conscious efforts on the part of
regional variations in the process of its development as a symbol of Indian
culture. Its historical past, therefore, makes a fascinating study. As a centre of
worship, the temple is mainly a creation as well as a medium of the Puranic
tradition. Hindu myths, legends and beliefs are compiled in texts, collectively
called the Puranas; the Hindu pantheon of gods originated from the texts of
two Brahmanical sects, the Vaishnava and the Saiva, which with other minor
religious systems, are part of the Puranic tradition, under what is now known
as Hinduism.
    But the term Hinduism itself, is a more recent (early Medieval)
nomenclature, given to a collection of heterogeneous traditions and plurality
of beliefs and worship with a long history of development from the Vedic
sacrificial religion, through the worship of epic and Puranic heroes and
personal deities, cults and sects, as well as philosophical systems, rather than
to a monolithic tradition or a structure based on a single system of beliefs and
worship or a single text as scripture. The temple, in more than one sense,
represents the multiple facets and complex processes of this development
through its architecture, sculpture, iconography, rituals and institutional
Early Temple Styles
The practice of erecting sanctuaries for the images of gods probably goes
back to the second century BC. Several deva-grihas (houses of gods) of pre-
Christian centuries have been found in dilapidated condition. Seemingly built
in perishable materials, these sanctuaries provided little scope for the
application of the principles of architecture as an art. The Gupta period
witnessed the beginning of the practice of building with lasting materials,
especially in dressed stone and brick. Liberated from the limitations innate to
wood or bamboo constructions and cave excavations, Indian builders handled
their material, especially stone, very dexterously and efficiently.
    The Gupta period marks the beginning of structural temple architecture.
As evidenced from the extant monuments, there was experimentation in a
number of forms and designs, out of which two significant temple styles
evolved, one in the North and the other in the South. The following well
defined types may be identified: (1) Flat-roofed, square temple with a shallow