A Visual Glossary of Hindu Architecture


Mark Cartwright
published on 19 December 2016

The Brihadishvara Temple, Thanjavur

Adisthana - the decorative raised platform on which a temple is built.

Figure en toilette, Khajuraho

Alasa kanya - a decorative female figure. 

Muktesvara Temple, Bhubaneshwar

Amalaka - a large fluted stone disc placed on top of a Nagara tower taking its form from the amla or myrobalan fruit native to India

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Features of Hindu Architecture

Antarala - an antechamber to the inner sanctum or garbhagriha of a temple. 

Durga Temple, Aihole

Ardhamandapa - a temple portico serving as an entrance porch.

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Bho - a medallion motif of Orissan architecture which projects from towers and shows a monster regurgitating garlands flanked by two dwarfs. 

Principal Features of a Hindu Temple Complex

Bhoga mandapa - (or Bogh-mandir) a hall in Orissan temples which is used for consecrated food preparation and distribution.

Brihadishvara Temple, Thanjavur

Devalaya - the general name of a temple meaning a god's dwelling place.

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Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram

Dravida - the style of southern temple architecture.

Garbhagriha, Pattadakal

Garbhagriha - (also garbha grha) meaning 'womb-chamber,' the small windowless room that is the main shrine of the temple, usually containing a representation or symbol of the principal deity.

Ghana dvara - blind doorways of the garbhagriha, which symbolically allow the energy of the deity to radiate through and beyond the temple. They may also act as secondary niche shrines.

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Ghanta - a bell-shaped finial on the top of a tower.

Monumental Gateway, Brihadishvara Temple, Thanjavur

Gopura - a monumental gate tower of Dravida temples.

Surviving Jagamohana of the Konark Sun Temple, Orissa

Jagamohana - the mandapa or entrance hall of an Orissan temple.

Kirtimukha, Nepal

Kirtimukha - a decorative lion or monster motif with the lower jaw missing, typically placed over doorways. 

Mandapa, 	Amritheswara temple

Mandapa - a columned hallway which leads to the garbhagriha or inner sanctum.

Makara, Cambodia

Makara - a decorative sea monster motif.

Parsvanatha Temple, Khajuraho

Nagara - the style of northern temple architecture.

Vimana, Kailasanatha Temple, Kanchipuram

Nandi Mandapa - a pavilion which contains a statue of Shiva's gatekeeper and vehicle, the bull Nandi.

Nata Mandapa, Konark

Nata mandapa - (also nata mandir) the dance hall in Orissan temples, added from the 10th century CE.

Shiva with Nandi, Aihole

Nataraja - a decorative dancing Shiva motif.

Kailasanatha Temple, Kanchipuram, India

Prakara - a high wall which encloses a temple.

Wheel, Konark Sun Temple

Ratha - a projection on the exterior wall of a Nagara temple; there are typically seven on each side. Also the name for the chariot of the sun god Surya which sun temples represent via spoked wheels on the outer walls.

Bhima & Dhamaraja

Sala - a barrel-vaulted roof in Dravida architecture, often represented as an architectural motif.   

Rajarani Temple, Bhubaneshwar

Sikhara - the tower of a Nagara temple which is built directly above the inner sanctum or garbhagriha. Also the decorative top of a tower in Dravida temples. 

Talas of the Brihadishvara Temple

Tala - the tiers of a vimana tower.

Gopura & Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram

Temple tank - a ritual bathing tank or pool common in southern temples. 

Kandariya Mahadeo Temple, Khajuraho

Urushringa - a smaller, subsidiary tower, usually joining or enclosing the main tower. 

Kailasanatha Temple, Kanchipuram

Vimana - the more rounded tower of a Dravida temple. Typically they are topped by a small dome.

Temple Vastu-Purusa-Mandala

Vastu-purusa-mandala - the symbolic symmetrical floorplan which Hindu temples follow.

Somanathapura, Vesara Style Temple

Vesara - the style of architecture which mixed Nagara and Dravida styles. 

Vyala (Yali)

Vyala - (also yali) the decorative lion monster seen in many Hindu temples.

Editorial Review This Article has been reviewed for accuracy, reliability and adherence to academic standards prior to publication.

About the Author

Mark Cartwright
Mark is a history writer based in Italy. His special interests include pottery, architecture, world mythology and discovering the ideas that all civilizations share in common. He holds an MA in Political Philosophy and is the Publishing Director at AHE.

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Cite This Work

APA Style

Cartwright, M. (2016, December 19). A Visual Glossary of Hindu Architecture. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/article/994/

Chicago Style

Cartwright, Mark. "A Visual Glossary of Hindu Architecture." Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified December 19, 2016. https://www.ancient.eu/article/994/.

MLA Style

Cartwright, Mark. "A Visual Glossary of Hindu Architecture." Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 19 Dec 2016. Web. 21 Oct 2019.

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