Sunday, 20 December 2015

Indian Architecture- II

The Hindu Temples
The reference to temples in literature go back early with Panini (520 BC - 460 BC) and Patanjali mentioning temples which were called ‘’Prasadas’’. Early beginnings of Hindu temple architecture have been traced to the remains at Aihole and Pattadakal in present day Karnataka, and have Vedic altars and late Vedic temples as described by Panini as models. Later, as more differentiation took place, the Dravidian/ Southern style and the Indo-Aryan/Northern/Nagara style of temple architecture emerged as dominant modes, epitomized in productions such as the magnificent Brihadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur, and the Sun Temple, Konark. The older terminologies of Dravidian and Indo-Aryan are not used in current practice because of their racial and dubious origins. Buddhist elements and motifs have influenced temple architecture to a considerable extent.

Early temples were rock-cut, later structural temples evolved. The Kailasanatha temple at Ellora is a good example of the former, excavated from top to bottom out of a massive rock face.
The pyramid formed an essential architectonic element in any temple composition- stepped in the Dravidian style, stepped and slightly curved in the Northern style. The structural system was essentially trabeated and with stone being the basic raw material for the Indian craftsman, construction could be carried out with minimal or no mortar. Decoration was fundamental to Indian architecture and is seen in the myriad details of figured sculpture as well as in the architectural elements. The concept of fractals has been used to examine the form of the Hindu temple, both in terms of its planning and external appearance.

The garbha-griha or the womb chamber forms the central focus housing the deity of the temple and is provided with a circumambulation passage around. However, there are also many subsidiary shrines within temple complexes, more particularly in the South Indian (the Dravidian style) temple. As the Hindu temple is not meant for congregational worship, the garbah-griha is small in scale when compared to the whole temple complex. However, it is articulated externally by the vimana or the sikhara. Pillared halls or mandapas are found preceding the garbha-griha.

The spatial experience of a South Indian temple complex is considered particularly rich and meaningful. In many of them, such as the Ranganathaswamy temple at Srirangam, the concentric enclosures or prakaras along with the series of gopurams or entrance gateways reducing in scale as they move towards the garbha-griha set up a rhythm of solids and voids as well as providing a ritual and visual axis. The principles of temple architecture were codified in treatises and canons such as Manasara, Mayamatam, and Vaastu Shastra. These offered an ordering framework yet allowed certain latitude for contextual articulation.

Today most of the ancient Hindu architecture thrives in temples of south India and south-east Asia as the subsequent forces of Islam transformed the cultural landscape of India more dominantly in the north. 
Influence of Islam and the Mughal Architecture
With the advent of Islam, the erstwhile Indian architecture was slightly adapted to allow the traditions of the new religion, but it remained strongly Indian at its heart and character. Arches and domes began to be used and the mosque or masjid too began to form part of the landscape, adding to a new experience in form and space. The sahn or the open courtyard for congregational worship with the enclosing cloisters or liwans and the sanctuary at the Western end offered a different architectural vocabulary. The fundamental difference lay in the fact that Islam prohibited idol worship and therefore a concentrated point of focus such as the garbha-griha was unnecessary. However, the mihrab on the Western wall of the sanctuary articulating the Qibla or the direction towards Mecca offered a notional focus. As idolatry was prohibited, the main means of adornment was surface decoration through the use of geometry, arabesque and calligraphy. Later, mosques began to be built with original material. The Jama Masjid at Delhi is a representative example of an Indian mosque. Islamic architecture was also represented by distinct regional styles that drew a lot of inspiration from the local context.

The most famous Islamic buildings in India emerged during the Mughal period. Mughal architecture built on the traditional Hindu architecture with influences from the Persian world. Over time, Hindu and Islamic architecture produced a synthesis that is exemplified in the glorious production of Akbar- the city of Fatehpur Sikri, considered by many to be superior to the Taj Mahal (often seen as representing India) in terms of what it has to teach to civilisation- syncretism, tolerance and the best of different worlds, and the Taj itself, renowned for its beauty in white marble, its intricate engravings, its minarets and its setting.

The most popular Islamic building type in India is the tomb or the mausoleum which evolved from the basic cube and hemisphere vocabulary of the early phase into a more elaborate form during the Mughal period where multiple chambers are present and tombs were set in a garden known as the char-bagh. The tomb chamber houses the cenotaph below which is the grave. Well known examples are the Gol Gumbaz, Bijapur and the Taj Mahal, Agra.

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