Vastu-shastra (5): Temple Architecture

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

This page describes Temples of Orissa (1): Bhuvaneshvara 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.

Among the orissan group there are three principal sites—Bhuvaneśwara, Puri aud Koṇārka. Bhuvaneśvara the capital seat of the Kesaris provides the most logical beginning for a study of the Nāgara style. There are over thirty (though the legends would have them thousands) examples concentrated in the town of Bhuvaneśvara. It may be remarked here that this central development in Bhuvaneśvara group of temples in Orissa is not a sudden development. It had its beginning as already pointed out, from its southern extremity (cf. Ganjam within the Madras Presidency) to the northern offshoot in the state of Mayurabhanja having its ramifications as early as 6th century in the territory of the Chalukyan and Percy Brown’s conjecture in this respect supports my contention which I have developed elsewhere (Styles of Temple Architecture Ch. IV pt. V).

The following observations of Brown are therefore very pertinent:

“That there can have been any direct connection between the early Chalukyan structures on the south-west, and the temples of Ganjam on the east is somewhat improbable, but the fact remains that certain architectural affinities are observable which suggest a linking up of the temple design in these two divergent places. If such a correlation is admitted, it may be traced to the political cantact [contact?] which no doubt existed between the Ganga king of western India on the one hand, and the Ganga dynasty of Kalinganara, now the modern Mukhalinga [Mukhalingam], on the other. It was from their capital in Ganjam that the country of Kalinga, at present called Orissa, was administered by the Eastern Gangas from about A.D. 600. By some such means the cultural activities of the Early Chalukyans may have been conveyed to this region on the east where, beginning from the eighth century certain architectural forms appear, which bear a resemblance to those produced slightly earlier at Aihole and Pattadakal. (Chap. II and XVI)”.

Orissan temples comprising all the three main groups are characterised by independent evolution. Percy Brown says:

“Not only are the plans and general treatment of these religious structures of a special character, but the building art has a separate and distinct nomenclature of its own. The generic name for a temple is Deul, but as the building in the first instance consisted very often of a sanctuary only, the same word was employed for this tower-like structure also. In front of the Deul is a square building of assembly hall corresponding to the maṇḍapa in other parts, but here known as the Jagmohan. These two edifices combined constitute the essentials of the Orissan temple type. As the style progressed and also as the temple ritual was developed, other buildings were found necessary, and were added to the front of the assembly hall, thus presenting in the larger examples a series of structures all in one axial alignment. The two buildings usually supplemented were first the Nat-Mandir or Dancing Hall, and secondly in front of this the Bhog Mandir or Hall of Offerings. Standing on a basement or a plinth (pista), these halls were invariably of one storey only, and the elevation of each consisted of two parts, a cubical portion (bada) below, and a pyramidal roof (pida) above. In the same way the lower and upright portion of the Deul or tower is called the bada, but above that it is resolved into three parts, comprising the tall middle portion or chhapra, the flat fluted disc at the summit known as the amla, and its finial or kalasa.”

Further he observes,

“compared with the other regional developments in the Indo-Aryan style, the Orissan temples as a whole are of the astylar order, pillars being notable by their absence. In some of the earlier examples the pillar finds a place, suggested no doubt by other modes, but as a rule it was not favoured. In a few of the larger halls however some such support became a structural necessity to sustain the heavy weight of the pyramidal roof, and accordingly a group of four solid piers, one at each corner of a foursquare system of roof beams was introduced. One of the most remarkable characteristics of the Orissan temple is the plain and featureless treatment of the interior contrasted with the profusely ornament walls of the exterior, the surfaces of which are charged with a superfluity of plastic patterns and forms. The difference between the rich carving on the outside; and the simple unadorned places of the interior can only be accounted for by the existence of some esoteric tradition which the builders either instinctively followed, or were compelled strictly to observe”.

Though from the standpoint of the region there are three separate sites in Orissa—Bhuvaneśvara, Puri and Koṇārka, but for a study of a chronological development the more important examples of Orissan temples may be resolved into the following three groups according to their date and style (vide Percy Brown’s Indian Architecture p. 124).

Early Period circa A.D. 750 to 900 (Bhuvaneśvara)

  1. Paraśurāmeśvara,
  2. Vaital Deul,
  3. Uttareśvara,
  4. Īśvareśvara,
  5. Śatrugaṇeśvara,
  6. Bharateśvara,
  7. Lakṣmaṇeśvara.

Middle Period circa A.D. 900 to 1100 (Bhuvaneśvara and Puri i.e. Jagannath.)

  1. Mukteśvara,
  2. Liṅgarāja,
  3. Brahmeśvara,
  4. Rameśvara,
  5. Jagannātha.

Later Period cir. 1100 to 1250 Bhuvaneśvara and Koṇarka

  1. Ananta Vāsudeva,
  2. Siddheśvara,
  3. Kedāreśvara,
  4. Jameśvara,
  5. Temple of the Sun at Koṇārka,
  6. Megheśvara,
  7. Sarai Deul,
  8. Someśvara,
  9. Rājarānī.

Two of the early temples at Bhuvaneśvara, the temple of Para-śurāmeśvara and Vaital Deul are of surpassing interest in the evolution and development of Śikharottama Prāsādas at Bhuvaneśvara. We have already remarked some affinity between the Chalukyan and the Orissan style, rather the latter an independent development on the genesis of the former.

Percy Brown’s following observations support my thesis:

“An interesting comparison may be instituted between this temple, and the somewhat earlier temples of the Chalukyans at Aihole. It will be seen that the tower of the Paraśurāmeśvara example, although inclined to be heavy and crude, is an improvement on the Indo-Aryan type of Śikhara [sikhara] subsequently added to the Aihole buildings. Moreover the incipient form of clerestory introduced into [ahehe?] Orissan temple is also an advance on double roof of the Durga and Huchchimaligudi temples of the Chalukyan group, from which however it may have been derived. It is the peculiar treatment of such features, wich suggests that some communication of impressions may have been maintained between these two centres, thus enabling the Orissan mason to benefit by the experiences of his fellow craftsmen in the Deccan. On the other hand, there are certain portions of the architectural ornamentation in the Parasrameswar temple, such as pilasters with vase and foliage capitals, a motif usually associated with the Gupta mode, indicating, as already mentioned, that there were also influences from the more northerly source. Taking all these factors into consideration it may be inferred that the approximate date of the Paraśurāmeśvara temple is towards the end of the eight century, a date which also marks the introduction of the Indo-Aryan style of architecture into the region.”

The Vaital Deul is remarkable for its different conception allied more to the southern style as exemplified by the Dravidian Gopura and originally based on Buddhist caitya halls The second group comprising the middle period (900-1100) represents the movement at its early maturity or prime. The earliest of the temples, the Mukteśvara may be regarded as a miniature gem of architecture of Orissan style as it is not only a highly finished structure, ornamented with fascinating carved patterns, but in addition is approached by an arched gateway or toraṇa of the most elegant design and execution. The architectural element speak of considerable advancement on the early phase as we see in the Paraśurāmeśvara. We have already pointed out a characteristic clement of these temples, absence of interior decoration but in the Mukteśvara it is an exception as it is one of the few temples of the Orissan group which has sculptured decoration in its interior.

The most representative examples of this middle period are two temples of monumental proportions, the Liṅgarāja (1000 A. D.) at Bhuvaneśvara and the Jagannatha (1100 A.D.) at Puri, the former being not only the finest living example of Orissan group, but one ranks as one of the foremost architectural productions of the country. The planning of the temple recalls Buddhist pattern in congregating their votive caityas around the large central stūpa. The Liṅgarāja or Great Temple of Bhuvaneśvara occupies the centre of a large quadrangular enclosure measuring 520 ft. by 465 ft. within which many subsidiary chapels and shrines have been grouped around the main temple, contributions by ardent devotees, acts of pity and merit, the Pūtra performance.

The Liṅgarāja consists of four structures which comprise the fully developed Orissan temple type namely the Deal, or Śrī [Shri] Mandira (corresponding to the Vimāna), the Pillared Hall or Jagamohana, (the Mandapama); the Dancing Hall or Naṭa Mandira, and the Bhoga Mandira, the Hall of Offerings.

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