Early Indian architecture, temples, and art

Prof. Subhash Kak

This article deals with architecture, temple design, and art in ancient India and also with continuity between Harappan and historical art and writing. It fills in the gap in the post-Harappan, pre-Buddhist art of India by calling attention to the structures of northwest India (c. 2000 BC) that are reminiscent of late-Vedic themes, and by showing that there is preponderant evidence in support of the identity of the Harappan and the Vedic periods. Vedic ideas of sacred geometry and their transformation into the classical Hindu temple form are described. It is shown that the analysis of the “Vedic house” by Coomaraswamy and Renou, which has guided generations of Indologists and art historians, is incorrect. This structure that was taken by them to be the typical Vedic house actually deals with the temporary shed that is established in the courtyard of the house in connection with householder’s ritual. The temple form and its iconography are shown as natural expansion of Vedic ideology related to recursion, change and equivalence. The centrality of recursion in Indian art is discussed.