February 21, 2024

HPAS/Allied Mains 2022 Answer Writing Challenge Day 12: Model Answer

Question:  Indian temples first appeared from  Simple rock-cut cave shrines with large, elaborate structures. Describe the development of the Indian temple architectural style across time. 20 MARKS (400 WORDS)



  • Temple architecture developed in almost all regions during ancient India.
  •  The distinct architectural style of temple construction in different parts was a result of geographical, climatic, ethnic, racial, historical and linguistic diversities.
  • Ancient Indian temples are classified in three broad types. Three main style of temple architecture are the Nagara or the Northern style, the Dravida or the Southern style and the Vesara or Mixed style.

Temple Architecture in India developed regional styles as well as it underwent quiet few stages of Evolution.


The Temples at this stage:

  • The Temples were square in shape and had flat roofs.
  • The portico was built with thin pillars and set on a small platform.The entire structure was erected on low platforms.
  • Temple No. 17 at Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh, is its prime example.


  • The majority of the previous temples features were carried through into this era.
  • The platforms, however, were elevated or taller. Several two-story temples have also been found.
  • During this time, a covered ambulatory route was also added around the garbhagriha or sanctum sanctorum.
  • A pradakshina route was used on this trail.
  • For Example, Nachna Kuthara in Madhya Pradesh(Parvati temple).


  • Panchayatan temple-building style appeared in this stage. Along with the main deity’s temple, the Panchayatan form of temple construction included four minor shrines.
  • The main temple was square, but it had a rectangular shape because of an extended mandap in front of it.
  • The placement of the secondary shrines, one on either side of the mandap, gave the ground plan the appearance of a crucified body.
  • Examples include the Durga temple in Aihole, Karnataka, and the Dashavatar temple in Deogarh, Uttar Pradesh.


  • This stage’s temples were nearly the same, with the exception that the main shrine became more rectangular.
  • Ter temple at Sholapur (Maharashtra) is an example.


  • Circular temples with shallow rectangular projections were established at this time. The rest of the preceding phase’s characteristics were maintained.
  • Maniyar Math in Rajgir is an example

Regional Temple Architecture in India

Nagara or North Indian Temple Style

  • 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 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..

Central India Temples

  • 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.
  • The crowning elements- amalak and kalash, are to be found on all nagara temples of this period.
  • 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.
  • Udaigiri, which is on the outskirts of Vidisha is part of a larger Hindu complex of cave shrines, while the other one is at Sanchi, near the stupa.
  • Deogarh (in Lalitpur District, Uttar Pradesh) was built in the early sixth century CE, is a classic example of a late Gupta Period type of temple

Western Indian Temples

  • The temples in the north-western parts of India including Gujarat and Rajasthan, and in western Madhya Pradesh are large in numbers.
  • The stone used to build the temples ranges in colour and type.
  • While sandstone is the commonest, a grey to black basalt can be seen in some of the 10th to 12th century temple sculptures.
  • The most exuberant and famed is the manipulatable soft white marble which is also seen in some of the 10th-12th century Jain temples in Mount Abu and the 15th century temple at Ranakpur.
  • Among the most important art-historical sites in the region is Samlaji in Gujarat.
  • The Sun temple at Modhera dates back to the early 11thcentury and was built by Raja Bhimdev I of the Solanki Dynasty in 1026

Eastern Indian temples

  • Eastern Indian temples include those found in the North East, Bengal and Odisha.
  • It appears that terracotta was the main medium of construction, and also for moulding plaques which depicted Buddhist and Hindu deities in Bengal until the 7th century.
  • In Assam: An old sixth-century sculpted door frame from Dah Parvatia near Tezpur and another few stray sculptures from Rangagora Tea Estate near Tinsukia in Assam bear witness to the import of the Gupta idiom in that region.
  • By the 12th-14th centuries, a distinct regional style developed in Assam.
  • The style that came with the migration of the Tais from Upper Burma mixed with the dominant Pala style of Bengal and led to the creation of what was later known as the Ahom style in and around Guwahati.
  • Kamakhya temple, a Shakti Peeth, is dedicated to Goddess Kamakhya and was built in the 17th century in Assam.

Dravida Or South Indian Temple Style

  • Unlike the nagara temple, the dravida temple is enclosed within a compound wall.
  • The front wall has an entrance gateway in its centre, which is known as a gopuram.
  • The shape of the main temple tower known as vimana in Tamil Nadu, is like a stepped pyramid that rises up geometrically rather than the curving shikhara of North India.
  • It is common to find a large water reservoir, or a temple tank, enclosed within the complex.
  • Subsidiary shrines are either incorporated within the main temple tower, or located as distinct, separate small shrines beside the main temple.
  • Kanchipuram, Thanjavur or Tanjore, Madurai and Kumbakonam are the most famous temple towns of Tamil Nadu, where, during the 8th-12th centuries, the role of the temple was not limited to religious matters alone.

Deccan Architecture

  • Many different styles of temple architecture influenced by both North and South Indian temples were used in regions like Karnataka.
  • By the late 7th or early 8th century, the ambitious projects at Ellora became even grander.
  • By about 750 CE, the early western Chalukya control of the Deccan was taken by the Rashtrakutas.
  • Their greatest achievement in architecture is the Kailashnath temple at Ellora, a culmination of at least a millennium-long tradition in rock-cut architecture in India.

Buddhist Architectural Developments

  • The pre-eminent Buddhist site is Bodhgaya. While the bodhi tree is of immense importance, the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya is an important reminder of the brick work of that time.
  • The first shrine here, located at the base of the Bodhi tree, is said to have been constructed by King Ashoka.
  • Many of the sculptures in the niches in the temple are dated to the 8th century Pala Period. The actual Mahabodhi temple itself as it stands now is largely a colonial period reconstruction of the old 7th century design.
  • The design of the temple is unusual. It is, strictly speaking, neither dravida or nagara. It is narrow like a nagara temple, but it rises without curving, like a dravida one

Jain Architectural Developments

  • Jains were prolific temple builders like the Hindus, and their sacred shrines and pilgrimage spots are to be found across the length and breadth of India except in the hills.
  • The oldest Jain pilgrimage sites are to be found in Bihar. In the Deccan, some of the most architecturally important Jain sites can be found in Ellora and Aihole.
  • In central India, Deogarh, Khajuraho, Chanderi and Gwalior have some excellent examples of Jain temples.
  • Karnataka has a rich heritage of Jain shrines and at Shravanabelagola the famous statue of Gomateshwara.


Indian Temple Architecture underwent Different stages & also regional Architecture was the result of local practice, ethnicity, geography, availability of resources, patronage & local traditions.

Temple Architecture Kept on Evolving but a common character can be seen through ages & geographical stretch of the subcontinent

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