Shilpa Shastra is the term used for describing the ancient science of sculpture. Although the term describes only the sculpture, the texts based on this science also include chapters on architecture. This science is also referred to by the names Sirpa Nool, Tachchu-shastram and Shilpa Grantham. The literature pertaining to the science has been referred by the sculptors and architects in South India since ancient times. The comprehensive nature of these texts can be seen in the marvelous construction work of the ancient temples, forts and buildings that exist today.
Shilpa Shastra comprises of principal texts called Mukhya shastras and their concise versions called Upashilpas. These Upashilpas act as a reference material for the principal texts. Of the 52 principal texts comprising the Shilpa Shastra, only nine currently exists in proper form. Most of these works have been written in Sanskrit, while the rest are in Tamil.
As per the contents of the texts, Shilpa Shastra can be classified under four categories. They are Civil architecture, Temple architecture, Military architecture, and Sculpture and Painting. These categories however show a strong religious influence, since in ancient days almost everything was based on religion. The texts deals about everything, right from the planning stage to the execution stage and the individual materials that go into the construction work.