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Nagara Style of Temple Architecture

  • Context (IE): The Ram temple in Ayodhya is constructed based on the Nagara style.

Nagara Style of Temple Architecture

Nagara style of Temple Architecture

  • It began around the 5th century CE in northern India, during the late Gupta period.
  • It developed alongside Dravida style, which originated in southern India during the same period.
  • Nagara-style temples are often built on a raised stone platform with steps leading up to them.
  • Nagara temples typically lack elaborate boundary walls or gateways.
  • The main tower always houses the garbhagriha.
  • Towering over the garbha griha is the shikhara, the most distinguishable aspect of the Nagara style.
    • The term “shikhara” refers to man-made representations of the natural and cosmological order.
    • The Amalaka or Kalash on the Shikhara is a distinctive feature.
    • Nagara temples have subdivisions based on the shape of the shikhara.
  • A Nagara-style temple typically includes a circumambulatory passage around the garbha griha, along with one or more mandapas (halls) on the same axis.
  • Elaborate murals and reliefs often decorate its walls.
  • Examples: Kandariya Mahadev Temple in Madhya Pradesh, the Sun Temple in Konark, the Sun Temple in Modhera, Gujarat, and the Ossian Temple in Gujarat.
  • Adam Hardy, in his book “The Temple Architecture of India” (2007), describes Nagara and Dravida styles as “the two great classical languages of Indian temple architecture.

Classification of the Nagara Style of Temple Architecture

  • Adam Hardy classifies the Nagara style of temple architecture based on the style of Shikhara.


  • They have barrel-vaulted roofs and are rectangular in design.
  • An example of this style is the Teli Ka Mandir, a 9th-century temple in Gwalior.

See photos

Teli ka Mandir


  • These Nagara-style temples are shorter and broader structures.
  • Multiple slabs rise upwards in a moderate slope on a straight incline like a pyramid, meeting at a single point above the building’s mid-point.
  • An example of this style is the Jagmohan of Konark Temple.

    Jagamohana - Wikipedia

Jagmohan temple

Rekha-Prasad or Latina

  • It emerged from the previous styles (Valabhi,phamsana).
  • These temples feature a basic Shikara, a slightly curved tower with four sides of equal length.
  • It remained the most refereed style till the 10th century.
  • E.g: Sun Temple at Markhera in Madhya Pradesh (MP) and the Sri Jagannath Temple in Odisha.

Jagannath Temple, Puri - Wikipedia

Sri Jagannath Temple


  • From the tenth century onwards, composite Latinas began to emerge, giving rise to Shekhari and Bhumija styles.
  • It has a primary Rekha-Prasad Shikara and one or more rows of lesser steeples (a tower with a pointed top) on both sides of the centre spire.
  • Mini Shikaras can also be found at the base and on the corners.
  • The Kandariya Mahadev Temple in Khajuraho is a notable example of this style.

    Kandariya Mahadev Temple, Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh, India… | Flickr

Kandariya Mahadev Temple


  • It was developed in Malwa under the Paramara dynasty.
  • It has miniature spires in horizontal and vertical rows all the way to the top, creating a grid-like effect on each face. The actual shikhara often approaches a pyramidal shape.
  • The Udayeshwar Temple in Madhya Pradesh is an example of this architectural style.

Udayeshwara Temple

The Udayeshwar Temple

Comparison to Dravida style

Dravisian style of temple architecture


Nagara Style

Dravida Style

Geographic Distribution Northern India Southern India
Vimana Shape Curvilinear (Bulbous or Pyramid) Pyramidal (Step-like)
Boundary walls it does not usually have elaborate boundary walls or gateways. It is enclosed within a compound wall. The front wall has an entrance gateway, which is known as a gopuram.
Towers Multiple towers Always a single tower.
Entrance Deities Ganga and Yamuna rivers are depicted in personified form. The entrance has Dwarapalas.
Pedestals Are higher than the ground Are at ground level
Crowing element It is referred as Shikara. It is referred as Kalash and Amalaka.
Presence of a water tank Temple tanks or large water reservoir are generally not enclosed with in the temple complex It is common to find a large water reservoir, or a temple tank, enclosed within the complex.
Examples Kandariya Mahadeva (Khajuraho), Jagannath Temple (Puri), Dashavatara temple (Deogarh). Shore temple (Mahabalipuram), Brihadesvara temple (Thanjavur), Meenakshi Temple (Madurai)
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