Free Standing Temple Architecture

Nagara Style

The earliest reference of the temple comes from the 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 considered to be a temple.

The earliest archaeological evidence of the 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 fireplace built on a raised platform. In this temple, image worship was not carried out. In the 4th century AD, the Nagara style of temple archaeology 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 a raised platform which is square/rectangular form. The main structure in which the image of temple deities was placed 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 the wall of Garbhagriha converged inward slightly. This converged portion of the wall is known as Shikhar.

At times converged portion was in a straight line instead of being curvilinear such Shikhar was known as Rekha Shikhar. Seats of deities known as an allowed entry inside Garbhagrha. Only priests & Devdas were allowed entry inside Garbhagrha. The spherical design was made at the top of the roof of Garbhagrha. It was known as “Amalka”. This symbolized the Globe/Earth.

A sacred portion known as “Kalash” was placed over Amalaka. It was to collect/gather cosmic energy nectar. A flag was erected over the Kalash. The flag symbolized sovereignty of deity. Images of doorkeepers (Dwarpalas) were placed on both sides on the gate of Garbhagriha. A pillared Varanda known as “Antarala” was built in front of Garbhagrha. It was a passageway leading the devotee from entrance to Garbhagrha. At the entrance of the temple, “Mandapa”/ “Mantapam” was built.

It was a 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 the devotee. Temple of Nagara style was generally built on stone, brick temple is rare. The mortar was not used in the construction of the temple of Nagara style. Metals were also not used. Nagara style of Temple

Architecture emerged during Gupta period large numbers of temples were built. For example, “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 the only example of a temple made up of bricks of temple age), and the Vishnu temple of Shivpur (Mahasamund, Chattisgarh).

Temples of Early Medieval Age

Temples in Central India/Bundelkhand region

A large number of temples were built in the Bundelkhand region during the 9th – 12th century under the 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, Vaishnavism & Jainism. Among Shiva temple, Kandriya Mahadev temple is most prominent. This temple has one 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 Vaishnava temple, Chaturbhuj temple is the most prominent. Among Jaina temple “Parsvanath” temple is most prominent. These temples have a large number of the image on their outer walls.

Gujarat – Rajasthan Temple

A large number of temples built in Gujarat – Rajasthan during the 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 is most prominent. Mount Abu famous for the Jain temple built in white marble. Dilwara temple & Tejpal temple at Mount Abu is the 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 the 8th – 13th These are among the finest temples of the 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 the 11th century. This temple is dedicated to God Harihara (a form of Shiva). Lingraja temple – largest temple in Bhubaneswar. 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 the 12th century. 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 a ceremonial manner. This ceremony of replacing images if known as Navakalevara (new embodiment). Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (Vaishnava Bhakti Saint) lived in this temple for many years. Chaitanya invented the Kirtana style of vocal music.

Bhakti saint Ramananda was also associated with this temple. Jagannath temple is known as “White Pagoda”. The Color white of its stone is behind the name. The present temple was rebuilt in the second half of the 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 the 13th century. This temple is in the shape of a Chariot having wheels, pillars & walls. It appears that temples move with the movement of the Sun God. This temple is known as “Black Pagoda” because of the blackish color of the stone. This temple is also famous for a large number of female images 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 the 10th century.  This temple is known as “Gem of Orissa Architecture”. Because in terms of ornamentation & refinement it’s considered to be the finest.