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Temple Architecture of India

The two major styles of temple architecture in the country are known as Nagara in the north and Dravidian in the south....

The two major styles of temple architecture in the country are known as Nagara in the north and Dravidian in the south. The third style, Vesara Style, is fusion of Nagara and Dravidian style of architecture.

  • Most of the architectural remains that survive from Ancient and Medieval India are religious in nature.
  • In different parts of the country, distinct architectural style of temples was result of geographical, ethnic and historical diversities.
  • Two broad orders of temples in the country are known as Nagara in the north and Dravida in the south.
  • At times, the Vesara style of temples is also found as an independent style, created through the selective mixing of the Nagara and Dravida orders.

Basic Features of the Hindu Temples

The basic form of the Hindu temple comprises the following:

  • It literally means ‘womb-house’ and is a cave like sanctum.
  • The Garbhagriha is made to house the main icon (main deity) which is itself the focus of much ritual attention.
  • It is the entrance to the temple.
  • It may be a portico or colonnaded (series of columns placed at regular intervals) hall that incorporate space for a large number of worshippers.
  • Dances and such other entertainments are practiced here.
  • Some temples have multiple mandapas in different sizes named as Ardhamandapa, Mandapa and Mahamandapa.
Shikhara or Vimana:
  • They are mountain like spire of a free standing temple.
  • Shikhara is found in North Indian temples and Vimana is found in South Indian temples.
  • Shikhara has a curving shape while vimana has a pyramidal like structure.
  1. It is a stone disc like structure at the top of the temple and they are common in North Indian temples.
  • It is the topmost point of the temple and commonly seen in North Indian temples.
Antarala (vestibule):
  • Antarala is a transition area between the Garbhagriha and the temple’s main hall (mandapa).

It is a raised platform for sitting and praying and is common in North Indian temples.


It is the mount or vehicle of the temple’s main deity along with a standard pillar or Dhvaj which is placed axially before the sanctum.

Classification of Indian Temples

Indian temples can be classified into two broad orders as:-

  1. Nagara (in North India)
  2. Dravida (in South India)
  3. The Vesara style of temples as an independent style created through the mixing of Nagara and Dravida orders.
Temple architecture
Nagara or North Indian Temple Architecture :
  • It is common here to build an entire temple on a stone platform with steps leading up to it.
  • Unlike in south India, it doesn’t usually have elaborate boundary walls or gateways.
  • Earliest temples had only one shikhara (tower), but in the later periods multiple shikharas came.
  • The garbhagriha is always located directly under the tallest tower.
There are many subdivisions of nagara temples depending on the shape of the shikhara:
Latina or Rekha prasad
  1. It is the simple and most common type of shikhara.
  2. It is square at the base and the walls curve or slope inwards to a point on top.
  3. Latina types are mainly used for housing the garbhagriha.
Phamsana type shikhara:

They are broader and shorter than Latina type.

  • Their roof is composed of several slabs that gently rise to a single point over the centre of the building, unlike the Latina ones which looks like sharply rising towers.
    • Phamsana roofs do not curve inwards; instead they slope upward on a straight incline.
    • In many north Indian temples, the phamsana type is used for mandapas while the main garbhagriha is housed in a Latina building.
Valabhi type shikhara:
  • These are rectangular buildings with a roof that rises into a vaulted chamber.
  • The edge of the vaulted chamber is round, like the bamboo or wooden wagons that would have been drawn by bullocks in ancient times.
  • The form of this temple is influenced by ancient building forms that were already in existence.

Temple Architecture of India

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