Indian History : The Hindu temples

 

The reference to Hindu temples in literature go back early with Panini (520 BC – 460 BC) and Patanjali mentioning temples which were called prasadas. Early beginnings of Hindu temple architecture have been traced to the remains at Aihole and Pattadakal in present day Karnataka, and have Vedic altars and late Vedic temples as described by Panini as models. Later, as more differentiation took place, the Dravidian/ Southern style and or the Indo- Aryan/ Northern/ Nagara style of temple architecture emerged as dominant modes, epitomised in productions such as the magnificent Brihadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur,  and the Sun Temple, Konark. Buddhist elements and motifs have influenced temple architecture to a considerable extent.

Early temples were rock-cut, later structural temples evolved. The Kailasanatha temple at Ellora is a good example of the former, excavated from top to bottom out of a massive rock face.

The pyramid formed an essential architectural element in any temple compositionstepped in the Dravidian style, stepped and slightly curved in the Northern style. The structural system was essentially trabeated and with stone being the basic raw material for the Indian craftsman, construction could be carried out with minimal or no mortar. Decoration was fundamental to Indian architecture and is seen in the myriad details of figured sculpture as well as in the architectural elements. The garbha-griha or thewomb chamber forms the central focus housing the deity of the temple and is provided with a circumambulation passage around. However, there are also many subsidiary shrines within temple complexes, more particularly in the South Indian (the Dravidianstyle) temple. As the Hindu temple is not meant for congregational worship, the garbhagriha is small in scale when compared to the whole temple complex. However, it is articulated externally by the vimana or the sikhara. Pillared halls or mandapas are found preceding the garba-griha.

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