Stand-alone temples

Stand-alone temples


Temples—built on elliptical, circular, quadrilateral, or apsidal plans—were initially constructed using brick and timber.[13] Some temples of timber with wattle-and-daub may have preceded them, but none remain to this day.[50]
Circular temples
Some of the earliest free-standing temples may have been of a circular type, as the Bairat Temple in Bairat, Rajasthan, formed of a central stupa surrounded by a circular colonnade and an enclosing wall.[50] It was built during the time of Ashoka, and near it were found two of Ashoka's Minor Rock Edicts.[50] Ashoka also built the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya c. 250 BCE, also a circular structure, in order to protect the Bodhi tree under which the Buddha had found enlightenment. Representations of this early temple structure are found on a 100 BCE relief sculpted on the railing of the stupa at Bhārhut, as well as in Sanchi.[51] From that period the Diamond throne remains, an almost intact slab of sandstone decorated with reliefs, which Ashoka had established at the foot of the Bodhi tree.[52][53] These circular-type temples were also found in later rock-hewn caves such as Tulja Caves or Guntupalli.[50]
Remains of the circular Bairat Temple, c. 250 BCE. A stupa was located in the center.
Relief of a circular temple, Bharhut, c. 100 BCE.
Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva depicted in a coin from the 1st century BCE.
Relief of a multi-storied temple, 2nd century CE, Ghantasala Stupa.[54][55]
Apsidal temples
Another early free-standing temple in India, this time apsidal in shape, appears to be Temple 40 at Sanchi, which is also dated to the 3rd century BCE.[56] It was an apsidal temple built of timber on top of a high rectangular stone platform, 26.52x14x3.35 metres, with two flights of stairs to the east and the west. The temple was burnt down sometime in the 2nd century BCE.[57][58] This type of apsidal structure was also adopted for most of the cave temple (Chaitya-grihas), as in the 3rd century BCE Barabar Caves and most caves thereafter, with side, and then frontal, entrances.[50] A freestanding apsidal temple remains to this day, although in a modified form, in the Trivikrama Temple in Ter, Maharashtra.[59]
Illustration of Temple 40 at Sanchi, dated to the 3rd century BCE.[56]
Trivikrama Temple at Ter: an early Buddhist apsidal temple, in front of which was later added an Hindu square mandapa.
Chejarla apsidal temple, also later converted to Hinduism.
Truncated pyramidal temples
The Mahabodhi Temple in 150–200 CE.
The Mahabodhi Temple: a stepped pyramid with round stupa on top.[60]
It is thought that the temple in the shape of a truncated pyramid was derived from the design of the stepped stupas which had developed in Gandhara.[60] The Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya is one such example, adapting the Gandharan design of a succession of steps with niches containing Buddha images, alternating with Greco-Roman pillars, as seen in the stupas of Jaulian.[60] The structure is crowned by the shape of an hemispherical stupa topped by finials, forming a logical elongation of the stepped Gandharan stupas.[60]
Although the current structure of the Mahabdhodi Temple dates to the Gupta period (5th century CE), the "Plaque of Mahabhodi Temple", discovered in Kumrahar and dated to 150–200 CE based on its dated Kharoshthi inscriptions and combined finds of Huvishka coins, suggests that the pyramidal structure already existed in the 2nd century CE.[60] This is confirmed by archaeological excavations in Bodh Gaya.[60]
This truncated pyramid design also marked the evolution from the aniconic stupa dedicated to the cult of relics, to the iconic temple with multiple images of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas.[60] This design was very influential in the development of later Hindu temples.[61]
Square prostyle temples
A Gupta period tetrastyle prostyle Buddhist temple of Classical appearance at Sanchi (Temple 17) (5th century CE).[62]
The Gupta Empire later also built Buddhist stand-alone temples (following the great cave temples of Indian rock-cut architecture), such as Temple 17 at Sanchi, dating to the early Gupta period (5th century CE). It consists of a flat roofed square sanctum with a portico and four pillars. From an architectural perspective, this is a tetrastyle prostyle temple of Classical appearance .[62] The interior and three sides of the exterior are plain and undecorated but the front and the pillars are elegantly carved,[62] not unlike the 2nd century rock-cut cave temples of the Nasik caves. Nalanda and Valabhi universities, housing thousands of teachers and students, flourished between the 4th–8th centuries.

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