NCERT Textbook: Temple Architecture And Sculpture (Introduction to Indian Art) Notes | Study Old & New NCERTs for IAS Preparation (Must Read) - UPSC

UPSC: NCERT Textbook: Temple Architecture And Sculpture (Introduction to Indian Art) Notes | Study Old & New NCERTs for IAS Preparation (Must Read) - UPSC

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 Page 1


TEMPLE ARCHITECTURE
AND SCULPTURE
6
Today when we say 'temple'
in English we generally
mean a devalaya, devkula
mandir , kovil, deol,
devasthanam or prasada
depending on which part of
India we are in.
Kandariya Mahadeo temple,
Khajuraho
M
OST of the art and architectural remains that survive
from Ancient and Medieval India are religious in
nature. That does not mean that people did not have art in
their homes at those times, but domestic dwellings and
the things in them were mostly made from materials like
wood and clay which have perished, or were made of metal
(like iron, bronze, silver and even gold) which was melted
down and reused from time to time. This chapter introduces
us to many types of temples from India. Although we have
focussed mostly on Hindu temples, at the end of the chapter
you will find some information on major Buddhist and Jain
temples too. However, at all times, we must keep in mind
that religious shrines were also made for many local cults
in villages and forest areas, but again, not being of stone
the ancient or medieval shrines in those areas have also
vanished.
THE BASIC FORM OF THE HINDU TEMPLE
The basic form of the Hindu temple comprises the following:
(i) a cave-like sanctum (garbhagriha literally ‘womb-house’),
which, in the early temples, was a small cubicle with a
single entrance and grew into a larger chamber in time.
The garbhagriha is made to house the main icon which is
itself the focus of much ritual attention; (ii) the entrance
to the temple which may be a portico or colonnaded hall
that incorporates space for a large number of worshippers
and is known as a mandapa; (iii) from the fifth century CE
onwards, freestanding temples tend to have a mountain-
like spire, which can take the shape of a curving shikhar
in North India and a pyramidal tower, called a vimana, in
South India; (iv) the vahan, i.e., the mount or vehicle of
the temple’s main deity along with a standard pillar or
dhvaj is placed axially before the sanctum. Two broad orders
of temples in the country are known— Nagara in the north
and Dravida in the south. At times, the Vesar style of
temples as an independent style created through the selective
Page 2


TEMPLE ARCHITECTURE
AND SCULPTURE
6
Today when we say 'temple'
in English we generally
mean a devalaya, devkula
mandir , kovil, deol,
devasthanam or prasada
depending on which part of
India we are in.
Kandariya Mahadeo temple,
Khajuraho
M
OST of the art and architectural remains that survive
from Ancient and Medieval India are religious in
nature. That does not mean that people did not have art in
their homes at those times, but domestic dwellings and
the things in them were mostly made from materials like
wood and clay which have perished, or were made of metal
(like iron, bronze, silver and even gold) which was melted
down and reused from time to time. This chapter introduces
us to many types of temples from India. Although we have
focussed mostly on Hindu temples, at the end of the chapter
you will find some information on major Buddhist and Jain
temples too. However, at all times, we must keep in mind
that religious shrines were also made for many local cults
in villages and forest areas, but again, not being of stone
the ancient or medieval shrines in those areas have also
vanished.
THE BASIC FORM OF THE HINDU TEMPLE
The basic form of the Hindu temple comprises the following:
(i) a cave-like sanctum (garbhagriha literally ‘womb-house’),
which, in the early temples, was a small cubicle with a
single entrance and grew into a larger chamber in time.
The garbhagriha is made to house the main icon which is
itself the focus of much ritual attention; (ii) the entrance
to the temple which may be a portico or colonnaded hall
that incorporates space for a large number of worshippers
and is known as a mandapa; (iii) from the fifth century CE
onwards, freestanding temples tend to have a mountain-
like spire, which can take the shape of a curving shikhar
in North India and a pyramidal tower, called a vimana, in
South India; (iv) the vahan, i.e., the mount or vehicle of
the temple’s main deity along with a standard pillar or
dhvaj is placed axially before the sanctum. Two broad orders
of temples in the country are known— Nagara in the north
and Dravida in the south. At times, the Vesar style of
temples as an independent style created through the selective
AN INTRODUCTION TO INDIAN ART 70
Kalasha
Amalaka
Garbhagriha
Pitha
Shikhara
Nagara temple
mixing of the Nagara and Dravida orders is mentioned by
some scholars. Elaborate studies are available on the
various sub-styles within these orders. We will look into
the differences in the forms further on in this chapter. As
temples grew more complex, more surfaces were created
for sculpture through additive geometry, i.e., by adding
more and more rhythmically projecting, symmetrical walls
and niches, without breaking away from the fundamental
plan of the shrine.
SCULPTURE, ICONOGRAPHY AND ORNAMENTATION
The study of images of deities falls within a branch of art
history called ‘iconography’, which consists of identification
of images based on certain symbols and mythologies
associated with them. And very often, while the
fundamental myth and meaning of the deity may remain
the same for centuries, its specific usage at a spot can be
a response to its local or immediate social, political or
geographical context.
Every region and period produced its own distinct style
of images with its regional variations in iconography. The
temple is covered with elaborate sculpture and ornament
that form a fundamental part of its conception. The
placement of an image in a temple is carefully planned:
for instance, river goddesses (Ganga and Yamuna) are
usually found at the entrance of a garbhagriha in a Nagara
temple, dvarapalas (doorkeepers) are usually found on the
gateways or gopurams of Dravida temples, similarly,
mithunas (erotic images), navagrahas (the nine auspicious
planets) and yakshas are also placed at entrances to guard
them. Various forms or aspects of the main divinity are to
be found on the outer walls of the sanctum. The deities of
directions, i.e., the ashtadikpalas face the eight key
directions on the outer walls of the sanctum and/or on
the outer walls of a temple. Subsidiary shrines around the
main temple are dedicated to the family or incarnations of
the main deity. Finally, various elements of ornamentation
such as gavaksha, vyala/yali, kalpa-lata, amalaka, kalasha,
etc. are used in distinct ways and places in a temple.
THE NAGARA OR NORTH INDIAN TEMPLE STYLE
The style of temple architecture that became popular in
northern India is known as nagara. In North India it is
common for an entire temple to be built on a stone platform
with steps leading up to it. Further, unlike in South India
it does not usually have elaborate boundary walls or
gateways. While the earliest temples had just one tower, or
Page 3


TEMPLE ARCHITECTURE
AND SCULPTURE
6
Today when we say 'temple'
in English we generally
mean a devalaya, devkula
mandir , kovil, deol,
devasthanam or prasada
depending on which part of
India we are in.
Kandariya Mahadeo temple,
Khajuraho
M
OST of the art and architectural remains that survive
from Ancient and Medieval India are religious in
nature. That does not mean that people did not have art in
their homes at those times, but domestic dwellings and
the things in them were mostly made from materials like
wood and clay which have perished, or were made of metal
(like iron, bronze, silver and even gold) which was melted
down and reused from time to time. This chapter introduces
us to many types of temples from India. Although we have
focussed mostly on Hindu temples, at the end of the chapter
you will find some information on major Buddhist and Jain
temples too. However, at all times, we must keep in mind
that religious shrines were also made for many local cults
in villages and forest areas, but again, not being of stone
the ancient or medieval shrines in those areas have also
vanished.
THE BASIC FORM OF THE HINDU TEMPLE
The basic form of the Hindu temple comprises the following:
(i) a cave-like sanctum (garbhagriha literally ‘womb-house’),
which, in the early temples, was a small cubicle with a
single entrance and grew into a larger chamber in time.
The garbhagriha is made to house the main icon which is
itself the focus of much ritual attention; (ii) the entrance
to the temple which may be a portico or colonnaded hall
that incorporates space for a large number of worshippers
and is known as a mandapa; (iii) from the fifth century CE
onwards, freestanding temples tend to have a mountain-
like spire, which can take the shape of a curving shikhar
in North India and a pyramidal tower, called a vimana, in
South India; (iv) the vahan, i.e., the mount or vehicle of
the temple’s main deity along with a standard pillar or
dhvaj is placed axially before the sanctum. Two broad orders
of temples in the country are known— Nagara in the north
and Dravida in the south. At times, the Vesar style of
temples as an independent style created through the selective
AN INTRODUCTION TO INDIAN ART 70
Kalasha
Amalaka
Garbhagriha
Pitha
Shikhara
Nagara temple
mixing of the Nagara and Dravida orders is mentioned by
some scholars. Elaborate studies are available on the
various sub-styles within these orders. We will look into
the differences in the forms further on in this chapter. As
temples grew more complex, more surfaces were created
for sculpture through additive geometry, i.e., by adding
more and more rhythmically projecting, symmetrical walls
and niches, without breaking away from the fundamental
plan of the shrine.
SCULPTURE, ICONOGRAPHY AND ORNAMENTATION
The study of images of deities falls within a branch of art
history called ‘iconography’, which consists of identification
of images based on certain symbols and mythologies
associated with them. And very often, while the
fundamental myth and meaning of the deity may remain
the same for centuries, its specific usage at a spot can be
a response to its local or immediate social, political or
geographical context.
Every region and period produced its own distinct style
of images with its regional variations in iconography. The
temple is covered with elaborate sculpture and ornament
that form a fundamental part of its conception. The
placement of an image in a temple is carefully planned:
for instance, river goddesses (Ganga and Yamuna) are
usually found at the entrance of a garbhagriha in a Nagara
temple, dvarapalas (doorkeepers) are usually found on the
gateways or gopurams of Dravida temples, similarly,
mithunas (erotic images), navagrahas (the nine auspicious
planets) and yakshas are also placed at entrances to guard
them. Various forms or aspects of the main divinity are to
be found on the outer walls of the sanctum. The deities of
directions, i.e., the ashtadikpalas face the eight key
directions on the outer walls of the sanctum and/or on
the outer walls of a temple. Subsidiary shrines around the
main temple are dedicated to the family or incarnations of
the main deity. Finally, various elements of ornamentation
such as gavaksha, vyala/yali, kalpa-lata, amalaka, kalasha,
etc. are used in distinct ways and places in a temple.
THE NAGARA OR NORTH INDIAN TEMPLE STYLE
The style of temple architecture that became popular in
northern India is known as nagara. In North India it is
common for an entire temple to be built on a stone platform
with steps leading up to it. Further, unlike in South India
it does not usually have elaborate boundary walls or
gateways. While the earliest temples had just one tower, or
TEMPLE ARCHITECTURE AND SCULPTURE 71
shikhara, later temples had several. The garbhagriha is
always located directly under the tallest tower.
There are many subdivisions of nagara temples
depending on the shape of the shikhara. There are different
names for the various parts of the temple in different parts
of India; however, the most common name for the simple
shikhara which is square at the base and whose walls
curve or slope inward to a point on top is called the 'latina'
or the rekha-prasada type of shikara.
The second major type of architectural form in the nagara
order is the phamsana. Phamsana buildings tend to be
broader and shorter than latina ones. Their roofs are
composed of several slabs that gently rise to a single point
over the centre of the building, unlike the latina ones which
look like sharply rising tall towers. Phamsana roofs do not
curve inward, instead they slope upwards on a straight
incline. In many North Indian temples you will notice that
the phamsana design is used for the mandapas while the
main garbhagriha is housed in a latina building. Later on,
the latina buildings grew complex, and instead of appearing
like a single tall tower, the temple began to support many
smaller towers, which were clustered together like rising
mountain-peaks with the tallest one being in the centre,
and this was the one which was always above the
garbhagriha.
The third main sub-type of the nagara building is what
is generally called the valabhi type. These are rectangular
buildings with a roof that rises into a vaulted chamber.
Sun temple, Konark
Page 4


TEMPLE ARCHITECTURE
AND SCULPTURE
6
Today when we say 'temple'
in English we generally
mean a devalaya, devkula
mandir , kovil, deol,
devasthanam or prasada
depending on which part of
India we are in.
Kandariya Mahadeo temple,
Khajuraho
M
OST of the art and architectural remains that survive
from Ancient and Medieval India are religious in
nature. That does not mean that people did not have art in
their homes at those times, but domestic dwellings and
the things in them were mostly made from materials like
wood and clay which have perished, or were made of metal
(like iron, bronze, silver and even gold) which was melted
down and reused from time to time. This chapter introduces
us to many types of temples from India. Although we have
focussed mostly on Hindu temples, at the end of the chapter
you will find some information on major Buddhist and Jain
temples too. However, at all times, we must keep in mind
that religious shrines were also made for many local cults
in villages and forest areas, but again, not being of stone
the ancient or medieval shrines in those areas have also
vanished.
THE BASIC FORM OF THE HINDU TEMPLE
The basic form of the Hindu temple comprises the following:
(i) a cave-like sanctum (garbhagriha literally ‘womb-house’),
which, in the early temples, was a small cubicle with a
single entrance and grew into a larger chamber in time.
The garbhagriha is made to house the main icon which is
itself the focus of much ritual attention; (ii) the entrance
to the temple which may be a portico or colonnaded hall
that incorporates space for a large number of worshippers
and is known as a mandapa; (iii) from the fifth century CE
onwards, freestanding temples tend to have a mountain-
like spire, which can take the shape of a curving shikhar
in North India and a pyramidal tower, called a vimana, in
South India; (iv) the vahan, i.e., the mount or vehicle of
the temple’s main deity along with a standard pillar or
dhvaj is placed axially before the sanctum. Two broad orders
of temples in the country are known— Nagara in the north
and Dravida in the south. At times, the Vesar style of
temples as an independent style created through the selective
AN INTRODUCTION TO INDIAN ART 70
Kalasha
Amalaka
Garbhagriha
Pitha
Shikhara
Nagara temple
mixing of the Nagara and Dravida orders is mentioned by
some scholars. Elaborate studies are available on the
various sub-styles within these orders. We will look into
the differences in the forms further on in this chapter. As
temples grew more complex, more surfaces were created
for sculpture through additive geometry, i.e., by adding
more and more rhythmically projecting, symmetrical walls
and niches, without breaking away from the fundamental
plan of the shrine.
SCULPTURE, ICONOGRAPHY AND ORNAMENTATION
The study of images of deities falls within a branch of art
history called ‘iconography’, which consists of identification
of images based on certain symbols and mythologies
associated with them. And very often, while the
fundamental myth and meaning of the deity may remain
the same for centuries, its specific usage at a spot can be
a response to its local or immediate social, political or
geographical context.
Every region and period produced its own distinct style
of images with its regional variations in iconography. The
temple is covered with elaborate sculpture and ornament
that form a fundamental part of its conception. The
placement of an image in a temple is carefully planned:
for instance, river goddesses (Ganga and Yamuna) are
usually found at the entrance of a garbhagriha in a Nagara
temple, dvarapalas (doorkeepers) are usually found on the
gateways or gopurams of Dravida temples, similarly,
mithunas (erotic images), navagrahas (the nine auspicious
planets) and yakshas are also placed at entrances to guard
them. Various forms or aspects of the main divinity are to
be found on the outer walls of the sanctum. The deities of
directions, i.e., the ashtadikpalas face the eight key
directions on the outer walls of the sanctum and/or on
the outer walls of a temple. Subsidiary shrines around the
main temple are dedicated to the family or incarnations of
the main deity. Finally, various elements of ornamentation
such as gavaksha, vyala/yali, kalpa-lata, amalaka, kalasha,
etc. are used in distinct ways and places in a temple.
THE NAGARA OR NORTH INDIAN TEMPLE STYLE
The style of temple architecture that became popular in
northern India is known as nagara. In North India it is
common for an entire temple to be built on a stone platform
with steps leading up to it. Further, unlike in South India
it does not usually have elaborate boundary walls or
gateways. While the earliest temples had just one tower, or
TEMPLE ARCHITECTURE AND SCULPTURE 71
shikhara, later temples had several. The garbhagriha is
always located directly under the tallest tower.
There are many subdivisions of nagara temples
depending on the shape of the shikhara. There are different
names for the various parts of the temple in different parts
of India; however, the most common name for the simple
shikhara which is square at the base and whose walls
curve or slope inward to a point on top is called the 'latina'
or the rekha-prasada type of shikara.
The second major type of architectural form in the nagara
order is the phamsana. Phamsana buildings tend to be
broader and shorter than latina ones. Their roofs are
composed of several slabs that gently rise to a single point
over the centre of the building, unlike the latina ones which
look like sharply rising tall towers. Phamsana roofs do not
curve inward, instead they slope upwards on a straight
incline. In many North Indian temples you will notice that
the phamsana design is used for the mandapas while the
main garbhagriha is housed in a latina building. Later on,
the latina buildings grew complex, and instead of appearing
like a single tall tower, the temple began to support many
smaller towers, which were clustered together like rising
mountain-peaks with the tallest one being in the centre,
and this was the one which was always above the
garbhagriha.
The third main sub-type of the nagara building is what
is generally called the valabhi type. These are rectangular
buildings with a roof that rises into a vaulted chamber.
Sun temple, Konark
AN INTRODUCTION TO INDIAN ART 72
The edge of this vaulted chamber is rounded, like the
bamboo or wooden wagons that would have been drawn by
bullocks in ancient times. They are usually called ‘wagon-
vaulted buildings’. As mentioned above, the form of the
temple is influenced by ancient building forms that were
already in existence before the fifth century CE. The valabhi
type of building was one of them. For instance, if you study
the ground-plan of many of the Buddhist rock-cut chaitya
caves, you will notice that they are shaped as long halls
which end in a curved back. From the inside, the roof of
this portion also looks like a wagon-vaulted roof.
Central India
Ancient temples of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and
Rajasthan share many traits. The most visible is that they
are made of sandstone. Some of the oldest surviving
structural temples from the Gupta Period are in Madhya
Pradesh. These are relatively modest-looking shrines each
having four pillars that support a small mandapa which
looks like a simple square porch-like extension before an
equally small room that served as the garbhagriha.
Importantly, of the two such temples that survive, one is
at Udaigiri, which is on the outskirts of Vidisha and is
part of a larger Hindu complex of cave shrines, while the
other one is at Sanchi, which was a Buddhist site. This
means that similar developments were being incorporated
in the architecture of temples of both the religions.
The patrons and donors of the temple at Deogarh (in
Lalitpur District, Uttar Pradesh) are unknown; however
on the basis of both architecture and imagery, it is
Sheshashayana Vishnu, Dashavatara temple, Deogarh
Dashavtara Vishnu
temple, Deogarh,
fifth century CE
Page 5


TEMPLE ARCHITECTURE
AND SCULPTURE
6
Today when we say 'temple'
in English we generally
mean a devalaya, devkula
mandir , kovil, deol,
devasthanam or prasada
depending on which part of
India we are in.
Kandariya Mahadeo temple,
Khajuraho
M
OST of the art and architectural remains that survive
from Ancient and Medieval India are religious in
nature. That does not mean that people did not have art in
their homes at those times, but domestic dwellings and
the things in them were mostly made from materials like
wood and clay which have perished, or were made of metal
(like iron, bronze, silver and even gold) which was melted
down and reused from time to time. This chapter introduces
us to many types of temples from India. Although we have
focussed mostly on Hindu temples, at the end of the chapter
you will find some information on major Buddhist and Jain
temples too. However, at all times, we must keep in mind
that religious shrines were also made for many local cults
in villages and forest areas, but again, not being of stone
the ancient or medieval shrines in those areas have also
vanished.
THE BASIC FORM OF THE HINDU TEMPLE
The basic form of the Hindu temple comprises the following:
(i) a cave-like sanctum (garbhagriha literally ‘womb-house’),
which, in the early temples, was a small cubicle with a
single entrance and grew into a larger chamber in time.
The garbhagriha is made to house the main icon which is
itself the focus of much ritual attention; (ii) the entrance
to the temple which may be a portico or colonnaded hall
that incorporates space for a large number of worshippers
and is known as a mandapa; (iii) from the fifth century CE
onwards, freestanding temples tend to have a mountain-
like spire, which can take the shape of a curving shikhar
in North India and a pyramidal tower, called a vimana, in
South India; (iv) the vahan, i.e., the mount or vehicle of
the temple’s main deity along with a standard pillar or
dhvaj is placed axially before the sanctum. Two broad orders
of temples in the country are known— Nagara in the north
and Dravida in the south. At times, the Vesar style of
temples as an independent style created through the selective
AN INTRODUCTION TO INDIAN ART 70
Kalasha
Amalaka
Garbhagriha
Pitha
Shikhara
Nagara temple
mixing of the Nagara and Dravida orders is mentioned by
some scholars. Elaborate studies are available on the
various sub-styles within these orders. We will look into
the differences in the forms further on in this chapter. As
temples grew more complex, more surfaces were created
for sculpture through additive geometry, i.e., by adding
more and more rhythmically projecting, symmetrical walls
and niches, without breaking away from the fundamental
plan of the shrine.
SCULPTURE, ICONOGRAPHY AND ORNAMENTATION
The study of images of deities falls within a branch of art
history called ‘iconography’, which consists of identification
of images based on certain symbols and mythologies
associated with them. And very often, while the
fundamental myth and meaning of the deity may remain
the same for centuries, its specific usage at a spot can be
a response to its local or immediate social, political or
geographical context.
Every region and period produced its own distinct style
of images with its regional variations in iconography. The
temple is covered with elaborate sculpture and ornament
that form a fundamental part of its conception. The
placement of an image in a temple is carefully planned:
for instance, river goddesses (Ganga and Yamuna) are
usually found at the entrance of a garbhagriha in a Nagara
temple, dvarapalas (doorkeepers) are usually found on the
gateways or gopurams of Dravida temples, similarly,
mithunas (erotic images), navagrahas (the nine auspicious
planets) and yakshas are also placed at entrances to guard
them. Various forms or aspects of the main divinity are to
be found on the outer walls of the sanctum. The deities of
directions, i.e., the ashtadikpalas face the eight key
directions on the outer walls of the sanctum and/or on
the outer walls of a temple. Subsidiary shrines around the
main temple are dedicated to the family or incarnations of
the main deity. Finally, various elements of ornamentation
such as gavaksha, vyala/yali, kalpa-lata, amalaka, kalasha,
etc. are used in distinct ways and places in a temple.
THE NAGARA OR NORTH INDIAN TEMPLE STYLE
The style of temple architecture that became popular in
northern India is known as nagara. In North India it is
common for an entire temple to be built on a stone platform
with steps leading up to it. Further, unlike in South India
it does not usually have elaborate boundary walls or
gateways. While the earliest temples had just one tower, or
TEMPLE ARCHITECTURE AND SCULPTURE 71
shikhara, later temples had several. The garbhagriha is
always located directly under the tallest tower.
There are many subdivisions of nagara temples
depending on the shape of the shikhara. There are different
names for the various parts of the temple in different parts
of India; however, the most common name for the simple
shikhara which is square at the base and whose walls
curve or slope inward to a point on top is called the 'latina'
or the rekha-prasada type of shikara.
The second major type of architectural form in the nagara
order is the phamsana. Phamsana buildings tend to be
broader and shorter than latina ones. Their roofs are
composed of several slabs that gently rise to a single point
over the centre of the building, unlike the latina ones which
look like sharply rising tall towers. Phamsana roofs do not
curve inward, instead they slope upwards on a straight
incline. In many North Indian temples you will notice that
the phamsana design is used for the mandapas while the
main garbhagriha is housed in a latina building. Later on,
the latina buildings grew complex, and instead of appearing
like a single tall tower, the temple began to support many
smaller towers, which were clustered together like rising
mountain-peaks with the tallest one being in the centre,
and this was the one which was always above the
garbhagriha.
The third main sub-type of the nagara building is what
is generally called the valabhi type. These are rectangular
buildings with a roof that rises into a vaulted chamber.
Sun temple, Konark
AN INTRODUCTION TO INDIAN ART 72
The edge of this vaulted chamber is rounded, like the
bamboo or wooden wagons that would have been drawn by
bullocks in ancient times. They are usually called ‘wagon-
vaulted buildings’. As mentioned above, the form of the
temple is influenced by ancient building forms that were
already in existence before the fifth century CE. The valabhi
type of building was one of them. For instance, if you study
the ground-plan of many of the Buddhist rock-cut chaitya
caves, you will notice that they are shaped as long halls
which end in a curved back. From the inside, the roof of
this portion also looks like a wagon-vaulted roof.
Central India
Ancient temples of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and
Rajasthan share many traits. The most visible is that they
are made of sandstone. Some of the oldest surviving
structural temples from the Gupta Period are in Madhya
Pradesh. These are relatively modest-looking shrines each
having four pillars that support a small mandapa which
looks like a simple square porch-like extension before an
equally small room that served as the garbhagriha.
Importantly, of the two such temples that survive, one is
at Udaigiri, which is on the outskirts of Vidisha and is
part of a larger Hindu complex of cave shrines, while the
other one is at Sanchi, which was a Buddhist site. This
means that similar developments were being incorporated
in the architecture of temples of both the religions.
The patrons and donors of the temple at Deogarh (in
Lalitpur District, Uttar Pradesh) are unknown; however
on the basis of both architecture and imagery, it is
Sheshashayana Vishnu, Dashavatara temple, Deogarh
Dashavtara Vishnu
temple, Deogarh,
fifth century CE
TEMPLE ARCHITECTURE AND SCULPTURE 73
established that this temple was built in the early sixth
century CE. That is, about a hundred years or so after the
small temples we just learnt about in Sanchi and Udaigiri.
This makes it a classic example of a late Gupta Period
type of temple. This temple is in the panchayatana style of
architecture where the main shrine is built on a rectangular
plinth with four smaller subsidiary shrines at the four
corners (making it a total number of five shrines, hence
the name, panchayatana). The tall and curvilinear shikhara
also corroborates this date. The presence of this curving latina
or rekha-prasada type of shikhara also makes it clear that
this is an early example of a classic nagara style of temple.
Sheshashayana is the form of Vishnu where he is
shown reclining on the sheshanaga called Ananta.
Nara-Narayan shows the discussion between the
human soul and the eternal divine. Gajendramoksha
is the story of achieving moksha, symbolically
communicated by Vishnu’s suppression of an asura
who had taken the form of an elephant.
This west-facing temple has a grand doorway with
standing sculptures of female figures representing the
Ganga on the left side and the Yamuna on the right side.
The temple depicts Vishnu in various forms, due to which
it was assumed that the four subsidiary shrines must also
have housed Vishnu’s avatars and the temple was mistaken
for a dasavatara temple. In fact, it is
not actually known to whom the four
subsidiary shrines were originally
dedicated. There are three main
reliefs of Vishnu on the temple walls:
Sheshashayana on the south, Nara-
Narayan on the east and
Gajendramoksha on the west. The
temple is west-facing, which is less
common, as most temples are east- or
north-facing.
Numerous temples of smaller
dimensions have been constructed
over a period of time. By contrast, if
we study the temples of Khajuraho
made in the tenth century, i.e., about
four hundred years after the temple
at Deogarh, we can see how
dramatically the shape and style of
the nagara temple architecture had
developed.
Vishwanatha temple,
Khajuraho
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