Looking at the world in an architect’s perspective is hugely satisfying as we, as architects can decipher in parts and complete the picture of the city in its entirety. From the past to its development to its present to the ever evolving future – to infer all this we need to carefully study the history of a city and mindfully observe the present and what the city needs to evolve to a great functional future. A masterpiece is synonymous with timelessness, if we look at any masterpiece the world remembers for example, Taj Mahal or the Stonehenge, its significance still holds true from its one of a kind form to its history of why it was built and its importance will hold true for years to come. Even for modern structures like the glass pyramid, Louvre Museum in Paris is deemed to be a masterpiece due to its architectural vocabulary and will still be a matter of debate in the time to come.

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Travelling as a passion and hobby is growing with time and a way to unwind from the daily routine. Travel is not mere enjoyment as one can enjoy even staying in their respective cities. True enjoyment while travelling comes to play when we engage in that very place’s native culture and experience the way of living prevalent in the vicinity: and this is exactly where architecture comes to play! First when we enter a city, the first impression of the city comes from what we see around us, the buildings and their architecture.Buildings are the most visible elements of the city, the features that give each city its unique character.Second, we can start forming references in our mind to why they were built as they are, due to political influences or due to climatic conditions or simply because of practicing a particular kind of living.The key to understanding and truly enjoying a place is linked to architecture. Architecture leads the mind to build up storieswhich make the travel experience more enriching and enjoyable.

Historical cities displayed both organic and planned typologies of urban form. These societies had extensive religious, political, and military hierarchies. Precincts devoted to the activities of the elite were often highly planned and regular in form. In contrast, residential areas grew by a slow process of accretion, producing complex, irregular patterns that we term “organic.” Two typical features of the ancient city are the wall and the citadel: the wall for defence in regions periodically swept by conquering armies, and the citadel — a large, elevated precinct within the city — devoted to religious and political functions. The first urban settlement appeared around 3,000 B.C. in the Indus Valley.

The streets were straight and cut each other at right angles. They were 13 to 34 feet wide and were well lined. The streets and roads divided the city into rectangular blocks. Archaeologists have discovered the lamp posts at intervals. This suggests the existence of street lights. Dustbins were also provided on the streets. These prove the presence of good municipal administration. One of the most remarkable features of the Indus valley civilization is that the city was provided with an excellent closed drainage system. Each house had its own drainage and soak pit which was connected to the public drainage. Brick laid channels flowed through every street. They were covered and had manholes at intervals for cleaning and clearing purposes. Large brick culverts with corbelled roofs were constructed on the outskirts of the city to carry excess water. Thus Indus people had a perfect underground drainage system. No other contemporary civilization gave so much attention to cleanliness.

In India, there is a milieu of history, culture, heritage and religion. A passion traveller will find such richness in every part of our country. To name a few, Jaipur (Amer fort, Jal mahal, Hawa mahal, Lal bazaar), Fatehpur sikri, Delhi (Khirki masjid, Red Fort, Qutab complex etc), Madurai (Meenakshi temple), Mahabalipuram (Pancha rathas), Rameshwaram (Ramanathaswami temple,Dhanushkodi temple etc), Mount Abu(Dilwara Temples), Konark(sun temple). The one place I highly recommend fellow architects to visit is the Khajuraho temple complex.

KHAJURAHO TEMPLE COMPLEX:

Khajuraho has always been thought of as the place that exemplifies sensuality and eroticism at its best. However this is a misconception as only about a minute percentage of the sculptures are sensual and the rest are common depictions. Countless sculptures depicting love, eternal grace, beauty, delicacy and the creative arts can be seen in one of the most historical places in India. A perfect amalgamation of Hinduism and Jainism, these temples have carvings of cult icons, demi gods and Apsaras.

Like exterior, interior of the Kandariya Mahadev temple is elaborated with ornamentation. At exterior it has more than 646 numbers of figures whereas 226 numbers of figures were sculpted in interior. There is no boundary between interior and exterior in terms of ornamentation and detailing.

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The city got its name as it was adorned with date palms and “Khajura’ means date palms in Hindi. It was also often called Khajjurpura in ancient times.

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It is a must visit for every architect to see Kandarya Mahadev temple in its true beauty and form. It stands out from other temples of the region due to its grand scale with elaborated building design as a whole and ornamentation.

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Kandariya Mahadeva Temple is the largest temple in western group of temples of Khajuraho and is dedicated to the Lord Shiva. The main spire or Shikhara rises to 30.5 m to depict Mount Meru, the holy mountain of Shiva and is surrounded by 84 miniature spires. This cluster around the central peak creates the effect of a mountain range. There is a marble Shiva-linga in the inner sanctum. The appearance of the temple is deceptive as it seems to be carved out of a solid piece of stone. The structure is 20m wide, faced to the east to welcome the first rays of sun. The whole structure consists of four major parts:

  1. Garbhagriha: sanctuary where the main deity has been kept.
  2. Pradakshina path: circumambulatory path having three sides’ balcony bringing ventilation and light to the interior.
  3. Mandapa: columned assembly hall having two sides balcony.
  4. Artha mandapa: entrance porch.

The temple is a good example of beautiful vastu art and praised as the pinnacle of the tradition of medieval Indian temple building. The temple platform is not rectangular but follows the outline of the building. Beautiful sculptures have been carved on pillars, brackets, lintels and the regularly disposed niche which make the temple impressive. From outside as well as from inside Devangana sculptures in variety of standardized graceful postures wearing different ornaments are carved in the temple. All the classes of mithuanas have also been 267 depicted. The scenes with several participants are masterpieces of composition.

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Kandariya Mahadeva Temple is an artistic and architectural masterpiece. This temple comprises all essential elements of nagara style of architecture which is mostly found in temples of North India. It consists of Mukhmandapa (entrance porch), followed by a Mandapa (assembly hall), Mahamandapa (dance hall), Antarala (vestibule) and Garbha-gariha (sanctum sanctorum) enclosed by an ambulatory with transepts on the sides and on the rear side. This temple can be graded as the grandest and loftiest of temple clusters at Khajuraho, not merely because of colossal height and length, but also on account of the rhythmic crescendo of architecture perfected by the doyens of yore. The temple is built on a high Jagati (platform) approached by a fleet of steps. Its total height is 116.5 feet above the ground and 88 feet above its own floor.

The most distinctive part of the temple is its lofty curved towers above the sanctuary, known as Shikara. Shikhara is crowned by an AMALAKA (Amalaka is a kind of fruit available in north part of India. In most of the Hindu temples, amalaka was adopted as the finial on shikhara), A ribbed circular motif, and a pot finial, known as the kalasha, a sacred pot in which the most precious elixir, amrita had been kept. Here, in the shikhara, the amalgamation of the form of lotus blossom and that of mountain has been frozen into the form of multiple recursive archetypes.

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Kandariya Mahadeva temple is not an ordinary temple mechanically built on vastusastra dictums but one which the architect-priest has creatively produced to symbolize cosmic order on earth, corresponding to its well-planned architectural structure, based on centuries of experience in temple building in accordance with vastusastra tradition. The imposing flight of steps lead into the entrance of the temple which is decorated with makara-torana with looped arches. The mukhmandapa of the temple has the usual vedikas (Blind balustrades) and asanapattakas (seat-slabs) with kaksananas (sloping seat-backs) which along with the vatayanas (oriel-window) of the mahamandapa and pradaksina-patha opening on exterior-impart the temple a distinctive impression, not met with in any other sectarian architecture.

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Shreyoshi Das Gupta

Shreyoshi Das Gupta is a fresher architect and a photography enthusiast graduated from SSAA, Gurgaon. Based in Mumbai, she is currently working as an architect on site in Varanasi and pursuing her passion for writing and expressing the beauty in architecture through her eyes.

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