India is a land of a myriad of cultures and their architectural style reflects this. Inspired by many cultures and a source of inspiration for countless others, Hindu Architecture in India is a concoction of the various religions followed in the country. The best example of the varied architecture found there can be found in their temples.
The History of Hindu Architecture
One of the early influencers of Hindu architecture was the Buddhist religion. The characteristic mountain shape of Hindu Architecture dots Buddhist sites and still continues in similar fashion in some cultures.
Another influencer is ruling dynasties in India. During the early ruling dynasties, sculptors used to carve out colossal temples from huge solid stones from mountains. Kings of a dynasty named Pallava built Kanchipuram, a place consisting of over a hundred Hindu temples during the 7th to 9th centuries AD. Each of these shrines consisted of a chancel-like area which had a rising tower with a stepped design.
Most temples in India were devoted to the god Shiva and had minimal interiors. However, as time passed, the pillars and interior walls of the temples were embellished with scenes taken from the holy scriptures of Mahabharata and Ramayana. The Thanjavur temples set a benchmark for the Chola dynasties and are famous for both their stone and bronze sculptures, as well as narrative paintings in the interiors.
There is much architectural diversity in India. For example, temples in the North are less decorated than those in the South. Architecture in Central India is quite different from that in the North and the South. The world-famous Khajuraho temples are constructed with spiral superstructures and are made of sandstone and not from mortar. During the construction, the stones were put together with special joints and held in place by gravity. This form of construction required very precise joints and exceptional construction skills.
Though architectural styles differ according to region, construction styles follows a similar pattern. Hindus emphasize the liberal use of images of gods and goddesses. Secondly, all the Hindu Temples have a chancel-like structure known as vimana, which has the upper pyramid-like tapering portion called the shikhara. The place where the deity rests is known as garbha griha, which literally means “womb house,” and is devoid of any light. A pillared hall known as mandapa is where the devotees assembled for prayers.
Earlier, the mandapa was built at a specific distance from the main temple; however, later on both the buildings were made under the same roof. The temples of Khajuraho follow this pattern, wherein each chamber has a separate pyramid-like roof. However, the pyramid-like roof was not a compulsion, as some parts of India followed a different format.
With the influx of foreign invasion, the style of Hindu Architecture underwent a series of changes. With time, images of musicians, demons, birds, cows and a thousand others found a place on the temple façade along with gods, goddesses, and mortal beings. Even beasts straight from folklore can also be spotted, carved out in a way that make them seem alive.
Hindu Architectures rests in the heart of temples. Besides being a place of worship, the temples stand as a witness to the magnificence and splendour of art. This is the reason that they are and will remain a center of attraction for millions of tourists, not only Indian but also internationally, for a thousand more years to come.