Uncovering the 6 Styles of Indian Temple Architecture
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 6 min read


  1. Nagara Style Architecture
  2. Dravida Style Architecture
  3. Vesara Style Architecture
  4. Hoysala Style Architecture
  5. Kalinga Style Architecture
  6. Hemadpanthi Style Architecture

There's something undeniably enchanting about India's temple architecture. As diverse as the country itself, these architectural wonders mirror the rich tapestry of India's cultural heritage. Today, we're going to unravel the mystery behind the 6 distinct styles of Indian temple architecture. So, let's dive into the fascinating world of intricate designs, towering structures, and remarkable craftsmanship that characterize Indian temple architecture styles.

Nagara Style Architecture

When you think of Indian temple architecture styles, the Nagara style probably pops up in your mind first. This style is predominantly found in the northern parts of India, hence, it's also known as the Northern style.

Key Features

What sets the Nagara style apart? Well, it's all in the details:

  • Shikhara: This is the towering spire that you'll notice at the top of the temple. It's designed to resemble a mountain peak, signifying the heavenly abode of the gods. The Shikhara is always located directly above the sanctum where the deity resides.
  • Mandapa: This is the pillared hall where worshippers gather. The Mandapa is typically elaborately decorated with carvings and sculptures, making it a feast for the eyes.
  • Garbhagriha: This is the innermost sanctum that houses the main deity of the temple. It's considered the most sacred part of the temple.

Notable Examples

You can see the Nagara style in all its glory in the following temples:

  1. Kandariya Mahadeva Temple, Khajuraho: This temple is a perfect example of Nagara style architecture with its intricately carved Shikhara and Mandapa. It's also known for its erotic sculptures, which are a unique feature of the Khajuraho group of temples.
  2. Sun Temple, Konark: Known for its magnificent sun chariot design, the Sun Temple showcases the grandeur of Nagara style architecture. The 24 wheels of the chariot are elaborately carved, each representing an hour of the day.

As you can see, the Nagara style adds a unique flavor to the medley of Indian temple architecture styles. Up next, let's explore the Dravida style that's as different from the Nagara style as chalk and cheese.

Dravida Style Architecture

If you ever find yourself wandering in the southern regions of India, you'll notice a stark contrast in temple design, compared to the Nagara style. Welcome to the world of Dravida style, also known as the Southern style, which is as unique as it is awe-inspiring.

Key Features

Let's break down what makes the Dravida style distinctly different:

  • Vimana: Similar to the Shikhara in Nagara style, the Vimana is the dominating tower in Dravida style temples. However, it differs in design, as it's typically pyramid-shaped and consists of gradually receding levels.
  • Gopuram: This is the monumental tower at the entrance of the temple. The Gopuram is often more elaborate and taller than the Vimana, making it the defining feature of Dravida style temples.
  • Mandapa: While the Mandapa also exists in Nagara style, in Dravida style it's usually a separate structure connected to the main temple by a covered walkway.

Notable Examples

Here are a couple of temples where you can witness the Dravida style in its full splendor:

  1. Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai: Famous for its colorful Gopurams adorned with an array of deities, the Meenakshi Amman Temple is a classic example of Dravida style architecture.
  2. Brihadeeswarar Temple, Thanjavur: Known for its towering Vimana, the Brihadeeswarar Temple showcases the grand scale at which Dravida style temples can be built.

Isn't it fascinating how different the Dravida style is from the Nagara style, despite both being part of the broad spectrum of Indian temple architecture styles? But wait, there's more! Up next, we'll delve into the hybrid Vesara style that merges the best of both worlds.

Vesara Style Architecture

Have you ever wondered what would happen if the architectural styles of Northern and Southern India had a baby? The answer is the Vesara style. This hybrid form combines elements of both Nagara and Dravida styles, creating unique and breathtaking structures.

Defining Characteristics

Wondering what makes Vesara style stand out? Here are its main features:

  • Blend of Styles: Vesara style features the Vimana of Dravida style and the Shikhara of Nagara style. This fusion creates a unique tower shape that's neither pyramidal nor beehive-like but a beautiful blend of both.
  • Sculptural Art: The Vesara style is known for its detailed and intricate sculptural work. The walls of these temples are often filled with beautiful carvings, showcasing the exceptional skills of the artisans.

Notable Examples

If you're interested in seeing this style in person, check out these standout temples:

  1. Lad Khan Temple, Aihole: Named after a Muslim prince who lived here, this temple is one of the earliest examples of Vesara style architecture.
  2. Chennakesava Temple, Belur: Known for its exquisite carvings and sculptures, the Chennakesava Temple perfectly embodies the Vesara style.

Isn't it amazing how the Vesara style brings together the best of both Nagara and Dravida, contributing to the rich diversity of Indian temple architecture styles? But hold your horses, we're only halfway through. Up next, prepare to be dazzled by the intricate Hoysala style.

Hoysala Style Architecture

Imagine walking into a temple, and everywhere you look, there's a story unfolding. That's the power of the Hoysala style architecture. Originating from Karnataka, this style is known for its detailed narratives and exquisite carvings.

Key Features

What makes Hoysala style unique among Indian temple architecture styles? Let's find out:

  • Star-shaped Platform: Many Hoysala temples are built on a star-shaped platform. This feature not only makes them distinct but also allows for more wall space for intricate carvings.
  • Exquisite Carvings: Hoysala style is known for its detailed and narrative carvings. Each panel tells a story, often from Indian epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Must-see Temples

Ready to see some real-life Hoysala magic? Check out these temples:

  1. Chennakesava Temple, Somanathapura: A masterpiece of Hoysala architecture, this temple is known for its intricate sculptures and detailed carvings.
  2. Hoysaleswara Temple, Halebidu: This temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, features some of the best Hoysala carvings, making it a must-visit for architecture enthusiasts.

And that's a wrap on the Hoysala style. As we delve deeper into the realm of Indian temple architecture styles, you'll find that each one is unique, narrating its own tale of art and culture. Up next, we'll explore the ancient Kalinga style. Stay tuned!

Kalinga Style Architecture

Imagine stepping into a time machine and travelling back to the days when kings ruled and spirituality was a way of life. That's the experience you get when you visit a temple built in the Kalinga style. This architectural style hailing from Odisha is a remarkable example of Indian temple architecture styles.

Defining Characteristics

What sets Kalinga style apart? Let's find out:

  • Rekha Deul: The main shrine, known as Rekha Deul, is tall and pyramid-like. The top is rounded, resembling a mountain peak.
  • Pidha Deul: The assembly hall, or Pidha Deul, is lower and wider. The roof is made of several horizontal platforms, each smaller than the one below it, creating a step-like appearance.

Famous Temples

Ready to observe the grandeur of Kalinga style in person? Here are a couple of temples you must visit:

  1. Konark Sun Temple, Odisha: Known as the Black Pagoda, this temple is a marvel of Kalinga architecture. The temple complex is designed in the form of a colossal chariot with intricately carved wheels, walls, and pillars.
  2. Jagannath Temple, Puri: This iconic temple is a significant pilgrimage destination and a prime example of Kalinga architecture style.

Exploring the Kalinga style of architecture is like reading an open book of history and culture. It's fascinating how each of these Indian temple architecture styles has its own charm and unique features, isn't it? Next up, we’re going to uncover the mysteries of the Hemadpanthi style. Don't go anywhere!

Hemadpanthi Style Architecture

Are you ready to dive into another fascinating chapter of Indian temple architecture styles? Buckle in, because we're about to delve into the Hemadpanthi style, a distinct architectural tradition hailing from Maharashtra.

Distinctive Features

The Hemadpanthi style is unique and stands out in its own right. Let's explore some of its key features:

  • Material: This style predominantly uses black stone and lime, giving the temples a unique aesthetic appeal.
  • Intricate Carvings: One of the hallmarks of the Hemadpanthi style is the intricate carvings that adorn every inch of the temple walls, narrating various mythological stories.

Notable Temples

Want to see Hemadpanthi architecture in all its glory for yourself? Here are a couple of temples you should add to your list:

  1. Hemadpanthi Temple, Hingoli: This temple is one of the best examples of Hemadpanthi style architecture. It showcases the excellent craftsmanship of the artisans of that era.
  2. Amruteshwar Temple, Ratanwadi: Built in Hemadpanthi style, this temple is a marvel of architecture and carvings. It's a hidden gem waiting to be explored.

With its exquisite carvings and distinct use of materials, the Hemadpanthi style truly adds a unique flavor to the palette of Indian temple architecture styles. It's truly amazing how each style has its own story to tell, isn't it? But hold on, we're not done yet! Next up, we'll be venturing into the world of Nagara style architecture. Stay tuned!

If you enjoyed exploring the intricacies of Indian Temple Architecture and are interested in incorporating similar architectural styles into your own creative projects, check out the workshop 'Visual Development for Fantasy World-Building' by Kit Buss. This workshop will guide you through the process of creating visually stunning and culturally inspired settings for your fantasy worlds, drawing inspiration from architectural marvels like the ones you've just read about.