The Temple Architecture of India

Item Code: NAC078
Author: Adam Hardy
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Edition: 2007
ISBN: 9780470028278
Pages: 256 (Illustrated Throughout In B/W & Color)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 11.4 Inch X 8.8 Inch
Weight 1.32 kg
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Book Description
Back of the Book

Indian temples represent one of the great architectural traditions of the world. Built for Hindu, Buddhist and Jam worship, they are without parallel in the way that they combine direct sensuous appeal with a highly complex formal structure. This book explains the principles and processes underlying the designs of these monuments, providing essential historical background and placing the architecture in its cultural and religious context. It traces the origins and formation of the two classical architectural languages’ of India — the northern Nagara and southern Dravida — and their extraordinarily varied development during the great age of temple construction between the 6th and 13th centuries. The book surveys the continuing vitality of these systems up to the present, and explores the lessons that can be learned from them by architects and artists today.

By giving a coherent explanation of how to look at this architecture, as a whole and in detail, the book is able to convey a lucid and comprehensive understanding of the design concepts followed by the temple architects and of the development of temple forms. The starting point of the analysis is the realisation that the principal elements of temple designs are themselves images of temples. Once this is recognised, the complex architectural compositions become clear. It can then be seen that a perennial concern of this architecture is the expression of movement. Recurrent perceptions of the cosmos and the divine in Indian religion and philosophy are shown to have close parallels in patterns of emanation and centrifugal growth embodied in architectural form. The book is lavishly illustrated with colour photographs and analytical drawings, which are integral to the ideas and arguments put forward in the text.

Adam Hardy has been exploring the architecture of Indian temples for 25 years; it is the subject of his doctoral thesis and many of his subsequent publications. Since studying architecture at Cambridge, he has practiced as an architect and acted as consultant on the design of several Hindu temples in the UK. He was Professor of South Asian Art and Architecture at De Montfort University, Leicester, where he founded the research group PRASADA (Practice, Research and Advancement in South Asian Design and Architecture). The group is now based at the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff, where he is Reader. Hardy has been Editor of the journal South Asian Studies since 1999. He is currently leading a large research project funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council, focusing on the 11th-centu temple at Bhojpur.

From the Jacket

This book encompasses all the major temples on the Indian subcontinent, while also providing an overall understanding of temple architecture by featuring dozens of other beautiful, but lesser known works. Ranging across the core period of temple construction from the 6th to 13th centuries, it also covers the background to this period from the 2nd century BC onwards and its ongoing legacy to the present day.

Featured temple include:

• Brihadeshvara Temple, Tanjavur
• Kailasa, Ellora
• Kailasanatha, Kanhipuram
• Kandariya Mahadeva, Khajuraho
• Lingaraja Temple, Bhuvaneshvara
• Surya Temple at Modhera
• Udayeshvara Temple, Udayapur
• Virupaksha Temple, Pattadakal

John Wiley & Sons publishes a wide selection of architectural titles, covering subjects ranging from architectural history, the environment, interior design, landscape architecture, urban design and new technologies. It is the publisher of the prestigious international journal Architectural Design, which is published bi-monthly in book form and is also available on subscription. It also produces other high-quality, illustrated architecture books. For further details see


A is for Aedicule
There is a kind of play common to nearly every child; it is to get under a piece of furniture or some extemporized shelter of his own and to exclaim that he is in a “house This kind of play has much to do with the aesthetics of architecture.” So opens John Summerson’s essay ‘Heavenly Mansions’ in which he interprets Gothic architecture — niches, openings, pinnacles, the pointed arch itself and the whole bay system — in terms of the aedicule. Aedicule, from the Latin aedicula (diminutive of aedes), means ‘little building’, and the term is applied both to a miniature shrine and to a representation of a shrine in architectural ornament; for example, in western classical architecture, the pedimented frame of a niche or a doorway, so familiar that it is rarely thought of as a temple-image.

Noting how aedicules combine cosines and ceremony, Summerson continues, ‘I am not going to trace back the history of the aedicule, but I suspect it is practically as old as architecture itself, and as widespread. The incidence of the aedicule in some Indian architecture, for instance, is very striking.’2 in a footnote he cites James Fergusson’s observation. in his pioneering work of 1876, that ‘everywhere ... in India, architectural decoration is made up of small models of large buildings’.3 Although Fergusson did not elaborate on this insight, subsequent writers on the architecture of Indian temples have not failed to notice the miniature buildings adorning them, often using the term ‘aedicule’ or ‘aedicula’ for a niche in a temple wall or a pavilion perched in its tower. However, the particular aedicules that they see are only part of the story, missing the whole storey. As one who remembers having a house (a palace, actually) under the table, it was some time after my first trip to India that it gradually became clear to me that aedicules are not just ornaments, but the basic units from which most Indian temple architecture is composed. A temple design is conceived as containing numerous smaller temples or shrines, arranged hierarchically at various scales, embedded within the whole or within one another. Once this simple concept is understood, other things fall into place. As Summerson found for Gothic, ‘The aedicule unlocks door after door’.

Before aedicules come shrines, houses for gods. It is impossible to know when the worship of a deity embodied in a sculpted image, and housed in a shrine, was first practiced in India. This mode of worship could, conceivably, have been prevalent in the ancient civilization of the Indus Valley (4th-2nd millennium BC). It was not, however, the official practice of the petty kingdoms dominated by the Aryans in northern India in the early centuries of the 1st millennium BC. This centered on sacrificial ritual around an altar, performed by Brahmin (or Brahman) priests. Such was the early orthodox form, sometimes referred to as Brahmanism, of the vast confluence of beliefs and practices which we now know as Hinduism. Various heterodox groups’ two lasting religions emerged, Buddhism and Jainism. Both held that enlightenment and liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth could be attained only through one’s own efforts, Jainism prescribing strict asceticism, Buddhism teaching the path of moderation and the practice of meditation. Both religions developed through monasticism, and both attracted support from the affluent merchant classes. A century or two (depending on which theory about his dates is followed) after Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, the spread of Buddhism, and of masonry structures erected in its service, was spurred by support of the Maurya emperor Ashoka (c 268—233 Bc). It is to Buddhism that we owe the earliest monumental architecture still more or less intact in South Asia, consisting of mounded reliquaries or stupas, monasteries and rock-cut sanctuaries.

Neither Buddhism nor Jainism, in their earlier years, advocated the use of religious images, or shrines to house them. In the early centuries AD, devotional worship through sculpted images increased in popularity among various cults which grew and merged into later forms of Hinduism, becoming the dominant form of religion under the Gupta dynasty (320—c 550). This required monumental temples in which to enshrine the divine embodiment. The inner sanctum of a shrine would shelter the main deity, most often Vishnu or Shiva. A growing pantheon, seen as the entourage or as the manifestations of the central god, was housed in the temple walls, especially outside, requiring aedicules to frame their images, or at least to evoke their presence. Buddhist practices, by the Gupta period, also entailed the use of images.

Though originally atheistic, by this time Buddhism in India had developed into forms known as the Mahayana (Greater Vehicle’), more pantheistic, more accessible to the laity and more devotional in attitude. Images of the Buddha needed to be enshrined, along with those of past and future incarnations of the Buddha, and those of saints (Bodhisattvas). To serve this end, while retaining its own building types, Buddhist architecture was tending towards aedicularity earlier even than mergent Hindu temple architecture. Analogous trends can be seen in Jainism. Having begun, like Buddhism, as an atheistic philosophy, Jainism developed a pantheon of its great teachers (Tirthankaras), who populated its heavens alongside some of the Hindu gods and throngs of celestial beings. Jam temples, therefore, came to require a profusion of images installed in auricular architecture; and, for a given region and period, Jam temple architecture is distinguishable from Hindu temple architecture mainly by its iconography, and to some extent its layout.

From the Guptas onwards the ruling elites of Indian kingdoms were mainly Vaishnava or Shaiva (worshippers of Vishnu or Shiva), ie Hindu; but, as well as endowing Hindu temples, they often supported Buddhist and Jam institutions. By the 10th century, however, through a combination of assimilation and suppression, Buddhism had died out in most of the subcontinent. Jainism remained a relatively small but significant force in many regions, but Hinduism predominated. Throughout the ‘early medieval period’ (c 6th-13th centuries), the core period for this book. Hindu temple construction took place on a scale comparable to the building of churches and cathedrals in medieval Europe. The foundation and endowment of temples played a central role in the development of state and society. Temples became social and educational centres, and important economic institutions – landowners, employers, moneylenders and dispensers of charity. They were a canvas for the visual arts, a stage for the performing arts. By the end of this period the great temple complexes in south India could have hundreds of employees, from priests and administrators to masons, cooks and potters.


Part 1: Context and Concepts 8
1. Introduction 10
2. Centres of Power 22
3. Temple, Body and Movement36
4. The Emanating Universe44
5. Placing the Gods 56
6. The Architect and Unfolding Traditions62
Part 2: Precursors 72
7. Early India Architecture74
8. Later Rock-Cut Architecture82
Part 3: Temple Design 88
9. Plans and Spaces90
10. Nagara Shrines106
11. Dravida Shrines124
12. Geometry136
13. Mouldings144
14. Pillars148
15. Ceilings156
16. Gavakshas 160
Part 4: A Brief History of Nagara Temples 166
17. Early Nagara Temples168
18. Latina and R elated Valabhi Temples 174
19. Shekhari Temples182
20. Bhumija Temples188
21. Temples of Eastern India192
Part 5: A Brief History of Dravida Temples 204
22. Early Dravida Temples206
23. The Great 8th-Century Dravida Temples210
24. Temples of the Cholas and Their Contemporaries216
25. The Karnata Dravida Tradition Continued222
Part 6: Legacy 232
26. What Happened Afterwards234
27. What Next?242
Glossary and Bibliography 244
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