Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Temple Architecture - Different Styles - III

Temple Architecture - Different Styles - III

Background of Temple-Building
During the Vedic age (say 5,000 years ago) temples as we see today, did not exist. Temple-building appear to have originated around 500 BCE, when Vedic (Srauta) practices gradually disappeared, and Smarta practices (relating to Isvara through bhakti) took over. The opinion that the Vedic yajnasala gradually gave way to temples by the epic period of because of the bhakti-era is widely accepted by scholars.

The earliest temples were built with perishable materials like wood and clay. Then followed the Rock-cut cave-temples (Ajanta, Ellora, Elephanta).

Ajanta Caves
(Photo-Author)
Ellora Caves
(Photo - Author)

3-Headed Mahesha in
Elephanta Caves 6th century CE
(Courtesey-ASI)


Heavy-stone structures came still later, and in areas where caves were not available. In fact, in places like Bengal, where even stones are not available, temples are built with bricks. Incidentally, currently, most modern temples are partially built with stones, and the external structures are built with brick and mortar, due to funds constrain.

Taking into account the vast size of India (undivided when temple building started), it is remarkable that the construction of temples have followed a set pattern. This is since all of them have followed the Silpasastra, Vastusastra, Agamasastra. The sculptors and artists nevertheless have executed their individual artistic style, remaining within the sastra.

The earliest temples in the North and Central India which have withstood the vagaries of time belong to the Gupta period (320-650 CE). Some of these temples are Sanchi, Tigawa (near Jabbalpur, Madhya Pradesh), Bhumara (Madhya Pradesh), Nachna (Rajasthan), and Deogarh (near Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh).

Earliest Temples
Some of the earliest surviving temples in South India are those in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Tamil country was the cradle of Dravidian School of Temple Architecture, which evolved from the earliest Buddhist shrines which were both rock-cut (Ajanta, Ellora Hindu caves) and structural.


Ajanta Caves
(Photo - Author)


Ellora Cave-16 Kailashnath Temple
(Photo - Author)



The later rock-cut temples that belong to 500-800 CE were mostly Hindu or Jain, patronized by three great ruling dynasties of the South, namely the Pallavas (Kamakshi Temple in Kanchi and Mahabalipuram Temples) of Kanchi in the east, the Chalukyas of Badami in the west,, the Pandyas (Minakshi Temple) of Madurai in the far south. With the decline of the Chalukyas of Badami in the 8th century, the Rastrakutas (Kailashnath Temple of Ellora) of Malkhed came to power, and they made great development of South Indian Temple Architecture. The Kailashnath Temple of Ellora belongs to this period.

In the west (northern Karnataka), the Aihole and Pattadakal group of temples (5th – 7th centuries) show early attempts to evolve an acceptable regional style, based on tradition. Among the more famous early structural temples at Aihole are, the Huchimalligudi and Durga Temples, as the Ladkhan Temple, all built between 450-650 CE. Equally important are the ten early Chalukyan temples (of Kasinatha, Papanatha, Sangameswara, Virupaksha, and others) in Pattadakal near Aihole, and the Svargabrahma Temple at Alampur (Andhra Pradesh). In some of these temples, built by the later Chalukyas, we come across the vesara style, a combination of nagara (of north) and dravida (of south) style.

The Three Styles
There are many ancient texts prescribing the formal architectural styles prevalent in various regions. The comprehensive text called Vastusastra has its origin in the Sutras, Puranas, Agamas, Tantrasastra, and Brhatsamhita. Thus, although the basic pattern remained the same, varieties did enter that gave rise to three distinct styles of temple architecture. They are nagara (or rekha or prasada), dravida (or vimana) and vesara style. They employ respectively the square, octagon and circle in their plan. In its later evolution, when the vesara style adopted the square (of nagara) for their sanctum, the circular or stellar plan was retained for the vimana. The nagara style is distinguished by the curvi-linear towers. The dravida style has its towers in the form of truncated pyramids. The third style vesara is a combination of both nagara and dravida style, which is seen in the temples (Belur, Halebid and Somanathapura) built by the Chalukyas in Karnataka.


Jagannath Temple
Puri, Odisha
Nagara style
(Photo - Wiki/Internet)


Brhadiswara Temple,
Tanjavur
Dravida style
(Photo - Author)

Kumbha Shyam Temple,
Chittorgarh, Rajasthan
Vesara Style
(Photo - Author)


These three styles do not pertain strictly to three different regions, rather indicate the temple-groups. For instance, the vesara, which came to prevail mostly in the western Deccan, and south Karnataka, was a derivation from the apsidal temples of the early Buddhist period, which subsequently the popular Hindu culture (note, Vedic period did not have temples; so one could say that the worship of form/s was started by the Buddhists. Although the Buddha did not accept the existence of God, he ultimately ended up becoming the God of the Buddhists) adopted, and vastly improved. In its origin, the vesara is as much north Indian as it is west Deccanese. Similarly, among the 6th-7th century shrines of Aihole and Pattadakal, the nagara style is evident in the vimanas. The dravida or Tamilian style became popular throughout South India, only from Vijayanagara period (1350-1565 CE) onwards. While the vimana of the nagara style rises vertically from its base in a curvi-linear form, the vimana of dravida style rises like a stepped-pyramid, tier upon tier. The northern style came to prevail in Rajasthan, Upper India, Odisha, the Vindhya uplands and Gujarat.

Tamil Nadu
During the next thousand years (from 600-1600 CE), there was a phenomenal growth in temple architecture, both in number and intricacy in style. The first in the series of Dravidian/Southern architecture was initiated by the Pallavas of Kanchi (600-900 CE). The rock-cut temples at Mahabalipuram (the five rathas carved out of monolithic boulders), and the Kailashnath and Vaikuntha-Perumal Temples (700-800 CE) of Kanchipuram are the best representatives of the Pallava style.

 
Shore Temple
Mahabalipuram
(Photo - Author)


The 5 Monolithic Rathas
Mahabalipuram
(Photo - V B Anand)


Kailashnath Temple
Kanchipuram
(Photo - Author)
 

It was the Pallavas, who laid the foundation of the Dravidian School, which blossomed to its full extent during the Cholas (900-1150 CE), the Pandyas,  the Vijayanagara Kings (1350-1565 CE), and the Nayakas (1600-1750 CE). The temples, now built with stones, became bigger, more complex, and ornate with sculptures. Dravidian architecture reached its glory during the Chola period (900-1150 CE), by becoming more imposing in size, and endowed with happy proportions. The most beautiful of the Chola temples is the Brhadiswara Temple at Tanjavur with its 66 metres high vimana, the tallest in India.



Brhadiswara Temple,
Tanjavur
(Photo - Author)
 

Brhadiswara Temple,
Gangaikonda-Cholapuram
(Courtesey - ASI)
Airavateswara Temple,
Darasuram
(Photo - Author)

The later Pandyans, who succeeded the Cholas improved the Cholas, by introducing elaborate ornamentation, and big sculptural images, many-pillared halls (1000-pillared Halls in Sri Rangam, Minakshi, Rameswaram), new annexes to the shrine, and towers (Gopurams) or the gateways.

The mighty temple-complexes of Madurai and Sri Rangam in Tamil Nadu, set a pattern for the Vijayanagara Kings (1350-1565 CE), who followed the Dravidian architectural style. The Pampapati and Vitthala Temples in Hampi are standing examples of Vijayanagara period. The Nayakas (1600-1750 CE) of Madurai, who succeeded the Vijayanagara Kings, made Dravidian temple-complex even more elaborate by adding very tall and ornate Gopurams, and building pillared-corridors within the temple-compound (1000-pillared Hall within Minakshi Temple-Complex).
                       
Karnataka
The Hoysalas who ruled the Kannada country, improved on the Chalukyan (of the Badami) style by building extremely ornate temples in many parts of Karnataka, noted for their sculptures on the walls, depressed ceilings, lathe-turned pillars, and fully sculptured vimanas. Among the most famous of the Hoysala temples are the ones at Belur, Halebid, and Somanathapura in south Karnataka, which are classified under vesara style.

North
In the north, the main developments in the temple-architecture took place in Odisha (750-1250 CE) and Central India (950-1050 CE), Rajasthan (10th-11th century), and Gujarat (11th-13th century).The Lingaraj Temple of Bhubaneswar, the Jagannath Temple of Puri, and the Sun Temple of Konark represent the Odisha style. The temples built at Khajuraho built by the Chandellas, the Sun Temple at Modhera (Gujarat), and other temples at Mount Abu built by the Solankis have their own distinct style in Central Indian temple architecture. Bengal with its temples built in bricks (due to non-availability of stones) and terracotta tiles, and Kerala with its temples having peculiar roof-structure suited to the heavy rainfall of the region, developed their own regional styles.

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Friday, 4 November 2011

Temple Architecture - Different Styles - II

Temple Architecture - Different Styles - II

Indian temple architecture can further be classified into three types:

i.                    Cut-in architecture
ii.                   Cut-out architecture (Rock-cut architecture)
iii.                  Structural architecture

The first two styles are found near hilly regions around the India, as it required huge monolithic rocks and stones. These two architectural styles differed only in technique, and both were employed for utility, or ornamentation.

Structural Temple Architecture

In case of the third type however, structural architecture evolved because of dearth of hilly regions. Structural architecture developed due to the non-availability of huge rocks and other building material.

Availability of Stones
The type of raw material that was available in the different regions naturally brought about changes with reference to construction techniques, carving possibilities, resulting in a different overall appearance of the temple. The soft soap-stone type material used by the Hoysala architects of the 12th and 13th centuries, permitted the ivory and sandalwood-sculptors to carve the most intricate and ornate designs of all Indian styles. Whereas hard crystalline rocks such as granite, which is typical of the area around Mahabalipuram prevented detailed carving, and resulted in the shallow relief that is associated with the Pallava temples of 7th to 9th centuries. In areas without stones, such as parts of Bengal, temples constructed of brick portrayed different stylistic characteristics.

Individual Royal/Dynasty Signature
Royal patronage also had a very significant effect on the stylistic development of temples, and as has been stated before, regional styles are often identified by the dynasty that produced them. For example, each of the famous dynasties – Pallava 600-900 CE, Chola – 900-1150 CE, Hoysala – 1100-1350 CE, Chalukya - 600-1200 CE) and Chandela ((500-1300 CE) temples had distinctive style of temple architecture.

Addition of 1000-Pillared Halls
From 8th century onwards, with the development of even more sophisticated rituals and festivals, the Hindu temples especially in the South, expanded in size and became more elaborate in carving. There were more mandapas added for various purposes such entry hall/assembly (mukhya-mandapa), offering hall (bhoga-mandapa), dance pavillion (nrtya-mandapa), and even a mandapa to house Nandi (as in Brhadiswara, Darasuram etc.). More corridors and pillared halls such as ‘Thousand-pillared Halls’ (Madurai, Sri Rangam, Rameswaram etc.) were built. Similarly, the bali-pitham (sacrificial alter) was also incorporated.

1---Pillared Hall,
Minakshi Temple, Madurai
(Courtesey - Picture Post Card)

1000-Pillared Hall,
Sri Rangam Temple, Trichy
(Photo-Author)




Addition of Gopurams
However, the most significant visual difference between the later northern and southern styles is the gateways. In the north, the shikhara remains the most prominent element of the temple, and the gateways were usually modest. In the south, enclosure walls were built around the whole complex, and along these walls, ideally set along the east-west and north-south axes, elaborate and often magnificent gateways called gopurams (Madurai, Sri Rangam, Tiruvannamalai, Rameswarama, Sri Sailam) led the devotees into the sacred courtyard. The gopurams became taller and taller, dwarfing the inner sanctum (Tirupati, Chidambaram, Sri Sailam) and its tower, and dominating the whole temple site. From the Vijayanagara period (14th – 16th centuries) onward, these highly embellished polychrome reliefs (Tenkasi, Srichandur) became numerous. The width of the storey of pavilions and other architectural elements were carefully adjusted to create a concave contour, which is distinctive characteristic of the Dravida temples seen throughout the south, particularly in Tamil Nadu.

Raja-Gopuram of
Sri Rangam Temple, Trichy
(Photo - Author)
North Gopuram of
Minakshi Temple, Madurai
(Photo - Author)
Gopuram of Sri Sailam Temple,
Andhra Pradesh
(Photo - Author)

An example of a fully developed temple built between the 13th and 17th centuries is the Ranganatha Temple at Sri Rangam. Eventually, it became, in fact, a temple-city with 21 gopuras and 7 enclosure walls surrounding 156 acres. Each encircling space is less sacred, the further one moves away from the garbhagrha. The plan is an example of the concept of the cosmos as a series of concentric rings around the Lord. Clearly, not only the temple, but also the whole city has been conceived as a mandala.

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Temple Architecture - Different Styles - I

 Temple Architecture - Different Styles - I

The history of Indian Sculpture and Architecture is more than two thousand years old. Many ancient texts describe architectural designs for temples. Three distinct architectural styles are identifiable – Nagara, Dravida and Vesara -

i.                     Nagara, which predominantly have a square design and are typical of temples in North India.

ii.                   Dravida, which predominantly have an octagonal design, and are typical of temples of South India.

iii.                  Vesara, which predominantly have a circular design and are typical of temples in Central India.

Early temples were carved out of caves and rocks (Ajanta, Ellora, Elephanta).  Then there was a shift to using stones to create temples. In structural temple architecture, these three styles developed around 6th and 7th centuries. In the next thousand years, there was an explosion in innovative design in temple building. Initially, the South Indian Temples were more elaborate in design. Some of them started to be built based on the design of a ‘Ratha’ – chariot (i.e. Mahabalipuram, Konark, Hampi). During 10th and 11th centuries, as the experience of the architects increased, more elaborate shrines and towers were created, leading to the formation of some of the most grand temples such as the temples at Minakshi Temple at Madurai, Sri Rangam at Trichy, and Arunachaleswara at Tiruannamalai.

Nagara or Northern Style
The Nagara style, which developed in the 5th century, is characterized by the tower that is shaped like a beehive, called the shikhara, which is topped by a large round cushion-like structure called amalaka. The plan is based on a square, but the walls are sometimes so broken up that the tower often gives the impression of being circular.

Lingaraj Temple,
Bhubaneswar
Nagara Style


     Typical temples which had Nagara architectural style are Lingaraj Temple at Bhubaneswar, Jagannath Temple at Puri, the Sun Temples at Konark (13th century) and Modhera. All these temples have a typical square structure to the main shrine. There are also two typical main structures, the main shrine (deula) which is taller, and the adjacent smaller structure (jagamohana), wherein the devotees can see the Lord. They were subsequently supplemented by bhoga-mandapa, where naivedya is offered to the Lord, and natya-mandapa, where dancers used to dance before the Lord. Only Lingaraj Temple and Jagannath Temple are complete with these four structures, whereas Parasurameswara Temple (7th century) has only the basic two structures.

Dravida or Southern Style
The Dravida style of temples are the most varied, and most fantastic to behold. Typically having an octagonal design, they consist of several progressive smaller storeys. These temples are massive in size, and are intricate in architectural design, using a variety of shapes and colours. Examples of temples of this style are Madurai, Sri Rangam and Rameswaram.


Sri Rangam Temple Raja-Gopuram
Trichy, Tamil Nadu
Dravida Style
(Photo - Author)
 
 
Madurai Temple Gopuram
Tamil Nadu
Dravida Style
(Photo - Author)


The Dravida or Southern style developed from 7th century. Typically, it has a pyramid shaped tower consisting of progressively smaller storeys of small pavilions, a narrow throat, and a dome on the top called shikhara. The repeated storeys give a horizontal visual thrust to the Southern style.

With each dynasty (Pallava - 600-900 CE, Chola – 900-1150 CE, Hoysala – 1100-1350 CE, Chalukya 600-1200 CE, Chandela 500-1300 CE, Vijayanagara – 1350-1565 CE) the architecture style underwent transformations. Sometimes with each individual king also the style became unique as in Tanjavur, Gangaikonda-cholapuram, and Darasuram) under Raja Raja Chola I. As per the scriptures, while building a temple, or renovating it, or making alterations, the existing structures are not be destroyed. However, since each king wanted to leave his own distinct stamp in the temple architecture, temple construction evolved.

Initially, a temple had only a garbhagrhasanctum sanctorum and the antarala. Subsequently, the mukha-mandapa (jagamohana), then agra-mandapa (bhoga-mandapa), and still later nrtya-mandapa were added. When fortification began, gopuram construction started. The present day temple therefore, is an amalgamation of numerous techniques that grew and changed with ages, while following the diktats of the Agama Sastras. Besides this, the vastness of India, and its diversity also provided regional variations.

Vesara or Mixed style
The Vesara style of architecture is a mixture of North Indian and South Indian style that are found in the State of Karnataka, namely Aihole, Pattadakkal, Vatapi and other temple towns. In Vasara style, the development was not in the size of the temple, but of the intricate designs on the ceilings and walls.

Kumbha Shyam Temple
Chittorgarh, Rajasthan
- Vesara Style
(Photo - Author)

Temples of Vesara style are typically made of sandstone or granite. These tend to give a circular structure to the main shrine. These temples are very similar, and show very little architectural differences from region to region. Examples of Vesara style are the Adinath Temple, Brahma Temple, Vamana Temple, and Parswanath Temple.

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