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Temple Architecture-Devalaya Vastu –Part One (1 of 9


Agama and Temple architecture

The Agama literature includes the Shilpa- Shastra, which covers architecture and iconography. The aspects of temple construction are dealt in Devalaya Vastu; and Prathima deals with the iconography. Sometimes, the term Shipa is also used to denote the art of sculpting; but here Shipa refers to the practice of the technique, while Shastra refers to its principles. The worship dealt with the Agama necessarily involves worship -worthy images. The rituals and sequences elaborated in the Agama texts are in the context of such worship- worthy image, which necessarily has to be contained in a shrine. The basic idea is that a temple must be built for the icon, and not an icon got ready for the temples, for a temple is only an outgrowth of the icon, an expanded image of the icon. And an icon is meaningful only in the context of a shrine that is worthy to house it. That is how the Agama literature makes its presence felt in the Shilpa-Sastra, Architecture. The icon and its form; the temple and its structure; and the rituals and their details, thus get interrelated .Further, the Indian temples should be viewed in the general framework of temple culture, which include not only religious and philosophical aspects but social, aesthetic and economic aspects also. Elaborate rules are laid out in the Agamas for Silpa , describing the quality requirements of the places where temples are to be built, the kind of images to be installed, the materials from which they are to be made, their dimensions, proportions, air circulation, lighting in the temple complex etc. The Manasara and Silpasara are some of the works dealing with these rules. The rituals followed in worship services each day at the temple also follow rules laid out in the Agamas. While describing the essential requirements for a place of pilgrimage , Shipa Shatras of the Agamas elaborate on the requirements of the temple site; building materials; dimensions, directions and orientations of the temple structures; the image and its specifications. The

It is regarded a part of Shaiva literature and might belong to the Chola period when temple architecture reached its peak. besides the Tantric literature and the Brhat Samhita. It is believed that the idols receive power from the planets. the square. During the medieval period. but all based on common underlying principles. The Vastu Texts believe that Vigraha (icon or image of the deity) is closely related to Graha (planets). The texts that are collectively called Vastu Shastra have their origin in the Sutras. It represents the universality of Vastu tradition and includes the iconography of Jain and Buddhist images. The Vastu texts classify the temple into three basic structures: Nagara. vast body of Sanskrit references. These principles are now part of Vastushastra. measures and proportion. These three styles do not pertain strictly to three different regions but are three schools of temple architecture. It is explained that the term Vastu is derived from Vasu meaning the Earth principle (prithvi). Puranas and Agamas. and they codify the theoretical aspects of all types of constructions. called the Sthala Vriksham. *** The Gupta Age marked the advent of a vibrant period of building and sculpting activities. which prevailed mostly in western Deccan and south Karnataka.The term Graha literally means that which attracts or receives. without reservation. The Mayamata too occupies an important position. anywhere. The work is coherent and well structured. Manasara is a comprehensive treaty on architecture and iconography. Dravida and Vesara. wherein immortals and mortals live. astrology and ceremonies associated with the construction of buildings. It not merely is a symbolism but also one that provides logic for placement of various deities in their respective quarters and directions. The vesara. divination. By the end of the period. and is a text of Southern India. and branched into different schools of architectural thought. The work is treated as a source book and consulted by all. A temple could also be associated with a tree. Teertha (Temple tank) and Murthy (the idol). was a derivation from the apsidal chapels of the early Buddhist period which the Brahmanical faith adopted and vastly improved. and transmit the power so received. This planet is Vastu and whatever that is created is Vastu and all objects of earth are Vastu. These subjects are intertwined with Astrology. for instance. but specifically of temple construction. the science of architectural design and construction. and Vigraha is that which transmits. the art and craft flourished. The texts of this period such as the Arthashastra of Kautilya and Matsya Purana included chapters on the architecture of the way of summary.principal elements that are involved are Sthala (temple site). . They employ. They are the standard texts on Vastu Shastra. It is a general treatise on Vastu shastra. and scattered across the country. Apparently. It defines Vastu as the arrangement of space. octagon and the apse or circle in their plan. independent architectural manuals were written. some attempts were made to classify and evaluate their contents in a systematic way. These texts deal with the whole range of architectural science including topics such as soil testing techniques. the most well known compilations are Manasara and Mayamata. orientation. It is the best known work on Vastu. . Of the many such attempts that tried to bring about order and coherence in the various theories and principles of temple construction. respectively.

the Rishi Lomaharsha mentions to Yudhistira that the tirtha on the Archika hill is a place where there are chaithyas for the 33 gods (MBh 3. . and to carry it forward . Ramayana too mentions that Meghanada. piling up . has imbued this tradition with tremendous sense of purpose. tried to perform a Yajna in a temple located in the Nikhumba grove. It is possible that small shrines were erected on the Yupa site to commemorate the Yajna.This perhaps suggests that chaitya implied piling up bricks to form a shrine.12.agni_chiti from bricks (as in agni-chayana). This is consistent with the view that the earliest temples were relatively simple piled brick structures. and parashara -3. **** It is virtually impossible to state when the custom of building stylized temples took hold in our country. Yupa being the spot where a major yajna was performed.10) to denote a temple was Chaithya . Mahabharata often refers to Chaithyas as being close to Yupas (chaithyupa nikata bhumi).121). which literally means. The mode of transmission of knowledge of this community is both oral and practical. and thus the styles of temple architecture in India are quite diverse and virtually unlimited . They too have their many variations .125). This has enabled them to protect the purity of the art and skills without falling prey to the market and its dynamics. In Mahabharata. the son of Ravana. and zeal to maintain the purity and sensitivity of its traditions. Among the many traditions inherited (parampara) in India. the tradition of Vishwakarma is unique. The rigor and discipline required to create objects that defy time and persist beyond generations of artists. The Rig Veda is centered on home and worship at home.1. as piling up of the fire alter . and its theories construct a holistic universe of thought and understanding.These three schools have given rise to about forty-five basic varieties of temples types.He also advises Pandavas to visit the Chaithyas on the banks of the Narmada (MBh 3.There is not much emphasis on temple worship. The use of the term Chaithya to denote a place of worship appears to have been in vogue for quite a long period after the Vedic age .11. The term employed in Grihya sutras(Ashvalayana -1.

Therefore by about six hundred BC. The Maurya period described in the Artha-shastra. It was perhaps during the period of the Imperial Guptas that a Hindu temple came to be regularly addressed as Devalaya. the chaithyas appeared to have steadily gained importance. A description of the chaitya of goddess kaumari suggests that it had multiple Avaranas. Jain texts. Tigawa (near Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh). However. By about first century BC . These were patterned after the shrines of Vishnu. built entirely of stone . at Vishala. The canonical concept of pavilion (mantapa) suggests that they might have been pavilions to accommodate those who gathered to participate in the worship ritual. erected on occasions of communityworship. Nachna (Rajasthan) and Deogarh (near Jhansi. both covered with flat roofs. such as Indra. came to be known as Chaithya_grihas. kumara. but instead of a flat roof there is a pyramidal superstructure (sikhara).They consist of a square. 320-650 A. have a square sanctum.Zarathustra demands from Ahur Mazda ―Tell me. with the form of the fire altar being placed on the raised platform in the apse of the chaithya hall. in particular. the Buddhist places of congregation either as caves carved into rocks or as free standing structures . The earliest temples in north and central India which have survived the vagaries of time belong to the Gupta period. . Rudra. the chiathyas were quite common. the Emperor Xerxes. By the time of the Mauryas. The oldest of the surviving structural shrines date back to the third or even fourth century A. The term chaithya later came to increasingly associated with the Buddhist stupas or places of worship. The Buddhist and Jain texts mention of a certain chaithya of Devi Shasti. Bhumara (in Madhya Pradesh). pillared porch in front. They were perhaps small -sized constructions (usually of brick) surrounded by groves of ashvattha or audumbara trees. and become an integral aspect of city life. there is nothing to suggest that they were large structures like the classical Hindu temples that were to follow later. It is only later that structures tended to be permanent bigger. had chaithyas for a number of Devis and Devas.D . notably in western India. D. and the Vishnu temple at Deogarh. The rock-cut temple and monastery tradition also continued in this period. the abode of Gods. both .They are made of bricks. . of Shulapani (Rudra) and of Yakshini Purnabhadra. a follower of Zarathustra declares ―I destroyed this temple of daevas‖. such as the temples at Sanchi. where the excavations—especially at Ajanta acquire extreme richness and magnificence. and Aparajita etc. Uttar Pradesh). The brick temple at Bhitargaon . mention the chaithyas of Skanda in Savasthi. dark sanctum with a small. consort of Kumara. one enclosing the other and the outer Avarana having a circular arch.] can I uproot the idol from this assembly that set up by the angras and the karpanas?‖ At another time. Some of the them might perhaps been temporary structures.

Badami.D. encased within the body of the superstructure. one above the other.) The rock-cut temples at Mahabalipuram (of the ratha type) and the structural temples like the shore temple at Mahabalipuram and the Kailasanatha and Vaikuntha Perumal temples in Kancheepuram (700-800 A. Most important of a large number of unpretentious and beautiful shrines that dot the Tamil countryside are the Vijayalaya Colisvara temple at Narttamalai (mid-9th century). which has an interesting arrangement of three sanctums. who ruled much of Karnataka in the 6th to 8th centuries. at Kodumbalur (c. Another splendid temple at Kanchipuram is the Vaikuntha Perumal (mid-8th century). The next thousand years (from600 to 1600 A. Besides.D. The Kailasanatha (dating a little later than the Shore Temple). namely the Pallavas of Kanchi in the east. and the splendid group of two temples (originally three) known as the Muvarkovil. plain walls. the twin shrines called Agastyisvara and Colisvara. the Pandyas. The Pallavas laid the foundations of the Dravidian school which blossomed during the Cholas. Here.D. The school of architecture in South India seems to have evolved from the earliest Buddhist shrines which were both rock-cut and structural. and seem to represent early attempts to experiment with several styles and to evolve an acceptable and a standard regional format. spherical cupola.The temple groups at Aihole and Pattadakal in North Karnataka date back to about 5th century. the Vijayanagar kings and the Nayaks. The Kailasanatha temple at Ellora belongs to this period. is known for its ancient cave temples carved out of the sandstone hills above it.D. the capital of the Early Chalukyas. with its circular sanctum. 875). and massive. the Calukyas of Badami in the 8th century A. with its stately superstructure and subsidiary shrines attached to the walls is a great contraction. temples of the northern and the southern styles are found next to each other. The Talapurisvara temple at Panamalai is another excellent example. .D. at Kilaiyur (late 9th century). patronized by three great ruling dynasties of the south.) witnessed a phenomenal growth in temple architecture. the Rastrakutas of Malkhed came to power and they made great contributions to the development of south Indian temple architecture. The first in the series of Southern or Dravidian architecture was initiated by the Pallavas (600-900A. were mostly Brahmanical or Jain. The later rock-cut temples which belong to 5th or 6th century A.) are the best representations of the Pallava style.

D. Dravidian architecture reached its glory during the Chola period (900-1200 A. is a forerunner of the magnificent temple at Gangaikondacholapuram built by Rajendra Chola. The Nayaks of Madurai who succeeded the Vijayanagar kings (16001750 A.). many-pillared halls. were huge. the tallest of its kind.) who followed the Dravidian tradition.D. The vimana is a fine mixture of Nagara and Vesara styles.D. more complex and ornate with sculptures. The Pampapati Virupaksha and Vitthala temples in Hampi are standing examples of this period. The temples. the third in circular (vasara) and the griva and Sikhira also in circular shape. The later Pandyans who succeeded the Cholas improved on the Cholas by introducing elaborate ornamentation and huge sculptural images. with its first and second thala (base) of the vimanam square in shape.) made the Dravidian temple complex even more elaborate by making the gopurams very tall and ornate and adding pillared corridors within the temple long compound. The mighty temple complexes of Madurai and Srirangam set a pattern for the Vijayanagar builders (1350-1565 A. Among the most magnificent of the Chola temples is the Brhadishvara temple at Tanjore with its 66 metre high vimana. new annexes to the shrine and towers (gopurams) on the gateways. . These simple beginnings led rapidly (in about a century) to grandeur and style.The Vijayalaya Colisvara temple. now built of stone.

) who ruled the Kannada country improved on the Chalukyan style by building extremely ornate. the Amrtesvara temple at Amritpur (1196). the walls decorated with several bands of ornamental motifs and a narrative relief. The Hoysala temples are noted for the delicately carved sculptures in the walls. finely chiseled. and the Kesava (trikuta) temple at Somnathpur (1268).D. arethe twin Hoysalesvara temple at Halebid. The exterior is almost totally covered with sculpture. the Chenna Kesava temple at Belur (1117). which are classified under the Vesara style.Among the more famous of these temples. intricately sculptured temples mounted on star shaped pedestals. . and fully sculptured vimanas.The Hoysalas (1100-1300A. depressed ceilings. lathe-turned pillars in a variety of fanciful shapes .

the sun god. both great and small. ranging from the 7th to the 13th century.D. built by the Chandellas.) as also Rajasthan (10th and 11th Century A. an achievement of Kalinga architecture in full flower. which has almost 100 examples of the style. The greatest centre of this school is the ancient city of Bhubaneswar. The most famous of all Kalinga temples. dedicated to Surya.D. The temple and its accompanying hall are conceived in the form of a great chariot drawn by horses. Jagannatha (Puri) and Surya (Konarak) represent the Kalinga-nagara style. The most magnificent structure.In the north.D. however. is the great Lingaraja temple (11th century).) and Gujarat (11th-13thCentury A.) and Central India (950-1050 A. the major developments in Hindu temple architecture were in Orissa (750-1250 A. is the colossal building at Konarak.D. however.). . The temples of Lingaraja (Bhubaneswar).

the Mother temple at Beshakh of Bali (14th century).The Surya temple at Modhera (Gujarat) and other temple at Mt. Hindu temples were built outside India too. for instance the Shiva temples at Dieng and Idong Songo built by the kings of Sailendra dynasty ( 6th -9thcentury). . the rock-cut temple facades at Tampaksiring of Bali (11th century). The group of temples of Lara Jonggrang at Paranbanam (9th to 10th century) is a magnificent example of Hindu temple architecture. the Chen La temples at Sambor Prei Kuk in Cambodia (7th – 6th century). The earliest of such temples are found in Java. Abu built by the Solankis have their own distinct features in Central Indian architecture. Other major temples are: the temple complex at Panataran (Java) built by the kings of Majapahit dynasty (14century). the temples of Banteay Srei at Angkor (10th century) and the celebrated Angkor Vat temple complex (12th century) built by Surya Varman II. Bengal with its temples built in bricks and terracotta tiles and Kerala with its temples having unique roof structure suited to the heavy rainfall of the region developed their own special styles.

britannica.Sources: Pictures from Internet Devalaya Vastu By Prof. SKR Rao Encyclopaedia Britannica Temple and Township .

Vastu Purusha Mandala Temple Layout Parts of the Temple Iconography Norms and Measurements Share this: .