7 Stumping Examples of Amazing Ancient Hindu Stonemasonry

The ancient world is full of wonders.

Throughout the long history of the human race, different cultures living on distant continents built incredible ancient temples. Some of these ancient structures were used as places of worhsip. Some temples were used as gathering centers, while others served as administrative centers for cities and towns.

Each temple, no matter to which culture it belongs, is unique in its own way, and each one has a story embedded in stone to tell.

Each of these temples is guardian to a history that is long gone.

Although many people turn towards the ancient Egyptians, Maya, Aztecs and other cultures in Africa or the Americas to admire their architectural and engineering skills, we have many other ancient civilizations that were equally–if not even more–developed than the latter.

India is home to numerous mind-boggling temples, and so are many other ancient civilizations that lived in the Asian Continent.

Examples of Ancient Hindu Stonemasonry

In this article, we are not going to delve into the history of ancient India, but rather portray the incredible stonemasonry skills this ancient civilization developed throughout their extensive, rich history.

Evidence of their sophisticated stonemasonry skills are the countless ancient temples that are scattered across the country.

Built without the use of sophisticated, modern tools, many ancient Hindu temples are so precisely built, carved, and designed it is hard to believe they were built in ancient times.

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Many people find it beyond impressive that thousands of years ago, ancient civilizations had the ability to cut, with nearly laser-like precision, massive stones eventually creating some of the most intricate examples of temples the world has ever seen.

However, not only did ancient civilizations manage to precisely cut stone, but they somehow also managed to create temples by carving them directly out of a mountain.

One such example can be found in Ellora, Maharashtra, India. There, we find a temple that is the most impressive rock-cut temple on the surface of the planet. The massive structure was carved, thousands of years ago–by means that remains a mystery–directly from a mountain.

Top view of the rock carved temple of Kailasa. Shutterstock.
Top view of the rock-carved temple of Kailasa. Shutterstock.

Acknowledged as one of the most remarkable ancient temples in India, the Kailasa Temple displays impeccable architecture, design, and sculptural elements, all of which have been fused to create one of the most unique ancient temples the world has ever seen.

The importance of Kailasa resides in the fact that it is just one of the 34 cave-temples and monasteries part of a larger complex called the Ellora Caves; all of which are a set of ancient structures that were carved in distant times directly into the bedrock.

Completely lacking dedicatory inscriptions, the history of the Ellora caves is thought to be divided in three main building periods: Hindu period (~550 to 600 CE), a Buddhist phase (~600 to 730 CE) and a later Hindu, and Jainphase (~730 to 950 CE).

An image of the rock carved temple of Kailasa. Shutterstock.
An image of the rock-carved temple of Kailasa. Shutterstock.

To build this ancient temple, the builders are thought to have adopted a vertical excavation method. Beginning at the top of the mountain, the workers are thought to have made their way downwards carving the temple and its incredible motifs. It remains unknown as to what tools the ancients used in order to accomplish what they did.

Why none of the construction methods was documented remains another archaeological mystery.

The Kailasa Temple isn’t the only ancient wonder the rich ancient Indian culture has to offer.

Some 35 kilometers northeast from Puri, just on the coastline of Odhisa, India, we find an ancient temple dedicated to the sun.

The Konark Sun Temple thought to have been erected around the 13th century CE is one of the most impressive stone-built temples in India. Fashioned in the shape of a gigantic chariot, the temple is dedicated to the Hindu Sun God Surya.

A close-up view of the Konark Sun Temple The ashlar style masonry work is also visible. Shutterstock.
A close-up view of the Konark Sun Temple The ashlar style masonry work is also visible. Shutterstock.

The massive temple was built in the form of a 100-foot high chariot with massive wheels and beautifully fashioned horses, all of which were carved from stone.

To construct the temple, its builders made use of three types of stone: they used Chlorite for the floor intel and frames, and some of the structures were also carved from it.

An image of the design motifs of the Konark Sun Temple. The temple is designed as a chariot consisting of 24 such wheels. Shutterstock.
An image of the design motifs of the Konark Sun Temple. The temple is designed as a chariot consisting of 24 such wheels. Shutterstock.

In addition to Chlorite, the builders made use of Laterite and Khondalite.

Laterite was used for the cone of the platform of the temple, and in the staircases positioned near its foundation.

Khondalite was used by the builders in different parts of the temple.

A kama scene on the walls of the Konark Sun Temple. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
A kama scene on the walls of the Konark Sun Temple. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Experts argue that none of the stones originated from quarries nearby. It is believed that the building material was transported from distant quarries by river and water channels.

At its peak, the Konark Sun Temple is thought to have stood over 200 feet (61 m) high.

The temple was designed as a massive chariot, it features 24 such wheels. Each of the wheels at the Sun Temple has a diameter of 9 feet, 9 inches, and 8 spokes.

Another mind-boggling temple worthy of mention–although there are hundreds more–is the Ramanathaswamy Temple, one of the twelve Jyotirlinga temples. Located on the sacred Hindu island of Rameswaram, this ancient temple features the longest corridor among all Hindu temples in India, home to more than 1000 intricately carved pillars in one corridor alone.

An image of the Great Corridor at the Rameswaram Ramanathaswamy Temple. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
An image of the Great Corridor at the Rameswaram Ramanathaswamy Temple. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

With more than 4000 carved granite pillars, the colonnade measures 205 m (671 ft) on the north and south sides. The outer corridor of the temple is the longest on Earth, measuring almost seven meters in height, 400 feet each in the east and west and about 640 feet in the north and the south.

According to measurements, the interior corridors of the temple are approximately 224 feet each in the east and the west and around 352 feet each in the north and the south.

Among the most impressive monuments in India are also the Ajanta Caves. These are approximately 30 rock-cut cave monuments which are believed to date back from the 2nd century BC to about 480 CE.

A jewel of the ancient world, the caves features rock-cut sculptures that are regarded as some of the finest surviving examples of ancient Indian art.

View of Cave 26, which is a Buddhist "Chaitya Griha" or prayer hall. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
View of Cave 26, which is a Buddhist “Chaitya Griha” or prayer hall. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The Ajanta caves are thought to have been built in two distinctive phases, the first of which is believed to have begun around the second century BC. The second phase began around 400 CE.