Temple architecture in south-India is highly developed and diverse. However, the shastras (sanskrit for treatises, and scriptures) have articulated specific rules on temple architecture, and one will see these underlying similarities based on these rules.
Dravidian temple architecture usually has four parts:
- The principal part, the temple itself, is called the 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.
- The porches or Mantapams, which always cover and precede the door leading to the cell.
- Gate-pyramids, Gopurams, which are the principal features in the quadrangular enclosures that surround the more notable temples.
- Pillared halls or Chaultris—properly Chawadis -- used for various purposes, and which are the invariable accompaniments of these temples.
Besides these, a temple always contains tanks or wells for water (used for sacred purposes or the convenience of the priests), dwellings for all grades of the priesthood are attached to it, and other buildings for state or convenience.
In the Brihadiswara temple seen over here, the central Vimana (housing the sanctum) is taller than the entrance gopuram. This is seen in only four of the Chola dynasty temples. After experimenting with this, they reverted to the usual style of very tall entrance gopurams and only a smaller temple in the middle.
|You can clearly see the Gopuram on the left, and the Vimana on the right in this temple layout.|
|In the foreground you have the Vimana.|
In the foreground you can see the tall Vimana, and in the background you can see the smaller gopurams.