ANCIENT ARCHITECTURE IN INDIA THAT’S STILL STANDING STRONG

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Indian heritage is rich with a variety of cultures and religions. It’s rooted in the growth of quite a lot of things and ancient architecture in India is one of those things which got influence because of cultural diversity. Ancient temples are the best examples of different architectural styles all around the nation.

The growth of ancient architecture in India for temples is remarkable and we can witness it even today! It evolved from ‘Rock-cut- cave temples’ to ‘Monolithic temples’ and finally finished with ‘Structural temples’. In ancient times people designed temples keeping multiple functions in mind.

Hence, due to geographic, climatic, historic, linguistic, and ethnic differences, we can see variations in ancient architecture in India. However, certain parts of the temples remain the same. Even to this day, certain bits are the same in the temples around the world. For a better understanding of ancient architecture in India, let’s have a brief detail on it.

Below are the parts of temples that you can observe in any temple around the world:

1. Garbhagriha: ‘Womb-house’ is the literal meaning of the word mentioned which also means ‘Sanctum’ of the temple. This is the most important part of the temple where the main idol is kept. In the beginning, the sanctum of the temple was a cubicle size room with a single entrance. Over time, it became bigger with complex design and multiple entrances.  

2. Mandapa: This is the entrance of the temple which is a huge hall area with columns in similar intervals. This is the area where activities like dance, performances take place. Now, depending on the size of the hall they are called ‘Ardhamandapa’, ‘Mandapa’ & ‘Mahamandapa’.    

3. Shikhara or Vimana: This is the mountain-like rooftop of the temple that distinguishes the temple from other buildings. Shikhara/ Vimana gives the temple prominent looks that can be witnessed from afar relying on the height. Shikhara is built in a curvy shape and Vimana is built in a pyramid shape. This is the major difference between them.   

4. Amalaka: You will be able to see a stone-made circular structure on the top of Shikhara. You can only observe Amalaka in the North Indian temples.

5. Kalasha: This is the topmost structure on Shikhara which is above Amalaka and you can only see this in the North Indian style temples.

6. Antarala: It’s a passage that connects Garbhagriha and Mandapa of the temple.

7. Jagati: In North Indian style temples you will notice the whole temple structure stands on a platform.

8. Vahana: This is the vehicle or mount (Animal or mythical creature) of the main deity of the temple. It’s placed on a pillar in front of the sanctum with a ‘Dhvaj’ (Flag) sometimes as an ancient architecture in India.

Now, that you are aware of the primary parts of the temples, let’s go ahead and understand the leading ancient architecture in India for temples. These are some of the pioneer styles that helped our ancestors in construction. In the history of ancient architecture in India, these play a dominant role and hold high values.

Prime categories of ancient architecture in India for temples:

Here you will be able to know the details of the main 3 types of ancient architecture in India and subdivisions. Many of the temples built in ancient architecture in India are still standing strong for us to visit and marvel at its beauty.

  1. Nagara style (The North Indian architecture)
  2. Dravida style (The South Indian architecture)
  3. Vesara style (Mix of the North & South/ Independent architecture)
    1. Nagara style, ancient architecture in India (The North Indian architecture):
      • This architecture is famous in the North region of the country.
      • The 2 main principle factors of this ancient architecture in India are ‘Shikhara’ and ‘Jagati’.
      • Nagara-style temples are built on a huge stone-made platform that allows you to reach the temple through the staircase. Hence, normally this ancient architecture in India doesn’t require a boundary wall.
      • The earliest temples only had one Shikhara on top of Garbhagriha. Eventually, people built multiple Shikharas and the tallest was made above the sanctum.
      • ‘Latina/ Rekha-Prasada’, ‘Phamsana’ and ‘Valabhi’ are 3 subdivisions of this ancient architecture in India.
      • The temples designed with this ancient architecture in India are decorated with images of Mithunas (Erotic) and the rivers Ganga, Yamuna guarding it.

Where can we see the North Indian ancient architecture in India?   

You can visit Nagara-style temples in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Asam, Odisha, and Bengal. This ancient architecture in India started cultivating from the Himalayas and Vindhyas. From there Nagara style started spreading around the region.

What are the names of the temples built in Nagara style?

The Dashavatara Vishnu temple in UP, the Khajuraho temples in MP, the Sun temple in Gujarat, the Sun temple in Odisha, the Jagannath temple in Odisha, etc are some of the best examples of this ancient architecture in India.

 What are the names of Nagada ancient architecture in India?

I. The Kalinga architecture

II. The Māru-Gurjara architecture

III. The Gupta architecture

  1. Dravida style, ancient architecture in India (The South Indian architecture):
    • This ancient architecture in India was cultivated in the South region and built of sandstone, soapstone and granite.
    • Dravida-style temples are surrounded by a high compound wall. Thus, the huge area inside consists of wells, tanks, houses for priests and other important buildings.
    • The front wall of the temple consists of an entrance gateway in the middle. ‘Gopuram’ is the name of this entrance area and is decorated carefully.
    • ‘Vimana’, the rooftop of the temple is in geometrical shape like a stepped pyramid. It gives a crown-like shape to the temple roof.
    • ‘Kuta’, ‘Shala’, ‘Gaja-prishta’, ‘Vritta’ and ‘Ashtasra’ are 5 subdivisions under this ancient architecture in India.
    • The sanctum of the temple has 4 entrances in each direction and this style allows the visitors to take ‘Pradakshina’ of Garbhagriha.
    • You will be able to witness sculptures as a part of decoration in this ancient architecture in India.

Where can we see the South Indian ancient architecture in India?   

Tamil Nadu is the birthplace of Dravida-style temples and from there it expanded around the South region. To be specific the area between Krishna and Kaveri rivers is ideal to find this ancient architecture in India.

What are the names of the temples built in the Dravida style?

The Shore temple, the Vaikunda Perumal temple, the Brihadisvara temple and the Nellaiappar temple in Tamil Nadu, the Mukteshvara temple in Odisha are some of the well-known examples of this ancient architecture in India.

What are the names of Dravida ancient architecture in India?

 I. The Badami/ Chalukya architecture

 II. The Champa architecture

 III. The Chola architecture

  1. Vesara style, ancient architecture in India (Mix of Nagara & Dravida architectures):
    • It’s a beautiful mixture of Nagara and Dravida style architecture.
    • You can check out this architecture in the Deccan region of India.
    • The height of the roof will be comparatively short. This was achieved by cutting down the height of each tier of the roof.
    • This style is the most finished, decorated and polished among all.

Where can we see the South Indian ancient architecture in India?  

From the Krishna River to Vindhya there are multiple temples made in this ancient architecture in India.

What are the names of the temples built in Vesara style?

The Lad Khan temple, the Durga temple and temples in Pattadakkal in Karnataka are great sets of examples of ancient architecture in India.

What are the names of Vesara ancient architecture in India?

I. The Gadag architecture

II. The Vijayanagara architecture

Conclusion

We are lucky that our ancestors left us the great gift of ancient architecture in India. Today, ancient architecture in India is one of the most interesting subjects for archaeologists around the world. Thanks to it, the nation welcomes a large number of international tourists every year!

At Secret Temples, you will get to know various facts about ancient India.

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