Temples Styles in North India (Nagara Style)

Ancient Indian temples are classified in three broad types. This classification is based on different architectural styles, employed in the construction of the temples. Three main style of temple architecture are the Nagara or the Northern style, the Dravida or the Southern style and the Vesara or Mixed style.

Elements of Hindu Temples

  • literally means ‘womb-house’ and is a cave like sanctum
  • Garbhagriha is made to house the main icon (main deity)
  • It is the entrance to the temple
  • May be a portico or colonnaded (series of columns placed at regular intervals) hall that incorporate space for a large number of worshipers
  • Some temples have multiple mandapas in different sizes named as Ardhamandapa, Mandapa and Mahamandapa
Shikhara or Vimana
  • They are mountain like spire of a free standing temple
  • Shikhara is found in North Indian temples and Vimana is found in South Indian temples
  • Shikhara has a curving shape while vimana has a pyramidal like structure
  • a stone disc like structure at the top of the temple shikara
  • topmost point of the temple above Amalaka
Antarala (vestibule)
  • a transition area between the Garbhagriha and the temple’s main hall (mandapa)
  • a raised platform for sitting and praying
  • vehicle of the temple’s main deity along with a standard pillar or Dhvaj

Shikara vs Vimana

Classification of Indian Temples

  • Nagara (North India)
  • Dravida (South India)
  • Vesara style→ an independent style → mixure of Nagara and Dravida styles

Nagara, Dravida, Vesara

Nagara School of Architecture

  • Style of temple architecture that became popular in northern India
  • a square temple with a number of graduated projections (rathakas)
  • A tower (sikhara) gradually curving inwards and capped by a spheroid slab with ribs round the edge (Amalaka) give the elevation
  • Prominent features Shikaras (Spiral roofs), Garbhagriha (sanctum) & Mandap (pillared hall)
  • Thus the two major characteristics of this style are the cruciform ground plan and the curvilinear tower

Nagara Temple Plan

Three subtypes of Nagara temple depending upon the shape of Shikhara:

Rekha Prasad / Latina

  • Simple Shikhara Square at the base and the walls curve inward to a point on the top.
  • Latina types are mainly used for housing the garbhagriha
  • The top is called ‘latina’ or the rekha-Prasad type of Shikhara.


  • Phamsana buildings tend to be broader and shorter than latina buildings.
  • Their roofs are composed of several slabs that gently rise to a single point over the center of building, unlike the latina ones which look like sharply rising tall towers.
  • They do not curve inwards, instead they slope upwards on a straight incline.
  • In many North Indian temples Phamsana was used for mandapa and latina for Garbhgriha.



  • Rectangular building with a roof that rises into a vaulted chamber.
  • They are usually called as wagon vaulted buildings

Valabhi Temples

Three sub schools developed under Nagara style:

Odisha School

  • Most of the main temple sites are located in ancient Puri and Konark.
  • Here the shikhara, called deul in Odisha, is vertical almost until the top when it suddenly curves sharply inwards.
  • Deuls are preceded, as usual, by mandapas called jagamohana in Odisha.
  • The ground plan of the main temple is square, which, in the upper reaches of its superstructure becomes circular in the crowning mastaka.
  • The exterior of the temples are lavishly carved, their interiors generally quite bare.
  • Odisha temples usually have boundary walls.
  • Example: Konark Temple, Jagannath temple, Lingaraj temple.

konarak Temples


Khujuraho/Chandel school

  • Khajuraho’s temples are known for their extensive erotic sculptures
  • Patronized by Chandela kings of Bundelkhand (10th and 11th century).
  • These 22 temples (out of the original 85) are regarded as one of world’s greatest artistic wonders.
  • The finest among them is Shaivite temple known as Kandariya Mahadev, built around 10th century by King Ganda
  • The standard type of Khajuraho temple has a shrine room, an assembly hall, and an entrance portico.

khajuraho_mahadev temple

  • These entities were treated as a whole, whereas in the Odishan style they were conceived as separate elements.
  • The sikhara is curved for its whole length, and miniature sikharas emerge from the central tower.
  • The halls and porticos of the temple are also crowned with smaller towers which rise progressively upto the main tower.
  • Vishnu Temple at Chaturbhunj (MP) is another prominent temples at Khajuraho.


Solanki School

  • Patronized by Solanki kings (later Chalukya) of Gujarat (11th to 13th century).
  • The Vimala, Tejpala and Vastupala temples at Mount Abu exhibit this style.
  • Dilwara temple in Mt Abu – Highest Jain pilgrimage

Dilwara Temple

  • Exquisite example is Sun temple at Modhera, built by Raja Bhimdev-I of the Solanki Dynasty in 1026
  • There is a massive rectangular stepped tank called the suryakund in front of it.
  • 108 miniature shrines are carved in between the steps inside the tank.
  • A huge ornamental arch-torana leads one to the sabha mandapa (the assemblyhall) which is open on all sides.
  • Every year at the time of the equinoxes, the sun shines directly into the central shrine.
India Yearbook English India Yearbook Hindi Economic Survey 2017


  1. very nice information

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>