Temple architecture in India can be traced back over 3000 years, from the early cave temples of Aihole and Ellora to the modern shrines in New Delhi like the Lotus Temple and Akshardham Temple Complex. India’s long history of temple construction has given rise to many styles of architecture, which each embody its design principles, symbolism, and cultural significance. Here, in this article you will find explore how temples were built in India.

The site

The places of pilgrimage are distributed through the entire country and are called Tirtha and Ksetra. According to ancient text ‘Mahabharat’ there are large number of these sacred sites. It is said that Tirthas and Ksetras are potent sites were a presence is felt to dwell or we can say that at such places “the gods are seen at play”. The gods are not only installed in Tirthas which are situated on the banks of rivers, lakes and on the seashore, at the confluence of rivers and estuaries, but also on hill-tops and mountain-slopes, in forests, groves and gardens, near the abodes of the blest or hermitages, in villages, towns and cities.

Temple Architecture
Sacred Pond in Temple Architecture

Site and Builder

Man here is the patron or Yajamana on whose behalf the temple is built by the architect who is guided by the priest in the principles of his work. The diagram of Vastupurusa is set where communication between man (the patron) and the Purusha (essence of all things) is established. The time for the establishment is set and in the symbolic diagram of the Vastupurusa, all times and all places are set up.

Purification, Insemination, and Levelling of the Site

Before Purification, and leveling of the site, the fiteness of the soil is checked through several tests. One of the most common test was to dig a pit and the unearth soil was put back. After the earth was put back in the pit, the level then either exceeds the pit in quantity, is level with it or lower. Later water was pour into the pit over night and the quality of soil was judged according to the quantity of the water found there in the morning. Once quality of soil was determined, the purification and leveling of site was done to built temple.

The Plan

Ancient people of India believed that Prithvi, (the element and goddess Earth) is the ground of architectural rituals, as it is the realm of manifestation and of bodily existence. It is the place where mortals and immortals reside. Vastu is the primarily planned site of the building and is shaped square as a rule. Its full name is made of three words, Vastu – Purusa – Mandala, as Vastupurusamandalam.

Temple Architecture

The relation of the Vastupurusamandala to the site-plan, ground-plan and vertical section of any building is similar’ to that of the tonic and any musical composition. The Vastupurusamandala gives the principle of all planned architectural form and the prototype of its various rhythms. Vastu-sastra speaks of Talacchanda or Adhaschanda, the rhythm of the level and of Urdhvacchanda, the rhythm of the elevation implying the proportionate measurement which connects the ground-plan and the vertical section of a building.

The Vastupurusamandala is the plan of all architectural form of the Hindus. The site-plan, the ground-plan, the horizontal and vertical sections are regulated by its norm. Originally and in practice the site-plan is laid out according to the Vastupurusamandala; and the ‘general form of the temple’ given in the earlier texts, rests on the Vastupurusamandala.

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