The medieval temples of India display varied architectural styles. The religious places and temples built at that time were symbolic of the rulers ruling during that era.
Wide-ranging in architectural style, the medieval temples offer a glance into the conglomerate society that shaped India. The structural designs of the medieval temples are a blend of foreign and Indian styles.
There are three stages in the development in the architecture of the medieval Indian temple. Those are the distinct Identity, the cultural synthesis and the stylistic digression.
One of the most prominent Central Indian temples is the Devi Jagadamba temple in Madhya Pradesh. This is one of the most erotic shrines situated in Khajuraho. It lies in close proximity to the Kandariya Mahadeva Temple.
The temple contains a striking image of Goddess Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva. Firstly the temple was in the honour of Lord Vishnu. Decorated images of Lord Vishnu are seen in the sections of the temple. Worth mentioning is the striking mandapam which is covered by a pyramidal roof on the top. The most-discussed images of mithuna and sensuously made figures of stone are there in the Jagadamba temple.
In the Banaskantha district of Gujarat, one will come across Ambaji temple, one of the most popular temples in West India. The deity of this temple is the Goddess Ambe Mata. This temple is also one of the famous Shakti Peethas in India. The important characteristic of this shrine is that there is no idol of the goddess, a yantra of marble engraved at a place is worshipped.
Ossian is situated at the boundary of the Thar Desert, about 65 kms North-West of Jodhpur, Rajasthan. Ossian, the once affluent city, possesses more than 100 Jain and Hindu temples of the medieval age. It is said that the town was established by a Rajput prince, Utpaladeva of the Pratihara Empire. It was then recognized as Ukesha or Upkeshapur. The Ossian temples are amongst the most primitive of all temples of Rajasthan of the medieval era.
The temples and monuments of the late mediaeval period (900-1300 A.D.) of Indian architecture are too numerous to be described here. Besides the old centers, new art centers were being patronized by the Palas, Chalukyas and Cholas, the Gangasand Rajputs. Each center developed its own style. The beautiful temples at Khajuraho were erected between 950 and 1050 A.D. The effect of the height of the Kandarya Mahadeva Temple is enhanced by a deep basement and the reduplication of the tower. Floral and human sculptures add to its beauty considerably.
In Madhya Bharat the finest and the best preserved temple is that of Udayesvara at Udaipur built between 1059 and 1080 A.D. The sikhara is ornamented with four narrow bands running from the base to the summit.
Gujarat in this period also became reputed for its beautiful and richly ornamented temples. The famous Rudramal temple at Siddhpur was built by Siddharaja (1093-1143 A.D.) Of the famous Jain temples at Mt. Abu, one built by Vimal Shah in 1032 is dedicated to Adnatha and another by Vastupal and Tejpal in 1232 to Neminatha. The temples are made of marble. As observed by Cousins, “the amount of beautiful ornamental detail spread over these temples in the minutely carved decoration of ceilings, pillars, doorways, panels and niches is simply marvelous; the crisp, thin, translucent, shell-like treatment of the marble surpasses anything seen elsewhere and some of the designs are veritable dreams of beauty.”
The Orissan temples dating from the 7th to the 13th century amply illustrated the growth of the Nagara style. The Siva shrine of Parasuramesvara has a low double-roofed mandapa with solid walls lighted by openings between the roofs.
The great temple of Lingaraja looks imposing with the effect of the height of the sikhara enhanced by the vertical lines of the strongly emphasized ribs. The beautiful Surya temple at Konarak, built between 1238 and 1264 A.D., does not differ essentially from other Orissan temples. its most remarkable feature survives in the roof of the mandapa or jagmohan which is divided into three stages.
This and some other Orissan temples contain examples of beautiful sculpture of an erotic nature. These and other decorative details have won wide appreciation.
The temples of what may be termed the later Chalukyan style are widely distributed in Dharwar, Mysore and the Deccan. The fully developed type has a star-shaped plan with a relatively low elevation and wide extension, characterized by the grouping of three shrines round a central hall, pyramidal towers carrying the plan of the shrine below, elaborately pierced windows and cylindrical polished pillars.
In the later medieval period, from the 15th century onwards, the Hindu princes built large palaces in Rajputana and Bundelkhand. The immense palace at Gwalior, partly built by Man Singh (1486-1516), is famous for its wall towers and imposing gates. The magnificent palace at Datia, built by Bir Singh in the 17th century, is the best example of Hindu architecture. The palace at Amber was also built in the 17th century. The Jodhpur fort, with its tremendous bastion, and the old palace are among the best examples of Hindu architecture extant.
Reverting to the South, between 850 and 1600 A.D., temple architecture found patronage with the Cholas, Pandyas, Vijayanagar kings and the Nayakas of Tanjore and Madurai.
The great gopurams of the Pandya period are found at Srirangam, Madurai and Kumbakonam. These great towers attain such ample proportions that they dwarf the central shrine. The examples of the great pillared mandapa of the Vijayanagar period are found at Kanchi, Vijayanagar, Vellore, etc.
The finest of all Vijayanagar temples is the Vithoba temple completed in 1565. Its distinguishing features are the pillars and mandapas and the stone car carved out of stone blocks. The Nayakas of Madurai in the 17th century were also great builders. Tirumala Nayaka (1623-1659) built the Vasant Mandapa in front of the great Meenakshi temple. it has a flat-roofed corridor with three aisles.