Hindu temple architecture as the main form of Hindu architecture has many varieties of style, though the basic nature of the Hindu temple remains the same, with the essential feature an inner sanctum, the garbha griha or womb-chamber, where the primary Murti or the image of a deity is housed in a simple bare cell. Around this chamber there are often other structures and buildings, in the largest cases covering several acres. On the exterior, the garbha griha is crowned by a tower-like shikhara, also called the vimana in the south. The shrine building often includes an ambulatory for parikrama (circumambulation), a mandapa congregation hall, and sometimes an antarala antechamber and porch between garbhagriha and mandapa. There may further mandapas or other buildings, connected or detached, in large temples, together with other small temples in the compound.
Styles of architecture
Dravida and Nagara architecture of the different styles of temple architecture in India, the Nagara architecture of northern India, and the Dravidian architecture of southern India are most common. Other styles are also found. For example, the rainy climate and the materials of construction available in Bengal, Kerala, influenced the evolutions of styles and structures in these regions. At other sites such as Ellora and Pattadakal, adjacent temples may have features drawing from different traditions, as well as features in a common style local to that region and period. In modern era literature, many styles have been named after the royal dynasties in whose territories they were built.
The design, especially the floor plan, of the part of a Hindu temple around the sanctum or shrine follows a geometrical design called Vastu-Purusha-mandala.
The four cardinal directions help create the axis of a Hindu temple, around which is formed a perfect square in the space available. The circle of mandala circumscribes the square. The square is considered divine for its perfection and as a symbolic product of knowledge and human thought, while the circle is considered earthly, human, and observed in everyday life (moon, sun, horizon, water drop, rainbow). Each supports the other. The square is divided into perfect square grids. In large temples, this is often an 8x8 or 64 grid structure. In ceremonial temple superstructures, this is an 81 sub-square grid.
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