Ancient Art and Culture: Nagara Temple Architecture

In the last post we have read Ancient Cave Paintings. Now we will have a look on the Temple Architecture of Ancient India. As we have read that Gupta Period was the watermark of the Ancient Indian Temple Architecture. The earliest form of temples came into existence during the Mauryan Period as Buddhist Stupas. Soon, after the establishment of Gupta Empire, Temple Architecture reached on its climax, due to the contribution of the Gupta Rulers.

Temple Architecture

The development of Temple Architecture took place in the various different steps. Initially, there were flat-top temples, square temples on low platforms. Soon, a Sanctum Sanctorum (Garbhagriha) came into existence. The best example of this kind of temple was Parvati Temple at Nachnabuthara in Madhya Pradesh.

Panchayatan Style of Temple Architecture
Panchayatan Style of Temple Architecture

Later after Panchayatan style temple making came into existence. In this style, there were 4 subsidiary shrines and 1 main temple shrine. The Shikhara “low and squared curvilinear tower” also was the feature of the temples. The Dashavatar Temple at Deogarh (Uttara Pradesh) and Durga Temple at Aihole, Karnataka. From here started the Nagara style of Temple Architecture.

Basically, Nagara Style of Architecture is North-India Temple Style. The main features of the Nagara Style are,

Nagara Style

Nagara Style of Architecture
Nagara Style of Architecture

It is the temple making style of north India. Unlike Dravidian Style, Nagara Style temples do not have a tank. The temple crucified on the square ground. The division of each wall into three vertical planes called Rathas. Sculptures made of this three plan. All three as a whole are called Triratha.

Later Pancharatha, Saptaratha and even Navratha plan also originated. As we know this style of Temple Architecture was prominent in Northern and Central parts of India. So, the 3 Subschools developed under Nagara Style are,

  • Odisha School
  • Khajuraho School
  • Solanki School

Odisha School

The best example of this school is Konark Temple, which is also called as Black Pagoda. The unique features of Odisha School are that exterior walls of the temple are exorbitantly decorated through extensive carvings. But the interior walls are plain.

Konark Temple, Odisha
Konark Temple, Odisha

In Odisha School Pillars are not used to support the roof. Instead of Pillars iron griddles used. We call Shikhara as Deula in Odisha School. Jagmohana was the name for the Mandapa. Ground plan of the main temple is square. These temples dated around 8th to 13th Century.

The other examples of Odisha School are Jagganatha Temple (Puri) and Lingaraja Temple etc.

Khajuraho School

These temples developed by the Chandel Rulers. So, it is also called as Chandel School. The unique feature of these temples is that both exterior and interior walls of the temple are intricately carved. Sculpture based on erotic themes found on the walls of Khajuraho Temples. These temples are on UNESCO’s World Heritage site.

The best example of the Khajuraho School of Temple Architecture is Kandaryia Mahadev Temple.

Khajuraho Temple, Madhya Pradesh
Khajuraho Temple, Madhya Pradesh

Solanki School

Solanki Rulers were of Gujarat. So, the Solanki School of Nagara Style of Architecture developed in the Gujarat. Solanki Rulers were the branches of Chalukyan Rulers in Gujarat. The walls of the Central Shrine of this school are devoid of carvings. As the temple faces the east and every year at the time of equinox the Sun shines directly into this Central Shrine.

Modhera Sun Temple, Gujarat
Modhera Sun Temple, Gujarat

The best example of the temples of Solanki School are,

  • Modhera Sun Temple.
  • Dilwara Temple at Mount Abu.

This was a brief description of Nagara Style of Temple Architecture. So, in the next coming post, we will discuss Dravidian Style and Vesara Style of Temple Architecture. So, enjoy learning.

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