In ancient India, temple architecture of high standard developed in almost all regions. The distinct architectural style of temple construction in different parts was a result of geographical, climatic, ethnic, racial, historical and linguistic diversities. Ancient Indian temples are classified in three broad types. This classification is based on different architectural styles, employed in the construction of the temples. Three main style of temple architecture are the Nagara or the Northern style, the Dravida or the Southern style and the Vesara or Mixed style. But at the same time there are also some regional styles of Bengal, Kerala and the Himalayan areas.
Perhaps the most imporstant part of the ancient Indian temples is
decoration. It is reflected in the multitude details of figured
sculpture as well as in the architectural elements. Another important
component of Indian temples was the garba-griha or the womb chamber,
housing the deity of the temple. The garbha-griha was provided with a
circumambulation passage around. However, there are also many subsidiary
shrines within temple complexes, more common in the South Indian temple.
In the initial stages of its evolution, the temples of North and South
India were distinguished on the basis of some specific features like
sikhara and gateways. In the north Indian temples, the sikhara remained
the most prominent component while the gateway was generally unassuming.
The most prominent features of South Indian temples were enclosures
around the temples and the Gopurams (huge gateways). The Gopurams led
the devotees into the sacred courtyard. On the other hand there were
many common features in the Northern and the Southern styles. These
included the ground plan, positioning of stone-carved deities on the
outside walls and the interior, and the range of decorative elements.
Some of the best examples of the north Indian style (Nagara style) of
temple architecture are the Khajuraho Group of temples, Sun temple,
Konark, Sun temple at Modhera, Gujarat and Ossian temple, Gujarat. The
finest examples of Dravidian style (south Indian style) are temples of
Tanjore, Madurai, Mahabalipuram, Badami, Pattadakal and Kanchipuram.