The temple architecture in India reflects a synthesis of arts, the ideals of Dharma, beliefs, values and the way of life. The architectural principles of Indian temples are described in Shilpa Shastras and Vastu Sastras. The culture of Indian temple architecture has encouraged aesthetic independence to temple builders and also its architects have sometimes exercise flexibility in creative expression by adopting other perfect geometries and mathematical principles.
There were three major schools of temple architecture in India i.e. Nagara, Dravidian and Vesara which are discussed below:
This school of temple architecture originated during the Gupta Period. The distinct features of this school are given below:
1. The temple belong to this school has a square with a number of graduated projections in the middle of each side giving a cruciform shape with a number of re-entrant angles on each side. .
2. Shikhara is the prominent structure of this school which exhibits a tower (shikhara) gradually inclining towards in a convex curve, using a concentric rotating squares and circles principle.
3. The projections in the plan are also carried upwards to the top of the Shikhara and thus, there is strong emphasis on vertical lines in elevation.
4. It is associated with the land between the Himalayas and Vindhyas.
The temples of this school consist almost invariably of the four following parts, differing only according to the age in which they were executed.
1. The principal part, the temple itself, is called the Vimana (or Vimanam). It is always square in plan and surmounted by a pyramidal roof of one or more stories; it contains the cell where the image of the God or his emblem is placed.
2. The porches or Mandapas which always cover and precede the door leading to the cell.
3. Gopurams are the principal features in the quadrangular enclosures that surround the more notable 44 temples.
4. Pillared halls or Chaultris—properly Chawadis used for various purposes and which are the invariable accompaniments of these temples.
5. It is associated with the temples of southern India or Deccan region.
It was emerged during early medieval period and evolved from the combination of both Nagara and Dravida styles of temple architecture. It came into existence during the later Chalukyas of Kalyani and Hoysalas dynasty. This is also known as Chalukya style or Karnataka style. This school is prevalent in the Deccan and Central India, between the Vindhyas and the river Krishna. Mahadeva Temple, Itagi build under Chalukya Empire and Chennakesava Temple, Belur build under Hoyasala Empire is a classic example of this style. The distinct features this school of temple architecture are given below:
1. It has two principal components Vimana and Mandap joined by Antrala.
2. The temple belongs to this school has reduced height of temple as compare to Nagara and Dravida School of Architecture however it retains the tiers.
3. The temple are articulated or ornamented on the outer walls of the shrine. George Michell describes a characteristic feature as "the obscuring of the outer profile of the building by multiplying the projections of the walls and superstructure; these move restlessly from one plane to another, relying upon effects of light and shade to lend the building its solidity and shape."