Vimana (architectural feature)
Vimana is the structure over the garbhagriha or inner sanctum in the Hindu temples of South India and Odisha in East India. In typical temples of Odisha using the Kalinga style of architecture, the Vimana is the tallest structure of the temple, as it is in the shikhara towers of temples in West and North India. By contrast, in large South Indian temples, it is typically smaller than the great gatehouses or gopuram, which are the most immediately striking architectural elements in a temple complex. A vimana is usually shaped as a pyramid, consisting of several stories or talas. Vimanas are divided in two groups: jati vimanas that have up to four talas and mukhya vimanas that have five talas and more.
In North Indian temple architecture texts, the superstructure over the garbhagriha is called a 'shikhara'. However, in South Indian Hindu architecture texts, the term shikhara means a dome-shaped crowning cap above the Vimana.
A typical Hindu temple in Dravidian style have gopurams in the four directions i.e. East - main entrance, North and south - side entrances, West - only opened on auspicious day where it is believed we will go directly to Heaven.The temple's walls are typically square with the outer most wall having four gopuras, one each on every side, situated exactly in the center of each wall. This will continue to next tier depending upon the size of the temple. The sanctum sanctorum and its towering roof (the central deity's shrine) are also called the Vimana. Generally, these do not assume as much significance as the outer gopurams, with the exception of a few temples where the sanctum sanctorum's roofs are as famous as the temple complex itself.
The kanaka-sabai (Golden Stage) at Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram, is another example. This shrine is entirely covered with golden plates, but is different in its structure and massive in size when compared to most other vimanas. Historical evidence states that during the ninth century, Parantaka I funded to cover this vimana with ornamental gold and it retains its glory even today.
The Vimana of the Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur, is another example, with a very exaggerated height. This form is not very common.
The vimana of the Konark Sun Temple was the tallest of all vimanas before it fell.
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- "Glossary of Technical Terms" (PDF). Retrieved 5 July 2019.
- Shikhara, Encyclopaedia Britannica
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