Frame, form, and variation in the Maha-Gurjara temple
This work explores the interdependence of sculptural and architectural forms and the nature of change and formal transmission in the North Indian or Nagara temple. It focuses on a group of Hindu and Jaina temples built in western India (northern Gujarat State and southern Rajasthan) between about A.D. 875 and 1000 in what has been classified as "Maha-Gurjara Style." Together these buildings comprise a test case for inquiry into the interrelatedness of structure and image and the development of a methodology to address the temple fabric as an entirety.
Using the extant built fabric as primary source, the goals of this work are: to observe temple design as a whole (sculptural, architectural, conceptual, experiential, iconographic and dynamic); to probe the means by which design changes occur; to see what forms imply about the artists' levels of intentionality and the transmission of ideas; and to discover the logic underlying the idiosyncratic design and varieties of Maha-Gurjara buildings.
Separating the details of carving (termed "treatment"), which leads to regional segregation, from the format or frame of that carving (termed "type" and "organization"), which leads to regional interrelatedness, both elucidates the sculpture and architecture of these structures and addresses significant questions about regionalism and the meaning of stylistic variation in the Indian context. I suggest that the attempt to separate these two levels of analysis may reveal or at least give some clues about actual guild affiliation and practice.
In detailing the dynamic nature of temple-building practice, four conditions are found to affect the design process: (1) at any given time and place architects and craftsmen had within their working vocabularies multiple options for most elements, (2) there was an underlying and continuous search to better express a multifaceted yet ever changing ideal, (3) change necessarily involved the whole, and (4) not every element of the building was equally transmissible.