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Hinduism Architecture
by
Adam Hardy

Introduction

Even without considering the vexed question of defining Hinduism, to define “Hindu architecture” is problematic because it cannot be clearly separated from Indian architecture created in the service of other religions. The monumental temple architecture that developed in the Gupta age (c. 320–550 CE) has roots in earlier traditions known mainly from Buddhist structures, and for long periods the same architectural styles were shared by Jain and Hindu temples, and at times by Buddhist ones as well. The categories of “Hindu” and “Indo-Islamic” architecture no longer seem as distinct as they once did, because the extent of interaction and fusion has become apparent. Nor, in characterizing “Hindu architecture,” can sacred buildings be neatly separated from secular ones, as is reflected in the parallel treatment accorded to temples, towns, and residences in the traditional architectural texts. With these provisos, a bibliography of architecture in the context of Hinduism is bound to give emphasis, as is done here, to the primary architectural expression of Hinduism, the Hindu temple. The current article deals principally with South Asia; it will be supplemented by material on Southeast Asia at a later date.

General Overviews

Michell 1988 is an accessible introduction to the Hindu temple. Michell 1989 is a practical tool for anyone embarking on visiting temples, of all periods, beyond the best-known tourist sites. Tadgell 1990 provides a substantial synthesis, treating Hindu architecture in a broad single-volume survey of the architecture of the subcontinent. Hardy 2007 aims to provide both an introduction to the subject and a sense of the whole, explaining the design principles of the classical Nāgara and Drāviḍa (north and south Indian) “languages” of Indian temple architecture, and connecting these with historical and religious contexts by showing common underlying patterns. Dagens 2009 provides a succinct and reasoned understanding of “the Indian temple” in India and beyond, including its essential forms, rituals, and symbols.

  • Dagens, Bruno. Le Temple Indien Miroir du Monde. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2009.

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    The best French overview of the subject, providing a lucid exposition of general principles rather than a stylistic survey. Builds on the author’s textual scholarship and archaeological experience in India, Afghanistan, and Southeast Asia, and uses French rather than Sanskrit architectural terminology. Includes line drawings, mainly from other French scholars.

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  • Hardy, Adam. The Temple Architecture of India. Chichester, UK: Wiley, 2007.

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    Explains Nāgara and Drāviḍa architecture, their development, typologies, and regional styles, especially between the 5th and 13th centuries. Also traces earlier roots and later manifestations. The core section is on temple design, and an introductory section connects ideas and context to the formal analysis by showing common patterns, especially of sequential emanation. Many explanatory drawings and color photos.

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  • Michell, George. The Hindu Temple: An Introduction to its Meaning and Form. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988.

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    Provides readable historical and religious background chapters with accessible explanation of forms. Brief stylistic survey includes Nepal and Southeast Asia. First published in 1977 (London: Elek).

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  • Michell, George. The Penguin Guide to the Monuments of India. Vol. 1. Buddhist, Jain, Hindu. London: Viking, 1989.

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    Accessible introductory material and a reliable, practical guide to the author’s anthology of sites from all periods, including many lesser-known ones. Useful maps and site plans.

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  • Tadgell, Christopher. The History of Architecture in India: From the Dawn of Civilization to the End of the Raj. London: Architecture, Design, and Technology Press, 1990.

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    Single-volume survey of Indian architectural history. A work of synthesis, generously illustrated, with some photos in color and drawings reproduced from earlier Archaeological Survey of India reports (and elsewhere). The author is a respected architectural historian, though not a specialist in the field, and the book occasionally gives credence to outdated sources.

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Reference Works and Archives

Building on pioneering documentation during the colonial period by the Archaeological Survey of India and regional archaeological departments, extensive recording of Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain religious art and architecture has been carried out by the American Institute of Indian Studies (see the American Institute of Indian Studies Photo Archive, available through the Digital South Asia Library). This work, covering many previously unpublished sites, is available through the Institute’s Encyclopaedia of Indian Temple Architecture (Meister, et al. 1983–), an authoritative reference work on the subject that has introduced regional stylistic categories, playing down dynastic labels. This is an indispensable work, though difficult for nonspecialists: the copious Sanskrit terminology, deriving from serious textual scholarship, is appropriately indigenous but inaccessible, and the phase-by-phase, site-by-site, descriptive format makes general principles and stylistic continuities hard to grasp. Huntington and Huntington 1985, though far less comprehensive, is a reliable reference work and overview for architecture as well as art, and survey articles in ,Grove Art Online are also useful for reference. Other online photographic archives, such as WHAV and ArtStor also have some relevant material.

  • ArtStor Digital Library.

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    Online resource containing relevant material, including the images from the ACSAA Color Slide Project (1974–2006), set up by the American Council for Southern Asian Art to provide slides of the art and architecture of South and Southeast Asian countries for teaching and research. Available to subscribers and participating institutions only.

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    • Digital South Asia Library. American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS) Photo Archive.

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      Vast archive of black-and-white photos, providing an invaluable resource for research. The collection is housed at the AIIS Center for Art and Archaeology in Gurgaon, India, with a large portion duplicated at the University of Pennsylvania. Online version includes much of the collection. The search mechanism is not user-friendly.

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      • Grove Art Online

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        Now part of Oxford Art Online, this online version of the Grove Dictionary of Art contains a range of reliable survey articles relevant to the present subject. This work was first published in print as The Dictionary of Art in 1996. Available to subscribers only.

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        • Huntington, Susan L., with John C. Huntington. The Art of Ancient India: Buddhist, Hindu, Jain. New York: Weatherhill, 1985.

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          A large, scholarly, and readable overview. More Buddhist than Hindu, and more art than architecture, but reliable and fully abreast of the latest scholarship at the time of writing. Extensive bibliographies organized according to chapter themes. Begins with prehistory and covers Hindu art up to the Nayaka period (to 17th century), but Islamic art is outside the scope.

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        • The John C. and Susan L. Huntington Photographic Archive of Buddhist and Asian Art

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          Though more Buddhist than Hindu, and more sculpture than architecture, much useful material is freely available from this attractive and easily searched archive of color images from South, Southeast, and East Asia. Material from museums as well as sites.

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          • Meister, Michael W., Madhusudan A. Dhaky, and Krishna Deva, eds. Encyclopaedia of Indian Temple Architecture. 7 vols. New Delhi: American Institute of Indian Studies, 1983–.

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            Ongoing monumental project published in two-part volumes that contain both text and plates (black-and-white photos, drawings—mainly plans and ornamental details). Predominantly medieval, the series has reached the end of the 18th century for much of South India, but is still only at 1000 CE for the north. The Sanskrit terminology is appropriate but difficult.

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          • Western Himalayan Art Vienna (WHAV) Archive

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            A growing online archive of color images, site-by-site and with basic data, made available by the University of Vienna. The focus is on Tibetan and western Himalayan art, but diverse other sites in South Asia are included.

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            Collections of Papers

            Various multiauthor collections of papers largely or wholly relevant to the present theme have been published since 1970, including Chandra 1975, Williams 1981, Dehejia 1988, Desai and Mason 1993, and Hardy 2007. Dehejia 1988 focuses on a single theme: royal patronage. The other examples cited here treat more disparate themes. They include some research of lasting value to specialists, while at the same time providing a useful entrée into more academic discourses for students wishing to go beyond introductory surveys. Each gives a snapshot of the preoccupations and approaches of scholars in the field at their respective dates of publication.

            • Chandra, Pramod, ed. Studies in Indian Temple Architecture. New Delhi: American Institute of Indian Studies, 1975.

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              Begins with the editor’s survey of the early historiography of the subject. Contains some memorable studies on temple forms and styles that have had a lasting effect in the field, including Dhaky on Māru-Gurjara style and Krishna Deva on Bhūmija mode. Some of the papers use Sanskrit terminology without a glossary. Now difficult to obtain.

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            • Dehejia, Vidya, ed. Royal Patrons and Great Temple Art. Bombay: Marg, 1988.

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              There is often no record of who patronized a temple, and patronage has never been exclusively royal. This generously illustrated volume, however, contains nine accessible essays on known royal patrons (and one general) and their monuments, exploring their varied motivations.

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            • Desai, Vishaka, and Darielle Mason, eds. Gods, Guardians, and Lovers: Temple Sculpture from North India, AD 700–1200. New York: The Asia Society, 1993.

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              Published to accompany a sculpture exhibition, with sumptuous color photos. Relevant essays: Chattopadhyaya on religious centers related to the historiography of state formation, Willis on royal patronage, Meister on temple as cosmos, and Mason on placement of iconography.

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            • Hardy, Adam, ed. The Temple in South Asia: Volume 2 of the Proceedings of the 18th Conference of the European Association of South Asian Archaeologists, London, 2005. London: British Association for South Asian Studies, 2007.

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              Relevant essays include Meister on “new evidence for vernacular origins for the Indian temple,” Orr questioning the idea of Chola “imperial temple culture,” Branfoot on how the Vijayanāgara “imperial style” related to past regional traditions, Foekema on medieval temples of Maharashtra, Hardy on the gavākṣa motif, and Jain on haveli temples.

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            • Williams, Joanna G., ed. Kalādarśana: American Studies in the Art of India. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1981.

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              Papers directly relevant to the present theme are: Donaldson on Orissan dance pavilions (nāṭa-mandira), Meister on the early temple plan at Mundesvari, Stadtner on early stellate temple plans in Kosala, Tartakov questioning the “flat-roofed temple” hypothesis, and Williams on Gupta temples and wooden prototypes.

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            Meanings of the Temple

            During the first half of the 20th century, a new emphasis on the spirituality of Indian art and architecture was epitomized by A. K. Coomaraswamy, who came to see Indian art as a particular embodiment of a universal “Perennial Philosophy.” In this neo-Platonic/neo-Vedantic view, traditional art has meaning by reflecting transcendent archetypes. Coomaraswamy1995, a volume of essays on architectural theory, provides an introduction to Coomaraswamy’s thinking. Kramrisch 1946, a seminal work drawing on the same intellectual currents, conveys a powerful overall interpretation of its subject. Kramrisch brings together an understanding of religious texts with knowledge of vāstuśāstras and śilpaśāstras, canonical Indian texts on architecture and sculpture, to interpret the symbolism of the temple as, above all, a “monument of manifestation.” This interpretation, bound up with the idea of the temple as an image of the cosmos, has remained influential, although more recent scholarship has generally been cautious about ascribing symbolism to forms. Dhaky 1971 brings to light documentary evidence for the interpretation of the temple as a cosmos. Granoff 1977 offers an alternative view of the temple as a vision of heaven.

            • Coomaraswamy, Ananda K. Essays in Architectural Theory. Edited by Michael Meister. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1995.

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              Includes six essays from 1930 through 1947, selected for their bearing on architecture. In the essay on “Ornament,” Coomaraswamy argues for its necessity for an object’s efficacy through “adequate symbolism,” and in “An Indian Temple: the Kandarya Mahadeo” he stresses the analogies between temple, body, and cosmos.

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            • Dagens, Bruno. “Le temple corps du dieu.” In Traités, temples et images du monde indien: études d’histoire et d’archaeologie. Compiled by Marie-Luce Barazier-Billoret and Vincent Lefèvre, 125–149. Pondicherry, India: Institut Français de Pondichéry, 2005.

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              A systematic examination of the notion that the Indian temple is conceived as the body of the enshrined deity. Surveys body-related architectural terminology and textual passages enumerating correspondences between temple elements and the divine body. Suggests that temples express the nature of the divine body as a container of the entire cosmos.

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            • Dhaky, M. A. “Prāsāda as Cosmos.” Adyar Library Bulletin 35.3–4 (1971): 211–226.

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              A short paper on an 11th-century western Indian text, the Vāstuśāstra of Viśvakarman, which calls down the cosmos into the temple, proclaiming that natural elements (mountains, sky, etc.) should be invoked into parts of the interior, and a sequence of Shiva’s manifestations are allocated in the components of the walls and superstructure.

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            • Granoff, Phyllis. “Heaven on Earth: Temples and Temple Cities of Medieval India.” In India and Beyond: Aspects of Literature, Meaning, Ritual and Thought; Essays in Honour of Frits Staal. Edited by Dick van der Meij, 170–193. London: Kegan Paul, 1977.

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              A lively paper offering a convincing interpretation, based on descriptions of heaven in the puranas, of temple architecture as a vision of heaven, full of sensuous delights. Exposes anomalies in entrenched ideas on iconographic placement and critiques the “unfolding cosmos” interpretation of the temple, but concludes that it may also be valid.

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            • Kramrisch, Stella. The Hindu Temple. 2 vols. Calcutta: University of Calcutta, 1946.

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              Cumbersome but seminal. The grandiose writing style still bludgeons the unwary into taking it for gospel, and references are often not given. For contemporary readers this volume may appear neo-Vedantic and essentialist, treating the temple as a single phenomenon and overemphasizing continuity from Vedic times. Reprinted several times.

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            Social and Political Aspects

            A fair number of studies attempt to relate the Hindu temple to its social, political, and economic contexts. Those listed here are selected from the relatively few that bring architecture into the picture. Willis 2009 provides a historically grounded account of the transition from the sacrificial cults of ancient India to early Hinduism and the religion of the temple. Inden 1985, a paper on the “imperial” temple, does not discuss architecture directly but evokes irresistible architectural analogies in its description of the “cosmomoral order” constructed by early medieval monarchs. Babb, et al. 2008 and The Indian Temple: Production, Place, Patronage present work from recent interdisciplinary projects attempting to achieve a holistic view embracing architecture and society. The former study reflects a growing interest in the afterlives of monuments, in their reinventions and reappropriations, a concern also reflected by Wagoner 2007.

            • Babb, Lawrence A., John E. Court, and Michael W. Meister. Desert Temples: Sacred Centers of Rajasthan in Historical, Art-Historical, and Social Contexts. Jaipur, India: Rawat, 2008.

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              Brings together art history, religious studies, and anthropology in a series of papers on four ancient, living temples, two at Osian. For each, the authors explore patronage and use by different groups of Jains and Hindus. They reveal discontinuities of patronage and contestations between disparate groups constructing their respective social identities around the temples.

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            • Inden, Ronald. “The Temple and the Hindu Chain of Being.” Puruṣārtha 8 (1985): 53–73.

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              Taking as an example the now lost 8th-century Kashmiri “imperial” temple of Lalitaditya, Inden argues that the temple was an integral part of the king’s efforts to forge a hierarchical “chain of being” linking the political realm via the monarch to the broader universe and upward to the gods.

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            • The Indian Temple: Production, Place, Patronage.

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              Website of an interdisciplinary project focusing on the vast, unfinished 11th-century temple at Bhojpur and its patron, the Paramara king Bhoja. From this focus, project collaborators explore how medieval temples were built, their distribution in relation to state formation, and the role of the royal patron. The project is hosted by PRĀSĀDA (Practice, Research and Advancement in South Asian Design and Architecture), based at the Welsh School of Architecture at Cardiff University.

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              • Wagoner, Phillip B. “Retrieving the Chalukyan Past: the Politics of Architectural Reuse in the Sixteenth-Century Deccan.” South Asian Studies 23 (2007): 1–29.

                DOI: 10.1080/02666030.2007.9628664Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                Shows how architectural fragments from Cālukya monuments were reused during the Vijayanagara and Adil Shahi rules to assert political continuity with the past. Briefly reassesses the historiography of reuse and revivals in the history of South Asian art.

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              • Willis, Michael. The Archaeology of Hindu Ritual: Temples and the Establishment of the Gods. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

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                Examines how the gods of early Hinduism came to be established in temples, how their cults were organized, and how the ruling elite supported their worship. Shows how the Guptas presented themselves as universal sovereigns and developed new and lasting systems of religious patronage.

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              Forms, Styles, Regional Traditions

              A wide range of material is available under this heading. The following works have been selected because they represent a variety of distinctive approaches, as well as for their quality and their range of subject matter. See also General Overviews for works treating theses issues comprehensively.

              Early Stages

              For rock-cut cave temples, largely earlier than the fully established traditions of structural temple architecture, Sounara Rajan 1981 presents documentation from many sites in the Deccan, while Berkson, et al. 1983 offer insights into the important Saiva site of Elephanta. Bakker 2008 provides interdisciplinary discussion of newly discovered material from the formative Gupta-Vākāṭaka period.

              • Berkson, Carmel, with Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty, and George Michell. Elephanta: The Cave of Shiva. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983.

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                A small volume on this great 8th-century cave temple, aiming primarily to convey the experience of visiting the place. Includes fine black-and-white photos by Berkson, who provides an imaginative stylistic analysis of the sculpture, with essays by Doniger O’Flaherty on the myths depicted and by Michell on the architecture.

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              • Hans Bakker, ed. Mansar: The Discovery of Pravareśvara and Pravarapura Temple and Residence of the Vākāṭaka King Pravarasena II; Proceedings of a Symposium at the British Museum, London, 30 June–1 July 2008. Groningen, The Netherlands: Library of the University of Groningen, 2008.

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                Proceedings of a 2008 symposium at the British Museum reassessing the c. 5th-century architectural and artistic remains of the Vākāṭaka capital at this formative moment for Indian culture. Available online from the University of Groningen.

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              • Soundara Rajan, K. V. Cave Temples of the Deccan. Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India, 1981.

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                Covers the areas of India containing the majority of rock-cut temples, and valuable especially for its drawn documentation of numerous examples, many of which had not been measured in the pioneering phases.

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              Northern India

              Good examples of the documentation of temples by the Archaeological Survey of India are Cousens 1931 and Deva 1990. Dhaky 1975, a study of western Indian temples, is an exemplary analysis of regional stylistic character. Donaldson 1985–1987 studies the medieval temples of Orissa in unprecedented detail. Studies dealing with the formation and development of different “modes” of Nāgara (North Indian) temple architecture are Meister 1989, Deva 1975, and Hardy 2002. Meister 2006 is a recent, single-site study, providing new insights into a unique temple.

              • Cousens, Henry. Medieval Temples of the Dakhan. Calcutta: Archaeological Survey of India, 1931.

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                Representative example of the pioneering documentation and the excellent measured drawings by the ASI in the early 20th century; the drawings are still the only ones available for many sites. Reprints are available of several such volumes, but often poorly printed. This volume deals with 11th- to 14th-century temples in Maharashtra.

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              • Deva, Krishna. “Bhūmija Temples.” In Studies in Indian Temple Architecture: Papers Presented at a Seminar Held in Varanasi, 1967. Edited by Pramod Chandra, 91–92. New Delhi: American Institute of Indian Studies, 1975.

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                Definitively identifies this temple mode prevalent in much of central India and the northern Deccan between the 11th and 14th centuries. Surveys its treatment in the architectural texts, its formal typology, and its geographical distribution (though not covering its diffusion in Karnataka and Andhra).

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              • Deva, Krishna. Temples of Khajuraho. 2 vols. Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India, 1990.

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                Exceptional example of more recent ASI surveys and publication. Provides authoritative analysis, with extensive measured drawings of the temples at this famous site of the Candella dynasty.

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              • Dhaky, M. A. “The Genesis and Development of Māru-Gurjara Temple Architecture.” In Studies in Indian Temple Architecture: Papers Presented at a Seminar Held in Varanasi, 1967. Edited by Pramod Chandra, 114–165. New Delhi: American Institute of Indian Studies, 1975.

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                Memorable analysis of the qualities of two widespread western Indian styles of the 9th–11th centuries and their merging into a uniform style in the 11th century. Provided a model for new, regionally based classifications of temple styles.

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              • Donaldson, Thomas E. Hindu Temple Art of Orissa. 3 vols. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1985–1987.

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                Weighty volumes with comprehensive coverage of medieval Orissan temples, including their sculpture and iconography. This is an authoritative and systematic treatment in minute detail, with a vast number of photos, arranged theme by theme and element by element, useful for both reference and further research.

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              • Hardy, Adam. “Śekharī Temples.” Artibus Asiae 62.1 (2002): 81–137.

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                Surveys the multispired Śekharī or Anekaṇḍaka mode of Nāgara temple of central and western India, both in its heyday (10th–13th centuries) and during periodic revivals. Identifies a typology, shown in roof plans with geometrical analysis and axonometric drawings. Shows the sequentially unfolding nature of the tradition, drawing out inherent formal characteristics.

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              • Meister, Michael W. “Prāsāda as Palace: Kūṭina Origins of the Nāgara Temple.” Artibus Asiae 49.3–4 (1989): 254–280.

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                Traces the early “morphology” of Nāgara temple architecture and the genesis of the Latina mode with its single, curved spire, shown to retain the imagery of a divine palace, with the transformed traces of pavilions and colonnades.

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              • Meister, Michael W. “Mountain Temples and Temple-Mountains: Masrur.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 65.1 (2006): 26–49.

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                Important article on the remains of a great, 8th-century monolithic temple with multiple shrines in the Himalayan foothills, probably of the Pratīhāra dynasty. Interprets it as an “imperial” temple, and convincingly reconstructs the plan as a mandala-like structure foreshadowing certain famous temple complexes of Southeast Asia.

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              Southern India

              Pichard 1995, on Tanjavur, is an exemplary architectural study of a single site. Dhaky 1977, Hardy 1995, and Sinha 2000 deal with the medieval temple architecture of Karnataka, including the interactions between southern and northern temple forms. Hardy and Sinha represent contrasting understandings of the nature of creativity and invention within the tradition. Later South Indian architecture is dealt with by Michell 1995 in a broad survey and by Branfoot 2007 in a more detailed study.

              • Branfoot, Crispin. Gods on the Move: Architecture and Ritual in the South Indian Temple. London: British Association for South Asian Studies, 2007.

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                A detailed study of Nayaka-period (16th–17th century) temples in Tamil Nadu, with analysis of the planning and architecture of representative examples of the great, late “temple city” complexes. Explores themes of continuity and change, patronage, festival ritual, and expanding form in architecture and sculpture.

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              • Dhaky, M. A. The Indian Temple Forms in Karṇāṭa Inscriptions and Architecture. New Delhi: Abhinav, 1977.

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                Shows the variety and inventiveness of miniature shrine models crowning niches in the temple walls of 11th- to 12th-century Karnataka, and the masons’ broad knowledge of temple forms from other regions. Contributes much to our understanding of temple types, and to our knowledge of indigenous terminology and its uncertainties.

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              • Hardy, Adam. Indian Temple Architecture: Form and Transformation; the Karṇāṭa Drāviḍa Tradition, 7th–13th centuries. Delhi: Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, 1995.

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                Beginning from a more broadly applicable discussion of design principles in Indian temple architecture, Hardy treats the temples in Karnataka of the early Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, later Chalukyas, and Hoysalas in terms of a single, developing tradition. Systematic analysis of transformations, from overall composition to small details, with many analytical drawings.

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              • Michell, George. Architecture and Art of Southern India: Vijayanāgara and the Successor States. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

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                Presents an overview of the temple and palace architecture, sculpture, and painting of the Vijayanāgara Empire and the Nayaka kingdoms that succeeded it (c. 1350–1750). Includes a useful historical framework chapter, forms a digest of the many volumes documenting Vijayanāgara by Michell and others, and introduces many previously undocumented sites.

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              • Pichard, Pierre. Thanjavur Bṛhadīśvara, an Architectural Study. Delhi: Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, 1995.

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                Provides rigorous architectural documentation and analysis of this famous temple complex (11th century and later), and of the other great “imperial” Chola temple at Gangaikondacholapuram. Large format, with an extensive set of detailed architectural drawings, and many photographs. Includes reliable analysis of construction, planning grids, and proportion.

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              • Sinha, Ajay J. Imagining Architects: Creativity in the Religious Monuments of India. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2000.

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                Provides a contrasting treatment to some of the material covered in Hardy 1995, focusing on the 11th- to 12th-century “Vesara” temples of the Chalukyas. Sinha argues against both a static view of tradition and Hardy’s emphasis on transformation with continuity, stressing instead the agency and originality of the architects.

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              Architectural Texts and Practice

              The theory behind traditional architectural practice in India is represented by canonical texts. Popular literature tends to imply that “the texts” lay down strict instructions that fossilize architectural traditions, but a study of the architecture itself reveals much flexibility and change. Scholarship is far from reaching definitive conclusions about how these texts relate to practice, or about who wrote them and for whom.

              Canonical Texts

              Sanskrit texts on architecture include sections of puranas and agamas as well as texts specifically named śilpaśāstras (technical treatises) or, more specifically, vāstuśāstras (treatises on dwellings). They claim timeless, often Vedic authority, though they were clearly written after the buildings that they describe were built. The earliest surviving text containing passages of this category is probably the Bṛhatsaṁhitā, an astrological treatise (c. 6th century). The papers in Dallapiccola 1989 provide a range of understandings of the nature of śāstra (the body of knowledge) and śāstras (canonical texts). Chakrabarti 1998 provides a synthesis of what available texts prescribe on various architectural issues, providing a counterpoint to the uses and abuses of vāstu vidya (knowledge of architecture) today. Translations of the texts themselves are rare, good ones rarer. Established references are works on South Indian treatises: Acharya 1996 on the Manasara and Dagens 1985, an edition of the Mayamata. Recent research presented in Otter 2009, Salvini 2009, and Hardy 2009 advances understanding of the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra, the famous architectural treatise attributed to the 11th-century Paramara king Bhoja.

              • Acharya, Prasanna Kumar. Indian Architecture According to Mānasāra-S̋ilpaśāstra. Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1996.

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                First published in 1928. Acharya produced voluminous works on the Manasāra, which he took to be the “Indian Vitruvuius” and prototype of all śilpaśāstras, but which is now generally agreed to be a relatively late South Indian text. This particular volume is useful for its concise summary of the text’s contents.

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              • Chakrabarti, Vibhuti. Indian Architectural Theory: Contemporary Uses of Vastuvidya. London: Curzon, 1998.

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                Provides a synthesis of textual material on the roles of the traditional architectural team, measurement, the vāstupuruṣamaṇḍala, orientation, site considerations, and other factors. The focus is on secular architecture. Chakrabarti argues that vāstu vidya was a practical and holistic system still relevant today and exposes the partial uses of that system by contemporary vastu pundits and Indianizing architects.

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              • Dagens, Bruno, ed. and trans. Mayamata: An Indian Treatise on Housing, Architecture, and Iconography. New Delhi: Sitaram Bharatia Institute, 1985.

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                The most useful translation of an entire vāstuśāstra, with a lucid commentary and an authoritative view of how such texts, while claiming to be normative, explicitly assume that there will be interpretation and variation. Based on the earlier French edition; an alternative, two-volume English edition (1997) includes Sanskrit text.

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              • Dallapiccola, Anna Libera, ed. Shastric Traditions in Indian Arts. 2 vols. Stuttgart: Steiner Verlag, 1989.

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                Stemming from a conference at Heidelberg, this volume contains over forty papers on the nature of śāstra and its bearing on architecture and other arts. Together, these illustrate a range of attitudes and provide an excellent overview of the issues and questions. Volume 1 contains the text; Volume 2 includes references and illustrations.

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              • Hardy, Adam. “Drāviḍa Temples in the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra.” Translated by Mattia Salvini. South Asian Studies 25 (2009): 41–62.

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                Translates the sections dealing with South Indian temple types into detailed drawings. Hardy argues that to establish how useful a text might be in practice it must be shown through drawing whether it can be used for this purpose. Here the arithmetical ingenuity of the theory leads to problematic temple designs. Available online.

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              • Otter, Felix. Residential Architecture in Bhoja’s Samaranganasutradhara: Introduction, Text, Translation, and Notes. Delhi: Motilal Banarasidass, 2009.

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                A new advance in the study of this important text, with a critical introduction and a translation of the sections that deal with residential architecture, as well as philological discussion relevant to the text as a whole. Highlights the imprecision of the technical terms and the probability that the text combines several sources.

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              • Salvini, Mattia. “The Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra.” Cardiff, UK: PRĀSĀDA, 2009.

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                A short, readable, critical overview of the nature and contents of the text by a Sanskritist, raising some central questions.

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              The Vāstupuruṣamaṇḍala

              A diagram known as the vāstupuruṣamaṇḍala, the “diagram of the spirit of the site,” has a prominent place in current popular conceptions of the essence of traditional Hindu architecture. With numerous variants, it consists of a gridded square, of which the constituent squares are assigned to divinities, arranged hierarchically. Some vāstu texts describe diagrams of this character, implying that they are to be ritually traced on a site, with the respective deities propitiated. Kramrisch 1946, influentially, assigns the vāstupuruṣamaṇḍala a central place in the symbolism of the Hindu temple. Michael Meister, in both Meister 1979 and in his entry in Buhnemann 2007, argues that it was a planning grid as well as a ritual grid in temple design, and Sachdev and Tillotson 2002 explores its use in city planning. Bafna 2000 challenges the assumptions prevalent since Kramrisch.

              • Bafna, Sonit. “On the Idea of the Mandala as a Governing Device in Indian Architectural Tradition.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 59.1 (2000): 26–49.

                DOI: 10.2307/991561Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                Bafna gives a powerful critique of Kramrisch’s view, with its tendency to ascribe a single essence to all of Indian culture, and convincingly questions the role and importance routinely attributed to the vāstupuruṣamaṇḍala on the basis of insufficient evidence.

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              • Buhnemann, Gudrun, ed. Mandalas and Yantras in the Hindu Traditions. Delhi: D. K. Printworld, 2007.

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                A collection of essays examining characteristics, uses, and meanings—more disparate than popular thinking imagines—of mandalas and yantras in different Hindu schools and contexts. For the most part the work is not directly architectural, but it includes Meister’s most recent article on the vāstupuruṣamaṇḍala, a riposte to Bafna. An earlier edition was published in 2003 (Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill).

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              • Kramrisch, Stella. The Hindu Temple. 2 vols. Calcutta: University of Calcutta, 1946.

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                In this monumental study, Kramrisch conceives of the vāstupuruṣamaṇḍala as a key to the temple’s meaning and form, linking it to Vedic altars and ascribing it profound cosmic significance. She sees it as a ritual diagram but not, however, a planning grid.

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              • Meister, Michael W. “Maṇḍala and Practice in Nāgara Architecture in North India.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 99.2 (1979): 204–219.

                DOI: 10.2307/602657Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                An early, representative example of articles in which, by measuring ground plans of early Nāgara temples, Meister demonstrates the use of planning grids, taken as evidence that the vāstupuruṣamaṇḍala had practical as well as ritual uses, at least up to around the 10th century.

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              • Sachdev, Vibhuti, and Giles Tillotson. Building Jaipur: The Making of an Indian City. London: Reaktion, 2002.

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                A spirited attempt to reconstruct how the vāstupuruṣamaṇḍala was used in city planning, arguing that it was a flexible tool and part of a language shared by client and designer.

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              Architectural Practice

              Traditional architectural practice in temple building continues, particularly in the traditions of Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, and to some extent of Orissa. Parker 2003 and Parker 2010 have made distinct contributions to the understanding of traditional practice, and of the nature of śāstra and śāstras, through ethnographic research on contemporary Tamil sthāpatis (traditional architects). V. Ganapati Sthapati, a prominent practitioner from that community, has published his own polemics on traditional architectural wisdom (Sthapati 2001). Although they are not academic studies, his writings give an insight into the worldview of the leading light in the contemporary renaissance of traditional Drāviḍa architecture.

              • Parker, Samuel K. “Text and Practice in South Asian Art: An Ethnographic Perspective.” Artibus Asiae 63.1 (2003): 5–34.

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                Presents a wide-ranging discussion rooted in ethnographic fieldwork. Parker argues that śāstra is experienced as divine power, manifest through the sthāpati (“supreme in the context of production”), the temple/image (“supreme in the context of worship”) and the written text (“supreme in social negotiation of authority”).

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              • Parker, Samuel K. “Ritual as a Mode of Production: Ethnoarchaeology and Creative Practice in Hindu Temple Arts.” South Asian Studies 26.1 (2010): 31–57.

                DOI: 10.1080/02666031003737190Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                Argues that temple production in South India, rather than in terms of the modern economic mythologies of creative personhood, can be better understood as a self-organizing or self-regulating system. Its ritually generated forms have a svayambhu, or self-emerging, character, formally expressing the manner in which they came into being.

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              • Sthapati, V. Ganapati. Building Architecture of Sthāpatya Veda. Chennai, India: Dakshinaa, 2001.

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                While not an academic book, this volume presents the worldview of this celebrated sthāpati, who proclaims vāstuśāstra to be a science of “energy and matter,” and who makes parallels with Einsteinian physics and computer science.

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              LAST MODIFIED: 01/27/2011

              DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195399318-0003

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