The construction of temples for the images of gods goes back perhaps to the second century B.C. They were built with perishable material. It was in the Gupta period that buildings with lasting materials began such as dressed stone and brick. The Gupta period marks the beginning of Indian temple architecture. Out of the initial experimentation, two major styles evolved.
Nagara and Dravida Styles:
The Shilpa Shastras recognize three styles- Nagara, Dravida, and Vesara- along with the geographical distribution of each. Nagara– northern region, Dravida– Dravida country i.e. south, and Vesara– the territory between the Vindhyas and the Krishna. These are really not strictly based on geographical divisions, but merely indicate the dominating styles in a region. Actually the three styles ultimately resolve into two, the Nagara and the Dravida.
Difference Between the North and the South Indian Temples:
The north Indian temples are built of bricks.
They are rock-cut.
The temples have no gateways called gopurams.
They have big gopurams.
The shikharas of the temple of the north are dome-shaped.
The shikharas are pyramidical in shape.
They are only centres of religious activity.
They are centres of religious, social, economic and educational activity.
They generally do not have courtyards.
The south Indian temples are very big in size and have large courtyards where many activities used to take place.
Dravidian style of temple architecture began with the Pallava rule.
The Chalukyas of Badami developed the vesara style in the building of structural temples.
Mahendravarman I (Pallava) introduced the rock-cut temples.
One of the most important temples of the south is the Brihadeshwara or Rajarajesvara temple at Tanjore which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It was built by Rajaraja Chola. The chief features of Chola temples are their massive vimanas or towers and spacious courtyards.
The Kailash temple, built by the Rashtrakuta king Krishna I, is an unrivaled and stupendous piece of art. The ancient Indian rock-cut architecture reached its zenith under the Rashtrakutas.
The Shore Temple at Mamallapuram and the Kailasanatha temple at Kanchipuram were built Narasimhavarman II (also known as Rajasimha, a Pallava ruler). The Kailasanatha temple at Kanchi is the greatest architectural masterpiece of the Pallava art.
Nagara Style Examples–
The sun temple at Konark was built in the thirteenth century by the eastern Ganga ruler Narshimha Deva I. The temple is dedicated to Surya (the sun god) and has been designed as a twelve-wheeled chariot.
Mount Abu in Rajasthan is known for the Dilwara temple dedicated to Jain Tirthankaras. These were built in pure white marble and adorned with exquisite sculpture. These were built under the patronage of Solanki rulers.