They were the first recognised south Indian dynasty which laid seeds of Dravidian temple architecture which was followed by Chalukyas, Cholas etc. They were influenced by Amravati style. Temples were mainly vaishnavite and Shaivite. They were instrumental in transition from rock cut architecture to stone temples in south. Their earlier buildings were rock cut but later were structural. Their early temples were called Mandapam. Early buildings of Pallavas were attrivuted to the reign of Mahendraverman a contemporary of Pulakeshin 2. Their achievements were: 

  • Shore Temples
  • 5 monolithic temples called Ratham a Mahabalipuram built during the reign of Narsimhavarman 2. They are drafted in UNESCO world heritage Site programme. These temple had early signs of Gopurams. 
  • The Pallavas also built structural temples like the Kailashanath and Vaikunthperumal temples at Kanchipuram.
  • Mahisasurmardini figure of Durga in Panchpanava Cave built by Mahendravarman. 


Temple architecture in East has three broad distinct styles in – Assam, Bengal and Odisha or Kalinga.

PALA ART, 8th – 11th Century AD

Pala school of Bengal was one influenced by Vajryayan. Their architecture was both Hindu and Buddhist. Architecture had fine finish and figures were much decorated and well polished. The gigantic structures of Vikramshila Vihara, Odantapuri Vihara and Jagaddala Vihara were masterpieces of the Palas. The Pala King Dharamapala had established the Somapura Mahavihara, which is largest Buddhist Vihara in the Indian subcontinent (now in Bangladesh). They also established Vikramshilla university for study on Vajrayana Buddhism.

Pala also contributed to the Mahabodhi complex in Bodhgaya and enhanced the original shrine which was built by Chandragupta Maurya.

Hindu temples made during this time were known to be in Vanga (stood for ‘Banga’) Style. Siddheshwara Mahadev temple in Burdhwan district is one of the famous examples of early Pala style and was similar to Odisha style and has a quite tall shikhara crowned by a large amalaka (disk shape). Many of the temples from the 9th to the 12th century were located at Telkupi in Purulia District as well.

Sculptures tradition was influenced by Gupta tradition from Sarnath etc and they were predominantly stone made, but metal sculptures have also been found. But stone sculptures are polished so well that even they appear metal sculptures. Almost all the figures are of similar sizes and were carved out of grayish or white spotted sandstone. Although Buddhist sculptures dominated, sculptures from secular themes and Hindu deities were also made. Apart from stone sculptures, their terracotta sculptures were also unique and they were used for decoration of walls. Besides the religious themes several images representing daily life are also to be found on these terracotta plates or plaques.

They also promoted paintings which in a way heralded miniature paintings in East India. Colors were symbolic and with subdued lines. They were generally made on palm or paper manuscripts. The 10th century illustrated Buddhist text, Prajnaparamita, is the earliest known example of painting where a canvas of micro, or miniature size made its debut. They are said to have pioneered miniature school in India which illustrated Vajrayana Buddhism.


Odisha was a center of religious activity since long and many Ashokan edicts were built there. Jaina caves of 2nd century BCE are also found here. Shatrughaneshwara temples of 6th century CE are also found belonging to Pashupat Shavivite sect.

In Odisha, temples are built in a sub-style of Nagara in which Shikhara (called deul in Odisha) is almost vertical before it curves near the top. Shikhara is preceded by a mandapa (which is called Jagmohan or ‘dance pavilion’ in Odisha). Plan of temple is usually square and there is a boundary wall as well. Temple gets curved gradually as we go up and is finally crowned by a circular part called ‘Mastak’. Temples are decorated from outside, but are simple from inside.

The main architectural features of Odisha temples are classified in three orders, i.e., rekha deul, pidha deul and khakhara deul. Most of the main temple sites are located in ancient Kalinga – modern Puri District, including Bhubaneswar or ancient Tribhuvanesvara, Puri and Konark.

 Achievements are:

  • Rajarani temple
  • Lingaraja Temple
  • Sun Temple of Konark

Features of Kalinga temple architecture –

They are primarily from Nagara style.

  • Later temples of Odisha don’t have pillars and the roof is partially supported by Iron girders.
  • Usually outer part is highly adorned and inner part is left unadorned.
  • Shikharas are called ‘Deul’ which is highly vertical before it sharply curved inside and mandapas are called ‘Jagmohan’ and temples have an outer boundry wall as well.
  • In Odisha are three types of Deula viz. Rekha Deula, Pidha/Bhadra Deula and Khakra Deula (It is a rectangular building with a truncated pyramid-shaped roof, like the gopuras.). The Rekha Deula means a shrine with different parts in a line (vimana, hall, entrance etc).
  • Ground plan of main temple is square. 
  • In Odishan style, sanctum, vestibule and assembly halls are usually separate unlike typical Nagara style temples in which they are part of a single structure as in Khajuraho temples.

AHOM STYLE, 12th – 14th Century AD

In Assam, by the twelfth to fourteenth centuries, a distinct regional style developed. The style that came with the migration of the Tais from Upper Burma mixed with the dominant Pala style of Bengal and led to the creation of what was later known as the Ahom style (due to patronage by Ahom kings) in and around Guwahati. Kamakhya temple, a Shakti Peeth, is dedicated to Goddess Kamakhya and was built in the seventeenth century.

CHOLA ART, 9th – 13th Century AD

Their architecture was influenced by their predecessors Pallavas. Karikala was the most important ruler of this kingdom. . Rajendra Chola is said to have conquered some Indonesian islands as well. They also developed democratic institutions for governance at the village level. The village panchayat called sabha or ur had extensive powers, including financial powers, during their times. It was in fact the most remarkable administrative achievement of the Cholas and it is mentioned in Uttaramerur inscription. The Cholas continued the temple building traditions of the Pallava dynasty and elevated the Dravidian temple design to greater heights. Common feature of architecture are – Mandapam, Vimana, Gopura etc. They excelled in all the three areas of art – temple architecture, paintings and sculpture.

Achievements were:

  • Brihadeshwara Temple also known as Rajaraj Temple at Thanjavur.
  • The Airavateswara temple at Darasuram near Thanjavur built during the reign of Rajaraja CholaII.
  • Gangaikondacholapuram temples built by Rajendra Chola.
  • Chola period bronzes are exquisite forms of art and were created using the lost wax technique. The most famous of all the bronze icons is that of Nataraja.