Hindu temple architecture

Different styles of architecture:

NAGARA TEMPLES

Nagara temples have two distinct features :

1.In plan, the temple is a square with a number of graduated projections in the middle of each side giving a cruciform shape with a number of reentrant angles on each side.

In elevation, a Shikhara, i.e., tower gradually inclines inwards in a convex curve, using a concentric rotating squares and circles principle.

The projections in the plan are also carried upwards to the top of the Shikhara and, thus, there is strong emphasis on vertical lines in elevation.

The Nagara style is widely distributed over a greater part of India, exhibiting distinct varieties and ramifications in lines of evolution and elaboration according to each locality.

An example of Nagara architecture is  the Kandariya Mahadeva Temple.

The Kaṇḍāriyā Mahādeva Temple  meaning “the Great God of the Cave”, is the largest and most ornate Hindu temple in the medieval temple group found at Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh, India; it is considered one of the best examples of temples preserved from the medieval period in India. Shiva, in the form of a linga, is the chief deity in the temple deified in the sanctum sanctorum.

The Kandariya Mahadeva Temple, 31 metres (102 ft) in height, is in the western complex, which is the largest among the three groups of the Khajuraho complex of temples. This western group of temples, consisting of the Kandariya, Matangeshwara and Vishvanatha temples, is compared to a “cosmic design of a hexagon (a yantra or Cosmo gram)” representing the three forms of Shiva. The temple architecture is an assemblage of porches and towers which terminates in a shikhara or spire, a feature which was common from 10th century on wards in the temples of Central India.

The temple is founded on a massive plinth of 4 metres (13 ft) height. The temple structure above the plinth is dexterously planned and pleasingly detailed. The superstructure is built in a steep mountain shape or form, symbolic of Mount Meru which is said to be the mythical source of creation of the world. The superstructure has richly decorated roofs which rise in a grand form terminating in the shikara, which has 84 miniature spires. The temple is in layout of 6 square kilometres (2.3 sq mi), of which 22 are extant including the Kaṇḍāriyā Mahādeva Temple. This temple is characteristically built over a plan of 102 feet (31 m) in length and 67 feet (20 m) in width with the main tower soaring to a height of 102 feet (31 m), and is called the “largest and grandest temple of Khajuraho”. A series of steep steps with high rise lead from the ground level to the entrance to the temple. The layout of the temple is a five part design, a commonality with the Lakshmana and Vishvanatha temples in the Khajuraho complex. Right at the entrance there is torana, a very intricately carved garland which is sculpted from a single stone; such entrances are part of a Hindu wedding procession. The carvings on the entrance gate shows the “tactile quality of the stone and also the character of the symmetrical design” that is on view in the entire temple which has high relief carvings of the figurines. Finely chiseled, the decorative quality of the ornamentation with the sharp inscribed lines has “strong angular forms and brilliant dark-light patterns”. The carvings are of circles, undulations giving off spirals or sprays, geometric patterns, masks of lions and other uniform designs which has created a pleasant picture that is unique to this temple, among all others in the complex.

The main temple tower with 84 mini spires

Erotic sculptures on the external faces of the temple

In the interior space from the entrance there are three mandapas or halls, which successively rise in height and width, which is inclusive of a small chamber dedicated to Shiva, a chamber where Shiva’s wife, Parvati is deified, and a central sanctum or garbagriha (literal meaning “womb chamber”) where the Shiva linga, the phallic emblem of Shiva is deified. The sanctum sanctorum is surrounded by interlinked passages which also have side and front balconies. Due to inadequate natural light in the balconies the sanctum has very little light thus creating a “cave like atmosphere” which is in total contrast to the external parts of the temple. In the interior halls of the temple and on its exterior faces there are elaborately carved sculptures of gods and goddesses, musicians and apsaras or nymphs. The huge pillars of the halls have architectural features of the “vine or scroll motif”. In the corners of the halls there are insets which are carved on the surface with incised patterns. There is a main tower above the sanctum and there are two other towers above the other mantapas also in the shape of “semi-rounded, stepped, pyramidal form with progressively greater height”. The main tower is encircled by a series of interlinked towers and spires of smaller size. These are in the form of a repeated subset of miniature spires that abut a central core which gives the temple an unevenly cut contour similar to the shape of a mountain range of mount Kailasa of the Himalayas where god Shiva resides, which is appropriate to the theme of the temples here.

The exterior surfaces of the temples are entirely covered with sculptures in three vertical layers. Here, there are horizontal ribbons carved with images, which shine bright in the sun light, providing rhythmic architectural features. Among the images of gods and heavenly beings, Agni, the god of fire is prominent. They are niches where erotic sculptures are fitted all round which are a major attraction among visitors. Some of these erotic sculptures are very finely carved and are in mithuna (coitus) postures with maidens flanking the couple, which is a frequently noted motif. There is also a “male figure suspended upside” in coitus posture, a kind of yogic pose, down on his head. The niches also have sculptures of Ganesha, Virabhadra and the Sapta Matrikas, a group of Hindu goddesses or seven Mothers. These are fearful goddesses who protect, and these are: Brahmi, a female incarnation of Shiva, shown sitting on a swan ofBrahma; Maheshwari with three eyes seated on Shiva’s bull Nandi; Kumari Vaishnavi mounted on Garuda; Varahi, Vishnu’s female incarnation as the boar; Narasimhi, the lioness form, a female form of Vishnu; Chamunda, the killer of asuras or demons Chanda and Munda.

Dravidian architecture

Dravidian style temples consist almost invariably of the four following parts, differing only according to the age in which they were executed:

  1. The principal part, the temple itself, is called the Vimana (or Vimanam). It is always square in plan and surmounted by a pyramidal roof of one or more stories; it contains the cell where the image of the god or his emblem is placed.
  2. . The porches or Mandapas (or Mantapams), which always cover and precede the door leading to the cell.
  3. . Gatepyramids, Gopurams, which are the principal features in the quadrangular enclosures that surround the more notable temples.
  4. . Pillared halls or Chaultris—properly Chawadis used for various purposes, and which are the invariable accompaniments of these temples.

Annamalaiyar Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to the deity Shiva, located at the base of Annamalai hills in the town of Thiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu, India. It is significant to the Hindu sect of Saivism as one of the temples associated with the five elements, the Pancha Bhoota Stalas, and specifically the element of fire, or Agni. Shiva is worshiped as Annamalaiyar or Arunachaleswarar, and is represented by the lingam, with his idol referred to as Agni lingam.

Architecture

Temple tower with people passing through.

View of the temple complex

Raja Gopuram at Night

Complex and towers

The temple is situated at the bottom of the Annamalai hills, and faces east, lying over 25 acres. The walls on the east and west measure 700 ft (210 m), the south 1,479 ft (451 m), and the north 1,590 ft (480 m). It has four gateway towers, the gopuram, on its four sides. The eastern tower, the Rajagopuram, is the tallest in the temple. The base of the Rajagopuram is made of granite, measuring 135 ft (41 m) by 98 ft (30 m). It was begun by king Krishnadevaraya (1509–29 CE) of the Vijayanagara dynasty, and completed by Sevappa Nayaka(1532–80 CE). The inscriptions indicate that the tower was built at the behest of Sivanesa and his brother Lokanatha in 1572 CE. The south tower is called Thirumanjangopuram, and the west, Pei Gopuram. Ammani Ammal, a Sanyasini, built the north tower which carries her namesake. Raghunathabhyudayam and Sangitha Sudha, both Nayak scriptures, also describe the towers. The Tanjavuri Andhra Raja Charitamu mentions that Krishnadevaraya built the tower and the outer precincts of the temple. The temple has a total of five precincts, each of which holds a huge Nandi, the sacred bull of Shiva. Towers include the Vallala Maharaja Gopuram and Kili Gopuram, or Parrot Tower.

Shrines

The main shrine of Annamalaiyar faces east, housing images of Nandi and Surya, and is the oldest structure in the temple.  Behind the walls of the sanctum, there is an image of Venugopalaswamy, an incarnation of Vishnu. Around the sanctum, there are images ofSomaskandar, Durga, Chandekeswarar, Gajalakshmi, Arumugaswami, Dakshinamoorthy, Swarnabairavar, Nataraja, and Lingodbhavar—the last an image of Shiva emanating from lingam. The Palliyarai, the divine room for resting deities, is located at the first precinct around the sanctum. The shrine of his consort, Unnamulai Amman, lies in the second precinct, with Amman depicted in a standing posture. Sambantha Vinayagar, the elephant god shrine, is located to the north of the flagstaff and the Bali peeta, or platform for sacrifice.  To the south of the thousand-pillared hall, there is a small shrine for Subramaya and a large tank.  Pathala Lingam, the underground lingam, is the place where Ramana Maharshi (1879 – 1950 CE) is believed to have performed his penance.  The shrine of Sivagangai Vinayagar is present in the northern bank of the Sivanganga tank.

Halls

The View of Thousand Pillar Mahal at temple premises

There is a sixteen pillared Deepa Darshana Mandapam, or hall of light, in the third precinct. The temple tree, Magizha, is considered sacred and medicinal, and childless couples tie small cradles to its branches in obeisance. Vedas write that the mast of the temple separated the earth and the sky during creation of the universe. The Kalyana Mandapam, the marriage hall, is in the south-west of the precinct, and is built in Vijayanagara style. A stone trident is present in the outer shrine of the temple in open air, and has protective railings like a sacred tree. The Vasantha Mandapam, meaning the Hall of spring, is the third precinct, and contains the temple office and Kalahateeswarar shrine.  The fourth precinct has an image of Nandi, Brahma Theertham, the temple tank, the Yanai Thirai Konda Vinayaga shrine, and a hall with a six-foot-tall statue of Nandi, erected by Vallala Maharaja.

Inside the doorway of the first tower and the fifth precinct, there is a thousand-pillared hall built during the late Vijayanagara period. Krishnadevaraya constructed the hall and dug the tank opposite to it.  The pillars in the hall are carved with images of yali, a mythological beast with body of lion and head of an elephant, a symbol of Nayak power.  The Arunagirinathar Mandapam is located to the right of the Kalayana Linga Sundara Eswara Mandapam, and the Gopurathilayanar shrine is to the left of a broad flight of stone stairs that lead up to the Vallala Gopuram.

Meenakshi Amman Temple

Meenakshi Amman Temple and Meenakshi Amman Kovil is a historic Hindu temple located on the southern bank of the Vaigai River in the temple city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu,India. It is dedicated to Parvati, known as Meenakshi, and her consort, Shiva, here named Sundareswarar. The temple forms the heart and lifeline of the 2,500 year old city of Madurai and is a significant symbol for the Tamil people, mentioned since antiquity in Tamil literature though the present structure was built between 1623 and 1655 CE. It houses 14 gopurams(gateway towers), ranging from 45–50m in height. The tallest is the southern tower, 51.9 metres (170 ft) high  and two golden sculptured vimanas, the shrines over the garbhagrihas (sanctums) of the main deities. The temple attracts 15,000 visitors a day, around 25,000 on Fridays, and receives an annual revenue of sixty million. There are an estimated 33,000 sculptures in the temple.

aerial image of a temple campus

An aerial view of Madurai city from atop the Meenakshi Amman temple

map indicating streets of a waste

Location of Meenakshi temple in Madurai

The temple is the geographic and ritual center of the ancient city of Madurai and one of the largest temple complexes in Tamil Nadu. The temple complex is divided into a number of concentric quadrangular enclosures contained by high masonry walls. It is one of the few temples in Tamil Nadu to have four entrances facing four directions. Vishwantha Nayaka allegedly redesigned the city of Madurai in accordance with the principles laid down by Shilpa Shastras relevant to urban planning. The city was laid out in the shape of square with a series of concentric streets culminating from the temple. These squares continue to retain their traditional names, Aadi, Chittirai, Avani-moola and Masi streets, corresponding to Tamil month names. Ancient Tamil classics mention that the temple was the center of the city and the streets happened to be radiating out like lotus and its petals. The temple prakarams (outer precincts of a temple) and streets accommodate an elobrate festival calendar in which dramatic processions circumabulate the shrines at varying distances from the centre. The vehicles used in processions are progressively more massive the further they travel from the centre. The complex is in around 45 acres.

Gopurams

Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple North Tower

Close up of gopurum figures

The temple is surrounded by gopurams (gateway tower), There are 14 gopuram the tallest of which, the famous southern tower, rises to over 170 ft (52 m) and was built in 1559. The oldest gopuram is the eastern one, built by Maravarman Sundara Pandyan during 1216-1238. Each gopuram is a multi-storeyed structure, covered with thousands of stone figures of animals, gods and demons painted in bright hues. The outer gopuram presents steeply pyramidal tower encrusted with plaster figures, while the inner gopuram serves as the entrance to the inner enclosure of Sundareswarar shrine.

Shrines

golden roof of a shrine
The golden shrine over the sanctum of Meenakshisculpture of a Hindu deity
Inside the shrine of Meenakshi
temple tank with steps surrounding it
The Golden Lotus Temple tank
sculptures in a hall
Sculptures inside the temple

The central shrine of Meenakshi Amman temple and her consort Sundareswarar are surrounded by three enclosures and each of these are protected by four minor towers at the four points of the compass, the outer tower growing larger and reaching higher to the corresponding inner one. The Meenakshi shrine has the emerald-hued black stone image of Meenakshi. The Sundareswarar shrine lies at the centre of the complex, suggesting that the ritual dominance of the goddess developed later. Both the Meenakshi and Sundareswarar shrines have gold plated Vimanam (tower over sanctum). The golden top can be seen from a great distance in the west through the apertures of two successive towers. The area covered by the shrine of Sundareswarar is exactly one fourth of the area of the temple and that of Meenakshi is one fourth that of Sundareswarar.

The tall sculpture of Ganesh carved of single stone located outside the Sundareswarar shrine in the path from Meenashi shrine is called the Mukuruny Vinayakar. A large measure of rice measuring 3 kurini (a measure) is shaped into a big ball of sacrifice  and hence the Ganesh is called Mukkurni Vinayagar (three kurinis). This deity is believed to be found during a 17th-century excavation process to dig the Mariamman temple tank.

Temple tank and surrounding 

The sacred temple tank Porthamarai Kulam (“Pond with the golden lotus”), is 165 ft (50 m) by 120 ft (37 m) in size.

Halls

The corridor surrounding the sanctum the Meenakshi is called kilikoondu Mandapam (“bird cage corridor”). The space was once used to keep green parrots that were trained to utter the name of Meenakshi. There are two large cages full of squawking green parrots.

The Kambatadi Mandapam (“Hall of temple tree”) with its seated Nandi (sacred bull) has various manifestations of Shiva carved and also contains the famous “Marriage of Meenakshi” sculpture. Sculptures of Shiva and Kali trying to out-dance one another are pelted with balls of ghee by devotees. A golden flagstaff with 32 sections symbolizes the human backbone and is surrounded by various gods, including Durga and Siddar.

The Puthu Mandapam (“new hall”) constructed by Tirumala Nayak contains large number of sculptures.[21] It is situated opposite to the east gopuram.

The Ashta Shakthi Mandapam (“Hall of eight goddess”) is the first hall in the entrance of Meenakshi shrine tower near to East Tower.Ashta indicates eight and Shakthi refers to goddess – the hall has statues of eight goddesses. The gopurams (towers) can be viewed from this hall. The passage was named for eight forms of goddess Shakti carved on its pillars. Other sculptures and paintings depict the Tiruvilayadal (holy games of Shiva).  The sculptures of heroes of Mahabharata, the Pancha pandavas can be seen in the Pancha Pandava Mandapam (Hall of Pandavas).

The Viravasantharaya Mandapam is a large hall with huge corridors. To the south of this hall is the kalyana mandapam, to the south of the pillared hall, is where the marriage of Shiva and Parvati is celebrated every year during the Chithirai Festival in mid-April. The golden images of Meenakshi and Sundareswarar are carried into the 16th century oonjal mandapam (swing corridor) and placed on the swing every Friday at 5:30 p.m. The shrine has a 3-storied gopuram guarded by two stern dwarapalakas (guardians) and supported by golden, rectangular columns that bear lotus markings. Along the perimeter of the chamber, granite panels of the divine couple are present. The hall is situated in the western bank of the temple tank.

The Mudali Pillai Mandapam or Iruttu Mandapam (Dark hall) is a wide and long hall built by Muthu Pillai during 1613. On the pillars of the halls, there are fine sculptures depicting the story of Shiva taking the form of Bikshadanar to teach the sages a lesson.[29]

The Mangayarkarasi mandapam is a newly built hall situated opposite to the marriage halls and bears the name of saindy queen, Mangayarkarasi who contributed to Saivism and Tamil language. To the south of Mangayarkarasi mandapam lies the Servaikarar Mandapam, a hall built by Marudu brothers in 1795. The Nagara mandapam (Hall of beating drums) lies opposite to Sundareswarar shrine was built by Achaya Rayar, the minister of Rani Mangammal in 1635. The Kolu Mandapam is a hall for displaying dolls during the Navarathri festival celebrated during September–October. This hall is situated in the second corridor of the Meenakshi shrine at the western side.

Hall of Thousand Pillars

granite columned hall with granite roofing

A section of the Thousand Pillar Hall

The Meenakshi Nayakkar Mandapam (“Hall of 1000 pillars”) has two rows of pillars carved with images of yali (mythological beast with body of lion and head of an elephant), commonly used as the symbol of Nayak power. It is situated to the north of Sundareswarar flag staff hall. The Thousand Pillar Hall contains 985 (instead of 1000) carved pillars.

Besides these, a temple always contains temple tanks or wells for water (used for sacred purposes or the convenience of the priests), dwellings for all grades of the priesthood are attached to it, and other buildings for state or convenience.

The Chola, Pallava and Pandiyan belt temples (along with those of the Adigaimans near Karur and Namakkal), as well as the Sethupathy temple group between Pudukottai and Rameswaram uniformly represent the pinnacle of the South Indian Style of Architecture that surpasses any other form of architecture prevalent between the Deccan Plateau and Kaniyakumari.

Pallavas

The Pallavas ruled from AD (600–900) and their greatest constructed accomplishments are the single rock temples in Mahabalipuram and their capital Kanchipuram, now located in Tamil Nadu.

Pallavas were one of the pioneers of south Indian architecture. The earliest examples of temples in the Dravidian style belong to the Badami Chalukya Pallava period. The earliest examples of Pallava constructions are rockcut temples dating from 610 – 690 CE and structural temples between 690 – 900 CE. The greatest accomplishments of the Pallava architecture are the rockcut temples at Mahabalipuram.

Mahabalipuram, also known as Mamallapuram is a town in Kancheepuram district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is around 60 km south from the city of Chennai. It is an ancient historic town and was a bustling seaport during the time of Periplus (1st century CE) and Ptolemy (140 CE). Ancient Indian traders who went to countries of South East Asia sailed from the seaport of Mahabalipuram.

By the 7th century it was a port city of South Indian dynasty of the Pallavas. It has a group of sanctuaries, which was carved out of rock along the Coromandel coast in the 7th and 8th centuries : rathas (temples in the form of chariots), mandapas (cave sanctuaries), giant open-air reliefs such as the famous ‘Descent of the Ganges’, and the Shore Temple, with thousands of sculptures to the glory of Shiva.

There are excavated pillared halls and monolithic shrines known as Srivilliputtur Andal rathas in Mahabalipuram. Early temples were mostly dedicated to Shiva.

The Kailasanatha temple also called Rajasimha Pallaveswaram in Kanchipuram built by Narasimhavarman II also known as Rajasimha is a fine example of the Pallava style temple.

The Shore Temple constructed by Narasimhavarman II near Mahabalipuram building large temple complexes, it was the Pallavas who actually pioneered not only in making large temples after starting construction of rock cut temples without using mortar, bricks etc.

The shining examples of such temples are the Thiruppadagam and Thiruooragam temples that have 28 and 35 feet (11 m) high images of Lord Vishnu in his manifestation as Pandavadhoothar and Trivikraman forms of himself. it can be safely concluded that the Pallavas were among the first emperors in India to build both large temple complexes and very large deities and idols.

Many Siva and Vishnu temples at Kanchi built by the great Pallava emperors and indeed their incomparable Rathas and the Arjuna’s penance Bas Relief (also called descent of the Ganga)

Pandya

Sri villiputtur Andal Temple is the official symbol of the Government of

Tamil Nadu. It is said to have been built by Periyaazhvar, the father in law

of the Lord, with a purse of gold that he won in debates held in the

palace of Pandya King Vallabhadeva.

The primary landmark of Sri villiputtur is 12 tiered tower structure dedicated to the Lord of Sri villiputtur, known as Vatapatrasayee. The tower of this temple rises 192 feet (59 m) high and is the official symbol of the Government of Tamil Nadu. Other significant temples of the Pandyas include the famous Meenakshi temple in Madurai.

Cholas

The Chola kings ruled from AD (848–1280) and included Rajaraja Chola I and his son Rajendra Chola who built temples such as the Brihadeshvara Temple of Thanjavur and Brihadeshvara Temple of Gangaikonda Cholapuram, the Airavatesvara Temple of Darasuram and the Sarabeswara (Shiva )Temple, also called the Kampahareswarar Temple at Thirubhuvanam, the last two temples being located near Kumbakonam.

The first three among the above four temples are titled Great Living Chola Temples.

The Siva Lingams in the Royal Temples of the Cholas at Thanjavur and Gangaikonda Cholapurams are 17 and 18 feet (5.5 m) high. Considering that the Kanchi Kailasanatha Temple built by Rajasimha Pallava was the inspiration for Raja Raja Chola’s Brihadeeswara at Thanjavur,

Vijayanagara

The whole of South India was ruled by Vijayanagara Empire from (1343–1565 CE), who built a number of temples and monuments in their hybrid style in their capital Vijayanagara in Karnataka.

Their style was a combination of the styles developed in South India in the previous centuries.

In addition,

the Yali columns (pillar with charging horse),

balustrades (parapets) and

ornate pillared manatapa are their unique contribution.

King Krishna Deva Raya and others built many famous temples all over South India in Vijayanagara Architecture style.

Vijayanagara architecture is a vibrant combination of the Chalukya, Hoysala, Pandya and Chola styles, idioms that prospered in previous centuries.

Its legacy of sculpture, architecture and painting influenced the development of the arts long after the empire came to an end.

Its stylistic hallmark is the ornate pillared Kalyanamantapa (marriage hall), Vasanthamantapa (open pillared halls) and the Rayagopura (tower).

Artisans used the locally available hard granite because of its durability since the kingdom was under constant threat of invasion. While the empire’s monuments are spread over the whole of Southern India, nothing surpasses the vast open air theatre of monuments at its capital at Vijayanagara

In the 14th century the kings continued to build Vesara or Deccan style monuments but later incorporated.

The varied and intricate ornamentation of the pillars is a mark of their work.

At Hampi, though the Vitthala temple is the best example of their pillared Kalyanamantapa style, the Hazara Ramaswamy temple is a modest but perfectly finished example. A visible aspect of their style is their return to the simplistic and serene art developed by the Chalukya dynasty.[42] A grand specimen of Vijayanagara art, the Vitthala temple, took several decades to complete during the reign of the Tuluva kings.

INDO ARYAN

The temples at Orissa, or Kalinga which is its ancient name, provide some of the finest examples of the IndoAryan style of temple architecture, which is distinct from

the south Indian style. The main group of temples is concentrated in the town of Bhubaneshwar where there are over thirty of them. A few miles from this temple town are two of the largest buildings in eastern India, the temple of Jagannath at Puri and the Sun temple at Konarak. Other examples of this style of architecture can also be seen

further north on the southern borders of Bengal.

The two temples of monumental proportions, the Lingaraja at Bhubaneshwar and the Jagannath at Puri, were constructed around A.D 1000. Both these temples consist of four structures which comprise the fully developed Orissan style of temple architecture. Even today, the great tower of the Lingaraja dominates the entire town of Bhubaneshwar with its height and size; the Jagannath temple at Puri is still larger and of a slightly later date. In colonial times, an elaborate set of representations was built around the Jagannath temple

the Sun temple at Konarak (c. A.D. 1250) , standing entirely by itself some twenty miles from Puri. The temple is dedicated to Surya, the Sun god, who has traditionally been represented as riding his winged chariot drawn by seven horses. The temple is therefore fashioned like a ratha (chariot) and the base of the structure has 12 giant wheels, each nearly ten feet high.

The entire surface is filled out with sculpted forms, some of outstanding beauty, while

the others are of a markedly erotic character.

Jagannath Temple

The Jagannath Temple of Puri is a famous, sacred Hindu temple dedicated to Jagannath and located on the eastern coast of India, at Puri in the state of Odisha.

Lingaraj Temple

Lingaraj Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Harihara, a form of Shiva and is one of the oldest temples in Bhubaneswar, the capital of the East Indian state of Orissa. The temple is the most prominent landmark of the Bhubaneswar city and one of the major tourist attractions of the state.

The Lingaraj temple is the largest temple in Bhubaneswar. It is enshrined within a spacious compound wall of laterite measuring 520 ft (160 m) by 465 ft (142 m). The wall is 7.5 ft (2.3 m) thick and surmounted by a plain slant coping. Alongside the inner face of the boundary wall, there is a terrace to protect the compound wall against outside aggression. The tower is 45.11 m (148.0 ft) high and the complex has 150 smaller shrines in its spacious courtyard. Each inch of the 55 m (180 ft) tall tower is sculpted.  The door in the gate of the entrance porch is made of sandalwood.

The Lingaraja temple faces east and is built of sandstone and laterite. The main entrance is located in the east, while there are small entrances in the north and south. The temple is built in the Deula style that has four components namely, vimana (structure containing the sanctum), jagamohana(assembly hall), natamandira (festival hall) and bhoga-mandapa (hall of offerings), with all four in axial alignment with descending height. The dance hall was associated with the raising prominence of the devadasi system that existed during the time. The various units from the Hall of offering to the tower of the sanctum increase in height.

The bhogamandapa (Hall of offering) measures 42 ft (13 m)*42 ft (13 m) from the inside, 56.25 ft (17.15 m)*56.25 ft (17.15 m) from the outside and has four doors in each of the sides. The exterior walls of the hall has decorative sculptures of men and beast. The hall has a pyramidal roof made of up several horizontal layers arranged in sets of two with intervening platform. It bears an inverted bell and a kalasa in the top. The natamandira(festival hall) measures 38 ft (12 m)*38 ft (12 m) from the inside, 50 ft (15 m)*50 ft (15 m) from the outside, has one main entrance and two side entrances. The side walls of the hall has decortive sculptures displaying women and couples. It has a flat roof sloping in stages. There are thick pylons inside the hall. The jagamohana (assembly hall) measures 35 ft (11 m)*30 ft (9.1 m) from the inside, 55 ft (17 m)*50 ft (15 m) from the outside, entrances from south and north and has a 30 metres (98 ft) tall roof. The hall has a pyramidal roof made of up several horizontal layers arranged in sets of two with intervening platform as in the Hall of offering. The facade to the entrances are decorated with perforated windows with lion sitting on hind legs. The inverted bell above second unit is adorned by kalasa and lions.  The rekha deula has a 60 m (200 ft) tall pyramidal tower over the sanctum and measures 22 ft (6.7 m)*22 ft (6.7 m) from the inside, 52 ft (16 m)*52 ft (16 m) from the outside over the sanctum. It is covered with decorative design and seated lion projecting from the walls. The sanctum is square in shape from the inside. The tower walls are sculpted with female figures in different poses.

The temple has a vast courtyard mired with hundreds of small shrines

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