Hinduism Architecture
Adam Hardy
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 January 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 January 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399318-0003


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.

    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.

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

    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.

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

    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).

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

    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.

  • 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.

    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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