In India the most ancient remaining temples are the rock-hewed monuments of the Buddhist period (c.255 B.C.–c.A.D. 300); important groups exist in W India, east of Mumbai. The typical interior is a vast cave divided by lavishly sculptured rock piers into nave and aisles; the sculptured facade, hewed from the cliff face, has a single huge opening to admit light. The principal Indian temples are gradual accretions around a sacred site, forming a religious center comprising shrines, cells for priests, and accommodations for pilgrims. The expression of symbolism is of paramount importance in both structure and ornaments.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.