Indian temple-Architecture has engaged the attention of Competent persons for more than a century, from the days of the pioneering work of James Fergusson. Much valuable work has already been done, as a result of which the lines of evolution and regional characterizations have been established in broad outlines. Bt the finer line have still to be drawn, and this can be done by a more extensive fieldwork and intensive examination of the data collected there from. It is for this dual purpose-survey and study of temple-architecture-that the Archaeological Survey of India set up, in 1955, an organization with two of its senior officers, one for the north and the other for the south, and the necessary staff. Both the officers have already covered much ground, though, due to the enormity of the work, much more remains to be covered. To the original scope of the project has now been added the study of iconography, for it would indeed have been an avoidable duplication of work were a separate organization for iconographic survey to be created.
It may be made clear that any attempt at co-ordination between the silpa-sastras and the monuments has been kept out of the purview of the project, for that would have entailed an unnecessary widening of its scope, besides being fraught with the risk of the introduction of subjective and uncertain elements into a factual survey and study. A great deal of vagueness prevails at present about the interpretations of many basic terms of the silpa-sastras. Thus, there is no concensus on the meanings of the terms Nagara, Vesara and Dravida-the three primary Orders of architecture according to the texts. While some persons have regarded the Orissan temples as the purest examples of the Nagara Order, others have seen in them the illustration of the Vesara. Again, while the Dravida order, by its name, does seem to have a geographical connotation, as a corollary, has been extended to the other two, perhaps on inadequate grounds. The term Vesara, for instance, would lose all regional significance and assume a purely architectural aspect if it is, as seems very likely, a corrupt form of Sanskrit day-asra,' two-angled' (which is indeed implied in its definition by the) Mana-sara as vrittasy-agre dvy-asrakam, 'having two angles in front of a round part,' and would very appropriately describe an apsidal structure.)
Instances like this can be multiplied. It is clear that the pitfalls in the way of interpretations of the silpa-sastras are many and much laborious work is necessary to level the ground and put the interpretations on an unassailable basis. But to say this is not to mean that no help need be derived out of the texts even at this stage. Where the meanings of the textual terms are certain, as the names of many architectural components indeed are, there is no treason why they should not be freely used in preference to the often inapt terms of European architecture.
The planning of the survey has necessarily been on a regional and chronological basis: it is only on this basis that the spatial and temporal developments of architectural elements can be brought out. This basis, it is admitted, may tend largely to coincide with a dynastic grouping -a tendency to avoid which precautions have to be taken, or art and architecture should reflect something less ephemeral than dynastic vagaries. At the same time, in cases where all or most of the monuments in a group are the direct outcome of the initiative and patronage of the rulers of a particular dynasty, a dynastic appellation of that group would doubtless be justified.
The first Number of the Architectural Survey of Temples Series embodies the results of the survey and study of the cave-temples executed by and under the auspices of the Pallavas. The future Numbers will be published as and when they are ready. Circumstances do not favour the publication of the Numbers in any definite order.
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