Temple Architecture

Temple Architecture

Ratha Temples

  • The Ratha temples were cut at Mahablipuram during region of Pallava king Narsimha Varmana I.
  • The Rathas are example of monolithic temple architecture. These are cut out of live rock.
  • The term “Ratha” doesn’t mean a Chariat. It refers to procession form.
  • It appears that entire structure can move, though in reality these are fixed as they are part of live rock.
  • The Ratha temples were cut out of granite rocks. These represent the top-down approach because a big hill / rock were cut into Ratha temple.
  • Ratha temples are part of Mammalia type of Temple Architecture.
  • This style flourished from 640 – 674 AD.
  • In this style, cave temples & Ratha temples were cut.
  • This style preceded by Mahendra style (610AD – 640 AD). In that style only cave temples were cut.
  • Mammilla style was followed by Rajasimha style 674AD – 800AD & Nando Varman style (800 AD-900AD). These styles manifested in form of free standing temple.
  • Sapta Pagodas located at Mahabalipuram are the example of Ratha temples. These were cut in reign of Narsimha Varmana I.
  • These Sapta Pagodas are 8 in number, though name suggests seven.
  • Sapta Pagodas are-
  • Draupadi Ratha
  • Dharmaraj Ratha
  • Bhima Ratha
  • Arjuna Ratha
  • Nakul Sahadeve Ratha
  • Ganesh Ratha
  • Pindari Ratha
  • Valaiyan Kunthai Ratha
  • Outer wall of Ratha temple contain large number of images.
  • Draupadi Ratha famous for Durga images & Arjuna Ratha is famous for Shiva images.


Mahabalipuram Bas Relief



  • A rock bolder located at Mahabalipuram contains depiction of various god & goddess in Bas relief form. It appears that entire heaven is portrayed. The gods are busy in their work. Among these portrayals God Vishnu, Shiva and Narad.
  • This bolder is named as Arjuna’s Penance or descent of Ganges because there are different interpretation about person worshiping God Shiva.


Free Standing Temple Architecture

Nagara Style

  • The earliest reference of temple comes from Nagari inscription, Rajasthan. According to this inscription Kanva king Sarvahatara / Sarvatata build a wall around a place of worship. Nothing definite is known about this place of worship but it’s consider to be a temple.
  • Earliest archaeological evidence of temple was discovered at Jandial a place located near Taxila. This temple was built in stone. It was a Zoroastrian temple.
  • This temple consisted of a fire place built on raised platform.
  • In this temple image worship was not carried out.
  • In 4th century AD Nagara style of temple archaeological emerged. This style continued to flourish in North India for many centuries have after.


Nagara Style of Temple Architecture

  • Temple of Nagara style was built on raised platform which is square/rectangular form.
  • Main structure in which image of temple deities were place was known as Garbhagrha (Sanctum Sanctorum).
  • The outer walls of Garbhagrha were ornamented by using images.
  • The inner walls were plain.
  • The upper portions of wall of Garbhagrha converged inward slightly.
  • This converged portion of wall is known as Shikhar.
  • At times converged portion was in straight line instead of being curvilinear such Shikhar was known as Rekha Shikhar.
  • Seats of deities known as allowed entry inside Garbhagrha.
  • Only priest & devdas were allowed entry inside Garbhagrha.
  • A spherical design was made at the top of roof of Garbhagrha.
  • It was known as “Amalka”.
  • This symbolized the Globe / Earth.
  • Sacred portion known as “Kalash” was placed over Amalaka.
  • It was to collect / gather cosmic energy / nector.
  • Flag was erected over the Kalash.
  • Flag symbolized sovereignty of deity.
  • Images of door keepers (Dwarpalas) were placed on both sides on gate of Garbhagrha.
  • A pillared Varanda known as “Antarala” was built in front of Garbhagrha.
  • It was passage way leading the devotee from entrance to Garbhagrha.
  • At entrance of temple, “Mandapa”/ “Mantapam” was built.
  • It was structure similar to Garbhagrha but smaller in size.
  • Mandapa was used for gathering of devotees.
  • It was connected with Garbhagrha with Antarala.
  • A pond or a well was built t\on black farm or near to it to provide sacred water to devotee.
  • Temple of Nagara style was generally built on stone, brick temple is rare.
  • Mortar was not used in the construction of temple of Nagara style.
  • Metals were also not used.




Examples of Nagara style Temple Architecture

Gupta Period Temple

  • Nagara style of Temple Architecture emerged during Gupta period large numbers of temples were built.
  • “Vishnu Temple” of Tighwa (Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh).
  • “Vishnu Temple of Eran” – Sagar district, Madhya Pradesh.
  • Parvati temple of Nachnara – Kuthar (Panna, Madhya Pradesh).
  • Shiva temple of Bumra (Satana, Madhya Pradesh).
  • Dashavatar temple of Deogarh (Lalitpur, Uttar Pradesh).
  • Bhitargaon temple near Kanpur. (This is only example of temple made up of bricks of temple age).
  • Vishnu temple of Shivpur (Mahasamund, Chattisgarh).


Temples of Early Medieval Age


Temples in Central India/Bundelkhand region

  • Large numbers of temples were built in Bundelkhand region during 9th – 12th century under patronage of Chandela rulers. Among these temples located at Khajuraho are most prominent.
  • There are 25 temples located at Khajuraho.
  • These temples built in granite & red sandstone.
  • These temples belong to Shaivism, Vaishnvism & Jainism.
  • Among Shiva temple Kandriya Mahadev temple is most prominent. This temple has 1 main Shikhar & four smaller Shikhar.
  • This temple is an example of Panchyatna temple, the temple where five deities were worship. These five deities in this temple are Shiva, Parvati / Devi, Ganesh, Vishnu & Surya.
  • Among the Vaishnva temple Chaturbhuj temple is most prominent.
  • Among Jaina temple “Parsvanath” temple is most prominent.
  • These temples have large number of image on their outer walls.


Gujarat – Rajasthan Temple

  • A large number of temples built in Gujarat – Rajasthan during 10th – 13th century under the patronage of Chalukya / Solanki rulers of Gujarat.
  • Among these temple Karnameru temple located at Anhilwara (capital of Solanki), Rudramalla temple located at Siddhapur & temples located at Mount Abu are most prominent.
  • Mount Abu famous for Jain temple built in white marble.
  • Dilwara temple & Tejpal temple at Mount Abu are most famous.



  • These are built by Vastupal, the minister of king Kumarapala.


Temples in Orissa

  • A large number of temples were built in Orissa in Nagara style during 8th – 13th These are among finest temples of Nagara style.
  • Among these temple Lingaraja temple of Bhubaneswar, Jagannath temple of Puri, Sun temple at Konarch & Mukteshwar temple at Bhubaneswar are most prominent.


Lingraja Temple

  • This temple was built by Somavamshi ruler Jajati Keshari in 11th
  • This temple is dedicated to God Harihara (form of Shiva).
  • Lingraja temple – largest temple in Bhubaneswar. Its Garbhagrha is –
  • This temple contains 4 main components i.e. Sanctum Jagmohana (assembly hall). Bhoga Mandapa (offering hall) & Nata Mandar (festive hall).


Jagannath Temple

  • It is dedicated to God Vishnu.
  • In this temple, Krishna, Balram & Subhadra are worshiped together.
  • This is the only temple in India where these two brothers & sister worshiped together.
  • This temple was built by Ganga ruler Anantavarmana Chodaganga Deva in 12th
  • The unique feature of this temple is that images are made up of wood.
  • These images are replaced after 12-19 years with their exact replica in ceremonial manner.
  • This ceremony of replacing images if known as Navakalevara (new embodiment).
  • Chaitanya Mahaprabhu lived in this temple for many years. (Vaishnava Bhakti Saint).
  • Chaitanya invented Kirtana style of vocal music.
  • Bhakti saint ramananda was also associated with this temple.
  • Jagannath temple is known as “White Pagoda”.
  • Color white of its stone is the behind the name.
  • The present temple was rebuilt in later half of 12th century by Ananga Bhima Deva on the same spot where the original temple was constructed by his father.
  • This temple is famous for Sudarshan Chakra (weapon of Vishnu/Krishna).


Sun Temple of Konark



  • This temple was built by Ganga ruler Narsimha in 13th
  • This temple is in shape of Chariat having wheels, pillars & wall.
  • It appears that temples moves with movement of Sun God.
  • This temple is known as “Black Pagoda” because blackish color of stone.
  • This temple is also famous for large number of female image on its outer wall.
  • Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore commented about this temple that here the language of stone surpasses the language of man.


Mukteshwar Temple, Bhubaneswar




  • It was built by Somavamshi king Yayati I in 10th
  • This temple is known as “Gem of Orissa Architecture”. Because in terms of ornamentation & refinement it’s consider to be finest.


Dravidian Style


  • Dravidian style of temple architecture commenced during Pallavas period in later half of 7th century AD. This style continued to evolve with passage of time from Pallava to Chola period and to Vijayanagar Empire.
  • The temples were built in brick or in stone using bottom up approach. Metal also used in construction activities.
  • Temples were built under patronage of state as well as under private patronage, the foremen were dominant.
  • In this way, Dravidian style of Temple Architecture represented both popular art as well as court art.
  • Temples of Dravidian style are mostly dedicated to God Shiva or Vishnu because these were 2 prominent faiths in South India.
  • Temple dedicated to other deities is few.


Features of Dravidian style of Temple Architecture

  • The temple was constructed without any raised platform unlike North Indian Nagara style.
  • Peramidic roof know as “Vimanan” was another unique feature.
  • The interiors of Garbhagrha were highly ornamented. The exterior wall of Garbhagrha also ornamented by using images.
  • Large numbers of image were used on Vimana for ornamentation purpose.
  • Other elements were similar to Nagara style such as-
  • Amalaka
  • Kalash
  • Flag
  • Peetha
  • Dwarpala
  • Antarala
  • Mandapa
  • Pond/Well
  • “Pradikshina Path” (Circum bulatary Path) was also an important feature of Dravidian style of Temple Architecture.
  • It was built around Garbhagraha.
  • It was covered (rood) passage way.


Evolution of Dravidian Style of Temple Architecture


Rajasimha Style



  • This style represented 1st phase of Dravidian style, free standing temple.
  • It emerged during reign of Narsimha Varmana II.
  • This style flourished from 674AD – 800AD.
  • “Shore Temple” at Mahabalipuram, “Iswara temple” at Mahabalipuram, “Kailashnath temple”, Kansipuram, “Vaikuntaperumal temple”, Kanchipura & “Mukunda temple” of Mahabalipuram is finest example of this style.
  • Shore temple has large number of images of Ganesha, Skanda on its Vimana.
  • A peripheral wall has large number of oxen.
  • Vaikunthaperumal temple is dedicated to Vishnu.
  • Image found on its wall through light on contemporary life.
  • Its pillars are highly carved.
  • Kailashnath temple represent climax of Rajasimha style.
  • This temple is dedicated to God Shiva.


Nandi Varman Style (800AD – 900AD)

  • This style represent the declining phase of Pallavas power because around 800AD, the Pallavas power had started declining & their Chola feudatories had started gaining power.
  • Temple of this style is small in size but level of ornamentation is much higher.
  • Mukteshwar & Matangeshwar temple at Kanchipuram.
  • Parshurameshwar temple – Gudimallam are the finest example.



Chola Style

  • Chola rulers were great patron of art and architecture. More than 2300 & temples were built during Chola period. Out of these more than 1500 are located in Tanjore – Tiruchy belt.
  • The size of temple in this age is massive but at the same time the refinement is of also very high level.
  • Because of this art historian Fergusson commented that Chola artist conceived as giant & finished like jewelers.


Changes in Dravidian Style of Temple Architecture during Chola Period

  • Height of Vimanas increased enormously because it indicated the power & prestige of king.
  • The more was the power of king the greater the height of his Vimana.
  • Vimana of Brihadeswar temple (Tanjore) is finest example. This Vimana is 66m high.
  • Art historian Percy Brown commented that Tanjore Vimana is touch stone of Indian architecture.
  • A number of additional/subsidiary structures were built near Garbhagrha/main temple during Chola to house the images of kings, queens, other god & goddess. As a result of this, temples got transformed into a big complex.
  • This horizontal expansion/elaboration of temple complex was an indication of territorial expansion. (Size of empire) because whenever king used to return from successful military campaign these additional structure were built.
  • Temple complex was surrounded by a peripheral wall & gateways known as “Gopuram” was built on four directions.
  • At times, height of Gopuram was even more than Garbhagrha.




  • Vijalaya Choleshvaram temple constructed by king Vijalaya – location – Nartamalai.
  • Balasubramanya temple (Kannanur) built by Aditya I.
  • Naveshvara temple (Kumbhakaran) by Aditya I.
  • Koranganatha temple (Shinivasanallur) built by Parantaka I.
  • Gangaikonda Cholapuram (Shinivasanallur) built by Rajendra I in memory of successful military campaign organized against North India – Pala king Mahipala was defeated.
  • Airavateshwar temple (Darasuram) built by Rajaraja II.


  • Sarabeswara / Kampahareshwar temple (Thirubhuvanam) built by Kulotthunga III.
  • Brihadeshvara temple built by Rajaraja I at Tanjore.


Vijayanagara Architecture


Early phase of Vijayanagara Architecture

  • The 1st phase of Vijayanagara architecture can be seen in monument of 14th
  • During this phase, monuments were deeply influenced by Deccani style of architecture that flourished under Chalukyas of Badami / Vatapi.
  • Temples of this phase are simpler without much ornamentation.
  • Vidyashankar temple at Hampi & Jaina Shrine at Humpi is finest example.



Provida Style

  • In 15th century a typical Vijayanagara style of architecture emerged which is known as Provida style. It was developed / evolved form of Chola architecture / Dravidian style.


New Elements

  • The chief Goddess of temple started residing in new structure known as Amman Shrine.


  • For ceremonial union of chief God & Goddess, new structure known as “Kalyanam Mandapa” (Marriage Hall) was built in temple complex.
  • At beginning of Mahanavmi festival image of chief God & Goddess were carried to Kalyana Mandapa with great fanfare (Celebration).
  • A 1000 pillared hall known as “Vasanta Mandapa” was also built in temple complex.
  • It was used for gathering of devotee.
  • Pillars of this hall have the image of charging horse (attacking/running).
  • These pillars are known as Yali Stamba.
  • The gateways to temple complex became massive. These are known as Raya Gopuram.
  • These changes in architecture & emergence of new temple ceremonies were the outcome of greater prosperity during Vijayanagar period.


Examples of Provida Style

  • Hazara Rama temple – Hampi (modern name of Vijayanagar) – built by King Devaraya I.
  • Vitthala temple – Hampi – Krishnadev Raya.
  • Hazara Rama Swami temple Krishnadev Raya


  • Virupaksha temple Krishnadev Raya.


Nayaka Style

  • The Nayaka’s were the senior military commander appointed as provincial governor in peripheral areas.
  • They were autonomous & were under nominal control of central authority.
  • Nayaka’s used to have their own court, own coins & own army.
  • After the defeat of Vijayanagar Empire in battle of Talikota in 1565, the central authority became weak & Nayaka gained immense power. As result of which a typical style of temple architecture emerged under patronage of Nayaka in 17th
  • Temples of Nayaka style are smaller in size but they are highly ornamented.
  • Meenakshi temple built by Kulashekhar Pandya at Madurai in 17th century is the finest example.


Vesara Style (6th – 7th – 8th Century)

  • The four Vesara styles of Temple Architecture flourished in Deccan covering parts of Southern Maharashtra & Karnataka. This style emerged during period of Chalukyas of Badami during 6th – 7th& 8th
  • The term Vesara has originated from Sanskrit word “Vishvana” which mean movement/journey.
  • This style emerged as result of movement of feature from Nagara style & Dravidian style from South.


Essential Features

  • In this style, temples of Nagara & Dravidian style built at same place simultaneously.
  • This co-existence of temples of both styles is an important feature.
  • At times, the feature of Nagara & Dravidian style was combined in one temple.
  • Vimanas in these temples are more like Shikhars of Nagara style.
  • The roof is flatter.
  • Covered circumambulatory path is not found generally in temples of Dravidian temples.
  • Large numbers of images were used on the outer wall & the tower of temple.


Prominent Examples

  • Temples of Vesara style are found at Badami/Vatapi, Aihole & Pattadakal.
  • At Badami, there are three Hindu & one Jaina temple.
  • Aihole is known as “City of Temple”. More than 70 temples are located here.
  • Among these temple, Ladhkhan Harchchimalligudi & Durga temple are most prominent.
  • Ladhkhan Harchchimalligudi has flat roof. It’s pillared Varanda infront of sanctum is highly ornamented.
  • Durga temple is built on raised platform. It has circumbulletory path.
  • Meguti temple built by Ravikirti at Aihole. It is a Jaina temple.
  • Ravikirti was minister of peace & was (Mahasandhi Vigrahika) of Pulkesin II.
  • The famous Aihole inscription was found on wall of this temple.
  • Ten temples located at Pattadakal. Out of these four are of Nagara style & six are of Dravidian style.
  • Among temples of Nagara style, Papanath temple is most famous.
  • Among temple of Dravidian style, Virupaksha temple & Sangameshera temple are most famous.
  • Virupaksha temple built by Queen Lokamahadevi wife of Chalukya king Vikramadiya II.
  • Famous Pattadakal inscription is found on wall of this temple which informs that her husband defeated Pallava king Nandivarma & adopted title of “Kanchikonda” (conqueror of Kanchi).



Hoysala Style of Temple Architecture (1100AD – 1300AD)

  • This style of Temple Architecture flourished during reign of Hoysalas in Karnataka.
  • Hoysalas ruled with the capital at Dwar samudra (at present known as Helebid ) during 1100AD – 1325AD.
  • This style is also known as Karnata–Dravida style because its similarity with Dravidian style of temple architecture.



Essential Features

  • Star shaped layout of temple is most essential feature of this style.
  • Multiple Shrine / Garbhagrha are built around pillared hall.
  • At time there were two (double temple), three (triple temple) & four (quadripal temples).
  • All these temples were duplicated of main Garbhagraha. They were having same part.
  • These are dwarfish in size. The pillars are highly ornamented. These pillars are most beautiful among all pillars in peninsular India.


Channakeshava (Belur)

Hoyasaleshvara (Helebid)

Keshava (Somanathpura)

  • This style of Temple Architecture was succeeded by Vijayanagar architecture because the Vijayanagar Empire emerged in the same area after few decades of decline of Hoyasala (in 1336).