Laxshmi Greaves

Brick foundations: Ahichhatra and the formation of Indian sacred architecture in the Gupta-Vakataka age

Supported by

Arts and Humanities Research Council

My research will explore the terraced brick architecture of the Gupta period, which to date, has been largely overlooked.

Start Date: October 2010
End Date: March 2015
Theme: Objects, meanings and knowledge
Research discipline: Art and architectural history
Locations: South Asia
Staff member: Michael Willis
Department: Department of Asia
University and department: Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University
University supervisor: Adam Hardy
Profile Cardiff University

About my research

The extensive archaeological site of Ahichhatra is located in the Aonla Tehsil of the Bareilly district, Uttar Pradesh, and was once the capital of northern Pañcāla.

At the heart of the ancient citadel sits a monumental stepped pyramidal brick platform with a stone liṅga at its apex. The Śiva temple which once crowned the terraces is lost, but many extraordinary and sometimes obscure figurative terracotta plaques and sculptures dating to the Gupta period have been recovered. This thesis will focus on the formal qualities of the architecture and on the iconography of the plaques.

The monument will be compared with a terraced brick Viṣṇu temple at Pawāyā in Madhya Pradesh, and with the only extant standing Gupta period brick temple at Bhītargāon. Moreover, a summary of over forty monumental Hindu and Buddhist terraced structures spread across the subcontinent and spanning a period of about fourteen hundred years will be compiled for the first time. It is hoped that this thesis will further our understanding of the genre of terraced architecture as well as providing a sound scholarly foundation for future studies.


SOAS: ‘Terraced Brick Temples of the Gupta Period’ (November 2012)

Indian Art Circle: ‘Pawaya: An Early Terraced Brick Temple.’ (June 2014)

British Museum: ‘Ahichhatra: Terraced Brick Temples of the Gupta Period’ (December 2012)

Cardiff: The Ruins of a Recently Discovered Gupta Temple at Khanderia, Bundi District, Rajasthan. (May 2012)

Bochum, Germany: A Śiva Temple at Ahichhatra and Monumental Brick Structures of the Gupta Period. (April 2013)

EASAA, Stockholm: A series of Figurative Terracotta Plaques from the Gupta Period Śiva Temple at Ahichhatra. (July 2014)

Allchin Symposium Cambridge: ‘The Ancient Fortress City of Ahichhatra and its Monumental Pyramidal Gupta Period Śiva Temple.’ (December 2014)


'Pawāyā: An Early Terraced Brick Temple' in South Asian Studies, Vol. 30, Issue 2, September 2014

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Measuring the larger of the terraced monuments at Ahichhatra.

View of the two terraced temples at Ahichhatra. The temple dedicated to Śiva is in the distance.

A figurative plaque from the terraced monument dedicated to Śiva at Ahichhatra. Courtesy of the Archaeological Survey of India.

Aims of my research

This project aims to understand the nature and development of brick temple architecture and terracotta art in the Gupta period, focusing on Ahichchhatra, and to bring to light the importance of the 'terraced' temple type.