Temple Architecture in South India

Four styles developed:

  • Dravidian
  • Vesara
  • Nayaka
  • Vijayanagara

In pallav school, temple architecture developed
Stage I – Mahendra group

  • Rock-cut architecture
  • Word Mandap is used instead of temple

Stage II – Narsimha group

  • Decoration in rock cut caves
  • Mandap now became rathas. The biggest rath was called as Dharmaraj Rath and small called Draupadi Rath
  • Dharmaraj rath was a precursor of Dravidian style

Stage III- Rajsimha group

Development of real structural temple. Ex. Shore temple at Mahabalipuram TN, Kailashnath temple at Kanchipuram.

Stage IV- Nandivarman Group

  • Development of small temple
  • Dravidian style continued

Dravidian Style of Architecture

Oldest Style of Architecture
Dravidian Style of Architecture

Shikhara is a crowning element at the top of the temple. It is shaped like an octagonal cupola. It is equivalent to ‘Amalak’ and Kalash of Nagara style of Architecture

Shikhar of Dravidian Temple

Entrance of the temple’s garbha griha has sculptures of Dwarpals gaurding the temple ( Whereas in Nagara style there are images of Mithun and river goddess Ganga and Yamuna are seen at entrance of Garbha Griha

There is only one Vimana in Dravidian (Unlike Nagara where there are multiple Shikhars ie also in subsiduary shrines).

Crucified ground plan and unraised platform is another feature

Brihadeshwara Temple - Tanjore

Ex. Brihadeshwara Temple at Tanjore, TN. It was built in 1011. Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple

Dravidian started during pallavas but flourished during the rule of Cholas

Functions of Temples

      Administrative centres
      Controlling vast areas of land in terms of revenue collection
      Centre of education

Chola Sculpture – Nataraj
Nataraja Sculpture

  • Upper right hand – holding drum: The drum represents sound, great sound from which all creations spring
  • Upper left hand- Eternal Fire: Represents destruction which is inevitable counterpart of creation – First destruction and then creation not vice verse
  • Lower right hand Raised in gesture of benediction (Abhaya Mudra) which reassures the devotee not to be afraid
  • Lower left hand points towards his upraised foot as the path of salvation
  • He dances on a small dwarf which represents ignorance and the individual ego
  • Mattled Locks indicate river Ganga which flows down to irrigate the earth
  • One ear has a male ring and another ring a female, symbolizing ardhanarishwar ( Fusion of male and female)
  • A snake is twisted around his arm representing Kundalini power. Kundalini power reaches in the human spine and when aroused represents consciousness
  • The Nataraj is surrounded by nimbus if light symbolising vast unending cycles of time

Nayaka Style

Famous example – Meenakshi temple @ Madurai. All the features of Dravidian style are present here along with an additional prominent feature called PRAKARMS .Prakarms are huge corridors alongwith roofed ambulatory passageways. Intricate carvings are seen all across the temple walls.
Meenakhsi temple constructed with initiative of Tirumalai Nayak in mid 17th century, hence called Nayak style

Vesara Style/ Chalukya style/ Karnataka Style

This style has features of both Nagara and Dravidian style. It consists of two principle components – 1. Vamana and 2. Mandapa
both joined by Antarala. It did not have covered ambulatory around sanctum. The pillars, door frames and ceilings are intricately carved.
Ex. Dodda Bassapa Temple at Dambal. Temples at Badami.
Developed in Mid 17th century

VijayaNagar Art

Some variations from Dravidian style in temple architecture:

  • gopuram now enlarged
  • High enclosure walls
  • More decorations
  • Sculpture of motif of supernatural horse frequently
  • The concept of secular buildings was also introduced by the Vijayanagar Empire – Ex Lotus Mahal

Pala School of art

  • Pala ruled in Bihar-Bengal region
  • Developed under Pata and Sen rulers
  • Eighth to twelveth century
  • Influence of Hindu and Buddhist
  • Focut on architecture and culture
  • The Architecture were fine finished
  • Figures were much decorated and well polished
  • Both stone and metal sculptures have been found
  • Even the stone sculptures appear as metal due to high polishing.

Rashtrakuta Art

  • Around eighth century
  • Successors of Chalukyas
  • Elephanta caves
    • Built in second half of 8th century
    • They are cave temples on island of Elephanta near Mumbai dedicated to Lord Shiva
    • Sculpture of trimurati representing 3 faces
  • Kailash Temple at Ellora

  • Kailasha Temple at Ellora

Hoysala Art

  • Developed in southern region in Karnatka esp Mysore
  • Period 1050Ad-1300AD
  • Multpile shrines are ground arond central pillared hall and laid out in shape of intricately designed store. Thus the ground plan is know as stellate plan
  • Hoysala Art - Ground plan

  • The temples are made up of soft soap stone – a good material for intricate carving
  • Both interior and exterior of the temple has intricate carving( Particularly in the jewelleries of God in temple walls)
  • Shikhara on each inner chamber, and radically modified by an arrangement of horizontal lines and molding which resolve the tower into an orderly succession of tiers
  • Temples were built upon an upraised platform of about a meter called Jagati. Jagati follows a star shaped design, and the walls of the temple follow zig-zag design

Nagar Style of Temple Architecture


Nagar School of Architecture

Skeleton of Nagara School Temple

  • Successor of third stage, so has all features of it.
      Pillared approach
    • Assembly hall
    • Covered ambulatory passageway
    • Shikhar
    • Garbha-grih – Sanctum Sanctorum
    • Upraised platform
    • Panchayatan Style
    • Square temples
    • Crucified ground
  • Absence of tanks in the temple ( Unlike Dravidian style)
  • Division of each wall into 3 vertical planes called rathas
  • Sculptures made in these three planes. All three as a whole are called Trirathas
  • Later Pancharatha, Saptaratha and even navratha planes originated
  • Prominent in Northern and Central part of India except peninsular India
  • Three sub-schools developed under Nagar Style – 1. Odisha school, 2. Khajuraho school, 3. Solanki School
  • Odisha School

    • Ex. Konark Temple in 13th century also called black Pagado -> gate of black sandstone.
    • Believe that during sunrise, first rays enter these pagoda
    • Jagannath Temple – Puri, Lingaraja Temple (1100AD)

    Unique features of Odisha School:

    • Exterior walls are lavishly decorated through intricate cravings but interior walls are plain
    • No use of pillars- Instead of pillars, iron gridders were used, to support roof.
    • Shikhara is called Deul and is almost vertical till the top when it suddenly curves sharply inwards
    • Shikhar of a Nagara School Temple

    Khajuraho School/ Chandel School

    Developed by Chandel Rulers. – 10th -11th Century

    • Both interior and exterior is lavishly decorated with intricate carving
    • Sculptures based on erotic themes on the walls of temple – is. based on Kamasutra
    • Do not have boundary walls
    • Have 3 elements :
      • Garbha Griha
      • Assembly hall
      • Portico – Veranda surrounded by Pillars
    • Shikharas also present in the subsidiary shrines( Gives impression of a mountain range)
    • Platform relatively high
    • Kandariya Mahadeva

    • Ex. Kandariya Mahadeva temple

    Solanki School

    Modhera Sun Temple

    Modhera Sun Temple

    In Gujarat by Solanki Rulers – ex. Modhera Sun Temple. Solanki were branches of Chalukya rulers

    • Massive rectangular stepped tank. On steps there are small temples
    • The walls of the central shrine are devoid of carving and are left plain as the temple faces east, and every year at the time of equinoxes, the sun shines directly into this central shrine
    • Delwata Temple - Nagar School

    • Ex. Dilwara temple in Mt Abu – Highest Jain pilgrimage

Golden Age of Indian Architecture – Gupta Age

  • Beginning of temple architecture and also reached its climax in the gupta age
  • Greatest development in caves were mural paintings
  • Guptas were Bramhanical by religion but they also showed their exemplary tolerance for both Buddhism and Jainism
  • Early Gupta period shows emphasis on Hindu art and later also Buddhist and Jaina Art, Buddhist Art reached its climax during this stage.
  • Under Hinduism, 3 deities were worshiped->
    • Vishnu -> Vaishnavas (Northern and central part)
    • Shiva – Shaivas (Southern part)
    • Shakti – In southern Malabar region and eastern India

Development in cave architecture took the form of cave paintings

Ajanta caves-

  • Near Auragnabad in Maharashtra
  • 29 caves discovered in 19th century(1829)
  • Period of development 200BC to 650 AD
  • Out of 29, 4 chaityas and 25 Vihars
  • They are carved on a perpendiculat cliff(unlike ellora which is on sloping side). As they are on perpendicular side, there are no countryyards
  • All three forms of art are combined in these caves – Architecture, sculpture and paintings – Mural painting

Techniques involved in preparing painting –

  • First step: A layer of clay mixed with cow dung and rice husks was first spread on the rough surface of the rock
  • Second step: A coating of lime plaster is done
  • Third step: Surface was kept moist until the color was applied. ( Hence they are called Fresco paintings)
  • Outlines are drawn in red color and then all colors are used except blue as it cant be obtained from the hills.

Theme : Inspired by Jataka stories

  • Chinese Buddhist traveler Fa-Hien and Hiuen Tsang refer to Ajanta in account of their travel to India
  • Out of 29 caves, 5 belong to Hinayana period and rest 24 belong to Mahayana period.
  • Cave number 16 is the most elegant architecturally

Famous Fresco paintings of Ajanta:

  • Dying princess
  • Flying apsara
  • Preaching Buddha

Ellora Caves

  • Has 34 caves
  • These caves are associated with all three religion unlike Ajanta
  • 17 caves – Hinduism Dominant , 12 – Buddhism and 5 – Jainism
  • excavated or craved out on sloping side of hill, hence most temples have courtyard
  • Cave no 10 is a chaiyta dedicated to lord Vishwakarma, indicating its dedication to patrons saint of craftsman
  • Cave 14 – Ravan ki Khai
  • Cave no 15, Dashavtaram cave
  • Cave 16 – Kailash Temple is architectural wonder as it is craved out of monolith (Kailash leni)
  • Ellora has even triple storied caves – Ajanta has only double storied

Jain caves

  • Indra Sabha
  • Jagannath Sabha( smaller than Indra Sabha. Same techniques of painting used that is mural and fresco painting

Bagh cave

  • Near Bagh river in MP, there is 9 Buddhist caves dated around 6th century AD similar to Ajanta caves.

Junagadh Caves

  • In Gujarat
  • Main feature – UparKot that is citadel.
  • Uparkots are 30 to 50 feet high. Artificial platform connected by staircase to the hall

Nasik caves

  • 25 Buddhist caves belonging to Hinayan perion dated around 1st century AD called as Pandav Leni . Spiritual presence of Buddha denoted by thorn and footprints.

Mandapeshawar caves

  • Dated to 8th century AD
  • Only Brahmanical cave converted into a christian cave


  • One new school was added that is Sarnath school
  • As name suggest – developed at Sarnath
  • Use of cream color sand stones
  • Nakedness was lacking- more dress and properly covered
  • Halo is more decorative
  • Even metal sculptures were developed during this age – eg. Sultanganj Buddha (7.5 ft in height)


  • less number of stupas constructed
  • Best example – Dhamekh – Stupa near Sarnath

Temple Architecture

  • Temple architecture began and also reached at its climax during Gupta age
  • Development occurred in 5 stages

First Stage:

  • Flat roof temples
  • Square Temples
  • Shallow Pillared approach at the front
  • On low platforms
  • eg – Temple number 17 in Sanchi

Second Stage:

  • Continues – Flat roof, square, pillared approach – not shallow
  • Now on high or upraised platforms
  • Covered ambulatory around the sanctum sanctorum
  • Even instances of 2 storids temples are found
  • Ex. Prabhavati Temple in MP

Third Stage:

  • Continued – square temple, pillared approach, High platform or covered ambulatory
  • Flat roofs not seen
  • Low and square Shikhars(curve-linear tower
  • Introduction of panchayatan style of temple making
  • Ex. Dashavatara temple at Deogarh(UP), Durga temple at Aihole, Karnataka
  • Nagar style is successor of Third stage of temple making

Fourth Stage:

  • Rectangular temples
  • Rest all features continued
  • temple at Solapur

Fifth Stage:

  • Circular Temples with shallow rectangular projects
  • Rest all features continued
  • Ex. Maniyar Math at Rajgir

Post Mauryan Art

  • Caves, stupas, sculptures continued
  • Sculpture making reached its climax during this stage

Now 2 kinds of caves originated – 1. Chaitya 2. Vihar


  • Prayer hall for monks
  • Karla Chaitya in Mahrashtra


  • Residence / rest places of Monk
  • Nashik Vihar, Ajanta caves (29 caves – 4 chaitya and 24 vihars)


  • Now more enlarged stupas were built
  • Gateways or Toranas were now beautifully carved

In this phase – 3 schools developed with regard to sculpture making

  • Gandhara
  • Mathura
  • Amravati
Basis Gandhara Mathura Amaravati
Outside Influence Greek influence. Also called Indo Greek Art No outside influence – indigenous indigenous
Type of Sandstone Grey Sandstone/Bluish grey sandstone Spotted Red Sandstone White marbles
Religious influence Mainly Biddhist All 3- Hinduism, Jain, Buddhist Mainly Buddhist
Promoted by Kushana Dynasty Kushana Dynasty Satvahanas and Icchavakus
Areas Northwest Frontier Mathura, Sonkh, Kankalitila (Mostly Jain) Krishna Godavari lower valley
Features of sculptures
  • Spiritual Buddha(sad buddha) represents calmness
  • Bearded Buddha, Moustache
  • Wearing Less ornaments
  • Having wavy hair
  • Large forehead
  • Buddha is seated in position of Yogi
  • Having large ears
  • Protuberance on his head

Two Schools:

  • Early – Bluish – grey sandstone
  • Later – Use of mud and lime plaster
  • Delighted Buddha ie not spiritual
  • Head and face shaven
  • Muscularity
  • Dress is tight, energetic body
  • Buddha face reflects grace
  • seated in Padmasana
  • Right hand in Abhaya Mudra raised above shoulders.
  • Left hand on thigh
  • Buddha surrounded by two Bodhisattavas – 1. Padmapani – Holding lotus 2. Vajrapani – Holding vajra
  • Halo around the head of Buddha decorated with geometrical motifs
  • Images of Vaishnava (mainly vishnu and his various forms)
  • Shiva represented through ling and Mukhaling
  • Jain:Sculpture of Mahavira
  • Protuberance on head
  • Reflects narrative
  • Theme based on life of Buddha as Jataka stories
  • Stories of previous birth of Buddha both in human as well as animal form

Indian Architecture – From notes of Nitin Singhania (AIR 53)

Ancient India

Medieval India

  • Delhi Sultunate (1206-1526)
    • Imperial Style (Developed By Empire – a state initiative)
      • Slave Dynasty 1206-1290
      • Khilji 1290- 1320
      • Tughlaq 1320 -
      • Lodhi
    • Provincial Style (Other than Empire)
      • Jaunpur
      • Malwa
      • Bijapur
  • Mughals (1526-18th century)
    • Babur
    • Humayun
    • Akbar
    • Sahjahan
    • Aurangjeb

Modern India

  • Indo- Gothic Style
  • Neo Roman Style

Sculpture vs Architecture

Architecture refers to designing and construction of building whereas Sculpture is 3-D work of Art.

In Architecture, various types of materials are used ie stones, wood, glass, metal etc. Whereas sculpture is made of single piece of material.
Architecture involves study of engineering and engineering mathematics and depends on measurement whereas sculpture involves creativity and imagination, may not depend on measurement.

Harappan Civilization



  • Seals are square, rectangular, circular or triangular piece of material – mainly stones. with an average size of 2’X2′ . Dominantly square seals were found on them, we find picto-graphic scripts along with animal impressions which are yet to be deciphered.
  • Seals are made up of steatite(a river soft stone). Evidences of copper, gold and ivory seal has also been found in some instances.
  • 5 signs or symbols on an average are present on seals.
  • Direction of writing is from right to left.
  • eg . Pashupati seal, Unicorn Seal
  • Seals are decorated with animals motifs such as unicorn, bull, rhinoceros, tiger, elephants, bison, goat, buffalo except cow etc.
  • Inscriptions or human figures are present on both sides of seals. Even in some cases, these are present on all three sides.

Significance and Purpose of seals

  • Mainly used as a unit of trade and commerce
  • Also used as an educational tools
  • Used as amuletes(for protective and spiritual purpose). Found with dead bodies and had a hole for wearing.

Terracotta Figures(Sculpture)

  • Fired/ Baked clay
  • These figures are hand made using pinching method
  • Mother goddess, toy carts with wheels, bird and animal figures

Bronze sculptures

  • Bronze casting was practised on wide scale under harappan art.
  • The technique used for casting is known as lost-wax technique
  • Under this technique, at first wax figures are covered with a coating of clay and allowed to dry. Then it is heated and molten wax is allowed to drain out through a tiny hole at the bottom of clay cover. The hallow mould is then filled with bronze or any other metal. Once the metal is cooled, the clay is removed.
  • Excavations where it was prevalent- Kalibangan, Daimabad, Harappa.
  • eg. Bronze dancing girl => It is naked girl wearing only ornaments which include bangles, armlets, necklace, amulets. The left hand is on the hip. It is made using lost wax technique.

Other stone sculpture

  • Bearded Priest
  • Male torso (Red sandstone>

Red and black pottery ( Painted pottery)

  • It consists of mainly, wheel-made. Very few are handmade.
  • The more common is plain pottery
  • Under red and black pottery, red color was used to paint the backgraound and black color to draw design of trees, birds, animals, human figures and other geomatrical patterns.

Use of pottery

  • For household purposes – storage of water, foodgrains etc.
  • For decoration – miniature vessels were used for decoration(Less than half inch)
  • Used as perforated pottery (Large hole at the bottom and small holes all over the wall and was probably used for straining liquor)


    • They are made of large variety of materials ranging from preceious metals, gemstones, bones and even baked clay
    • Necklaces, armlets and finger rings were common and worn by both males and females, While women wore ear-rings and anklets.
    • evidences of dead bodies buried along with ornaments have also been found
    • Harappans were also conscious of fashions as different hair styles, wearing of beard etc has been found
    • Cinnabar was used as cosmetic lipstick, face paint and even eye liner were all known to them
    • Spinning of cotton and wool were most common among harappans.

Extensive Town Planning

    • Houses were built of baked bricks, of fixed sizes
    • Use of stones and wood in building have also been found
    • the concept of 2 storied house was also present
    • Public bath was common feature. eg – Great bath at Mohan jodaro. It has galleries and rooms on all sides.
    • Granaries was another important creation which used to be located in citadels.
    • Drainage System of harappa was note worthy. There was temporary cover of drains, underground.
    • Roads used to cut at right angle

Mauryan Art

Mauryan Art is divided into 2 =>

  • Court Art – with state initiative eg. Pillars, stupas etc.
  • Popular art – With individual Initiatives eg. Caves, Sculptures and pottery


Mauryan Pillars

Mauryan Pillars

  • Mauryans Pillars have outside influence (Perisan or Iranian or Achaemenian influence) – Bell shaped capitals have been taken from Persian.
  • Mauryan Pillars were made up of Chunar sandstones
  • Uniformity can be seens in the pillars
  • Edicts are inscribed on pillars
  • Animals were bulls, galloping horses, lions , elephants etc.

Achaemanian Pillars versus Mauryan Pillars

  • Shaft monoliths in mauryan whereas in achaemanian pillars were made up of various pieces of sandstones.
  • Achaemanians pillara not independently erected, found in buildings
  • High polishing can be seen in both

Purpose of Pillars

  • as a symbol of the state
  • To commemorate victory – eg- Lauria Nandangarh – Champaran in Bihar, Sarnath Pillars near Varanasi.


Mauryan Stupa Structure

Mauryan Stupa2

  • It is conventional representation of funeral cunrulus, in which ashes of the dead are buried
  • It is a Buddhist monument which is hemi-spherical dome with Buddha’s relics and ashes inside
  • However the concept of stupas started in the vedic period
  • In Buddhist tradition, originally 9 stupas were built after the death of Buddha, 8 of them over his relics and ashes and 9th over the vessel in which the relics were originally deposited.
  • Core of stupas were made of unburnt bricks and outer surface with burnt brick covered with a thick layer of a plaster.
  • CHHATRAS represents TRIRATNAS(Buddha-enlightened, Dham – Doctrine, Sangha – Order) of Buddhism – They are umbrella shaped.
  • Sculpture can be seen on Torana and Medhi
  • Maximum number of stupas were constructed by King Ashoka – 84000
  • Examples of Stupas are – Sanchi Stupas built by Ashoka, Barhud Stupa By Shunga Dynasty, Oldest Stupa – Paprahawa in UP

Popular Art


    • The beginning of rock cut architecture. Two features were added by Mauryans-
        Polishing inside the cave
        Development of artistic Gateway
    • Examples = Barabar Cave(4) and Nagrajuni cave(near gaya)(3) – called 7 sisters

Uses of Caves
Caves were used as viharas in Mauryan Age. The viharas were given to Jain Monks – Ajeevikas.


  • Yaksh and Yakshini – Objects of worship in folk religion
  • Yaksh has been found at Parbham in UP and also Pawaya in Gwaliar
  • Yakshini found at Didarganj in Bihar
  • These figures are associated with all 3 religions – Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism.
  • In Buddhism, figures found on stupas
  • In Jainism – all 24 Jain Thirthankaras are associated with a Yakshini.
  • In Hinduism – A Tamil text ‘Shilpodiganam’ also mentions about Yakshini.


Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW)

  • Black color was used
  • Highly lusturous Polish
  • It is a luxury ware showing maturity
  • Highest level of pottery making