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Work finally gets underway on Welsh-designed Indian temple

Construction begins in Karnataka, India, on new temple in 800-year-old Hoysala style

After almost eight years of designing and planning, construction has finally begun on an ancient Indian temple designed by Cardiff architect Professor Adam Hardy.

The first carved soapstone block was laid by the Maharaja of Mysore at a special ceremony earlier this month in Ventakapura in the Indian state of Karnataka. The block now stands on a platform of granite blocks, already erected, with the full construction of the temple expected to take around 12 years to complete.

Spanning over seven acres with the main tower reaching over 108ft tall, the temple is intended as a new manifestation of the ancient Hoysala style that became prominent between the 11th and 14th centuries in south western parts of Karnataka. There are over 100 surviving Hoysala temples scattered across that region.

Once built the temple will revitalise regional cultural traditions, becoming a religious centre and providing a setting for music and dance performances, as well as hosting thousands of worshippers and tourists every year. The temple has been dedicated to Shree Venkateshvara, a form of Vishnu.

Professor Hardy’s recreation of the tradition aims to go a step beyond the grandest monuments of that era. The temple will be made of blue-grey soapstone and its glories will include the detailed iconography and beautifully carved ornament that characterise the Hoysala style.

As a world authority on Indian temple architecture, Professor Hardy, a Professor of Asian Architecture at Cardiff University’s Welsh School of Architecture, has been studying the subject for over 35 years. His work uniquely combines historical research with a creative design approach.

After a chance encounter between one of his PhD students and a public trust based in India that was looking to build a new Hoysala-style temple, it became clear that Professor Hardy was the right person to design the project.

It took eight years of designing and redesigning before construction began a couple of weeks ago.

Prof Hardy’s big remaining job concerns the finer details of the temple, designing the external mouldings, numerous pillars and ceilings, and miniature temple designs adorning the exterior walls.

Professor Hardy said:This involves drawing all the details in full-size to make sure that the profiles are right, and coordinating all the proportions in relation to an astrological calculation of the breadth of the plan. As such, very few of the dimensions turn out to be whole numbers – an added complication!

A group of master craftsmen proficient in the Hoysala style of sculpture has been identified to work on the project and to train apprentices.

Professor Hardy said:I have tried not so much to design the temple as to let it emerge out of the architectural principles by which the medieval tradition developed. Those, together with the iconographic requirements – the images of the gods and their placement – generated the temple form in a way that seemed natural and inevitable.