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A Visual Glossary of Hindu Architecture

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Mark Cartwright
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published on 19 December 2016
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The Brihadishvara Temple, Thanjavur
The Brihadishvara Temple, Thanjavur
Jean-Pierre Dalbera (CC BY)

Adisthana - the decorative raised platform on which a temple is built.

Figure en toilette, Khajuraho
Figure en toilette, Khajuraho
Anindita Basu (CC BY-NC-SA)

Alasa kanya - a decorative female figure. 

Muktesvara Temple, Bhubaneshwar
Muktesvara Temple, Bhubaneshwar
Amartyabag (CC BY-SA)

Amalaka - a large fluted stone disc placed on top of a Nagara tower taking its form from the amla or myrobalan fruit native to India

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Features of Hindu Architecture
Features of Hindu Architecture
Tangopaso (CC BY-SA)

Antarala - an antechamber to the inner sanctum or garbhagriha of a temple. 

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Durga Temple, Aihole
Durga Temple, Aihole
Jean-Pierre Dalbera (CC BY)

Ardhamandapa - a temple portico serving as an entrance porch.

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Bho - a medallion motif of Orissan architecture which projects from towers and shows a monster regurgitating garlands flanked by two dwarfs. 

Principal Features of a Hindu Temple Complex
Principal Features of a Hindu Temple Complex
Tangopaso (CC BY-NC-SA)

Bhoga mandapa - (or Bogh-mandir) a hall in Orissan temples which is used for consecrated food preparation and distribution.

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Brihadishvara Temple, Thanjavur
Brihadishvara Temple, Thanjavur
Aravindreddy.d (CC BY-SA)

Devalaya - the general name of a temple meaning a god's dwelling place.

Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram
Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram
Arian Zwegers (CC BY)

Dravida - the style of southern temple architecture.

Garbhagriha, Pattadakal
Garbhagriha, Pattadakal
Arnold Betten (Public Domain)

Garbhagriha - (also garbha grha) meaning 'womb-chamber,' the small windowless room that is the main shrine of the temple, usually containing a representation or symbol of the principal deity.

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Ghana dvara - blind doorways of the garbhagriha, which symbolically allow the energy of the deity to radiate through and beyond the temple. They may also act as secondary niche shrines.

Ghanta - a bell-shaped finial on the top of a tower.

Monumental Gateway, Brihadishvara Temple, Thanjavur
Monumental Gateway, Brihadishvara Temple, Thanjavur
Jean-Pierre Dalbera (CC BY)

Gopura - a monumental gate tower of Dravida temples.

Surviving Jagamohana of the Konark Sun Temple, Orissa
Surviving Jagamohana of the Konark Sun Temple, Orissa
Gérald Anfossi (CC BY-SA)

Jagamohana - the mandapa or entrance hall of an Orissan temple.

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Kirtimukha, Nepal
Kirtimukha, Nepal
Clemensmarabu (CC BY-SA)

Kirtimukha - a decorative lion or monster motif with the lower jaw missing, typically placed over doorways. 

Mandapa, 	Amritheswara temple
Mandapa, Amritheswara temple
Dineshkannambadi (CC BY-SA)

Mandapa - a columned hallway which leads to the garbhagriha or inner sanctum.

Makara, Cambodia
Makara, Cambodia
Vassil (Public Domain)

Makara - a decorative sea monster motif.

Parsvanatha Temple, Khajuraho
Parsvanatha Temple, Khajuraho
Jean-Pierre Dalbera (CC BY)

Nagara - the style of northern temple architecture.

Vimana, Kailasanatha Temple, Kanchipuram
Vimana, Kailasanatha Temple, Kanchipuram
Andrea Kirkby (CC BY-NC-SA)

Nandi Mandapa - a pavilion which contains a statue of Shiva's gatekeeper and vehicle, the bull Nandi.

Nata Mandapa, Konark
Nata Mandapa, Konark
Alokprasad84 (CC BY-SA)

Nata mandapa - (also nata mandir) the dance hall in Orissan temples, added from the 10th century CE.

Shiva with Nandi, Aihole
Shiva with Nandi, Aihole
Jean-Pierre Dalbera (CC BY)

Nataraja - a decorative dancing Shiva motif.

Kailasanatha Temple, Kanchipuram, India
Kailasanatha Temple, Kanchipuram, India
Kannan Muthuraman (CC BY-ND)

Prakara - a high wall which encloses a temple.

Wheel, Konarak Sun Temple
Wheel, Konarak Sun Temple
Prapti Panda (CC BY-NC-SA)

Ratha - a projection on the exterior wall of a Nagara temple; there are typically seven on each side. Also the name for the chariot of the sun god Surya which sun temples represent via spoked wheels on the outer walls.

Bhima & Dhamaraja
Bhima & Dhamaraja
Bernard Gagnon (CC BY-SA)

Sala - a barrel-vaulted roof in Dravida architecture, often represented as an architectural motif.   

Rajarani Temple, Bhubaneshwar
Rajarani Temple, Bhubaneshwar
Lnm8910 (CC BY-SA)

Sikhara - the tower of a Nagara temple which is built directly above the inner sanctum or garbhagriha. Also the decorative top of a tower in Dravida temples. 

Talas of the Brihadishvara Temple
Talas of the Brihadishvara Temple
Thamizhpparithi Maari (CC BY-SA)

Tala - the tiers of a vimana tower.

Gopura & Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram
Gopura & Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram
Jean-Pierre Dalbera (CC BY)

Temple tank - a ritual bathing tank or pool common in southern temples. 

Kandariya Mahadeo Temple, Khajuraho
Kandariya Mahadeo Temple, Khajuraho
Dennis Jarvis (CC BY-SA)

Urushringa - a smaller, subsidiary tower, usually joining or enclosing the main tower. 

Kailasanatha Temple, Kanchipuram
Kailasanatha Temple, Kanchipuram
Balaji Shankar Venkatachari (CC BY-NC-SA)

Vimana - the more rounded tower of a Dravida temple. Typically they are topped by a small dome.

Temple Vastu-Purusa-Mandala
Temple Vastu-Purusa-Mandala
James Princep (Public Domain)

Vastu-purusa-mandala - the symbolic symmetrical floorplan which Hindu temples follow.

Somanathapura, Vesara Style Temple
Somanathapura, Vesara Style Temple
Srinivasa83 (CC BY-SA)

Vesara - the style of architecture which mixed Nagara and Dravida styles. 

Vyala (Yali)
Vyala (Yali)
Mkghosh06 (CC BY-SA)

Vyala - (also yali) the decorative lion monster seen in many Hindu temples.

Editorial Review This article has been reviewed for accuracy, reliability and adherence to academic standards prior to publication.
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About the Author

Mark Cartwright
Mark is a history writer based in Italy. His special interests include pottery, architecture, world mythology and discovering the ideas that all civilizations share in common. He holds an MA in Political Philosophy and is the Publishing Director at WHE.

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Cite This Work

APA Style

Cartwright, M. (2016, December 19). A Visual Glossary of Hindu Architecture. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.worldhistory.org/article/994/a-visual-glossary-of-hindu-architecture/

Chicago Style

Cartwright, Mark. "A Visual Glossary of Hindu Architecture." World History Encyclopedia. Last modified December 19, 2016. https://www.worldhistory.org/article/994/a-visual-glossary-of-hindu-architecture/.

MLA Style

Cartwright, Mark. "A Visual Glossary of Hindu Architecture." World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 19 Dec 2016. Web. 16 May 2021.