Ancient Indian Temples

It is from the Gupta period onwards that we have remains of Hindu temples in many places especially in western India. They all conform to the same pattern. There are ornate pillars with heavy bell shaped capitals surmounted by animal motifs. The entrance was often carved with mythological scenes and figures. The masonry indicates that the builders had not yet mastered the technique and the cave was very much in their minds. In the 6th century Hindu temples there was sanctum sanctorum containing the main deity. There was a hall for the congregation of worshippers. The Garba griha was surmounted by a tower and there were also other towers rising from other parts of the building. The whole was enclosed in a rectangular courtyard. The enormous temple building was patronised chiefly by the kings. The technique of temple architecture also improved. There were even rules laid down in text books silpa sastra to be strictly followed by the builders. Decoration of the temple was highly ornate. There were heavy cornices, sturdy pillars well proportioned. The broad base of the sikhara or tower gave the temple a feeling of strength and solidity. During the time of Pallavas of Kanchi, temple building gained great momentum. At Mamallapuram and Kanchi are found the important temples of the Pallava kings. The shore temple at Mamallapuram and the Kailashnatha temple at Kanchi are standing monuments of Pallava architecture.

The tower is generally in the style of a rectangular truncated pyramid. The Pallava style was developed further by the Chola kings.Rajaraja the Great built the great Shiva temple at Tanjore.His successor Rajendra I built a magnificent temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram.The Pallava style was replaced by a great pyramid rising from a tall upright base and crowned in a domed finial. The Pandhya kings made further changes. From the 12th century onwards the temple was surrounded by massive walls with gates on the four sides. This style involved elaborate ornamentation and the use of animal forms in columns including the horses imparting a distinctive character to late Dravidian architecture. These changes in Dravidian temple architecture culminated in the great temple complexes of Madurai and the Vaishnava temple at Srirangam.The Srirangam temple contained an outer wall and six inner walls each one with gopuram surroundings a shrine of modest proportions.