Major Indian Temple Architecture Styles

India has a rich culture and varied heritage which has been evolved from the Indus valley civilization. The Architecture holds the indigenous cultural traditions and social requirements, economic prosperity, the religious practice of different eras. Thus, the study of architecture discloses the cultural diversities of India. Most of the Indian art is encouraged by religion. Here we are giving the details about the Major style of Temple architecture.

Indian Art and culture remains a difficult area for many UPSC aspirants. There will be a mixture of questions from Ancient India, Medieval India, and Current affairs. The old NCERT books of Ancient and Medieval India is the basic as well as the essential reading book for UPSC IAS prelims exam. The Art and Heritage NCERT book can also be used for reference.

The Gupta Age showed a new era in the history of temple architecture. Shilpashastras are the architectural texts written in early medieval times. These mention to 3 prominent styles of temple architecture. They are:

  1. Nagara
  2. Dravida
  3. Vesara
Nagara Style
  • The Nagara style is associated with the land between the Himalayas and Vindhyas and developed regionally in Northern parts of India.
  • In this style, the structure comprises of two buildings, the main taller shrine and an adjoining mandapa which is short.
  • The foremost difference between these two buildings is the shape of the shikhara. In the main shrine, a bell-shaped structure is added.
  • The temples are mainly are formed of four chambers. They are
    • Garbhagriha
    • Jagmohan
    • Natyamandir
    • Bhogamandir
  • Two distinguishing features of the Nagara style are its planning and elevation.
  • The plan is square with a number of gradual projections in the middle of each side which imparts it a cruciform shape.
  • There are four projection types. When there is
  • One projection on each side- ‘triratha’
  • Two projections – ‘Pancharatha’
  • Three projections – ‘Saptharatha’ 
  • Four projections –‘Navaratha’
  • It exhibits Shikhara-A tower, in elevation which is progressively inclining to in a convex curve.
  • The projections in the plan are also carried upwards to the top of the Shikhara. 
  • Originally in Nagara style, there were no pillars.


Dravida Style
  • Dravida style advanced in South, throughout the Chola Empire, between 9th–12th Century AD
  • It is seen in the region between the Krishna and Kaveri rivers
  • The two most important characteristics of Dravida temple architecture is:
    • Temples has more than 4 sides in the sanctum 
    • Tower or Vimana are pyramidals
  • In Dravida style temple is situated within an ambulatory hall
  • There is multiple storey called Vimana, built above the Garbhagriha
  • Pillars and pilasters are massively used in this architectural style.
  • Circular passageway around the Garbhagriha (chief deity’s room) to permit devotees to do Pradakshina.
  • Mandapa is a pillared hall with decoratively carved pillars
  • The entire structure was encircled within a courtyard surrounded by high walls.
  • Gopuram is the high gates in this courtyard which allow passage of people.
  • The Kailasanatha temple is a major example of the Dravida Architecture.


Vesara Style
  • Vesara style is at times related to the region between the Krishna River and Vindhyas emerged during early medieval period.
  • Many temples in Central India and Deccan have used the Vesara style with regional modifications.
  • It is a fusion style of both Nagara and Dravida styles of temple architecture
  • Temples built but later Chalukyas of Kalyani and Hoysalas are considered as the examples of Vesara style.
  • The height of the temple towers reduced even though the numbers of tiers are retained. This is attained by decreasing the height of individual tiers. 
  • The semi-circular erections of the Buddhist chaityas are also copied in this style.
  • In this style structures are fine finished, figures are much decorated and well-polished.

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