Art and Architecture in India – 1


The architecture of India is rooted in its historyculture and religion. Indian architecture progressed with time and assimilated the many influences that came as a result of India‘s global discourse with other regions of the world throughout its millennia-old past. The architectural methods practiced in India are a result of examination and implementation of its established building traditions and outside cultural interactions. The art and architecture of India dates back to Indus Valley Civilization.

Art and Architectural forms in Indus Valley period:

The Indus Valley Civilization (3300 BCE – 1700 BCE) covered a large area around the Indus River basin and beyond. In its mature phase, from about 2600 to 1900 BCE, it produced several cities marked by great uniformity within and between sites, including HarappaLothal, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Mohenjo-daro. The civic and town planning and engineering aspects of these are remarkable, but the design of the buildings is “of a startling utilitarian character”. There are granaries, drains, water-courses and tanks, but neither palaces nor temples have been identified, though cities have a central raised and fortified “citadel”.Mohenjo-daro has wells which may be the predecessors of the stepwell.

As many as 700 wells have been discovered in just one section of the city, leading scholars to believe that ‘cylindrical brick lined wells’ were invented by the Indus Valley Civilization.

Types of Architecture:


A number of architectural texts known as the Shilpashastras were written in early medieval times. These refer to three major styles of temple architecture, Nagara, Dravida, and Vesara. The  Nagara style is associated with the land between the Himalayas and Vindhyas.
Dravida style with the land between the Krishna and Kaveri rivers,

  • Vesara styleis sometimes associated with the area between the Vindhyas and the Krishna river.


  • The Nagara style has its origin in thestructural temples of the Gupta period, especially the Dashavtara temple of Deogarh and the brick temple of Bhitargaon.
  • Two distinct features of the Nagara style are –planning and other elevation.
     The plan is square with a number of gradual projections in the middle of each side which Imparts it a cruciform shape. When there is one projection on each side, it is called ‘triratha’, two projections – ‘Pancharatha’, three projections – ‘Saptharatha’ and four projections –‘Navaratha’. These projections can occur throughout the height of the structure
  • In elevation it exhibits a tower (shikhara) gradually inclining towards in a convex curve.
  • The projections in the plan are also carried upwards to the top of the shikhara.
  • It is also called the rekha shikhara
  • In Nagara styletemples, the structure consists of two buildings, the main shrine taller and an adjoining shorter mandapa. The main difference between these two is the shape of the shikhara. In the main shrine, abell shaped structure further adds to the height. In this style, the temples mainly are formed of four chambers, first the ‘Garbhagriha’, then second Jagmohan’, third ‘Natyamandir’ and fourth chamber the ‘Bhogamandir’.
  • Originally in nagara style there were no pillars.
  • By the eighth century the Nagara style emerges in its characteristic form. The Nagara style exhibits distinct varieties in elaboration. The temple belonging to the Nagara style of architecture may be seen from the Himalaya to the north of Bijapur district in the south, from the Punjab in the west to Bengal to the east



  • Itemerged during early medieval period.
    It is a hybrid style that borrowed from the northern and southern styles. So, it is a mixture of both Nagara and Dravida styles of temple architecture.
  • Temples built in the Deccan under the later Chalukyas of Kalyani and Hoysalas are considered examples of this style.
    Vesara style reduces the height of the temple towers even though the numbers of tiers are retained. This is accomplished by reducing the height of individual tiers.
  • The semi circular structures of the Buddhist chaityas are also borrowed in this style, as in the Durga temple of Aihole.
  • Many temples in Central India and Deccan have used the Vesara style with regional modifications. The Papanatha temple (680 AD) in particular and someo ther temples to a lesser extent located at Pattadakal demonstrate panache for this stylistic overlap‛.
  • The trend of merging two styles was started by the Chalukyas of Badami (500-735 AD) who built temples in a style that was essentially a mixture of the Nagara and Dravida styles, further refined by the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta (750-983 AD) in Ellora, Chalukyas of Kalyani (983-1195 AD) in Lakkundi, Dambal, Gadag etc. and epitomized by the Hoysalas (1000-1330 AD).
  • Most of the temples built in Halebid, Belur andSomanathapura are classified under this style.