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Entrance to cave garbhagriha at Elephanta Caves
See also: Sreekovil

Garbhagriha or Garbha griha is the small unit shrine of a Hindu temple. Garbhagriha or garbha gṛha (Devanagari: गर्भगॄह) is a sanskrit word meaning the interior of the sanctum sanctorum, the innermost sanctum of a Hindu temple where resides the murti (idol or icon) of the primary deity of the temple. Literally the word means "womb chamber", from the Sanskrit words garbha for womb and griha for house. Only 'priests' (pujari) are allowed to enter the temple.[1][2]

Although the term is often associated with Hindu temples, it is also found in Jain and Buddhist temples.


In temples with a spire or vimana, this chamber is placed directly underneath it, and the two of them form the main vertical axis of the temple. These together may be understood to represent the axis of the world through Mount Meru. The garbha griham is usually also on the main horizontal axis of the temple which generally is an east-west axis. In those temples where there is also a cross-axis, the garbha gṛha is generally at their intersection.

Generally the garbhagriha is a windowless and sparsely lit chamber, intentionally created thus to focus the devotee's mind on the tangible form of the divine within it. Entrance to the garbha grha may be restricted to priests who perform the services there.


Garbhagriha at Badami Cave Temples

In the Dravida style, the garbhagriha took the form of a miniature vimana with other features exclusive to southern Indian temple architecture such as the inner wall together with the outer wall creating a pradakshina around the garbhagriha. The entrance is highly decorated. The inner garbhagriha or shrine became a separate structure, more elaborately adorned over time.[3]

More often garbhagriha is square and sits on a plinth, its location calculated to be a point of total equilibrium and harmony as it is representative of a microcosm of the Universe. In the centre is placed the image of the deity.[4]

But sometimes, for the temples of feminine deities, the garbagriha is rectangular. For example in the temple of Varahi Deula in Chaurasi.


The present structure of most of these temples is a two-storeyed vimana with a square garbhagriha and a surrounding circumambulatory path, an ardha-mandapa and a narrower maha-mandapa.[3]


  1. ^ "Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent - Glossary". Retrieved 2007-01-24. 
  2. ^ "Templenet - Glossary". Retrieved 2007-01-29. 
  3. ^ a b "Temple Architecture". Retrieved 2007-01-24. 
  4. ^ Thapar, Binda (2004). Introduction to Indian Architecture. Singapore: Periplus Editions. p. 43. ISBN 0-7946-0011-5. 


  • George Michell; Monuments of India (Penguin Guides, Vol. 1, 1989)

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