Vesara style of temple architecture

Vesara is a combination of Nagara and Dravidian style of temple architecture styles. The term Vesara is believed to have been derived from the Sanskrit word vishra meaning an area to take a long walk. Many historian agree that the Vesara style originated in the what is today Karnataka.

The trend was started by the Chalukyas of Badami (500-753AD) who built temples in a style that was essentially a mixture of the Nagara and the Dravida styles, further refined by the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta (750- 983AD) in Ellora, Chalukyas of Kalyani (983-1195 AD) in Lakkundi, Dambal, Gadag etc. and epitomized by the Hoysalas (1000-1330 AD)

The Hoysalas temples at Belur, Halebidu and Somnathpura are prime examples of this style.

Unique features of Vesara style of temple architecture

  • Ornamentation: In case of ornamentation of temple walls and pillars, Chalukyan temple shows indigenous quality.
  • Transformation of Dravida tower: The Chalukyan builders modified the Dravida towers by minimizing the height of each storey and arranging them in descending order of height from base to top with much ornamentation in each storey.
  • Transformation of Nagara tower: Instead of inclined storey here modification is seen in the vertical shape of the tower
  • Two special features of Chalukya temples – Mantapa and Pillars:
    1. Mantapa: The mantapa has two types of roof – domical ceilings (the dome like ceilings standing on four pillars are very attractive) or Square ceilings (these are vigorously ornamented with mythological pictures).
    2. Pillars: the miniature decorative pillars of Chalukya temples stands with its own artistic value.
  • Famous temples built with this style include: Kallesvara temple, Kukkanur; Ramalingesvara temple, Gudur; Mahadeva temple, Ittagi; Kasivisvesvara temple, Lakkundi (and several other temples at Lakkundi); Brahmadeva temple, Savadi – notable for being fully stellate; Mallikarjuna temple, Sudi (and Joda-kalasha temple)

Chennakesava temple

Influence of Nagara and Dravidian style of temple architecture on the style of Vesara

  • The plan of shrine, subsidiary shrine, panchayatan style bears similarity to Nagara School.
  • The plan of vestibule joining the sanctum to mantapa bears resemblance to Odishan temples.
  • The most of the temple pillars in Karnataka region bears similarity to sekhari and bhumija type of pillars in northern India.

Kasivisvesvara temple

  • The stepped diamond plan that is a plan of design arrangement as seen in Chalukya temples is from northern region.
  • The most of the temples in kalyani portrays Nagara articulation projecting stepped diamond or stellate plan.
  • The Dravida influence is mainly visible in vimana of the Chalukya temples in first part of the Chalukya rule
  • Miniature decorative towers and ornamentation of walls in Chalukya temples show combination of both Nagara and Dravida style.

Famous temples built during the reign of several empires in South India

Chalukyan architecture

  • Their architecture consisted of admixture of Nagara and Dravidian styles.
  • Temples built during this time can be found in- Aihole, Badami and Pattadakal
  • Temples built during their time period do not have a covered ambulatory path
  • The Virupaksha temple at Pattadakal built in imitation of Kailashnath temple is the jewel of Chalukyan architecture
  • The Rameshwaram temple at Ellora built in 7th century was also built during the Chalukyan time period
  • Lad Khan temple and Durga temple at Aihole are other noteworthy monuments built during this time period

Virupaksha temple

Rashtrakuta architecture

  • They were the successors of the Chalukyas
  • Their temples were built mostly imitating the Chalukyan style
  • The Kailas temple at Ellora, built during the time of Krishna II is the representative form of architecture of the empire
  • The Navalinga Temples in Kukkanur is another temple built during this period

Hoysala temple architecture

  • Kesava temple at Belur built during the time of Vishnuvardhana to commemorate his victory over the Cholas is a representative art of this period
  • In this temple, there are multiple shrines grouped around a central pillared hall and laid out in the shape of an intricately-designed star
  • Such an arrangement could be found in temples during this time in Halebid, Somnathpur and elsewhere
  • Hoysaleswara temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is another famous temple built during this period


Hoysaleswara temple

Vijayanagara architecture

  • It is a vibrant combination of the Chalukya, Hoysala, Pandya, and Chola styles
  • Local hard granite was the building material of choice, as it had been for the Badami Chalukyas.
  • Vijayanagar temples are characterized by ornate pillared halls and rayagopurams, or monumental towers adorned with life-sized figures of gods and goddesses that stand at the entrance of the temple.
  • Vijayanagar temples are also known for their carved pillars , which depict charging horses, figures from Hindu mythology, and yali (hippogriphs)
  • Some of the larger temples are dedicated to a male deity, with a separate shrine intended for the worship of his female counterpart. Some famous temples exemplifying the Vijayanagar style include the Virupaksha Temple at Hampi and the Hazara Rama temple of Deva Raya I.

Virupaksha temple