Vastu-shastra (5): Temple Architecture

by D. N. Shukla | 1960 | 69,139 words | ISBN-10: 8121506115 | ISBN-13: 9788121506113

This page describes General remarks (on temple-classification) which is chapter 6 of the study on Vastu-Shastra (Indian architecture) fifth part (Temple architecture). This part deals with This book deals with an outline history of Hindu Temple (the place of worship). It furtherr details on various religious buildings in India such as: shrines, temples, chapels, monasteries, pavilions, mandapas, jagatis, prakaras etc. etc.

Chapter 6 - General remarks (on temple-classification)

The classifications always have some basic principles. Either we classify Prāsādas according to the deities to be enshrined there in or according to the styles of the buildings—their layouts, shapes, superstructures and the crowns together with the decorations.

Thirdly, the classification may have for its basis, the materials of the temple, whether it is made of wood or brick or stone slabs or cloth. Similarly, it may be classified according to the situation, whether it is erected on a mountain or cut out of the rocks or is established on the plains the specimens of which are all described together, in this monumental work. In chapter XLIX the work describes the Prāsādas which are to be built in the towns. They are to be built of stones and baked bricks. Again in chapter L1X details arc given of the wood temple Harmya, the rock cut temple ‘layana’ (specimens of which are the crowning achievements of the Indian architect m the monumental cave temples at Ellora and Ajanta) and the cloth made temples ‘Pattiśa [Paṭṭiśa?]’. Again a word on the criterion of the deities may be added here. In the Samarāṅgaṇa at more than one place this criterion has been adhered to. At the very outset, in the beginning of chapter XLIX we find the genesis of the temples, the Prāsādas, from the Vimanas has been proclaimed in relation to the respective deities and with their favourite shapes. Similarly, in the chapters entitled, ‘Prāsādastavana’ and ‘Vimanādicatuṣṣaṣṭhiprāsāda—the 58th and the 59th, we find this criterion more pronouncedly worked out. Śiva, Viṣṇu, Brahmā, Sūrya, Caṇḍikā, Vināyaka, Lakṣmī and Sarvadevas, i.e, the common mass of the divinity have each eight Prāsādas, as their favourite ones making a total of 64.

Fourthly, it may be pointed out on the other hand that in the works belonging to the southern school of Indian Architecture, specially Mānasāra the most prominent criterion of the classification is the number of the storeys, which a temple is made of. In the Samarāṅgaṇa also the same criterion is adhered to. It contains a chapter entitled ‘Pīṭhapañcaka-lakṣaṇa’ the 61st (cf. the 62nd also) and most curiously enough at the very beginning it is said that the Drāviḍa temples may consist of storeys from 1 to 12 in number and then the temples are classified according to their number of storeys. This is exactly what has been done by all the southern texts.

Though there is no clear-cut criterion for the classification of temples in the text, it would not be unwarranted to bring the following categories of classification of the temples with types and groups:—

Group A: Early Lāṭa Style
I Type Pillared Hall Temples (The Chādya Prāsādas) Rucaka etc. 64 Prasādas
(XLIX Chapter).
II Type Super-structure with Śikhara and the most characteristic feature being the Aṇḍakas—cupolas from 1 to 100-Prāsādarāja Meru having one hundred ones. Indicated first in Ch. 52 (Vairāja-jāti Prāsadas—the eight-fold Śikharottama Prāsādas) and developed in Ch. 56—Another variety of Rucaka etc. 64 temples.
III Type Super-structure with storeys having the specific dedication to the deities—Śiva, Viṣṇu, Brahmā, Sūrya, Caṇḍikā, Lakṣmī, and Sarvadevas—all gods—each one of these having eight Prāsādas. Chapters 58 and 59.
Group B: Later Lāṭa Style
  Ornamental Style—having Śṛṅgas and storeys and of great religious merit (vide Appendix-Qs.)—the noblest and the grandest of the Prāsādas.

(i) Meru etc, 16 varieties.

(ii) Meru etc.
20 varieties.

(iii) Śridhara etc.
40 Prāsādas of pure variety.

(iv) Nandana etc.
10 variety of mixed type
(vide chs. 55 and 57).

Group C: Nāgara Style.
  The Traditional List.

(i) Meru and others—the traditional list of the twenty Prāsādas found in almost all early texts of northern Vāstu-vidyā-Matsya, Viśva. P. etc. (vide chapter 63).

(ii) Śrīkūṭa etc. 36 Prāsādas in six Saṭkas (vide chapter 60).

Group D: Dravidian Style.
  One to twelve storeyed temples with five-fold terraces and talacchandas. (chapters 61 and 62)
Group E.
  Regional styles with characteristics of both Nāgara and Dravida.  
I Type Vāvāṭa (Vairāṭa). (chapter 64).
II Type Bhūmija.
(a) Quadrangular
4 varieties
(Mountain Varieties).
(chapter 65).
  (b) Vṛkṣajātis,
Kumuda etc. 7 varieties.
(chapter 65).
  (c) Svastika etc. five
Aṣṭaśāla varieties.
(chapter 65).

With this much of introductory remarks and the grouping of the Prāsādas at a glance, we are now better fitted to take into account the classification of temples as given in the Samarāṅgaṇa Sūtradhāra.

[Group A: Early Lāṭa Temples]

[Group B: Later Lāṭa Style]

[Group C: Nāgara Prāsādas]

[Group D: Dravida Prāsādas]

[Group E: Regional Styles (The mixed ones)]

This classification of the temples is really a very fascinating topic of Indian architecture. Full justice can not be done to it in the limited space available. Each of these temples really represents a type by itself. Their evolution and development are represented in the different classes as we have seen above. The same names are repeated several times. What does it indicate? A temple or a house or any building is after all an output of the architectural craftsmanship. A temple built in a particular region by a particular architect with a particular material must be different from a temple built in another region by another architect with different material available in that particular region. Hence in order to show the characteristic trait of the these different centres of art, the nomenclature is kept intact, so that when a particular type of temple is viewed from the standpoint of different stylistic specimens, it may show its different evolution in the history of art. All these temple types, therefore, need to be worked out, not only with their characteristic evolutions but also be distinctly drawn with sketches and fully explained in their respective individual measurements, component parts, super-structures, ornamentations and dedication etc. I, therefore, intend to bring out a subsequent volume in which, as indicated before (cf. Classifications of Houses Part III) both the classes of buildings, residential houses and temples will be dealt with from this point of view.

Now let me look to the classification of temples of the Samarāṅgaṇa. Though this classification shows as many as three hundred and seventy five varieties of temples, nevertheless, if sorted out, all this comes to a total of more than 500. Even then the Samarāṅgaṇa has the credit of providing the fullest, longest and the grandest classification ever made in any manual of the Vāstu-śastra. Thus while Suprabhedāgama contains twelve names, the Śilparatna [Śilparatnam] and the Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati contain twenty in one list and thirty two in another. The Mayamata [Mayamatam] contains forty-five names and indicates existence of many other not mentioned (it gives classification only up to four-storeyed mansions). The Mānasāra contains names of ninety-eight buildings (either they may be taken as temples or many storeyed mansions for the princes or the wealthy people). The Atrisaṃhitā, another valuable work on the South Indian Vāstuvidyā also does not go beyond ninety six varieties. Samarāṅgaṇa, therefore, from this point of view has classified practically all classes of temple types then known and exhausted all the styles and all the specifications of dedication and other allied topics of the temple architecture. Thus viewed from this angle, its unique place in the literature goes without saying.

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