The other three groups of Gupta temples are, however, supremely important as supplying the genesis of the medieval Indian temple styles. One of the most well known examples of the first group may be found in temple No. XVII at Sanchi.
In certain aspects this structure has often been compared to the best creations of classical architecture in Greece. Other temples of this group are the Kankali Devi temple at Tigawa in Jabalpur and Vishnu and Varaha temples at Eran in Sagar, at Nachna Kuthara in M.P. etc.
The numerous sculptural and architectural remains found at Gharwa (Allahabad), Bilsad (Etah), Khoh (Nagod) etc. from their style of carvings as well as from the evidence of inscriptions, are known to have belonged to the period under study. Cunningham and Coomaraswamy are inclined to think that Pataini Devi temple near Unchanara (Nagod) also belonged to this period.
However, S.K. Saraswati thinks that it was not earlier than the tenth century AD. The temple no. XVII at Sanchi is the oldest structural temple extant. The Kankali Devi temple at Tigawa has been assigned to the period of Samudragupta.
In the designs, these temples represent nothing more than a translation, in structural form, of the plain rock-cut cave shrines of the earlier period. The flat roof, the square or rectangular form and the stern simplicity of the walls, characteristic of these early buildings, lend a strong probability to this hypothesis.
The second group is represented by the so- called Parvati temple at Nachna Kuthara and the Shiva temple at Bhumara (Nagod), both situated in Madhya Pradesh. The remains of a brick-temple at Baigram (Dinajpur), possibly of Govindasvamin, also belong to this group. At Aihole in the Deccan the type is represented by temples of the Lad Khan, the Kont Gudi and the Meguti.
This indicates its wide popularity both in the north and the south and it is in South India that the type experienced further elaborations. The temples at Nachna Kuthara, Bhumara and Baigram have covered ambulatory (forpradakshina) and this style came to be known as sandhara prasada in the later days as opposed to the one without which was called nirandhara. The Bhumara temple shows a peculiar feature in having a miniature shrine on either side of the staircase in front. This ultimately resulted in the development of panchayatana temples.
The third group of Gupta temples is represented by the Dashavatara temple at Deogarh (Lalitpur), the Mahadeva temple at Nachna Kuthara, a ruined temple at Bhitargaon (Kanpur) and the great Mahabodhi temple at Bodhagaya. This group differs very little from the type represented by the first group, so far as the general plan and arrangement are concerned.
It, however, records a notable advance on the temples of the first group in having a tower or shikhara capping the sanctum cella. In this respect it marks the beginning of monumental temple architecture in Northern India. An aspiration for ascending height is always felt in religious buildings, the lofty height, to a certain extent, symbolising the supreme aspect of the divinity enshrined in the temple.
Towers or shikharas thus soon make their appearance in the temples, and such temples provide a significant contrast to the early and archaic flat-roofed buildings of the first two groups. Many advanced designs lead up to a greater significance because of an effective and charming play of light and shades along the elevation of the temples.
The doorframes are richly ornamented. The sides are embellished all round with panels of sculptures set between pilasters and surmounted by a continuous coping, recalling, in a certain measure, the disposition of the railing of an early stupa.
The Dashavatara temple at Deogarh is perhaps the earliest example of a panchayatana composition in Indian temple architecture. Excavations conducted by Daya Ram Sahni around the basement of the temple have revealed the remains of a square miniature shrine at each corner.
The monastic institution at Nalanda grew up to be a famous establishment from about the fifth century AD Hiuan – tsang’s description of the establishment shows that the great temple erected by the king Baladitya presented a shape and form: not unlike those of the Mahabodhi, which appe to have been characteristic of the early Shikh temples of the period. The shikhara temple at Pathari belongs to about the 6th century AD and its height is found to be just twice the width of the building.
In this connection one should note that! Varahamihira prescribed that the height of a temp should be double its width and the strict conform’ of the Pathari temple with this almos contemporaneous injunction is interesting and might have been followed in a few other tempi too.
The group of three ruined temples known as the Shatrughneshvara, the Bharateshvara and the Lakshamaneshvara at Bhuvanesvar also appear to have belonged to this period. The Lakshmana) temple at Sirpur (Raipur) of the seventh century) AD, represents one of the most beautiful monuments among the shikhara temples of the early period.
Monasteries and stupas are also known to have been structurally erected during this period. The monastic institutions attained vast proportions consisting of large aggregations of various kinds of buildings grouped together. They were usually raised at spots specially consecrated to Buddhism,) such as Kapilavastu, Bodhgaya, Sarnath,) Kusinagara, Shravasti etc.
Sanchi continued to flourish, while a new mahavihara grew up at Nalanda described by Hiuan – tsang in great detail. Among the stupas belonging to this period, two merit special attention. One is at Mirpur Khas in Sind and the other is at Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh. The stupa of Mirpur Khas was constructed during the fourth century AD The stupa at Sarnatha is known as Dhamekha stupa and was probably erected in the Gupta age.
One of the two stupas at Jarasandha-ki-Baithak at Rajgir exhibited an identical shape and form with the Dhamekha stupa and might probably have belonged to the same period. Another stupa at Kesaria (Champaran) known as Raja Bena Ka Deora shows again a cylindrical shape with a slight bulge towards the top. From the shape it appears that the present stupa might have belonged to this period.