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Friday, January 10, 2014

The architecture of Hindu temples

The architecture of Hindu temples evolved over a period of more than 2,000 years and there is a great variety in this architecture.
Hindu temples are of different shapes and sizes – rectangular, octagonal, semi circular – with different types of domes and gates. Temples in southern India have a different style than those in northern India. Although the architecture of Hindu temples is varied, they mainly have many things in common.
The 6 parts of a Hindu Temple:
1. The Dome and Steeple: The steeple of the dome is called ‘shikhara’ (summit) that represents the mythological ‘Meru’or the highest mountain peak. The shape of the dome varies from region to region and the steeple is often in the form of the trident of Shiva.
2. The Inner Chamber: The inner chamber of the temple called ‘garbhagriha’ or ‘womb-chamber’ is where the image or idol of the deity (‘murti’) is placed. In most temples, the visitors cannot enter the garbhagriha, and only the temple priests are allowed inside.
3. The Temple Hall: Most large temples have a hall meant for the audience to sit. This is also called the ‘nata-mandira’ (hall for temple-dancing) where, in days ofyore, women dancers or ‘devadasis’ used to perform dancerituals. Devotees use the hall to sit,meditate, pray, chant or watch thepriests perform the rituals. The hall is usually decorated with paintings of gods and goddesses.
4. The Front Porch: This area of the temples usually has a big metallic bell that hangs from the ceiling. Devotees entering and leaving the porch ring this bell to declare their arrival and departure.
5. The Reservoir: If the temple is not in the vicinity of a natural water body, a reservoir of fresh water is built on the temple premises. The water is used for rituals as well as to keep the temple floor clean or even for a ritual bath before entering the holy abode.
6. The Walkway: Most temples have a walkway around the walls of the inner chamber for circum-ambulation by devotees around the deity as a mark of respect to the temples god or goddess.

Hindu Temple Architecture

India's temple architecture is developed from the creativity of Sthapathis and Shilpis, both of whom belong to the larger community of craftsmen and artisans called Vishwakarma (caste). A small Hindu temple consists of an inner sanctum, the garbha graha or womb-chamber, in which the idol or deity is housed, often called circumambulation, a congregation hall, and sometimes an antechamber and porch. The garbhagriha is crowned by a tower-like shikara. At the turn of the first millennium CE two major types of temples existed, the northern or Nagara style and the southern or Dravida type of temple. They are distinguishable by the shape and decoration of their shikhara(Dehejia 1997).

  • Nagara style: The tower/shikhar is beehive/curvilinear shaped.
  • Dravida style: The tower/shikhar consists of progressively smaller storeys of pavilions.
The earliest Nagar temples are in Karnataka (e.g. Galaganath at Pattadakal) and some very early Dravida-style temples (e.g. Teli-ka-Mandir at Gwalior) are actually in North India. A complex style termed Vesara was once common in Karnataka which combined the two styles.
A complex style termed Vesara was once common in Karnataka which combined the two styles. This may be seen in the classic Hindu temples of India and Southeast Asia, such as Angkor Wat, Brihadisvara, Khajuraho, Mukteshvara, and Prambanan.

Nagara architecture

Nagara temples have two distinct features : Architecture of the Khajuraho temples
Khajuraho Temple

  • In plan, the temple is a square with a number of graduated projections in the middle of each side giving a cruciform shape with a number of re-entrant angles on each side.
  • In elevation, a Sikhara, i.e., tower gradually inclines inwards in a convex curve.
The projections in the plan are also carried upwards to the top of the Sikhara and, thus, there is strong emphasis on vertical lines in elevation.
The Nagara style is widely distributed over a greater part of India, exhibiting distinct varieties and ramifications in lines of evolution and elaboration according to each locality. An example of Nagara architecture is the Kandariya Mahadeva Temple, the largest and loftiest temple of the Khajuraho, with its mature planning, designing and dimensions. It has superb sculptural embellishment and architectural elaboration and is amongst the most evolved and finished

Dravidian architecture

Dravida Style Thanjavur temple, Tamil Nadu
Main article: Dravidian architecture

Dravidian style temples consist almost invariably of the four following parts, differing only according to the age in which they were executed:

  • The principal part, the temple itself, is called the Vimana (or Vimanam). It is always square in plan and surmounted by a pyramidal roof of one or more stories; it contains the cell where the image of the god or his emblem is placed.
  • The porches or Mandapas (or Mantapams), which always cover and precede the door leading to the cell.
  • Gate-pyramids, Gopurams, which are the principal features in the quadrangular enclosures that surround the more notable temples.
  • Pillared halls or Chaultris—properly Chawadis -- used for various purposes, and which are the invariable accompaniments of these temples.
Besides these, a temple always contains temple tanks or wells for water (used for sacred purposes or the convenience of the priests), dwellings for all grades of the priesthood are attached to it, and other buildings for state or convenience.
Thanjavur Temple

Badami Chalukya architecture

The Badami Chalukya Architecture|Chalukya style originated during A.D. 450 in Aihole and perfected in Pattadakal and Badami.
The period of Badami Chalukyas was a glorious era in the history of Indian architecture. The capital of the Chalukyas, Vatapi (Badami, in Bagalkot district, North Karnataka in Karnataka) is situated at the mouth of a ravine between two rocky hills. Between 500 and 757 AD, Badami Chalukyas established the foundations of cave temple architecture, on the banks of the Malaprabha River. Those styles mainly include Aihole, Pattadakal and Badami. The sites were built out of sandstone cut into enormous blocks from the outcrops in the chains of the Kaladgi hills.
At Badami, Chalukyas carved some of the finest cave temples. Mahakuta, the large trees under which the shrine nestles.
In Aihole, known as the "Cradle of Indian architecture," there are over 150 temples scattered around the village. The Lad Khan Temple is the oldest. The Durga Temple is notable for its semi-circular apse, elevated plinth and the gallery that encircles the sanctum sanctorum. A sculpture of Vishnu sitting atop a large cobra is at Hutchimali Temple. The Ravalphadi cave temple celebrates the many forms of Shiva. Other temples include the Konthi temple complex and the Meguti Jain temple.
Pattadakal is a (World Heritage Site), where one finds the Virupaksha temple; it is the biggest temple, having carved scenes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Other temples at Pattadakal are Mallikarjuna, Kashivishwanatha, Galaganatha and Papanath.

Gadag Architecture style

The Gadag style of architecture is also called Western Chalukya architecture.[13] The style flourished for 150 years (1050 to 1200 CE); in this period, about 50 temples were built. Some examples are the Saraswati temple in the Trikuteshwara temple complex at Gadag, the Doddabasappa Temple at Dambal, the Kasivisvesvara Temple at Lakkundi, and the Amriteshwara temple at Annigeri. which is marked by ornate pillars with intricate sculpture.[14] This style originated during the period of the Kalyani Chalukyas (also known as Western Chalukya) Someswara I.
lakkundi temple

Kalinga architecture style

Simplified schema of a Kalinga architecture temple
The design which flourished in eastern Indian state of Orissa and Northern Andhra Pradesh are called Kalinga style of architecture.The style consists of three distinct type of temples namely Rekha Deula,Pidha Deula and Khakhara Deula. Deula means "Temple" in the local language. The former two are associated with Vishnu, Surya and Shiva temple while the third is mainly with Chamunda and Durga temples.The Rekha deula and Khakhara deula houses the sanctum sanctorum while the Pidha Deula constitutes outer dancing and offering halls.
The prominent examples of Rekha Deula are Lingaraj Temple of Bhubaneswar and Jagannath Temple of Puri. One of the prominent example of Khakhara Deula is Vaital Deula. The Konark Sun Temple is a living example of Pidha Deula.
kalinga architecture

Māru-Gurjara temple architecture

Māru-Gurjara temple architecture originated somewhere in sixth century in and around areas of Rajasthan. Māru-Gurjara architecture show the deep understanding of structures and refined skills of Rajasthani craftmen of bygone era. Māru-Gurjara architecture has two prominent styles: Maha-Maru and Maru-Gurjara. According to M. A. Dhaky, Maha-Maru style developed primarily in Marudesa, Sapadalaksa, Surasena and parts of Uparamala whereas Maru-Gurjara originated in Medapata, Gurjaradesa-Arbuda, Gurjaradesa-Anarta and some areas of Gujarat.[15] Scholars such as George Michell, M.A. Dhaky, Michael W. Meister and U.S. Moorti believe that Māru-Gurjara temple architecture is entirely Western Indian architecture and is quite different from the North Indian temple architecture.
This further shows the cultural and ethnic separation of Rajasthanis from north Indian culture. There is a connecting link between Māru-Gurjara architecture and Hoysala temple architecture. In both of these styles architecture is treated sculpturally.
somanathapura temple

For the basis of Hindú architecture often reference is made to Vastupurusa
or “the spirit of the site”. One legend explains this as follows. There was an evil demigod (bhuta) who was
born during Siva’s fight with the Asur Andhaka. This bhuta possessed a terrifying
countenance and an insatiable hunger. The legendgoes that having done great penance, the
bhuta won a boon from Siva that allowed him toswallow the three worlds that constitute
the Hindu cosmos. As this being stretched himself and began to occupy the heavens, he
fell flat on the earth. The various gods and demigods seized this opportunity and pinned
various parts of his body to the ground, rendering him helpless. This being came to be
called Vast (or Vastupurusa) because the god sand demigods managed to lodge themselves
on his body. Legends hold that the deities, in pinning him down, occupied different parts
of his body and continued to reside there (Figure1). In order to satisfy his hunger, Brahma
ordained that he receive offerings from people on building sites before construction
The body of the Vastupurusa is supposed to be sensitive at a number of points called
marmas. The well-being of the Vastupurusa assures the well-being of the building and, by
implication, its owner. An important criterion for any building, therefore,is to avoid injury
to the marmas located on the body of the Vastupurusa. To ensure that this is achieved,
texts prohibit any direct construction upon the marmas themselves. The marmas are
specifically said to lie at the intersection of major diagonals, seen as the veins (siras or
nadis) of the purusa

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