Temple Architecture in India

Temple Architecture in India

Indian temple architecture is unique and multifaceted, playing a significant role throughout the history of Indian culture and religion.

Main Features

The main features of Indian temple architecture include:

  • Stepped pyramidal tower over the sanctuary (Shikhara);
  • Rich sculptural decoration on facades;
  • Columns and exquisite stone carving;
  • Elevated location – on a hill or a special platform.

These architectural solutions reflect the spiritual quests of the Indian people, striving for harmony between man and the Universe.

Historical Development

Indian temple architecture has undergone several key phases, each contributing its characteristics to the temple's appearance.

  • Ancient Period (up to the 8th century): This era saw the emergence of grand rock-cut temples (Ajanta, Ellora, Mahabalipuram), characterized by their monumentalism, rigor, and simplicity of forms. Their geometric blocks, pylons, vaulted ceilings convey an impression of indestructibility and eternity. These temples represent power, strength, and spiritual grandeur.
  • Medieval Period (8th-16th century): If earlier rock-cut temples predominated, the medieval era saw many stone and brick temple complexes. They are characterized by an abundance of decor - sculptural depictions of gods, mythical beings, humans, and intricate stone carvings. Erotic decor, reflecting Tantric cults, was particularly popular. A prime example is the famous Kandariya Mahadeva Temple in Khajuraho. This period achieved a harmonious synthesis of architectural forms and decorative adornment.
  • Colonial Period (16th-19th century): The architectural development was significantly influenced by Muslim conquerors. The Indo-Saracenic style emerged, combining Hindu and Muslim traditions.

Famous Temples of India

India is renowned for its numerous unique temples. Let's delve deeper into three that can be considered the jewels of Indian architecture, illustrating its different epochs.

  • Kandariya Mahadeva Temple: This temple in Khajuraho is considered one of the most famous monuments of medieval Indian architecture. It amazes with the elegance of sculptures and the abundance of erotic motifs, vividly conveying the spirit of Indian culture of that era.
  • Sun Temple in Konark: If the Kandariya Mahadeva Temple is the gem of the medieval era, the Sun Temple in Konark is one of the masterpieces of ancient Indian architecture. This grand monumental temple dedicated to the Sun God and his chariot is symbolized by its 24 giant wheels, representing 24 solar hours.
  • Lotus Temple: Finally, a completely different example is the astonishing Lotus Temple in Delhi, built in the 20th century. It demonstrates how harmoniously Indian architects combine millennia-old temple-building traditions and innovative ideas. The temple, resembling a blooming lotus, embodies the concept of spiritual awakening.

Significance of Temples in Indian Culture

Throughout history, temples have been centers of religious life in India, attracting pilgrims from all over the country. Today, they remain an integral part of the culture. Indian temple architecture is rightfully considered one of the highest achievements of world architecture.


Indian temples are characterized by a harmonious combination of architectural forms, richness of decor, and profound symbolism. Over millennia, temple architecture in India has evolved, with each era contributing its own. Even today, Indian temples continue to amaze the world with their beauty and spirituality.