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Dravidian architecture was a style of architecture that emerged thousands of years ago in the Indian subcontinent. They consist primarily of pyramid shaped temples which are dependent on intricate carved stone in order to create a step design consisting of numerous statues of deities, warriors, kings, and dancers. The majority of the existing buildings are located in the Southern Indian states of Tamil Nadumarker, Andhra Pradeshmarker, Keralamarker, and Karnatakamarker. Various kingdoms and empires such as the Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyan, Chera, Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, Hoysalas, Vijayanagara Empire amongst the many others have made a substantial contribution to the evolution of Dravidian architecture through the ages. Dravidian styled architecture can also be found in parts of Northeastern Sri Lanka, Maldivesmarker, and various parts of Southeast Asia.

Composition and structure

The Thiruvannamalai Temple
Dravidian style temples consist almost invariably of the four following parts, arranged in various manners, as afterwards to be explained, but differing in themselves only according to the age in which they were executed:

1. The principal part, the actual temple itself, is called the Vimana. It is always square in plan, and surmounted by a pyramidal roof of one or more stories; and it contains the cell in which the image of the god or his emblem is placed.

2. The porches or Mantapams, which always cover and precede the door leading to the cell.

3. Gate-pyramids, Gopurams, which are the principal features in the quadrangular enclosures that surround the more notable temples.

4. Pillard halls or Chaultris—properly Chawadis -- used for various purposes, and which are the invariable accompaniments of these temples.

Besides these, a temple always contains tanks or wells for water—to be used either for sacred purposes or the convenience of the priests—dwellings for all the various grades of the priest-hood are attached to it, and numerous other buildings for state or convenience.

Influence from different periods

In Southern India seven kingdoms and empires stamped their influence on architecture during different times.:

Pallavas

The Rathas in Mahabalipuram
The Pallavas ruled from AD (600-900) and their greatest constructed accomplishments are the single rock temples in Mahabalipurammarker and their capital Kanchipurammarker, now located in Tamilnadumarker.

Pallavas were pioneers of south Indian architecture. The earliest examples of temples in the Dravidian style belong to the Pallava period. The earliest examples of Pallava constructions are rock-cut temples dating from 610 - 690 CE and structural temples between 690 - 900 CE. The greatest accomplishments of the Pallava architecture are the rock-cut temples at Mahabalipurammarker. There are excavated pillared halls and monolithic shrines known as rathas in Mahabalipuram. Early temples were mostly dedicated to Shiva. The Kailasanatha temple also called Rajasimha Pallaveswaram in Kanchipurammarker built by Narasimhavarman II also known as Rajasimha is a fine example of the Pallava style temple. Mention must be made here of the Shore Templemarker constructed by Narasimhavarman II near Mahabalipurammarker which is a UNESCOmarker World Heritage Site.

Contrary to popular impression about the succeeding empire of the Cholas pioneering in building large temple complexes, it was the Pallavas who actually pioneered not only in making large temples after starting construction of rock cut temples without using mortar, bricks etc.(**) The shining examples of such temples are the Thiruppadagam and Thiruooragam temples that have 28 and 35 feet high images of Lord Vishnu in his manifestation as Pandavadhoothar and Trivikraman forms of himself. In comparison the Siva Lingams in the Royal Temples of the Cholas at Thanjavur and Gangaikonda Cholapurams are 17 and 18 feet high. Considering that the Kanchi Kailasanatha Temple built by Rajasimha Pallava was the inspiration for Raja Raja Chola's Brihadeeswara at Thanjavur, it can be safely concluded that the Pallavas were among the first emperors in India to build both large temple complexes and very large deities and idols(**) Many Siva and Vishnu temples at Kanchi built by the great Pallava emperors and indeed their incomparable Rathas and the Arjuna's penance Bas Relief (also called descent of the Ganga) are proposed UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The continuous Chola, Pallava and Pandiyan belt temples (along with those of the Adigaimans near Karur and Namakkal), as well as the Sethupathy temple group between Pudukottai and Rameswaram uniformly represent the pinnacle of the South Indian Style of Architecture that surpasses any other form of architecture prevalent between the Deccan Plateau and Kanniyakumari(**). Needless to add that in the Telugu country the style was more or less uniformly conforming to the South Indian or Dravidian idiom of architecture.(**)

Pandya



The primary landmark of Srivilliputturmarker is 12-tiered tower structure dedicated to the Lord of Srivilliputtur, known as Vatapatrasayee. The tower of this temple rises 192 feet high and is the official symbol of the Government of Tamil Nadu. It is said to have been built by Periyaazhvar, the father-in-law of the Lord, with a purse of gold that he won in debates held in the palace of Pandya King Vallabhadeva. The Government of Tamil Nadu uses this temple tower as part of its symbol.

Cholas

Detail of the main vimanam (tower) of the Thanjavur Temple
The Chola kings ruled from AD (848-1280) and included Rajaraja Chola I and his son Rajendra Chola who built temples such as the Brihadeshvara Temple of Thanjavurmarker and Brihadeshvara Temple of Gangaikonda Cholapurammarker, the Airateswara Temple of Darasurammarker and the Sarabeswara (Shiva )Temple, also called the Kampahareswarar Temple at Thirubhuvanam, the last two temples being located near Kumbakonam. The first three among the above four temples are titled Great Living Chola Templesmarker among the UNESCOmarker World Heritage Sites.

The Cholas were prolific temple builders right from the times of the first king Vijayalaya Chola after whom the eclectic chain of Vijayalaya Chozhisvaram temple near Narttamalai exists. These are the earliest specimen of Dravidian temples under the Cholas. His son Aditya I built several temples around the Kanchi and Kumbakonam regions.

Temple building received great impetus from the conquests and the genius of Aditya I Parantaka I, Sundara Chola, Rajaraja Chola and his son Rajendra Chola I. The maturity and grandeur to which the Chola architecture had evolved found expression in the two temples of Tanjavur and Gangaikondacholapuram. In a small portion of the Kaveri belt between Tiruchy-Tanjore-Kumbakonam, at the height of their power, the Cholas have left over 2300 temples, with the Tiruchy-Thanjvaur belt itself boasting of more than 1500 temples. The magnificent Siva temple of Thanjavur built by Raja Raja I in 1009 as well as the Brihadisvara Temple of Gangaikonda Cholapurammarker, completed around 1030, are both fitting memorials to the material and military achievements of the time of the two Chola emperors. The largest and tallest of all Indian temples of its time, the Tanjore Brihadisvara is at the apex of South Indian architecture. In fact, two succeeding Chola kings Raja Raja II and Kulothunga III built the Airavateswarar Siva Temple at Darasuram and the Kampahareswarar Siva Temple at Tribhuvanam respectively, both temples being on the outskirts of Kumbakonam around AD 1160 and AD 1200. All the four temples were built over a period of nearly 200 years reflecting the stability and prosperity of Chola rule and their glory.

Contrary to popular impression, the Chola emperors patronized and promoted construction of a large number of temples that were spread over most parts of the Chola empire. These include 40 of the 106 Vaishnava Divya Desams out of which 77 are found spread most of South India and others in Andhra and North India(**). In fact, the Sri Ranganatha Swami Temple in Srirangam, which is the biggest temple in India (**) and the Chidambaram Natarajar Temple (though originally built by the Pallavas but possibly seized from the Cholas of the pre-Christian era when they ruled from Kanchi) (**) were two of the most important temples patronized and expanded by the Cholas and from the times of the second Chola King Aditya I, these two temples have been hailed in inscriptions as the tutelary deities of the Chola Kings (**). Of course, the two Brihadeshwara Temples at Thanjavur and Gangaikonda Cholapuram as well as the other two Siva temples, namely the Airavatesvara Temple of Darasurammarker and the Sarabeswara (Shiva )Temple which is also popular as the Kampahareswarar Temple at Thirubhuvanam]], both on the outskirts of Kumbakonammarker were the royal temples of the Cholas to commemorate their innumerable conquests and subjugation of their rivals from other parts of South India, Deccan and the Narmada-Mahanadi-Gangetic belts(**). But the Chola emperors underlined their non-partisan approach to religion iconography and faith by treating the presiding deities of their other two peerless creations, namely the Ranganathaswamy Temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu at Srirangammarker and the Nataraja Temple at Chidambarammarker which actually is home to the twin deities of Siva and Vishnu (as the reclining Govindarajar) to be their 'Kuladheivams' or tutelary (or family) deities(**). The Cholas also preferred to call only these two temples which home their tutelary or family deities as Koil or the 'Temple', which denotes the most important places of worship for them. The above-named temples are being proposed to be included among the UNESCOmarker World Heritage Sites, which will elevate them to the exacting and exalting standards of the Great Living Chola Templesmarker(**).

The temple of Gangaikondacholapuram, the creation of Rajendra Chola, was intended to exceed its predecessor in every way. Completed around 1030, only two decades after the temple at Thanjavur and in much the same style, the greater elaboration in its appearance attests the more affluent state of the Chola Empire under Rajendra.. This temple has a larger Siva linga than the one at Thanjavur but the Vimana of this temple is smaller in height than the Thanjavur vimana.

The Chola period is also remarkable for its sculptures and bronzes all over the world. Among the existing specimens in museums around the world and in the temples of South India may be seen many fine figures of Siva in various forms, such as Vishnu and his consort Lakshmi, and the Siva saints. Though conforming generally to the iconographic conventions established by long tradition, the sculptors worked with great freedom in the 11th and the 12th centuries to achieve a classic grace and grandeur. The best example of this can be seen in the form of Nataraja the Divine Dancer.

Badami Chalukyas

The Badami Chalukyas also called the Early Chalukyas, ruled from Badamimarker, Karnataka in the period AD 543 - 753 and spawned the Vesara style called Badami Chalukya Architecture. The finest examples of their art are seen in Pattadakalmarker, Aiholemarker and Badamimarker in northern Karnataka. Over 150 temples remain in the Malaprabha basin.

The most enduring legacy of the Chalukya dynasty is the architecture and art that they left behind. More than one hundred and fifty monuments attributed to the Badami Chalukya, and built between 450 and 700, remain in the Malaprabha basin in Karnatakamarker.

The rock-cut temples of Pattadakalmarker, a UNESCOmarker World Heritage Site, Badamimarker and Aiholemarker are their most celebrated monuments. Two of the famous paintings at Ajantamarker cave no. 1, "The Temptation of the Buddha" and "The Persian Embassy" are attributed to them. This is the beginning of Chalukya style of architecture and a consolidation of South Indian style.

Rashtrakutas

[[Image:kailash2.jpg|right|250px|thumb|left|The view of the Kailash temple from the top.The photo is taken at the cave temples clusters of Elloramarker, Maharastra, India.]]The Rashtrakutas who ruled the deccanmarker from Manyakhetamarker, Gulbarga districtmarker, Karnataka in the period AD 753 - 973 built some of the finest dravidian monuments at Elloramarker (the Kailasanatha templemarker), in the rock cut architecture idiom. Some other fine monuments are the Jaina Narayana temple at Pattadakalmarker and the Navalinga temples at Kuknur in Karnataka.

The Rashtrakutas contributed much to the culture of the Deccanmarker.The Rashtrakuta contributions to art and architecture are reflected in the splendid rock-cut shrines at Ellora and Elephanta, situated in present day Maharashtramarker. It is said that they altogether constructed 34 rock-cut shrines, but most extensive and sumptuous of them all is the Kailasanatha temple at Elloramarker. The temple is a splendid achievement of Dravidian art. The walls of the temple have marvellous sculptures from Hindy mythology including Ravana, Shiva and Parvathi while the ceilings have paintings.

The project was commissioned by King Krishna I after the Rashtrakuta rule had spread into South India from the Deccanmarker. The architectural style used was dravidian. It does not contain any of the Shikharas common to the Nagara style and was built on the same lines as the Virupaksha temple at Pattadakalmarker in Karnatakamarker.

Western Chalukyas

The Western Chalukyas also called the Kalyani Chalukyas or Later Chalukyas ruled the deccan from AD 973 - 1180 from their capital Kalyanimarker in modern Karnataka and further refined the Chalukyan style, called the Western Chalukya architecture. Over 50 temples exist in the Krishna River-Tungabhadramarker doab in central Karnataka. The Kasi Vishveshvara at Lakkundi, Mallikarjuna at Kuruvatii, Kalleshwara temple at Bagali and Mahadeva at Itagi are the finest examples produced by the Later Chalukya architects.

The reign of Western Chalukya dynasty was an important period in the development of architecture in the deccan. Their architectural developments acted as a conceptual link between the Badami Chalukya Architecture of the 8th century and the Hoysala architecture popularised in the 13th century. The art of Western Chalukyas is sometimes called the "Gadagmarker style" after the number of ornate temples they built in the Tungabhadramarker - Krishna River doab region of present day Gadag districtmarker in Karnataka. Their temple building reached its maturity and culmination in the 12th century, with over a hundred temples built across the deccan, more than half of them in present day Karnataka. Apart from temples they are also well known for ornate stepped wells (Pushkarni) which served as ritual bathing places, many of which are well preserved in Lakkundi. Their stepped well designs were later incorporated by the Hoysalas and the Vijayanagara empire in the coming centuries.

Hoysalas



The Hoysala kings ruled southern India during the period AD (1100-1343) from their capital Belurmarker and later Halebidumarker in Karnataka and developed a unique idiom of architecture called the Hoysala architecture in Karnatakamarker state. The finest examples of their architecture are the Chennakesava Temple in Belurmarker, Hoysaleswara temple in Halebidumarker, and the Kesava Temple in Somanathapura.

The modern interest in the Hoysalas is due to their patronage of art and architecture rather than their military conquests. The brisk temple building throughout the kingdom was accomplished despite constant threats from the Pandyas to the south and the Seunas Yadavas to the north. Their architectural style, an offshoot of the Western Chalukya style, shows distinct Dravidian influences. The Hoysala architecture style is described as Karnata Dravida as distinguished from the traditional Dravida, and is considered an independent architectural tradition with many unique features.

Vijayanagar



The whole of South India was ruled by Vijayanagar Empire from AD (1343-1565), who built a number of temples and monuments in their hybrid style in their capital Vijayanagar in Karnataka. Their style was a combination of the styles developed in South India in the previous centuries. In addition, the Yali columns (pillar with charging horse), balustrades (parapets) and ornate pillared manatapa are their unique contribution. King Krishna Deva Raya and others built many famous temples all over South India in Vijayanagar Architecture style.

Vijayanagara architecture is a vibrant combination of the Chalukya, Hoysala, Pandya and Chola styles, idioms that prospered in previous centuries. Its legacy of sculpture, architecture and painting influenced the development of the arts long after the empire came to an end. Its stylistic hallmark is the ornate pillar Kalyanamantapa (marriage hall), Vasanthamantapa (open pillared halls) and the Rayagopura (tower). Artisans used the locally available hard granite because of its durability since the kingdom was under constant threat of invasion. While the empire's monuments are spread over the whole of Southern India, nothing surpasses the vast open air theatre of monuments at its capital at Vijayanagaramarker, a UNESCOmarker World Heritage Site.

In the 14th century the kings continued to build Vesara or Deccan style monuments but later incorporated dravida-style gopurams to meet their ritualistic needs. The Prasanna Virupaksha temple (underground temple) of Bukka Raya I and the Hazare Rama temple of Deva Raya I are examples of Deccan architecture. The varied and intricate ornamentation of the pillars is a mark of their work. At Hampi, though the Vitthala temple is the best example of their pillared Kalyanamantapa style, the Hazara Ramaswamy temple is a modest but perfectly finished example. A visible aspect of their style is their return to the simplistic and serene art developed by the Chalukya dynasty. A grand specimen of Vijayanagara art, the Vitthala temple, took several decades to complete during the reign of the Tuluva kings.

External links



References

  1. See Nilakanta Sastri, K.A. (1955). A History of South India, pp 421
  2. Nagasamy R, Gangaikondacholapuram (1970)
  3. The bronze image of nataraja at the Nagesvara Temple in Kumbakonam is the largest image known.
  4. Over 125 temples exist in Aihole alone,
  5. The Badami Chalukya introduced in the western Deccan a glorious chapter alike in heroism in battle and cultural magnificence in peace said art critic K.V. Sounderrajan. They have influenced the architecture in Vengi and Gujarat- Dr. Suryanath U. Kamath (2001), A Concise History of Karnataka from pre-historic times to the present, Jupiter books, MCC (Reprinted 2002), p68
  6. An important period in the development of Indian art (Kamath 2001, p115)
  7. James Fergusson and Henry Cousens write that the Hoysala style has many features in common with that of the Western Chalukya,
  8. Percy Brown writes that the Hoysala style has negligible influences on the Indo-Aryan style and owing to its many independent features, qualifies as an independent school of architecture, Suryanath U. Kamath, A Concise History of Karnataka from pre-historic times to the present, 2001, Jupiter books, MCC, (Reprinted 2002), p134
  9. Havell, R. Narasimhachar, M. Sheshadri and S. Settar also claim their style is an independent tradition,
  10. Art critic, Percy Brown calls Vijayanagar architecture a blossoming of Dravidian style, Kamath, p182
  11. Arthikaje Literary Activity}
  12. "So intimate are the rocks and the monuments they were used for make, it is was sometimes impossible to say where nature ended and art began" (Art critic Percy Brown, quoted in Hampi, A Travel Guide, p64)
  13. Fritz & Mitchell, p9
  14. Nilakanta Sastri about the importance of pillars in the Vijayanagar style in Kamath (2001), p183
  15. "Drama in stone" wrote art critic Percy Brown, much of the beauty of Vijayanagara architecture came from their pillars and piers and the styles of sculpting (Hampi, A Travel Guide, p77)
  16. About the sculptures in Vijayanagara style, see Kamath (2001), p184
  17. Several monuments are categorised as Tuluva art (Fritz & Mitchell 2001, p9)


(**) www.whatsindia.com/south_indian_inscriptions/


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