Indian Temple Architecture: Form and Transformation (The Karnata Dravida Tradition 7th to 13th Centuries)

Item Code: IDE883
Author: Adam Hardy
Publisher: Indira Gandhi Natioal Centre for the Arts and Abhinav Publications
Language: English
Edition: 1995
ISBN: 8170173124
Pages: 634 (B & W Plates: 158, Figures: 217)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 11.0" X 8.8"
Weight 2.76 kg
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Book Description

From the Jacket :

Transformation of forms of Indian temples takes place through a dual process - time as well as space. These two patterns of transformation, through time and (while representing time) in space, reflect one another closely. Both are processes of emergence, expansion and proliferation, which simultaneously imply differentiation and fusion, growth from and dissolution into unity.

One of the richest traditions of temple building that India has produced took shape in the 7th century A.D., centred in what is now the state of Karnataka, and lasted until 13th. This was one of the two main branches of Dravida or 'Southern' temple architecture, giving rise to such famous temples as the Virupaksa, Pattadakal, the Kailasa, Ellora, and the Hoysalesvara, Halebid. These are analysed, alongwith more than 250 other buildings, in this monumental study that, for the first time, explains the Karnata Dravida tradition as one continuous, coherent development.

The book, with its numerous analytical drawings, will be welcomed for the way it shows how to look at these great monuments, and makes their complex architecture accessible. It is clearly shown how the formal structure of a temple makes concrete the idea of manifestation, of the transmutation of the eternal and infinite into the shifting multiplicity of existence, and the re-absorption of all things into the limitless unity from which they have come.


In the Kalasamalocana Series, the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) has endeavoured to publish critical literature which either re-evaluates the theoretical foundations of the arts or investigates the interface of the arts with the disciplines of science, metaphysics or cultural history. Also, in the series, monographs have appeared which focus attention on a cross-cultural dialogue through a particular art form or artistic motif as in the case of The Thousand-Armed Avalokitesvara and Rama-Lengends and Rama-Legends and Rama-Reliefs in Indonesia. Gradually, these publications will hopefully establish an alternate method of viewing the Indian artistic traditions. No longer can the discipline of art history be restricted to the establishment of dates and chronology and identification of iconography.

Within the series, the programme of "The Collected Works of Ananda K. Coomaraswamy" is central. Amongst his other works, his Eassys in Early Indian Architecture have been assembled, edited and published. The essays identify the pragmatic and the functional approach to Indian architecture. Shortly, another volume on Essays in Architectural Theory by A. K. Coomaraswamy will be published.

Continuing the IGNCA's concern with architecture, the monuments of Ellora have been re-assessed in Carmel Berkson's work Ellora: Concept and Style. At a very different plane, the same monument and its sculptures had been analysed by the late Alice Boner in her work Principles of Composition in Hindu Sculpture.

We are happy to pursue the field of architecture now through Adam Hardy's work on the Karnataka Temples, largely Calukyan and Rastrakuta. A companion volume on the Temples of Caudadanapura of the same region, authored by Vasundhara & Pierre Filliozat, is being published. Taken together, these publications will, it is hoped, not only add to the existing critical literature on Indian architecture but will also initiate a new approach to viewing and seeing Indian temple architecture.

As is well-known, the study of Indian temple architecture has been the concern of archaeologies for over a century. Understandably, their concern was with history, archaeological evidence, and with the plans of some of these monuments. The work of archaeologists – Fergusson (1866), James Burgess (1874) and Alexander Rea (1896) in the case of Calukyan temples, will remain fundamental. While James Burgess published the plans of some of these monuments, Alexander Rea gave meticulous drawings of the later Calukyan temples. Henry Cousens' volume (1926) has drawings which are invaluable for any art-historian. The Annual Reports of the Archaeological Survey of Mysore between 1910 and 1942 contain a fund of basic information on the Calukyan and Hoysala temples, which have been utilized by scholars, be they art-historians or archaeologists. In the case of the Calukyan and Hoysala temples, which have been utilized by scholars, be they art-historians or archaeologists. In the case of the Calukyan temples, the work of the early archaeologists has been followed by others, particularly, Tartakov, George Michell, Radcliffe Bolon and Dhaky. The American Institute of Indian Studies, Volume I, Part II, dealing with the Rastrakuta temples in the Encyclopaedia of Indian Temple Architecture Series, is today the most authoritative source of reference. Scholarship, as also viewing these temples from a different point of view. While he is looking at these temples as structures and evolution of architectural form through the application of a series of paradigmatic grids and mathematical formulae, his main concern is to investigate the complex interwebbing of meaning, formal values and the world-view, which the temple architecture embodies and, in turn, radiates and affects. In this respect, Adam Hardy's work provides a refreshing bridge between the work of the archaeologists, the analysts whose concern was only with physical structures and those others whose concern has been to view the temple as a concretization in brick and stone of a world-view, more even metaphysics. Undoubtedly, Dr. Stella Kramrisch's work on The Hindu Temple published in 1946 and Coomaraswamy's Essays on the symbolism of the Dome (in the case of the Stupa) and the Kandariya Mahadeo temple architecture, are milestone of perception and insight. The present author reconciles the polarities, drawing upon both streams.

Adam Hardy evolves a conceptual base for examining the composition, the meaning, the formed values of the group of temples under investigation. Pertinently, he observes that composition, evolution and meaning need to be understood together. Logically, the correspondence between the compositions structure and ideas has to be investigated as a process of transmutation of the eternal, infinite, abstract and unified into the temporal, the finite, the concrete, and the diversified. The monograph endeavour to analyse this process by identifying a set of elements in the architectural plans of the structure which facilitate this. Amongst the many interesting points that the author has tried to make one is in regard to the multi-aedicular character of the temple. He rightly observes that the images are not just cult-icons and mythical motifs which adorn the temple walls, but comprise multiple images of shrines which rise rhythmically in temple architecture, be they a roof or gopurams. From the point of view of studying the tradition of Indian temple architecture as a perfect example of a reciprocal relationship of idea and image, form and meaning, Adam Hardy's work is a refreshing change from those whose concern has been either with form or only with meaning.

It is hoped that a reading of this monograph will also stimulate the lively ongoing debate on the classification of temple types into Nagara and Dravida on the one hand, and the transformation of Dravida into Vesara, on the other. Adam Hardy has tried to classify these languages and modes of temple architecture.

With the publication of this monograph and that of Vasundhara Filliozat, which concentrates on temples built with inspiration from Saivism, it will be clear that within the Indian tradition many parallel movements could be sustained in a single region. It will also be clear that temple architecture in India was, at no time, an insulted activity confined to a single locale. At all times, while there was the inner dynamism of a regional chool or style, it was invariably connected with others outside geocultural boundaries. The criss-cross interaction between the Karnataka and the Tamilian, the Rastrakuta, Calukyan and Hoysala, the Calukyan and Northern Indian, will make it clear that there has been a vibrant tradition of dialogue, interpenetration without loss of individual, local or regional identity. Architecture manifests this concretely but the movement is evident in the other arts, particularly literature, music, dance and traditional India theatre. The Indian arts have so far been studied either in isolation or along a single evolutionary arrow-time. Through the publication of several studies, each individual, but related to other, the IGNCA is attempting to modify notion of considering regions in India as absolute self-contained identities. The result of each of these studies is pointing at interaction, interdependence, mobility and dialogue, rather than conflict and confrontation.

I should like to thank Dr. Adam Hardy for offering his monograph to the IGNCA for publication, and Dr. Lalit M. Gujral, for his invaluable help in the production of this monograph.


Transformation of forms of Indian temples takes place through time as well as space. Forms develop through time, as in most traditions of human art, and do so in a characteristic way. And, perhaps more remarkably, a process of transformation, of growth, is embodied in the forms of individual temples, which are infused with an overwhelming sense of centrifugal movement. These two patterns of transformation, through time and (while representing time) in space, reflect one another closely. Both are processes of emergence, expansion and proliferation, which simultaneously imply both differentiation and fusion, growth from and dissolution into unity. It is not accidental that there should be this striking parallel between the manner of unfolding during the course of the tradition and the dynamic order of an individual work: a desire to achieve the latter determines the former, at least partly.

Art historians now largely distrust grand historical schemes, whether (diachronic) explanations of how art forms develop-particularly if some impersonal destiny or 'will to form' is evoked, or a quasi-biological progression from youth to decadence-or whether the attempt is to explain (synchronically) the creations of a given time in terms of an underlying world-view or, worse still, of a Spirit of the Age. Attempts to attribute meanings to forms also tend to meet with the same kind of skepticism, often deservedly. In this book, nevertheless, it will be seen (without any implication of predestination, or notion of progress or decline) that Indian temple building traditions do undergo an evolution or unfolding, which follows a particular pattern; and that this evolution is related to the complex rhythmic compositions sought after in individual temples; and that (while no doubt something to do with the spirit, if not that of an age) formal structure and meaning are both rooted in a world-view, which the temples, almost by definition, must reflect, being conceived as microcosms or images of the universe. All this amounts to a kind of 'grand scheme', both diachronic and which is also concerned with meaning. It will be shown that an understanding of individual temple forms, the way they evolve, and their meaning, depends upon a particular way of seeing the architecture.

My interpretations of these three aspects may, of course, be accepted or rejected one by one, but I believe that composition, evolution and meaning need ultimately to be understood together Although, in the pages which follow, form is often discussed with no explicit reference to meaning, there are ideas so intrinsic to the morphology of the monuments that, where compositional structure is analysed in a way that is true to its nature meaning can never be far behind.

Discussion of meaning in architecture usually focuses on secondary, extrinsic ideas attached to forms by association, ignoring the symbolism which is truly inherent by virtue of the direct analogy or-congruence between ideas and formal pattern. In the case of Indian temples, there is this kind of correspondence between the compositional structure and ideas that are archetypal in Indian thought ideas found also in other sacred traditions, expressed here in a characteristically Indian style. Briefly stated, the architectural forms embody an Indian concept of manifestation, of the coming into concrete form of the divinity and, on a cosmic level, of the transmutation of the eternal and infinite into the shifting multiplicity of existence, and the reabsorption of all tings into the limitless unity from which they have come. This interpretation, if metaphysical, is not just 'read into' the forms, but is firmly tied to the physical actuality of the architecture. The forms make these ideas concrete, just as the ideas make sense of the formal structure.

But this symbolism of formal structure is not entirely abstract, divorced from imagery. Perhaps more than any other architecture, Indian temple architecture, notwithstanding a process of abstraction which takes place, is representational, made up of images. The images are not just the cult icons and mythical creatures which may or may or may not adorn the temple walls. It will be explained later that this architecture is essentially 'multi-aedicular', composed of multiple images of shrines or divine abodes. These are conceived three-dimensionally, embedded in their background or one another. The compositional structure of the temples, with its centrifugal dynamism, is largely a matter of patterns of interrelation between the 'aedicular components'. Formal structure would not have become what it is, nor developed the way it has, where it not for what it directly depicts.

Association is a third mechanism of meaning. Within a culture, certain ideas may become associated with certain forms or motifs, not as mere unambiguous signs, but as symbols with multiple metaphoric overtones, vague and productive. A network of association, built up as much in the realms of myth and poetry as of architecture and sculpture, binds particular forms one to another. In Indian temples, as in so much sacred architecture, motifs or elements (such as the lotus and the horseshoe arch) which by their nature lend themselves as symbols of The Centre, seem especially susceptible to incorporation into such a web of significance. But however 'natural' it may seem at times, it is difficult to see how associational meaning can be intrinsic in the same way as the other two kinds, or knowable so directly from buildings themselves. Yet in the original cultural context of the temples, these three kind of symbolism, 'formal', representational and associational, must have worked together, inseparable, reinforcing one another.

From all this it should not be concluded that temple architecture could somehow be a deliberate translation of a precise doctrine, or that particular philosophical or mythological systems could be literally expounded in stone. What the architecture, developing in the way it does, comes to embody, is a more underlying vision. The sacred architecture of the temples is the presentation of an experience, of an intuition of higher truth, which (as Vedantic philosophy teaches) is beyond space and time. Form and meaning have a reciprocal relationship; as much as forms may be suggested by ideas, forms bring meanings into existence. Temples make tangible the same ungraspable truth that mythological and philosophical formulations, in their own different way, attempt to bring to human understanding.

So far we have been looking at general principles, which will be elaborated upon in Chapter 2. These principle apply generally to Indian temple architecture (mainly Hindu or Jain) from around the sixth century onwards. The greater part of this book, Parts 2 and 3, consists of 'history' based on and illustrating the 'theory' put forward in Par 1. This is the history of one of India's great temple building traditions, that of the Karnata Dravida, which flourished between the seventh and the thirteenth centuries. Alongside the broader aim of establishing principles, the study is intended to provide a comprehensive and systematic record of architectural forms at the various stages of the Karnata Dravida tradition, showing the place and significance of particular monuments within the tradition, and identifying the work of different schools or workshops.

The term Karnata Dravida needs to be explained. Indian temple architecture falls broadly into two categories, the Nagara and the Dravida. The former is associated with the northern parts of India, the latter to the south, though neither is confined entirely to its respective region. Drawing from a common artistic heritage, more pan-Indian in nature, the two strands began to take form during the middle centuries of the first millennium A.D. Rather later than the first Nagara, or proto-Nagara, Dravida temple architecture was fully established during the seventh century, most importantly in two regions of southern India: Tamil Nadu, in the far south, and Karnataka the lower Deccan. Already at the time these two regions were being consolidated as centres of empires which, during the ensuing centuries, regardless of the coming and going of ruling dynasties, would battle for supremacy in South India and beyond. At the same time, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, respectively the Tamil and Kannada speaking lands, became the respective homes of the two main traditions of Dravida or Southern temple architecture. That of Karnataka is the one that I am calling the Karnata Dravida tradition.

Karnata Dravida temples are the products of a continuous, coherent tradition lasting about seven hundred years, during which time the architectural forms undergo a gradual but dramatic transformation. While parts of this tradition have already been studied in detail, here the intention is to reach an understanding of the tradition as a whole.

In order to see the whole jungle, the trees will be looked at, and even the leaves. Temples will be examined down to their smallest details, and at the same time, like the tradition, be understood as a whole. Chapter 3, on the 'anatomy' of the temples, explains their morphology, showing its origins and the groupings and hierarchy of parts which will form the basis of analysis in the later chapters. Descriptions of the complex yet tightly organized forms of Indian temples have often been random and fragmentary. To avoid such arbitrariness is not simply a matter of being systematic, but of finding the appropriate grouping of parts into sub-wholes and recognizing the proper hierarchy. In other words, the work must be seen properly, according to the principles underlying its composition. As far as possible, it must be perceived as it has been conceived.

Whether an interpretation or way of seeing (and a corresponding method of analysis) comes close to this ideal may be judged by its explanatory power – the order and sense which it bring to complex architectural forms, and its capacity to explain both the variations and permutations among monuments of a given time and the way in which architecture develops through time. A more basic test of an architectural interpretation is that it should be possible for it to be clearly visualized, and for the visualization to be communicated to and replicated by others. A given architecture asks to be seen in a particular way (or a set of complementary ways which allow productive ambiguity). The way of seeing Indian temples which we shall explore allows the absolutely distinct seeing in the mind's eye of the totality of an individual composition and of the unfolding of the tradition.

The congruence between formal structure and ideas gives further validity to a way of seeing, if not 'poof'. But no extraneous evidence is essential, and certainly not textual evidence, though it may be useful. Those who rush to documents before using their eyes should heed the words of the Upanishad:

Dynasties and Periods

Although architectural evolution was not determined fundamentally by the vicissitudes of ruling families, and although the patronage of the temples was far from exclusively royal, dynastic periods do provide convenient divisions for reviewing the progress of the Karnata Dravida tradition. The formative stages of Dravida temple architecture in Karnataka belong to the period (dealt with in Chapter 4) of the Early Calukyas or Early Western Calukyas, the Calukyas of Vatapi (Badami), who during the sixth century established their centre of power in Kuntaladesa or northern Karnataka. By the time of their defeat by the Rastrakutas in A.D. 757, these rulers and their entourage had patronized some of the most magnificent temples in India; monuments already encapsulating the essential character which marks the later stage of the tradition, distinguishing it from its counterpart in the Tamil country. The Dravida work of the Rastrakutas at Ellora (Maharashtra) is largely Karnata in derivation, and prefigures later developments in Karnataka, if only to a minor extent. In Karnataka, surviving monuments from the two centuries and a half of Rastrakuta hegemony are comparatively modest in scale and ambition, but nevertheless show the tradition picking up and continuing to develop (Chapter 5).

In 973 the Rastrakutas were ousted by the Later Calukyas, the Calukyas of Kalyana, who held sway, with one interregnum, until the end of the twelfth century, when their territory was taken over in turn by the Hoysalas from the south, and the Yadavas or Seunas from the north. (Although these Calukyas generally spelt their name with a long 'a', the dynasty were insistent on their descent from the Calukyas of Vatapi, for whom 'Calukya', with short 'a', was the prevalent spelling). In northern Karnataka, temple building under the Later Calukyas and their feudatories (Chapters 6 and 7) was richest and most voluminous during the eleventh and early twelfth centuries, a period which may be seen as marking a culmination of the Karnata Dravida tradition, though not its final development. Temples of this period have reached a stage of transformation at which, unlike contemporary monuments in Tamil Nadu, they are no longer immediately recognizable as Dravida. For this reason, James Fergusson, in his pioneering works on Indian architecture (Fergusson 1876), saw in such temples a third 'style' of architecture, the 'Chalukyan', as opposed to his 'Indo-Aryan' (corresponding to Nagara or Northern) and 'Dravidian' (Corresponding to Dravida or Southern).

The tradition continued through the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and weakly into the fourteenth. From the early twelfth century the most prolific Karnata Dravida temple building took place under the Hoysalas in southern Karnataka (Chapter 8), most spectacularly while this dynasty were still nominally feudatories of the Calukyas. In Hoysala temples can be seen the farthest degree of transformation of the architectural forms first realized under the Early Calukyas. During the early part of the fourteenth century, Karnataka, including a much weakened Hoysala kingdom, fell prey to Muslim invasions, and the Karnata Dravida tradition, already stagnant, dried up. Around 1336 the Vijayanagara empire was established, ensuring Hindu rule in South India for a further two hundred years. But although Vijayanagara itself (modern Hampi) is in the middle of Karnataka, its temple architecture, and that of its provinces, stem from the Tamil Dravida tradition, even if Karnata resonances can sometimes be sensed.

Languages and Modes

Nagara and Dravida are not the only kinds of temple mentioned in the Indian texts on architecture, the Sastras and Agamas. In particular, a ternary classification is often given: Nagara, Dravida and Vesara. One source of great confusion to scholars in this century searching for the meaning of these terms has been regional variations in their use. It is now clear that South Indian treatises (from Tamil Nadu – no texts survive from Karnataka) are not discussing three entirely different species of temples, but Southern temples with differently shaped ground plans or, in some texts, with differently shaped crowning members. It is in North Indian usage that 'Nagara' clearly means Northern ('Indo-Aryan'), and 'Dravida' Southern ('Dravidian'). It is now the generally accepted view that in North Indian texts 'Vesara' refers to the kind of temple favoured in the medieval Deccan – Fergusson's 'Chalukyan'. Justification for this view has been that the word 'Vesara' means 'mule', implying a hybrid, and is applicable to Later Calukya and Hoysala temples because these seem to have certain Northern characteristics, although made up of Southern forms and motifs. On this basis, then, the subject of this study could be said to be the formation of the Dravida, the transformation of Dravida into Vesara, and the further evolution of the Vesara.

But it is not all certain that 'Vesara' does refer to 'Chalukyan'. M.A. Dhakya's important book on temple forms in Karnataka, ironically a work which appears to have set the seal on the problem of the identity of 'Vesara', leaves the matter open: "The question still is whether the medieval architects recognized and dubbed this type – of their native land – Vesara' or did they call it Dravida? Very hand, indeed, to say with finality. We here need the help of an inscriptional notice or a vastusastra native to Karnataka country that would clarify the position" (Dhaky 1977, 28). Whatever may have been the contemporary usage, for the purposes of this study the term 'Vesara' does not illuminate the architectural forms, except as a reminder of the presence of Northern-seeming aspects. The use of 'Karnata Dravida' for temples throughout the tradition is truer to their uninterrupted use of Southern forms as the essential compositional elements, and to the continuity of transformation which takes place. The tendencies underlying this transformation will be seen to be evident from an early stage, and it would be impossible to say at what moment temples cease to be Dravida and become 'Vesara'.

In addition to Nagara, Dravida and Vesara, texts and inscriptions mention other kinds of temple, such as Sekhari, Bhumija and Phamsana. To understand these concepts it should be made quite clear that Nagara and Dravida (in the sense of Northern and Southern) are of quite a different order from the others. These two should be understood as architectural 'languages', simply in the sense that they provide a vocabulary, a range of related elements, a kit of parts or family of forms, which can be put together in various ways. Arrangement of the elements is made according to various types or 'modes' of temple. Certain configurations of elements, and certain ways of grouping these into larger configurations, are inherent in the language, but the modes determine more specific rules of organization, while nevertheless allowing numerous permutations within those rules. Thus a temple which in general terms may be described as Nagara, in that it is composed in the Nagara language, should be more specifically defined as Latina, Sekhari, Bhumija (orthogonal or stellate) or Valabhi. In a similar way, the orthogonal and the later stellate forms of Dravida temple may be considered as two systems of organization, or modes, of the Dravida language. However, the difference between these two is less fundamental than the differences between the main Nagara systems, the basic pyramidal arrangement remaining the same, as with the Tamil Dravida temples of varied plan form and 'roof' shape.

The relationships of these languages and modes is summarized in the table of the next page. This summary applies to a relatively late stage of development, since in earlier times Nagara and Dravida are found in only one mode each, respectively the Latina and the orthogonal Dravida.

Another type, the Phamsana, is, in Karnataka, essentially neither Nagara nor Dravida, though it borrows from both at different stages, having no kit of parts of its own complex or flexible enough to work as a language in the same way as the other two.

(While it is unnecessary here to enter into a discussion of the possible meanings of 'style', it should be noted that only confusion can arise from calling Nagara and Dravida, or Sekhari and Phamsana, 'styles'. I shall reserve the term for the character while makes a temple identifiable as the work of a certain group at a given time – for example, of Karnata masons in general, or of a particular school or workshop. Often this is most recognizable in the subtle qualities of small details, betraying the 'signature' or 'handwriting' of their makers. In this sense, temples of different modes, even different architectural languages, may belong to the same style, where they are the creations of the same hands and minds.)

This discussion of the different languages and modes is important at the outset, not only to set the Karnata Dravida in the framework of Indian temple architecture, but also because of the unique variety of temple forms found in the Deccan. As well as developing the orthogonal Dravida, the Early Calukyas built in the Latina modes of the Nagara, and also Phamsana temples and 'hall temples'. Examples of the latter two survive from the Rastrakuta period, though at this time the Nagara seems to have died out in Karnataka. Renewed acquaintance is abundantly evident in the works of Later Calukya/Hoysala times, when the variety of modes reached its height. Not only were full size temples built in different modes during this period, but a greater diversity was created in shrine models, representations of miniature temples in the walls of the full scale temples (elements which I shall refer to as 'wall-shrines'). Contemporary inscriptions boast of the architects' skill in adorning the temple walls with these diverse forms."

From both the Early Calukya and Later Calukya/Hoysala periods there is evidence of a keen awareness of the contrasts and correspondences between Nagara and Dravida. This awareness is brought out in the occasional use at both these stages of Nagara elements in Dravida temples, and vice versa, and furthermore in thoroughly mixed-mode or hybrid temple designs. These are the subject of Chapter 10. The phenomenon of hybridity relates to the question of the allegedly cross-bred character of the 'Vesara'. I shall argue (in the Conclusion) that the supposed Northern characteristics of the 'Vesara' are not the result of a sudden borrowing in an attempt at hybridity. Similarities of form arise because the Karnata Dravida and the Nagara develop in the same way.

Chapter 9 surveys the Nagara, Phamsana and other non-Dravida temples of Karnataka, in order to appreciate the context of the Dravida works, and to understand the hybrid designs. That chapter also returns to the underlying principles of composition and evolution that are shared by the Karnata Dravida and the Nagara (see 9.1).

Material for the Study, and Previous Scholarship

Here I shall outline what fieldwork and earlier scholarship were the starting point for the 'history' part of this book, Parts 2 and 3. The study is based primarily on the observations, notes, sketches and sketch plans made when traveling around Karnataka, mainly during the summer (monsoon) of 1985. It could not have been done without photographs-my own, those kindly given or lent to me by friends, and those in the wonderful archive of the American Institute of Indian Studies, Varanasi, which brings to light many sites not documented elsewhere. That institute's Encyclopaedia of Indian Temple Architecture has been a useful and authoritative source of reference: the part containing Early Calukya and Rastrakuta temples (Vol. 1, Part 2) appeared in 1986, and publication of the sections on Later Calukya and Hoysala temples is expected soon.

All of the documented monuments in Karnataka which belong to the Karnata Dravida tradition have been taken into account in this study, as well as some undocumented examples which I have visited. Possibly these are only a small sample of what once existed; and possibly a large number of works are still to be documented, though it seems probable that all the major temples are known. In all about 200 temples have been considered (of which I have visited around two thirds), not counting non-Dravida examples from the broader Karnata tradition, and works from other regions of India used occasionally for comparison. Some of the minor or peripheral works not mentioned in the text appear in the Gazetteer (Appendix 2), which includes bibliographical references for individual temples, and in the tables (Appendix 3).

The major monuments of the Early Calukyas have figured prominently in general works on Indian architecture, which until recently have not questioned the dating proposed by Cousens and, with slight variations, Coomaraswamy (1927). The view was that the earliest Calukya temples belong to the mid-fifth century, with the other monuments appearing at rather even intervals up until the mid-eighth century. In the last thirty years Early Calukya architecture has been the subject of many specialist publications, and the picture of their chronology has greatly altered. It has now been more or less established that the earliest surviving structural temples are of the early seventh century, with a concentration of building activity from the later part of that century onwards. The first thorough reassessment of the earlier view, and the most radical, was by Gary Tartakov (Tarr, alias Tartakov, 1969). Another challenge by Tartakov to received notions concerns the relationship of Dravida temples in Karnataka to those in Tamil Nadu (see Appendix 1). Whereas it was once held that Dravidian architecture was imported into Karnataka from the deep south, where it had been invented, it is now clear that parallel, interrelated traditions developed within the broad context of South Indian art. Another study of Early Calukya temples which should be mentioned here as an essential source is George Michell's Early Western Calukya Temples (1975). This makes a systematic analysis of the important monuments in the Badami region, accompanied by invaluable measured drawings. The work of Carol Radcliffe Bolon (Radcliffe 1981), while focusing on sculpture, has clarified some questions of dating and discussed some previously little known monuments.

By contrast, the Rastrakuta temples in Karnataka have received little attention since Cousens, who himself documented only two works of that dynasty. While the famous site at Ellora has, understandably, attracted a fair amount of specialist study (notably Chatham 1977), as well as laudatory treatment in all the general histories, virtually nothing appeared on the more modest Rastrakuta works of northern Karnataka before the comprehensive survey published in the Encyclopaedia.

The Later Calukya period has suffered from similar neglect, surprisingly, considering the greater magnificence of its temples, its vastly greater output, and the enthusiastic response it evoked from the pioneering scholars. Authors of general works have been able to advance little beyond Cousens. However, one seminal work, Dhakya's book of 1977, focuses on this period. Dhaky brought to light the architectural riches of the miniature shrine models ('wall-shrines') in Later Calukya temples. Taking as a starting point two inscriptions claiming that the architects were masters of various temple forms Dhaky was able to sow that this was not an idle boast, but could be verified among the shrine models. By bringing together and furthering recent investigations into the classification of temple forms or models, the forms of shrine models, and indeed of full scale temples, could be identified. By reference to textual material (though none, unfortunately, was available from Karnataka) the terms most likely to have been used by the Karnata architects for the different modes could be deducted. An important insight of Dhaky's was that artists working in Karnataka could learn about temple forms belonging to other regions, which to them might appear 'exotic', and which they could reproduce with more or less mastery, depending largely on the directness of their contact with the foreign traditions.

On the architecture of the Hoysalas, apart from descriptive monographs on the more famous temples, two Ph.D. theses have appeared in recent years: by S. Settar (1970) and Robert Del Bonta (1978). Settar's work is particularly useful for its discussion, based on inscriptions, of the life and practices of the artists, and for its almost exhaustive list of extant Hoysala temples. Settar writes that his original aim had been to trace Karnata architecture from Aihole to Somnathpur:

About the Author :

Dr. Adam Hardy an architect, was born in 1953, studied at Cambridge, and has since practiced and taught architecture. Until recently, he was Senior Lecturer at Birmingham School of Architecture in London, where he continues to explore the relevance of traditional principles to contemporary design. His passion for Indian temples has been in full flow since his first visit to India in 1981. In the intervening period, he has written and lectured widely on the subject. This book is based on his Ph.D. research on the temples of Karnataka, completed in 1991. He is currently involved in the design of a South Indian temple complex near Birmingham.




MAP 1:  South India and the Deccan xxi
MAP 2: Karnata Dravida Temple Sites xxii
CHART Showing Periods and Schools xxiii
4.1  Introduction 65
4.2  Overall Composition : Early Phase 68
4.3 Overall Composition: Middle Phase 71
4.4 Overall Composition: Late Phase 75
4.5 Secondary Elements 81
4.6 Mouldings and Details 91
4.7 Pillars and Pilasters 104
5.1  Introduction 111
5.2 Ellora: Overall Composition 114
5.3 Ellora: Secondary Elements 118
5.4 Ellora: Mouldings and Details 120
5.5 Ellora: Pillars and Pilasters 123
5.6 Karnata Heartland: Overall Composition 125
5.7 Karnata Heartland: Secondary Elements 133
5.8 Karnata Heartland: Mouldings and Details 136
5.9 Karnata Heartland: Pillars and Pilasters 141
5.10 Sirval: Overall Composition 145
5.11 Sirval: Secondary Elements 148
5.12 Sirval: Mouldings and Details 148
5.13 Sirval: Pillars and Pilasters 151
6.1  Introduction 156
6.2 Overall Composition: Early Phase 160
6.3 Overall Composition: Mature Phase 164
6.4 Secondary Elements 179
6.5 Mouldings and Details 192
6.6 Pillars and Pilasters 203
7.1  Introduction 215
7.2 Overall Composition 219
7.3 Secondary Elements 224
7.4 Mouldings and Details 229
7.5 Pillars and Pilasters 237
8.1  Introduction 243
8.2 Overall Composition 245
8.3 Secondary Elements 253
8.4 Mouldings and Details 258
8.5 Pillars and Pilasters 262
9.1  Introduction and Anatomy 269
9.2 Non-Dravida Works: Early Calukya 277
9.3 Non-Dravida Works: Later Calukya 281
9.4 Non-Dravida Works: Hoysala 287
Chapter 10: HYBRID TEMPLES 296
APPENDIX 1: Calukya Dravida and Pallava Dravida 310
APPENDIX 2: Gazetteer of Karnata Dravida Temples 317
APPENDIX 3: Tables
Table 1: Summary of Evolutionary Tendencies 349
Table 2:  Moulding Sequences (Early Calukya) 359
Table 3:  Miniature Hara Compositions (Early Calukya and Rastrakuta) 361
Table 4:  Moulding Shapes (Superstructures) 363
Table 5:  Moulding Shapes (Plinths) 369
Table 6: Vyalamala Compositions (Superstructures) 374
Table 7: Vyalamala Compositions (Plinths) 378




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