Shikhara Architecture Types

Shikhara architecture refers to the distinctive style of temple architecture commonly found in India. The word “shikhara” means “mountain peak” or “summit” in Sanskrit, and it aptly describes the tall and curvilinear tower-like structures that dominate the temples built in this style.

Shikhara architecture geometry is predominantly associated with Hindu temples, although it has also influenced some Jain and Sikh temple designs. These temples are characterized by their verticality and intricate ornamentation, often showcasing elaborate carvings and sculptures.

Here are some key features and characteristics of shikhara geometry:

Towering shikhara

Towering Shikhara: The most prominent feature is the towering shikhara, which is the superstructure or spire that rises above the sanctum sanctorum (garbhagriha) of the temple. It is typically constructed in a curvilinear shape, resembling a mountain peak or a pyramid with gradually receding tiers.

shikhara architecture

Curvilinear form

Curvilinear Form: Shikhara architecture is known for its curvilinear form. The spire of the shikhara gradually tapers towards the top and is often adorned with horizontal and vertical rib-like projections called rathas.

Multiple Shikharas

Multiple Shikharas: Larger temples may have multiple shikharas arranged in a stepped or tiered formation. Each shikhara is usually smaller in size than the one beneath it, creating a pyramidal effect.

multiple shikhara layering

Vertical Layers

Vertical Layers: The shikhara is composed of multiple vertical layers or storeys, known as talas. Each tala is marked by distinct architectural features, such as niches, pilasters, and miniature shrines. The number of talas may vary depending on the size and complexity of the temple.

Intricate Carvings

Intricate Carvings: Shikhara temples are renowned for their intricate carvings that adorn the exterior walls, pillars, and entranceways. These carvings depict various mythological scenes, deities, celestial beings, and intricate geometrical and floral patterns. The carvings are often executed with great skill and attention to detail.

shikhara carvings

Mandapa and Ardhamandapa

Mandapa and Ardhamandapa: Shikhara temples are usually accompanied by a pillared hall known as the mandapa, which serves as a congregation space for devotees. The mandapa is often connected to the main shrine by an ardhamandapa (anteroom).

temple mandapa

Central Sanctum

Central Sanctum: The central sanctum, or garbhagriha, houses the main deity of the temple. It is usually a square or rectangular chamber. The garbhagriha is considered the most sacred space within the temple and is often dimly lit to create a meditative ambiance.

Gateway and Wall Sculptures

Gateway and Wall Sculptures: The entrance to a shikhara-style temple is typically marked by a grand gateway called the gopuram or torana. These gateways are often adorned with sculptures and carvings depicting deities, mythical creatures, and auspicious symbols. The temple walls may also feature intricate sculptures and bas-reliefs.

Proportions and Symmetry

Proportions and Symmetry: Shikhara temples follow certain mathematical and proportional principles outlined in ancient architectural treatises. The temple design emphasizes symmetry, with a central axis running through the sanctum and mandapa, and the various architectural elements positioned in a balanced and harmonious manner.

temple architecture gateway

Regional Variations

Regional Variations: While shikhara architecture has a general style, there are regional variations in different parts of North India. For example, the Nagara style, which originated in the northern regions, exhibits more curvature and intricate detailing, while the Dravida style, prevalent in southern India, has a more pyramidal and tiered structure.

Shikhara architecture is a rich and diverse style that has evolved over centuries. It reflects the craftsmanship, artistic expression, and religious devotion of the builders and patrons of these magnificent temples. Each temple may exhibit variations in style, regional influences, and artistic interpretations while adhering to the fundamental principles of shikhara architecture.

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