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Mains Answer Writing


Q1) Examine the influence of regional factors and local traditions on the temple architecture of ancient India. Also, explain how ancient temple architecture impacted the architectural style and design of later periods.


Temple architecture of ancient India is a testimony to the robust social and cultural landscape of the time. The impression of religious beliefs, cultural practices, and the usage of local building materials, gave the temple architecture a hue of local traditions, as can be seen from:

  1. Terrain: We usually find rock-cut temples in hilly regions e.g., Kailash temple at Ellora and Structural temples in plains E.g., Madurai Temple. The terrains with non-availability of stone led to flourishing of brick temples in those regions.
  2. Raw materials: Timber, mud, bricks, stone were widely used depending on availability. For example, wooden architecture in hilly region, use of soft stone of Karnataka in Hoysala architecture etc.
  3. Climate: Climate of a region leads to local modifications in the temples. E.g., Raghunatha temple in West Bengal has Dalan style to store water, Hidimba Devi temple in Himachal has Pagoda style to prevent waterlogging, and temples in Rajasthan have step wells for the purpose of water conservation.
  4. Geographical proximity with contemporary civilizations: Amalgamation of culture results in evolution of mixed features in the temples. E.g., Tawang Monastery is influenced by Tibetan vicinity. Proximity to Gandhara influenced the temple architecture of the hills in Kashmir, Kumaon and Himachal hills by intermixing of Buddhist and Hindu style.
  5. Philosophical traditions: a. Since Buddhist, Jain, and Aajivika traditions believed in ascetic livings, temples/caves were built accordingly. E.g., lomas rishi caves, karle caves etc.
  6. The niches and corners of Gupta era temples are decorated with statues of God and Goddesses depicting them with power over nature and human fortunes.
  7. Economic prosperity:
  8. The richly ornated temples were an indication of the regional economic prosperity. E.g., the Raya Gopuram and large and beautiful Kalyana Mandapas of Vijayanagar kingdom.
  9. These guilds contributed for the cause of temple construction. E.g., trade gilds of Vidisha did the carvings on southern gateway of Sanchi stupa.
  10. Temples not only served the religious purpose but were used for other secular activities like education, commerce etc.

Despite regional variations, some factors like ground plan, positioning of stone-carved deities on the outside walls and the interior etc., were largely omnipresent. The temple architecture in the ancient

India had a lasting impact on the architectural style of later period:

  1. The temple building style in the medieval period continued to show the traits and style of temple architecture in the ancient period. E.g., Temple complexes at Hampi.
  2. The Buddhist style of temple building, in some specific regions, appears to have taken a leaf from the temple architecture style of ancient India. E.g., Mahabodhi temple at Gaya.
  3. Ancient temple architecture has significantly influenced the Islamic architecture in the country. E.g., use of elephant columns in the Lahore fort.
  4. Indo-Gothic architecture bears heavily from the temple architecture of ancient India.

E.g., General post office, Victoria memorial etc.

  1. The architecture style of the temples in South East Asia reflects direct influence of the ancient temple architecture of India. E.g., temples of Angkor Vat, Borobudur, and Parambanan etc.

The temple architecture of India of the ancient times, with its aesthetic brilliance and cultural significance, continue to be a seminal influence in the architectural style of the later/contemporary periods.

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