Shekhari temples

The composite Shekhari (or Anekandaka) mode was the most important form of Nagara temple from the tenth century onwards in central and western India. It is conceived as a constellation of interpenetrating shrines burgeoning out from the single spired form of the Latina temple. Predominant among the embedded shrine forms is the form of the Latina itself, self replicating. The kuta-stambha – a miniature shrine or shikhara crowing a pillar – is a basic element that needs to be recognised in order to grasp the thoroughly composite or multi-aedicular nature of this kind of temple.

As Shekhari temples are a continuation of the same Nagara tradition, the questions relating to the design and construction of Latina temples are also relevant here. Further questions arise from the complexity of their geometry in three dimensions. Adam Hardy proposed geometrical principles in an earlier study based on observation rather than measurement (‘Sekhari Temples’, in Artibus Asiae 62, No. 1, 2002, pp. 81-137). Are these confirmed by measurement? How closely do the actual buildings conform to the ‘ideal’ geometrical figures? Our research is based on measured surveys in Gujarat, at Asoda, Modhera, Sejakpur, Sunak and Sander.

Several chapters of the Samaranganasutradhara deal with Nagara temples, unfolding elaborate typologies from unitary Latina forms to hyper-proliferated Shekhari ones. We are working on translating these, both into English and into drawings. Later texts from western India treat the design of Shekhari temples systematically, and the tradition is perpetuated today in Gujarat by the Sompura caste of traditional architects. We are studying two modern Sompura texts, the Shilaparatnakara from the 1930s, and a 1960s Gujarati commentary on the Kshirarnava. A planned future study will combine measured analyses of medieval temples, an illustrated translation of the Aparajita (c. thirteenth century), studies of later texts, and a critical study of the working practices of present-day traditional practitioners.

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