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Sas Bahu Temple, Gwalior, 10th c, © A Mitra

Central and North Indian Temples

Several prolific schools of architecture flourished in medieval Central India and there are hundreds of well-preserved temples that still survive in this region. The style found around Gwalior is exemplified by several experimental but magnificent and finely sculpted temples, including the Siva temples at Mahua and Indore in the 9th century. The largest and perhaps the finest example is the Teli-ka-Mandir on Gwalior fort. The style became increasingly elaborate from the 10th century e.g. at the Sas-Bahu temple in Gwalior Fort.

The regional style of modern Bundelkhand is best represented by a large group of at Khajuraho, the capital of the Chandella dynasty. All of the distinctive characteristics of the fully developed North Indian style can be seen in the Lakshmana temple at Khajuraho, which is a five-shrine complex placed on a tall terrace and enclosed by walls. The temple is known for extraordinary richness of carving, both in the interior and on the exterior, where the walls carry three rows of sculpture. Other outstanding temples here are the Kandariya Mahadeo and the Visvanatha and the Parsvanatha temples.

Lakshmana Temple, 10th c, © Wikipedia

The region around modern Jabalpur has temples dating from the 8th-9th century through the 12th century. In the 10th century, when the Kalachuri dynasty was rapidly gaining power here, several remarkable Siva temples were built at Chandrehe and Masauri. The Viratesvara temple at Sohagpur is covered with sculptural ornamentation as rich as that of Khajuraho. Another style emerged in western Madhya Pradesh in the region ruled largely by the Paramara dynasty. The best preserved examples of this sytle is the Udayesvara, situated at Udaipur.

The architectural style of the Kashmir region in the north is quite distinct. Unlike other regions, the sanctum spire is pyramidal rather than towered with eaves raised in two stages. The greatest example to survive is the ruined Sun Temple at Martand (mid-8th century), which gives a good idea of the characteristic features of the style. The temple is placed in a rectangular court enclosed by a series of columns. The Avantiswami temple at Avantipur, of the mid-9th century, now quite ruined, must have been similar, though much more richly ornamented.

Bangalore, 2006

Photos and Text © Amit Guha