Gupta Architecture

Gupta Architecture

This article deals with topic titled ‘Gupta Architecture .’ This is part of our series on ‘Culture’  . For more articles , you can click here


  • In Gupta age ,  Rock cut architecture was at its  zenith &  also marks the starting of free standing temples.
  • Many art historians prefer to call Gupta period Art as Religious Art
    • Utilitarian Art during Harappan Civilization
    • Court Art during Mauryan Period
    • Religious Art during Gupta Period.
  • Art and architecture becomes complex. The earlier designs displaying simple pleasures of life gave way to contemplative & spiritual vision.
  • Large scale temple construction took place.
  • For the first time , a clear & distinctive development between Sculpture, Architecture & Painting can be seen.
  • Major centers of Gupta art were
    • Sarnath
    • Mathura
    • Nalanda

Free Standing Temples

1 . Dashawatara temple

  • Location : Deograh near Jhansi of UP
  • Discovered by Captain Charles Strahan & named by Sir  Alexander Cunningham
  • Made of sandstone.
  • Panchayatana style ie main shrine built on rectangular plinth with four smaller subsidiary shrines at four corners
    • Panch = 5
    • Yatana = Square
  • Temple depicts Vishnu in various forms and named so because of this
  • Due to this, it is assumed that four subsidiary shrines must have housed Vishnu’s avatars but not known to whom four shrines were originally dedicated
  • Temple is west facing (all other modern temples east facing)
Dashawatara Temple

Sculpture at Dashawatara temple

There are three main reliefs of Vishnu on the temple walls: Sheshnag on the south, Nara- Narayan on the east and Gajendramoksha on the west.

Sheshnag   Vishnu – Headgear, ornamentation of Vishnu are important to notice  
Nara Narayana Vishnu – Shows the discussion between the human soul and the eternal divine.  
Gajendramoksha – Is the story of achieving moksha, symbolically communicated by Vishnu’s suppression of an asura who had taken the form of an elephant  

2. Bhitargaon temple

  • Situated in Kanpur, UP
  • One of the Oldest remaining Hindu temple & built by Guptas

Stupa Architecture

  • Although they favoured Brahmanism with Vishnu as their principle deity, but they continued to patronage Buddhism as well.
  • Three famous stupas of their age were
    • Sarnath (UP)
    • Ratnagiri (Odisha)
    • Mirpur Khas (Sind)
  • Older idea of hemi spherical shape changed to new shapes
  • Large use of brick and less use of stone (bricks are not in Harappan posture and smaller than Harappan Period)

1 . Dhamekh Stupa

  • Location Sarnarth at Deer Park where Budha gave first sermon
  • Inscription dated 1026 says its older name is Dhammachakra Stupa
  • Beneath this another stupa having Mauryan bricks is found
  • Dhamek Stupa was built in 500 CE to  replace an earlier structure commissioned by the great Mauryan king Ashoka in 249 BCE

2. Ratnagiri Stupa

  • In Odisha
  • Is in ruins
  • Large number of votive stupas in stone are also found here from where shape of main stupa can be easily judged
  • Shape of Gateway was also different than those of Sanchi
  • Several Giant head structures of Buddha are also found here

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