on a high basement and covered by a squat
the base and a tower as the superstructure of the sanctum enhance the
elevation. Instead of plain bare walls, the Dasavatara temple, built of stone,
has on each of its three faces, a sculpture between two pilasters. This
arrangement, besides setting forward the walls on three sides to balance the
projection of the door frame in front, introduces a decorative scheme of great
significance for the future. In the Bhitargaon temple, this effect is further
emphasised by a regular counterbalance projection in the middle of each side,
which results in a cruciform ground-plan.
    The second and the third types of Gupta temples, to be called vimana
(storeyed) and sikhara types, represent elaborations of the first in respect of
both the ground-plan and elevation. In the following centuries, these two
types supposedly underwent further improvements and crystallised to form
two distinctive temple styles respectively in the South and the North. Thus,
the Gupta period marks the beginning of structural temple architecture in
India. But, we have to keep in mind that the full unit of a structural temple
does not appear anywhere in India before AD 550, and that the Bhitargaon
temple was the earliest such temple and also the most outstanding example.
Emergence of Later Temple Styles
The major temple styles listed and described in the Vastu Sastra texts are the
nagara, dravida and vesara, of which the prime position is assigned to the
nagara of north India as the leading style. Next in importance is the dravida
of south India. The vesara is the mixed style of the Deccan and was still in an
experimental stage when the 10th–11th century texts were composed and
when temple architecture was at its climax. The Deccan was the main zone of
the evolution of the vesara form with variations based on sub-regions and
their dynastic preferences. The classification of the three styles shows that
they are generally named after the various regional schools and classified
according to their superstructures.
    Every temple of North India, irrespective of its situation and date, reveals
characteristic features in planning and elevation. The North Indian temple is a
square one with a number of graduated projections (rathakas) in the middle
of each face, which gives it a cruciform shape in the exterior. In elevation it
exhibits a tower (sikhara), gradually inclining inwards and capped by a