Article: Maṇḍapa-line temples

Contributed by Julia A. B. Hegewald

Spatial layout of maṇḍapa-line temples

The 9th-century Narayana temple at Pattadakal is a maṇḍapa-line temple. In this type of temple the porch, hall and shrine are in a line from the front entrance to the main shrine at the opposite end, which houses the main temple icon.

Maṇḍapa-line temple
Image by Dinesh Kannambadi © CC BY-SA 3.0

In maṇḍapa-line temples, the porches, halls and shrines are arranged to create a straight line from the front entrance to the main shrine at the opposite end. This line may be stronger in large temples, which may be composed of several examples of such architectural elements. Other architectural elements may be used to lengthen the main alignment. Such additions to a simple original temple may have been made over centuries. However, areas where Jains enjoyed wealth and protection may have intricate maṇḍapa-line temples that were designed from the beginning to have many elements.

The maṇḍapa-line temple is characterised by an axis of clearly aligned architectural elements that echoes the ritual movement of devotees and priests into the temple. It is a journey from light, openness and abundant stimulation of the senses towards the darkness and simplicity of the confined inner space of the shrine at the far end.

The simplest form of a maṇḍapa-line temple consists of a single small entrance hall that gives access to a vestibule before the cella or immediately to the shrine. All major Jain pilgrimage centres in India have ample examples of this simple architectural form, as may be seen on the sacred mountains of Sona-giri in Madhya Pradesh and Shatrunjaya in Gujarat and at Karkal in Karnataka.

Larger temples of this type, however, have:

  • a front porch
  • more than one hall, of which often at least one is open and one is closed
  • at least one shrine projecting from the end farthest from the main entrance porch.

The closed halls often have side entrances. Such central halls with side openings leading to side porches or subsidiary shrines are known as ‘large halls’ – mahā-maṇḍapas. These are particularly popular in north-western and central India. See, for instance, the temples at Kumbharia and Mount Abu in Rajasthan.

Developed Jain temples of the maṇḍapa-line type usually consist of large numbers of architectural elements aligned along a main axis. This arrangement of temple elements – halls and porches – serves the functions of:

  • creating an approach to the sacred icon
  • providing clearly defined spaces for the celebration of rituals
  • hierarchically structuring holy space.

Completely detached platforms, halls, gateways – toraṇas – or water structures can be added to further lengthen the line of architectural elements. Two examples are the detached platform at Phalghat in Kerala and the line of gateways at Patan in Gujarat.

Often, Jain temples started simply but were enlarged by adding elements, such as additional halls and supplementary shrines, thus developing impressive dimensions over time. Most Jain temples combine building components from various centuries up to the present day. The older a temple, the more often it has usually been modified and enlarged.

During periods in which Jainism flourished and was supported by influential patrons, however, more elaborate temple constructions were also designed and built from the outset. Examples of such periods are the reigns of the:

  • Solaṅkī dynasty in north-western India during the tenth to 13th centuries, which saw the building of the temple complex at Mount Abu, Rajasthan
  • Hoysaḷa Empire in the south, lasting from the 11th to 13th centuries, with examples at Halebid, Karnataka.

Multiplicity in maṇḍapa-line temples

Probably the best-known Dharmanātha temple, the Hutheesing temple in Ahmedabad was completed in the 19th century. Named after its patron, the two-storey temple is famous for its intricately carved white marble. The main image is of Dharmanātha, 15th Jina

Hutheesing temple
Image by Kalyan Shah © CC BY-SA 3.0

Multiplicity is an important issue in Jain temple architecture in general. In maṇḍapa-line temples, there can be multiple free-standing or interconnected shrines and many image-chambers. These may be arranged on both a horizontal level and on various vertical layers added to the building. This reflects Jain religious practice, and is related to the diverse objects of veneration housed inside the temples and to distinct Jain cosmological issues.

It is characteristic of Jain temples to accommodate large numbers of figural icons – of the Jinas and of gods and goddesses – as well as more abstract symbols. The latter can be:

These are found inside the multiple shrines and halls on the ground floor, which form the typical spatial layout of developed Jain temples. Often there are further subsidiary image-chambers and interconnected levels of halls on additional levels inside temple structures. These can be raised sanctums as well as some which have been sunk into the ground. The most complex temples combine raised with subterranean layers.

Multiplicity is also created by surrounding these often very complex maṇḍapa-line temples with small shrines and subsidiary temple structures. These can be free-standing.

However, a typical architectural feature is to connect large numbers of small shrines, consisting of porches and image-chambers only – deva-kulikās or deva-koṣṭhas – to line or form the compound walls of a temple at the top of the tall terraces. Often, the walls between the individual shrines have been removed to create passages – bhamatīs or bhramantikās – used for the sacred rite of circumambulation – pradakṣiṇā. Such lines of interconnected deva-kulikā shrines surround the well-known Jain temples on Mount Abu and the Ādinātha Temple at Ranakpur, all in Rajasthan. Deva-kulikās too can be double-storied and may be linked to the central temple buildings on several levels, producing spatial patterns of great complexity.

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