North Indian style temple / Nagara style temple
North Indian style temple / Nagara style temple

Originated from the word Nagar meaning town or city. It’s northern style. This style which had developed in the 5th century characterized by a beehive-shaped tower (called a shikhara, in northern terminology) made up of layer upon layer of architectural elements such as kapotas (the cornice) and all topped by a large round cushion-like element called an Amalaka. North Indian style temple.

In the north Indian style, the shrine is a square at the center, but there are projections on the outside leading to a cruciform shape. When there is one projection on each side, called Triratna, 2 projections – Pancharatha, 3 projections – Saptharatha, 4 projections – Navaratha. Northern style tended to build one main shrine with four minor shrines, making the structure a Panchayatna or five-shrined complex.

North Indian style temple / Nagara style temple
Form and evolution

About North Indian style temple

However, the nagara style is characterized by a shikhara which is curvilinear or convex in shape. It appears to make up of borders of architecture. The shikhara has topped by a larger round cushion-like element called an Amalaka. The plan is generally square/rectangular. Mandapa is enclosed with walls or screens. Pilaster on the building faced, generally enclosing niches with sculptor work related to the deity. Plinth/platform with carving, having the number of molding. Tower has horizontal lines having duplicated sculptural carving. During later developments such as in the Chandela temples, the central shaft had surrounded by a much smaller reproduction of itself (Urushringa), creating spectacular visual effects. The shikhara remains the most outstanding element of the temple tower with a rounded top also curvilinear outliner.

North Indian Style Temples

Types of shikhara in North Indian style

The shikhara underwent a notable transformation over the centuries and from region to region. The main 3 types – for example

North Indian style temple / Nagara style temple
Types of shikhara in nagara style


The terms derived from lata (a climbing plant) have a square ground plan, where small Amalakas or amlas divide the tower into stories but without interrupting the upthrust of the parabolic curve. However, Urushringas or Angashikhara (miniature shikhara) had incorporated in spiral construction to create ascending borders in the intricate structure which makes corners. Also, one of the best examples of this type is the Lingraja temple.


Gatherings a number of Angshikhara of different sizes around the tower strengthens the rotundity of the edges. An example of this type is the Kandariya Mahadeo temple.

Bhumija (daughter from the earth)

It has a circular or star-shaped ground plan with Shikharas or other reproductions of miniature sanctuaries placed on top of one another in parallel rows interrupted by the vertical band. The most important example of this style is the Udayeshvara temple in Madhya Pradesh.

North Indian style temple / Nagara style temple
1. the Lingraja temple, 2. Kandariya Mahadeo temple, 3.  Udayeshvara temple

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Temple complex of Khajuraho- An eternal expression of love example of North Indian style

  • Moreover, the North-central Indian temples of Khajuraho. However, the temples at Khajuraho, built by the chandelle rulers around 1000 ad are at the pinnacle of the Nagari architectural style.  The Nagari style has several different features, all of which are clearly manifested in the temples at Khajuraho. The Khajuraho temples are grounded in 3 geographical divisions: western, eastern, and southern.
The Temple complex of Khajuraho
  • These are constructed in sandstone and in dry masonry with the help of mortise and tenon joints—however, high terraces and flight of steps – 10 to 12 ft. Unity of composition. Cella, mandapa, and entrance vestibule are the parts of a harmonious whole. Shikharas are architectural masterpieces. Top piece – amalaka or capstone in perfect rhythm with the curvilinear outline of the shikhara and kalasa on top.
North Indian style temple / Nagara style temple
Temple complex of Khajuraho

Kandariya mahadev temple:Khajuraho

Kandariya mahadev temple:Khajuraho

The Kandariya Mahadeva temple, Khajuraho is the largest and loftiest in the Khajuraho group. The plan is 109t x 60ft approximately 28’ high plinth and 88’ high tower. No enclosure walls are erected on the platform (Jagatis) which are big enough to make Pradhakshina. Garbhagriha, antharala, mahamandapa, mandapa and ardhmandapa all  lies in ew direction. The replicas of shikhara/tower (Urushringa) are repeatedly used on the elevation or side of the main vertical tower. The main spire has surrounded by eighty-four miniature spires. The temple has built from granite or sandstone, the two chief rocks found in this area upon raised platforms. The platforms themselves stand on hard rock pieces that are one of the earliest rocks on this planet.

North Indian style temple / Nagara style temple
plan of Kandariya mahadev temple:Khajuraho

About The Kandariya Mahadeo temple

The Kandariya Mahadeo temple is the most excellent example in Indo-Aryan temple style because of its attainment of unity in the design of its components such as mandapas.  It becomes a composite form in plan and exterior profile.  It results in the overall jagged profile of mostly revered Kailash.  The raised platform on which the temples stand in itself becomes the dominant feature of the composition. The great flight of steps gives one a sense of arrival in a higher ritualistic sense also.

elements of temple architecture

The sculptures are exquisite. For example, they show the everyday lives of the kings (hunting, etc), the gods in their various forms, the beautiful Apsarases in their elegant and enticing poses, erotic pictures, and other royal motifs like lions and elephants.

North Indian style temple / Nagara style temple
detail of Kandariya mahadev temple:Khajuraho

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Eastern Indian temple of Orissa

Eastern Indian temple of Orissa

Under the ancient name of Kalinga, Orissa was the seat of great empires as far back as 300 b.c.  Its temples have named as one of the densest and uniform architectural groups in India.  In these, the Indo-Aryan style of architecture may see at its best and purest. The design which flourished in the eastern Indian state of Orissa and northern Andhra Pradesh is called the Kalinga style of architecture. The style consists of 3 distinct types of temples – for example, Rekha Deula, Pidha Deula, and Khakhara Deula.

  • Deula means “temple” in the local language. The former two has associated with Vishnu,  Surya, and shiva temple while the third is mainly with Chamunda and Durga temples.
  • The Rekha Deula and khakhra Deula houses the sanctum sanctorum while the Pidha Deula constitutes outer dancing and offering halls.
  • The prominent examples of  Rekha Deula are the Lingaraj temple of Bhubaneswar and the Jagannath temple of Puri.
  • The Konark sun temple is a living example of Pidha Deula.
North Indian style temple / Nagara style temple

About The Structure

Orissan temples follow a common structural plan.  A typical temple consists of two apartments.  The Deul, corresponding to the southern vimana, is the cubical inner apartment that enshrines the image and is surmounted by a tower.  Within the Antarala or porch called the Jaganmohan which is normally square-shaped and has a pyramidal roof.  Occasionally, one or two more mandapas, such as the Natmandir and the Bhogmandir,  can find in front of the Jaganmohana, but these, where they exist, almost without exception had superimposed on top of the initial plan.

axonometric view

Lingaraja temple: Bhubaneshwar example of North Indian style

Bhubaneswar has a gorgeous profusion of temples and has been recognized as the temple town of Orissa, not only because of the large number of temples found there but also because it is the house of the popular Lingaraja temple.  The town of Bhubaneswar is assumed to have been produced by Yayati, founder of the Kesari dynasty of Orissa.  The striking collection of temples in Bhubaneswar is partially accounted for by the fact that the city was the place of powerful religions.

About Lingaraja temple

The sacred lake of Bhubaneswar was once encircled by 7,000 shrines, of which only 500  now survive in different stages of dilapidation.  The great Lingaraja temple, believed to had built around a thousand a.d.  it stands in a cluster of sixty-five smaller shrines in a spacious compound measuring  520 feet by 465 feet, and its mighty tower (the vimana) dominates the landscape for miles around. However, constructed without mortar, this tower has one hundred twenty-seven feet high and has split into vertical sections. Also, the corners of the recesses are filled in by miniature vimanas and on the top, are figures expressing a lion crushing an elephant.

North Indian style temple / Nagara style temple
the Lingaraja temple: Bhubaneshwar plan and section

Initially, it consisted of a cella and a mandapa. However, cella – is 56ft square and rises about 140 ft. And, mandapa is rectangular. It is also a typical example of the Orrisan-type temple,  having all 4 structures, Deul, Jagmohan, Natmandir, and Bhog mandir. All 4 structures in one axis, east to west on a high platform. The temple enclosure/complex entered through “Simha Dwara”, having lions on both sides.  Garbhgriha has linga made of granite.  Sculpture includes lord Ganesh, Kartika, and Parvati.

Lingaraja temple: Bhubaneshwar details

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Sun temple: Konark

North Indian style temple / Nagara style temple
The Sun temple: Konark

Konark sun temple is a 13th-century sun temple (also known as the black pagoda), at Konark, in Orissa. However, it was created from oxidizing and weathered ferruginous sandstone by king Narsimhadeva I (1236-1264 CE) of the Eastern Ganga dynasty. In addition, the temple is one of the most well-renowned temples in the country and is a world heritage site. As a result, the main entrance of the temple is on the north side. Also, the construction of the temple is in the form of a giant ornamented chariot of the sun god, Surya. The temple follows the classical style of Kalinga architecture.

plan of Sun temple: Konark

It is carefully located towards the east so that the first rays of the morning sun strike the main entrance. The temple is built from Khondalite rocks. The temple of Surya is enclosed within huge walls with three entrances in three different directions. It had horses that were sculpted as a carriage of lord Surya pulled by seven horses.  On one side four horses and on another side three horses and also they were supported by 4 wheels almost ten feet tall along the plinth.  The wheel of carriage denotes 24 hours of a day.

North Indian style temple / Nagara style temple
axonometric view
Sun temple: Konark

About the Jagmohana

However, the Jagmohana is a large room for worshippers and at present, this place has sealed to prevent it from collapsing. Also, crowned by a pyramidal structure and terraces. Meanwhile, according to the present condition, god is without its shikhara. On the three free sides at the base of the Deul stand additional sanctuaries with external stairways that lead to niches holding the status of Surya. However, the entrance of the temple has framed by the pilasters Nata mandirs sculpted by musicians devadasi. Moreover, next to the Nata mandir, an elephant is kept which is the symbol of the preceding dynasty which is crushed by a rampant lion representing Ganga rulers. To the south of the temple stands Bhoga mandapa with the remains of the kitchen, 2 tanks, and a well.  This pilaster has the carvings of the musicians, dancing devadasi.


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Temples of Gujarat

The Solanki style of temple architecture that flourished in Gujarat has all the essential features of a north Indian temple. On plan, it consists of a sanctum, a closed hall, and a porch that is interconnected internally and externally.  However, the wall faces had broken by numerous indentations,  projected and recessed alternately, which has continued along the elevation, producing a pleasing contrast of light and shade. In larger temples a detached peristylar hall was added on the same axis, often preceded by a  Torana or ornamental arched entrance. In rare cases, the hall has more stories than one. Moreover, the temple at Sunak (10th century), the sun temple at Modhera (11th century), the Vemala temple at mount Abu (11th century), and the  Somnath temple at Kathiawar (12th century)  are some of the best examples of this style of architecture.

Sun temple: Modhera example of North Indian style

North Indian style temple / Nagara style temple
Sun temple: Modhera

However, The sun temple at Modera stands testimony to the architectural genius of bygone millennia which shaped and evolved temple buildings to a refined resolution. The temple complex, built-in 1026-27, during the reign of Bhima I of the Solanki dynasty, is characteristic of the architectural creations of  Gujarat of that period.  Consisting of typical north Indian temple forms and elements, this complex is unique because of the Kund or the tank a  subterranean architectural typology unique to this region, seen here in its most elaborate manifestation. Dedicated to the sun god, the ensemble is composed of three parts: the temple and the colonnaded hall, and the Kund.  All of them share a similar east-west oriented axis and face the east. Rising,  towards the rising sun, to let the first rays.

Sun temple: Modhera drawings

Elements of Sun temple: Modhera

  • Surya kund: It was a tank, approximately 100 sqm of holy ablution before entering the temple complex by the devotees. About 108 shrines were carved on the steps including the sculptures of lord shiva, lord Ganesh, etc.
  • Stambh mandapa: it is the assembly hall for religious gatherings. However, fifty-two carved pillars were in the open hall. Sculptures include scenes of Ramayana, Mahabharata, and the life of lord Krishna.  This hall is of approximately 25’,  equal in size of guda mandapa.
  • Guda mandapa : main sanctuary supported by lotus base plinth. The walls have sculptures representing the sun god. It is a square with an 11’ internal dimension.
  • Temple now stands in a ruined state on a raised platform.

In conclusion, an entrance gateway, an open octagonal hall, and the Garbhgriha / cella, with a Pradkshina path, all lie on the same axis. However, the entrance gateway has been carved as Torana. Also, the pavilion /open hall is detached from Garbhgriha. Balconies/terraces seem to project on the sides of the Garbhgriha, resting on columns. The pyramidal roof over the hall is in a tiered arrangement.

North Indian style temple / Nagara style temple
Sun temple: Modhera

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