is a most complete temple situated about thirty kilometers from Srirangapatnam in Karnataka state. The deity in the temple is lord Vishnu. The main temple placed in the middle of a rectangular courtyard measuring 66 metres by 54 metres surrounded by pillared cloisters containing 64 cells each with pillars in front. The temple is entered through a gateway on eastern side from where the entire temple can be seen at a glance.
The plan of the temple is stellate shaped having a wide terrace platform serving as an Ambulatory.
It contains the following compartments:
i. A main pillared hall
ii. Three shrines on western end, one in axial alignment and the others were placed laterally. This is a triple shrine temple having three Sikharas termed as Trikutachala.
The pillared hall has two compartments:
i. Mukhamandapa or front open pillared hall with 12 pillars
ii. Navaranga or middle hall with 4 pillars
A doorway in the middle of three sides leads to a vestibule or Sukhanasi each of which leads to the Cella. The pillars are elaborate and lathe-turned.
The temple stands on a high platform with striking horizontal mouldings following the stellate projections. The exterior of the walls and sikhares are embellished and finely proportioned. The platform has the figures of elephants guarding the temple. The elephant figures were fully decorated with jewelry with chains and bells.
Every part of the central wall space of the temple is inhabited by figures of deities. They appear in all their glory adorned with heavy jewels like bangles on arms, towering crowns and chunky anklets on their feet. As a whole Hoysala temples are fine, intricate in carvings, highly creative with their richly adorned figures.
This is the temple dedicated to Surya- the Sun god probably a later temple of osian group and in some respects the most graceful of the entire group. These temples also consist of same compartments as the early examples have.
i. Portico or Nal mandapa
ii. Open assembly hall or Mandapa
iii. Cella with its shrine.
Entrance is from east through Nal mandapa which contains two tall fluted pillars. The temple is of Panchayatana class. Its four subsidiary shrines are connected by a cloister, which not only provide shelter to visiting devotees, but also serves as an enclosure wall. The pillars of the portico has the Base, Capital, Vase and foliage order together with a band breaking the slender lines of the shaft, which were the matured work of an experienced hand.
The shape of Sikhara and its proportions as a whole are remarkable. The temple is a fine illustration in Art and Architecture.
The most complete example of osian group is the Jain temple dedicated to Mahavira.
It consists of the following usual compartments:
i. An open porch (Nal mandapa)
ii. A Mandapa
iii. A Sanctuary which is a closed cell.
Immediately in front of the porch is an ornate Torana or archway. It appears to have first built at the end of 8th century and then repaired and added in 10th century. This shows a record of development of two periods. This is seen by the changes in the design of pillars of Mandapa belonging to the earlier original structure and the pillars of the porch added later.
Nal mandapa is so called because it was built over the Nal (stairs) giving access into the building. The Torana or entrance arch appears to be even still later addition, probably of 11th century.
The outstanding features are the pillars of the porch as they present post-Gupta order in its ripest state.
Abu is a hill station situated at a height of 1200 metres in thick green trees in Sirohi district in south Rajasthan very close to north Gujarat border. It was the custom of Jains to build their temple buildings on the summit of mountains, as higher places and mountains are regarded as sacred. Very nearer to Abu, Dilwara temple complex consists of five temples devoted to Jain Tirthankars (saints). These temples are famous and popular for their marvelous marble stone carvings.
One such important temple is Vimala temple built by Vimal Shah the minister in the court of the king Bhimdev I of Solanki dynasty in 1021 C.E. The temple enshrines gold-brass alloy idol of Adinath, also called Rishabdev the first Jain Tirthankar. There are some 57 subordinate cells containing small deities. The temple is also called Vimal Shah or Vimal Vasahi. It was built entirely of white marble.
A high enclosure wall surrounded the main building of the temple, on the inner side of which is a corridor. The temple building covers an area of 43 metres long and 27 metres wide. Entrance to the temple is through a domed porch on east entering into the cloistered courtyard.
The temple resolves mainly into the following:
i. Rang mandapa – Front open columned hall
ii. Navchowki – Mandapa
iii. Gudha mandapa – A vestibule Garba
iv. Griha – Sanctuary
It is the front open columned hall containing richly decorated twelve pillars supporting the dome. It measures 7.5 metres in diameter. The architrave is 3.6 metres from the floor and the apex of the dome was less than 9 metres high. The dome is supported on an attic system of dwarf pillars with volute braces in between. The capitals are of four-branched bracket order. The pillars are circular in section richly carved and embellished.
Supreme beauty and fineness was found in the treatment of volute ceiling of the nave including the pillars. The dome has eleven concentric rings, five of which are interposed at regular intervals with patterns of figures and animals. They contain the figures of elephants, horsemen, ducks, swans, ornamental pendants and dancing figures. At the apex they form a grouping of pendants suspended from the centre of the dome. Marvelous minute carvings are filled over on pillars, Ceilings, doorways and panels.
The pillars have carved figures playing instruments and 16 Vidyadevis the goddesses of wisdom. The columned hall is open to criticism as the remarkable dome is clearly too heavy in appearance to rest on slender pillars. The columns seem to serve only ornamental purpose. But surprisingly the hall stood firmly for some ten centuries.
Navchowki is a mandapa containing nine bays. The pillars and the ceilings are too richly and intricately decorated with carvings.
At the far end of this and slightly at a higher level is the vestibule having two rows of pillars. And at the end of this a doorway opens into the shrine.
The exterior of the temple has no special architectural characters. It is simple and plain. Hasthi shala (Elephant hall) was an addition made later containing rows of elephant figures.
Nonetheless the Vimala temple is a notable production. Its fame is not resting much on architecture but on the infinite sculptural decoration, which is notable for its intrinsic delicacy and plasticity.
One of the earliest and finest is the temple of Ambarnatha at Akoli in Thana District near Mumbai on Mumbai Pune route in Maharashtra state built in 1060 C.E during Solanki dynasty king Mahamandaleswar. Temple was built in black stone and lime in Hemadpanti style. The temple is dedicated to lord Siva and is now under the control Archeological Survey of India.
The temple has two essential compartments aligned diagonally joining them at their inner angles. The building is measuring 23 metres long and 7 metres in width. Cut corner domes, close fitting, mortar less stone joints, bands of mini figures-are the main features of these temples. A long deep pool situated by the side of this temple.
The temple is entered through three doorways of the assembly hall. Inside, there are attached pillars at each of eight angles and a group of four pillars formed a square nave in the centre. There is excellent carving in the ceiling panels and shallow domes.
The pillars of the hall are too intricately carved with both conventional designs and figure subjects from base to capital. The most richly finished are the central four pillars carved with images of gods in niches and figures in friezes. The design of pillars recalls the marble columns of Vimala temple of Abu.
The walls of this temple are made close by a series of vertical projections and recesses, which are fully and richly decorated. These projections and recesses catch light and create shadows of striking beauty. The other decorative treatment comprises mainly the horizontal mouldings of the Kani or knife-edge type. The quoins of the Sikhara and the multiplication of mini ornamental Sikharas in between the plain quoins are excellent.
Actual name of the temple is Govindeswara. This is the most complete and best-preserved temple of Deccan series constructed during the first half of twelfth century at Sinnar, Maharashtra state. The temple has a wide platform measuring 38 metres by 29 metres with four small supplementary shrines at each corner making the temple a Panchayathana class.
The main building occupying the center of a large terrace is elegantly proportioned. It contains a Nandi pavilion, an assembly hall and a sanctuary. The three entrances to the Assembly hall has columned porticos which added grace and dignity to the structure.
The Nandi-pavilion was placed in front of the main building facing east.
The temple stands on a moulded and stepped platform. The roofs of these two structures were made of miniature models of their own body structure. Those on the Sabha-mandapa are short, while on the Vimana they are taller forms. A cornice carried round the whole structure binds the Sabha-mandapa with the vimana behind. The quoins altered by vertical mini sikharas were the main features of Sikhara. Though the general proportions of this temple are good but the sculptures adorning the walls are low in quality.
21. Sasbahu Temple, Gwalior, 11th Cent. C.E:
There are two temples with the same name in Gwalior fort with variation in size. According to inscription the largest was completed in 1093 C.E. The temple was dedicated to lord Vishnu built by king Mahipala.
Believes as to the name of the temple are- Lord Vishnu is called Sahasra Bahu means One with 1000 hands. It gradually changed to Sasbahu and is not dedicated to Sas (Mother in law) or Bahu (Daughter in law).
Only the main hall or Mandapa remains. The vimana over the sanctuary was probably 46 metres in height was disappeared. The entire length is 30 metres and the width across the transepts is 19 metres. The building has projected transepts.
The interior of this hall is artistically ingenious. The exterior looks in three storeys. And this does not apply to the interior, which is one large central hall, around which project the loggias, one above the other comprising triple storeys. The central hall has transepts on either side to allow ventilation inside. The Mandapa hall is a new conception in temple architecture in India.
Externally the Maha mandapa is in three storeys, which take the form of open galleries surrounding the building on all sides. Each storey is defined by a massive architrave with the spaces between occupied by pillars and piers. The roof was partly fallen. It was an arrangement in diminishing tiers. Ornamental masonry is rising up into a low pyramidal roof.
The planes interrupted by columns alternating at regular intervals with openings produced a good effect of solids and voids making the exterior clear and strong in appearance. The transepts, loggias, pillars, projections, recesses and their adjustment all were the innovative features in this temple.
This was built in 11th century within the perimeter of the rock-bound fortress of Gwalior in Uttar Pradesh state. This is a tall commanding structure raised to about 24 metres in height and is distinctly unusual in appearance. It is believed to be the oldest temple in Gwalior fort.
Regarding the name of the temple, there are different versions like this:
i. Supervising of religious ceremonies was entrusted to Telang Brahmins.
ii. Temple was built by Teli caste men (Oil merchants).
It consists of sanctuary only comprising a tower together with a substantial porch and a doorway giving access into the cella. There is no assembly hall or Mandapa. The sanctuary is not a square hall but is an oblong measuring externally 18 metres by 14 metres.
The most marked departure from the orthodox design of the temple tower is in the composition of the summit of roof. Owing to the oblong form the Sikhara was built into a vaulted roof similar to Buddhisht Chaitya hall roof. It also contains sun-window motif and a keeled ridge surmounted by finials. The front porch also similarly carried up almost to the height of the Sikhara roof. The temple had fine and elegant projections richly decorated making it marvelous.
The Sikhara of this temple is a rare type in its design. The only other example in Indo-Aryan architecture with a Sikhara of this order is the Vaital Deul at Bhubaneswar, a temple of Orissan group.
The temple is the largest and most important of the temples of Brindavan built in 1590 C.E, the sanctuary of which was completely dismantled in the reign of Aurangzeb. What remains therefore is the assembly hall, which is a spacious structure. Originally the building has transepts projections. There are no figure carvings or niches in this temple.
The temple contains balconies, loggias, bracketed arches, moulded buttresses, wide eaves, ornamental parapets.
It is a combination of horizontal and vertical lines covering the whole surface. Wide eaves and ornamental parapets, all carefully disposed so as to be in perfect accord with one another.
The roof is a vaulted dome of intersecting arches. The temple lacks the full spirit of orthodox temple as the rulers of this period were of different faith and full patronage and help was not available.
This is another prominent temple in Brindavan built in 16th century C.E. It contains a rectangular Mandapa and an octagonal shrine. Though the mandapa is rectangular, but it contains a square hall inside. The shrine is 11 metres in diameter and the cella in its interior is a square of only 5.2 metres side. Hence a great thickness of wall was left around both compartments. In Mandapa within the mass of masonry small chambers have been introduced.
The shape of the Sikhara is unique, as it bears no resemblance to any other kind of Indian temple spire. It rises from an octagonal plan and taper into a tall conical tower with vertical band of mouldings outlining each angle. At intervals throughout their height are similar bands of mouldings placed transversely.
Over-hanging the whole at the apex is a ponderous finial or Amlasila. It is a flat circular disc, the outer edge of which is ornamented with a border of massive knob-like petals or flutes. The main entrance has a noticeable Islamic flavour with its pointed arch motif.
The whole treatment is very simple without any embellishments.