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

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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