A continuous tradition of Drāviḍa (south Indian) temple architecture flourished in Karnataka, southwest India, between the seventh and thirteenth centuries. This article focuses on the eleventh-century temples, arguing that the later forms can only be understood in relation to the constantly developing tradition, looked at as a whole. A formal analysis is put forward, based primarily on the evidence of the monuments themselves. From the monuments, an appropriate way of seeing can be deduced, allowing an understanding of both individual temple compositions and of the way in which the forms evolve. A clear evolutionary pattern emerges, tending toward dynamism and fusion. Seen retrospectively, there is a sense of inevitability, as if the inherent potential of the architectural language is unfolding. Yet there is great inventiveness. The article illustrates the nature of this inventiveness and discusses its relationship to the evolutionary pattern. It concludes that it was not fixed forms that were passed down, but a way of creating, and that the sense of evolutionary direction this produced can be understood in relation to the world view the temples embody.

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