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Indian temples have been a source of attraction, not only as a place of worship for the devout, but also as an architectural marvel for the curious tourist. Indian temples with its imposing towers, intricate carvings and awe inspiring size were in fact the result of a gradual evolution over time. In the Vedic period (1500 to 500 BC) there were actually no temples as such. They propitiated the Gods by performing yagas using sacrificial altars. Details of how such altars may be constructed where meticulously mentioned in The SULVASUTRA (literally meaning ‘the rules of the cord’). These YAGASALAS later got transformed to temples.

Earliest temples were made of timber and clay, and though they were later replaced by the more enduring granite, there are still temples in Kerala and Dakshina Karnataka made with timber and which has withstood the ravages of time. Cave temples which are found in profusion particularly in Central India, were a later innovation. Though the basic temple patterns are the same, temple styles fall into two categories. North Indian style called NAGARA and southern style called DRAVIDIAN. There is a derivative of the above two styles which is called VESARA.


NAGARA style temples have curvilinear towers as against DRAVIDIAN temples which have truncated pyramids. The derivative style VESARA is a combination of both NAGARA and DRAVIDIAN type of architecture.

NAGARA style temple architecture originated during the Gupta period (320 -650 AD) and is found mostly in North and Central India. The temple complexes at TIGAWA (In modern MADHYA PRADESH), NACHNA in RAJASTHAN and DEOGARH in UTTAR PRADESH are examples of this. The major developments in temple architecture were during the following periods.

750 – 1250 AD in Orissa

950 – 1050 AD in Central India

10th to 11th Century in Rajasthan and

11th to 13th Century in Gujarat.

Some of temples worth seeing are LINGARAJA temple at Bhubaneshwar, JAGANNATHA temple in Puri, SURYA temple at Konarak.


The southern style DRAVIDIAN temples had its genesis during the age of the PALLAVAS of Kanchipuram (600 -850 AD) and later developed by the CHALUKYAS of Badami and PANDYAS of Madurai. The temple complexes at MAMMALAPURAM (earlier known as MAHABALIPURAM) IN Tamil nadu, LAKDHAN temple in Aihole and Kasinatha temple in Pattadakkal are examples of this style of architecture. The evolution of Southern temples were as follow:

600 -850 AD in Tamil nadu during the period of the Pallavas ( rock cut and RATHA style temples of Mahabalipuram, Kailasanatha and Vaikunta Perumal temples of Kanchipuram)

900 – 850 in Tamil Nadu during the Chola dynasty ( Brihadeeshwara and Srirangam temples)

1336 – 1565 during the period of the Vijayagara empire in Karnataka (Pampavati and Sri Vithala temples at Hampi)

1600 to 1700 during the Nayaks of Madurai. (Enlarged the existing Meenakshi temple complex by making it ornate and adding pillared corridors)

The VESARA style temples were influenced by the Buddhist apsidal chapels and evolved during the period the Later CHALUKYAS.

If the ancient YAGASALAS or RIG VEDIC times were based on the SULVASUTRAS the later temple complexes were based on VASTU SASTRA which had it sources from such diverse scriptures as the SUTRAS, PURANAS, AGAMAS and TANTRIC literature.


Konarak sub Temple

Konarak sub Temple

Lingaraj Temple Bhubaneshwar, Orissa - Nagara style

Lingaraj Temple Bhubaneshwar, Orissa - Nagara style

Vesara style temple

Vesara style temple

Brihadeshwara Temple - Dravidian style

Brihadeshwara Temple - Dravidian style

Cave temples of Ajanta

Cave temples of Ajanta

Five Rathas of Mahabalipuram

Five Rathas of Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram plan

Mahabalipuram plan



Kerala style architecture - Triprayar Sri Rama Temple

Kerala style architecture - Triprayar Sri Rama Temple

Books on Temple architecture - Medieval period

Books on Temple architecture - Medieval period


sreelakshmi on January 22, 2013:

thaks for the information but i need more references on temple architecture plezzz provide som useful suggesions

FAITS on June 25, 2012:


ram_m (author) from India on May 26, 2012:

I'am honoured by your comment Mountain Blossoms. Thank you

Marianne Kellow from SE Thailand on May 25, 2012:

Such good information and the photos are brilliant! Truly inspirational. As I read each of your hubs I feel I must do more reading, India has such beautiful architecture, culture and learning. Thank you once again. MB

ram_m (author) from India on April 25, 2012:

thank you aaquib

aaqib on April 25, 2012:

awesome very useful for my studies

ram_m (author) from India on February 18, 2012:

thank you shamila

shamila on February 05, 2012:

awsum jod this is very useful for my studies

ram_m (author) from India on November 22, 2010:

Thank you lex123

ram_m (author) from India on November 22, 2010:

Thank you Soumysrajan

lex123 on November 21, 2010:

Great hub on Indian temples. Very good information. Thanks for writing this.

soumyasrajan from Mumbai India and often in USA on September 21, 2010:

Quite amazing picture Ram. Breathtaking! I liked your description of classification too.

ram_m (author) from India on February 27, 2010:

Thank you Ben

ben on February 26, 2010:

good work!

ram_m (author) from India on January 14, 2010:

Thanks Rmnathan

Rmnathan from Sharjah on January 13, 2010:

Very good hub on Indian temple architecture. Thanks.