Kalinga Nagara Architecture – Rekha, Pidha & Khakhra Deula


Kalinga Nagara style of temple architecture comes from Odisha.

Nagara style is generally used for North Indian Temple architecture. It was so popular and prominent that the temples with Nagara influence are distributed all over in India from the Himalayas till Northern Karnataka and from Gujarat till Odisha. There are many regional variations and nuances of Nagara style. The regional development that took place in Odisha is the most remarkable one.

The Odisha style of temple architecture is also accorded as Kalinga Nagara style. It is very close to the original Nagara typology seen in the Northern and the Central parts of the country. Since Odisha was recognized as the Kalinga desha, the style of architecture that developed within it was known by the same name as that of the region.

Konark Sun Temple Architecture
Konark Sun Temple – As it was

The region of Odisha has been very rich in its cultural aspects. Temples being the most important ones. Like the rest of India, Odisha witnessed settlement and development of various cults in ancient times. The Kalinga Nagara style of temples in Odisha have gigantic height and can be defined as one of the peculiarities of Odisha architecture. The most prominent examples of this style can be seen from the period of 10th CE to 12th CE. Mostly during the rule of the Ganga Dynasty.

Elements of a Kalinga Nagara Style Temple

In Kalinga style, the temple comprises two major parts namely – Garbha Griha and the Mandapa placed in the same axis, which was further divided on the basis of ornamental projections. In the later period, there was also an addition of more Mandapas such as Bhoga Deula meant for Bhoga offering and Natya Deula for the Dance performances.

On rare occasions, we do also see an independent Torana or a gateway erected in front of the temple. For instance, the Mukteshwar temple from Bhubaneshwar is flanked by a free-standing Torana. The Torana is nothing but a thick arch balanced on two free-standing pillars.

Different Styles within Kalinga Nagara Temples

Stylistically speaking the Kalinga Nagara style comprises three typologies i.e. Rekha Deula, Pidha Deula, and Khakhra Deula. All these were well-practiced and bear the finest of them specimens. It is to note here that in almost every example falling under the above-mentioned categories, we see changes and refinement in the execution of architectural elements. Almost all the temples in these categories run on the square plan only. Except the Khakhra Deula which has a rectangular plan due to its barrel-roof superstructure. Apart from these fixed plans, the changes that occurred were only on the outer parts of the temples.

The Torana, Pidha Deual and Rekha Deula at Mukteshwar temple, Bhubaneswar
The Torana, Pidha Deual and Rekha Deula at Mukteshwar temple, Bhubaneswar

The first two typologies are the most commonly visible architectural styles in the temples of Odisha.

Rekha Deula

Rekha Deula is generally the Shikhara above the sanctum sanctorum. The Rekha Deula is etymologically called “curvilinear temple” because the Shikhara here is curvilinear with less density in the lower part but highly dense in the upper part. In Rekha Deula, lines around the Shikhara run from the base of the temple till the topmost part of the superstructure. Unlike the Latina Nagara style where the central line starts from Jangha here the lines originate from the base of the Shikhara.

Rekha Deula (Shikhar) of Lingaraj Temple, Bhubaneswar
Rekha Deula (Shikhar) of Lingaraj Temple, Bhubaneswar

The famous temple of Lingaraja at Bhubaneshwar and Jagannatha at Puri are two prominent and gigantic examples of Rekha Deula. The Lingaraja which is dated about 1100 CE proved to be the benchmark for many temples in Odisha. In few years Jagannatha Temple at Puri reached the massive grandeur and dignity of Lingaraja Temple. The far-famed Sun temple of Konark built during the reign of Narasimha I (1238-1264 CE) surpassed Lingaraja in its execution and scale of construction. Still grand and impressive in its ruins, Konark Temple is the unknown mystery of Kalingan style.

The Rekha Deula is broadly divided into three major parts from bottom to top:-

  • Bada (Perpendicular Wall)
  • Gandi (Shikhara or Superstructure)
  • Mastaka (Kalasha or Top)

Pidha Deula

The Pidha Deula is etymologically called “flat seat temple” because the Shikhara here is like a stepped but compressed pyramid. It is marked by a series of flat platforms placed one over the other, in diminishing order, each one representing a storey. It is topped by an Amalaka as a rule.

Pidha Deul (Shikhar) of Bhaskareswar Temple, Bhubaneswar
Pidha Deul (Shikhar) of Bhaskareswar Temple, Bhubaneswar

The Pidha Deula is generally seen as the axially located Mandapas in the front of Garbha Griha as an annexure to the main temple. Bhaskareshwar Temple at Bhubaneshwar is, however, the only known free-standing specimen of Pidha Deula style. Here the Pidha Deula is serving as the main superstructure of the temple.

Khakhra Deula

Khakhra Deula is an elongated, barrel-roof shaped shrine. This could be called the Kalingan interpretation of Vallabhi shrines (Nagara form of temples generally seen in the Himalayan region). This form is inspired by the Shala element seen in Buddhist architecture.

Vallabhi Temple, Jageshwar, Uttrakhand, Kalinga Nagara
Vallabhi Temple, Jageshwar, Uttrakhand

The Shala in its elongated form provides a large span to the Garbh Griha so that it gains a decisive height from outside. Khakhra Deula is preceded by a Mandapa with a flat roof. Khakhra Deula is one of the most special architectural forms in Kalingan style which can be seen all over Odisha. The most famous example of this style is Vaital Deula, Bhubaneshwar, and Varahi Deul, Chaurashi in Odisha.

Varahi Temple, Prachi valley, Kalinga Nagara
Khakhra Deula (Shikhar) of Varahi Temple, Chaurashi

Thus one can clearly observe how diverse the Kalinga Nagara style is. It is important to understand each and every aspect of its various forms to fully appreciate them. Almost every variation in this showcases a testimony of age-long developments in various aspects such as art, culture, and religious beliefs.

Vaitala Temple, Kalinga Nagara, Bhubaneshwar
Vaitala Temple Bhubaneshwar

The regional variation of this temple architectural form is one of the important contributions in the field of Indian Temple Architecture. One can clearly agree on how the regional understanding and knowledge of Odisha gave a new shape and direction to the prevailing architectural vocabulary of Nagara style. This is indeed one of the beautiful gem embedded in the diverse architectural heritage of India.

Guest Post

Ar Sushant Bharti is a Conservation Architect. He graduated from the School of Planning & Architecture, New Delhi with a Bachelor’s degree in architecture from Vastukala Academy College of Architecture. Keenly interested in understanding the cultural aspect of India. His main area of research is around the ‘Cultural Heritage of Braj’ and ‘Indian Temple Architecture’. Currently, he is working as a Research Assistant at the National Museum Institute, National Museum, Janpath, New Delhi.

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  1. Very nicely explained. Have seen so many temples in Odisha but never gave importance to the nuances of temple architecture. Will try to visit these temples once again to have a look from an architectural perspective.. Thanks for sharing.


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