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Dravidian Architecture In India [Art And Culture NCERT Notes For UPSC] l www.insightdaily.in


Dravida Style of Architecture is one of the types of Temple architecture.  It is an important segment of the Art & Culture syllabus of the IAS Exam. This article will provide you with the Dravida Style of Architecture that originated during the reign of Mahendravarman-I of Pallava Dynasty.

Temple Architecture in India-Part III (UPSC Notes):- Download PDF Here

Dravidian Style of Architecture – South Indian Style

The features of the Dravidian Style of Architecture are mentioned below:

  • The temple is enclosed within a compound wall.
  • Gopuram: The entrance gateway in the centre of the front wall.
  • Vimana: The shape of the main temple tower. It is a stepped pyramid that rises up geometrically (unlike the Nagara style Shikhara that is curving).
  • In the Dravida style, shikhara is the word used for the crowning element at the top of the temple (which is shaped like a stupika or octagonal cupola).
  • At the entrance to the garbhagriha, there would be sculptures of fierce dvarapalas guarding the temple.
  • Generally, there is a temple tank within the compound.
  • Subsidiary shrines could be found wither within the main tower or beside the main tower.
  • In many temples, the garbhagriha is located in the smallest tower. It is also the oldest. With the passage of time and the rise of the population of the temple-town, additional boundary walls were added. The newest structure would mostly have the tallest gopuram.
  • Example in the Sriranganathar Temple at Srirangam, Tiruchirappally, there are 7 concentric rectangular enclosure walls each having gopurams. The tower at the centre has the garbhagriha.
  • Famous temple towns of Tamil Nadu: Kanchipuram, Thanjavur (Tanjore), Madurai and Kumbakonam.
  • In the 8th to 12th centuries – temples were not confined to being religious centres but became administrative centres as well with large swathes of land.

Dravidian Architecture – Subdivisions of Dravida Style

  1. Kuta or Caturasra: square-shaped
  2. Shala or Ayatasra: rectangular-shaped
  3. Gaja-prishta or vrittayata or elephant-backed: elliptical
  4. Vritta: circular
  5. Ashtasra: octagonal

Pallava Architecture

  • The Pallava dynasty was ruling in the Andhra region from the 2nd century AD onwards. They then moved southwards to Tamil Nadu.
  • They built many monuments and temples during the 6th to the 8th centuries.
  • Although they were mostly Shaivite, some Vaishnava monuments are also seen. Their architecture was also influenced by the Buddhist heritage of the Deccan.
  • Their early buildings were rock-cut whereas the later were structural.
  • The early buildings were built during the reign of Mahendravarman I, a contemporary of the Chalukya king Pulakeshin II of Karnataka.
  • His son Narasimhavarman I, also known as Mamalla, was a great patron of the arts. Most buildings in Mahabalipuram (also called Mamallapuram in his honour) are attributed to him.
  • In Mahabalipuram, there are exquisite monolithic rathas and mandapas. The five rathas are known as Panchapandava Rathas.

Dravidian Temple Architecture – Shore Temple – Mahabalipuram

  • Built during the reign of Pallava king Narasimhavarman II, also known as Rajasimha (700 – 728 AD).
  • It has three shrines – one Shiva shrine facing east, one Shiva shrine facing west, a middle shrine to Vishnu in Anantashayana pose. The presence of three main shrines is unique.
  • It is probable that the shrines were not all built at the same time but were added later.
  • There is evidence of a water reservoir and a gopuram.
  • There are sculptures of Nandi the bull (Shiva’s mount) along the walls of the temple. There are several carvings as well.

Dravidian Temple Architecture – Brihadiswara Temple – Tanjore

  • Shiva temple, also called Rajarajeswara Temple.
  • Completed around 1009 AD. Built by Rajaraja Chola.
  • It is the largest and tallest of all Indian temples. This Chola temple is bigger than any of the previous Pallava, Chalukya or Pandya structures.
  • More than 100 temples of the Chola Period are preserved. A lot of temples were constructed during the Chola period.
  • Its pyramidal multi-storied vimana is almost 70 metres high.
  • There is a monolithic shikhara atop the vimana.
  • The shikhara is a dome-shaped octagonal stupika. It has two large elaborately sculptured gopuras. On the shikhara, there are large Nandi images.
  • The kalasha on top of the shikhara is 3m and 8cm tall.
  • There are hundreds of stucco figures on the vimana. Many might have been added later on in the Maratha period.
  • The main deity of Shiva is portrayed as a huge lingam set in a double-storied sanctum.
  • The surrounding walls of the sanctum are adorned with painted murals and sculptures of mythological stories.

Architecture in the Deccan

  • A hybridised style mixing elements from both Nagara and Dravida styles emerge as a distinct style during the middle of the 7th century in regions like Karnataka.
  • This is referred to as Vesara in some ancient texts.
  • Some of the temples are either completely nagara or dravida. Not all temples in the Deccan are in vesara style.
  • Kailashnath Temple, Ellora
    • Completely in Dravida style.
    • Main deity is Lord Shiva.
    • There is also a Nandi shrine.
    • Vimana rises 30 m.
    • This temple was carved out of a portion of a hill.
    • The temple is grand and imposing.
    • Built during the Rashtrakuta phase at Ellora.

Chalukya Architecture

  • Western Chalukya kingdom was established by Pulakesin I when he took control of the land around Badami in 543 AD.
  • Early western Chalukyas ruled the region till around the mid-8th century.
  • Early activities are rock-cut caves while structural temples were built later on.
  • Ravana Phadi cave at Aihole
    • Important structure at this site: Nataraja
    • This image is surrounded on the right by four large saptamatrikas and on the left by three large ones.
    • The figures have slim, graceful bodies. They have long oval faces. They wear short pleated dhotis and tall cylindrical crowns.
  • Distinct feature of Chalukya architecture: mixing and incorporation of several styles.
  • Temples at Pattadakkal, Karnataka
    • Pattadakkal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
    • There are 10 temples. Four are in Dravida style, four are in Nagara style, one (Papanatha Temple) is a fusion of both and one is a Jain temple.
    • Jain Narayana temple – built by Rashtrakutas in the 9th century.
    • Virupaksha Temple – built by the chief queen of Chalukya king Vikramaditya II (733 – 44), Loka Mahadevi. Best example of Dravida style.
  • Durga Temple, Aihole
    • Apsidal shrine resembling a Buddhist Chaitya hall.
    • Surrounded by a veranda.
    • Shikhara is like a nagara one.
  • The Lad Khan temple at Aihole
    • Located south of the Durga temple. Built in the 5th century.
    • Inspired by the wooden-roofed temples of the hills, but is made out of stone.
    • Built in the Panchayatana style.
    • So named because a person named Lad Khan had used it as his residence for some time.

Hoysalas Temple Architecture

  • Hoysalas grew into prominence in South India after the Chola and the Pandya power declined.
  • Centred at Mysore.
  • Chief temples are at Belur, Somnathapuram and Halebidu.
  • These temples have a plan called the stellate plan. This is because the plan which emerged from being a straightforward square to a complex one with many projecting angles began to resemble a star.
  • The star-like ground plan is a distinct feature of Hoysala architecture.
  • Style is Vesara.
  • Made of soapstone which is relatively soft. This enabled artists to carve intricate details like jewellery.
  • Hoysaleshvara Temple, Halebid
    • Made of dark schist stone in 1150.
    • Dedicated to Nataraja (Shiva).
    • It is a double building with a large hall for the mandapa.
    • A Nandi pavilion is in front of each building.
    • The temple’s tower fell a long time back. The structure of the temple is evident from the detailed miniature ones at the temple’s entrance.
    • Very intricate and detailed carvings.

Vijayanagara Architecture

  • City of Vijayanagara (City of victory) founded in 1336.
  • Visited by international travellers like Niccolo di Conti, Domingo Paes, Duarte Barbosa, Abd, al-Razzaq, etc. who have given vivid accounts of the place.
  • Synthesizes the Dravida style with Islamic styles of the neighbouring sultanates.
  • The sculpture tries to recreate the Chola tradition but the foreign influence is also seen.

Temple Architecture in India-Part III (UPSC Notes):- Download PDF Here

This chapter is continued in the link given below:

NCERT Notes: Temple Architecture and Sculpture – Part IV

Also see other NCERT notes:

UPSC Books List PDF:-Download PDF Here

UPSC Preparation:


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