It was my first solo trip. Bhubaneswar was my choice to celebrate a trip with myself only. Right from my teen age I had had an interest about architectures and sculptures. Though I had already seen Indo-Islamic era of architecture but did not visit to any pre-Islamic architectures in India. In that age of architecture, sculptures were depicted in the temple. There are several genres of pre-islamic art, one of them is Kalinga Architectures (Kalinga is the name of Orissa in ancient India). Bhubaneswar is regarded as the birth place of Kalinga Art.
I think, I should give you some historical background of the temples of Bhubaneswar. Orrissa has its own cultural identity from its very ancient days. Mouryan King Ashoka the Great conquered Kalinga. The brutality of war impulsed him to leave Hinduism and started practicing Buddha religion. Ashoka created the first architecture at Dhauli (near to Bhubaneswar). It was the holy beginning of the cultural journey of Orissa.
|Panel at Parasurameshwar Temple|
From 8th to 14th Century AD, with the decline of Buddhism, influence of Hindu religion was getting prominent. With the patronage of Hindu Kings, several temples were built in Bhubaneswar, Puri, Khiching and Konark. The super excellence of Kalinga Architecture is found in Konark. But the journey of Kalinga Temple Architecture was started from Bhubaneswar. More than 1000 temples were constructed. Most of them have gone with the wind of history. Only a few of them are still carrying the torch of the golden days.
|Schematic Map of Bhubaneswar Main Temples|
Please look at the map carefully. In Bhubaneswar, auto rickshaw is the best way to travel. I took the same from my hotel and reached at Ravi Takies Chhaka (chhaka means chowk or crossing). Ravi Takies is the point from where I started visiting the temples. From here, Rajarani temple is just 100 meters towards east but I did not go there earlier. In fact, my suggestion is to go there at the end else nobody can enjoy other temples. This is because Rajarani Temple is the most beautiful temple. If you see it at the beginning of your journey, you cannot appreciate other temples.
So, I started walking towards south and reached at the common courtyard of Mukteswar Temple and Shiddheswar Temple.
The first Kalinga architecture that I saw was the Gate of Mukteswar Temple. I got astonished to see the beauty and the engineering of this iconic gate.
|Gate of Mukteswar Temple|
Please have a look at the above photograph. The in an alto-relievo is the main characteristic of the gate. The gate is identical from the other side also.
Now, crossing the gate I went in front of the main temple. The Deul (inner sanctum of the temple) and the Jagmohan (assembly hall) are collectively placed together.
The Jagmohan is very much decorated. Both the north and south walls contain a beautiful latticed window. Folk lore of monkey, crocodile and scorpions are depicted on the four sides of each window. While moving from north to south wall (via east) I found the sculptures of Hindu Gods-Goddesses are depicted as – Saraswati with Beena, Varaha, Kartik, Ganesha, Lakulish, Durga, Kubera (with lotus in hand), Goutama Buddha, a broken idol of Durga (again), Kartik (again) and Surya.
This is strange!!! Goutama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism is sharing place with Hindu gods!!! Actually, the journey of Kalinga civilization started with the patronage of Buddha Kings. So how the architect could forget his route.
The Deul (main sanctum) contains the Devas and Devis (Gods and Goddesses) with their “Bahana”s (carrying animals). I saw Kartik with peackock, Ganesha with rat. Surprisingly, am idol of Mahabir Jain was also found in the wall!!!
“Mukteswar means the ‘Iswar’ of ‘Mukti’ (The god of free civilization)”, I explained myself, “The antagonism between Hindu-Buddhism-Jainism of ancient India got disappeared in this temple. Most probably the architect tried to unite the people of all of the religions together.” (please note, the temple was constructed in pre-Islamic era. So, no symbol of Islam is not there.)
|Marichi Kund and Mukteswar Temple|
The main temple is accompanied by three other temples and a pond – Marichi Kund. People bath there before praying.
Shiddheswar Temple is on the west of Mukteswar Temple. The traditional Deul-Jagmohan structure with some idols of lion can be seen in this temple.
Kedareswar Temple and Gouri Deul:
Kedareswar and Gouri Deuls are located on the southern side of Mukteswar Temple. They have been renovated recently, so I did not like them except the “Bhoga” (common meals for all) of the temple. Khichuri, Labra and Payesh cooked in the Bhoga Griha (Kitchen) served the duty of my lunch.
|Bhoga Griha (Kitchen) of Kedareswar Temple|
After lunch, I had a fag and started my walk towards west and after walking hardly 100 meters I reached at Parasurameswar Temple.
|Parasurameswar Temple from South-west corner|
Specially I mention the idol of Lord Ganesha. The four-handed god is sitting in Padmasana with his trunk is targeting the bowl of “Laddu” (an Indian sweet used for celebration). The idol is so lively that it seems like the God will have one Laddu immediately.
|Lord Ganesha on the wall of Parashurameswar Temple|
The most interesting story that depicted on the main sanctum is the epical marriage of Lord Shiva and Parvati. Agni, the God of fire and marriage is sitting in Padmasana. Shiva and Parvati, the bride and groom are sited on his left. Ganesha, the son of Shiva and Parvati is sitting in the bottom of Agni. Fundamentalists can accuse this story for anachronism. Ganesha was not a pre-marital child of Shiva and Parvati. Then how could he be present in his parents’ marriage. Actually, Ganesha is worshipped at the beginning of marriage in Hindu religion. Without his blessing, the marriage is not performed. The witty sculptor considered that fact, and he made Ganesha present in his parents’ marriage. This story reflects the surrealistic sense the sculptor had.
The Jagmohan contains a wonderful idol of lord Vishnu on the south-western side. Beside to this an idol of Lord Shiva and Parvati is found. Again, the sculptor showed his wisdom and sense of humour. Keeping her elbow on the shoulder of Shiva, Parvati is requesting for something. Glancing at this sculpture, I remembered the mythology where Parvati asked for his husband’s permission so that he allows her to go to her parents’ home. The shyness and the posture of Parvati’s hand drove me to think so.
|Panel at Parashurameswar Temple|
There are some panels of Ardhanariswara, Yama and dancing girls.
I had ample time in hand. Moreover, I had an urge to explore more temples. I suddenly switched off my mobile and forgot about the rest of the world. It was only the map that was driving me to satisfy my hunger of viewing architectures and sculptures.
|Parashurameswar Temple from East|
I could not locate my next two temples – Swarna Jaleswar and Kotitirtheswar Temple. Most of the common people are unaware of them. At last, I found an old lady. She guided me.
Like other temples, both of the Sarnajaleswar and Koti Tirtheswar temples are constructed on typical “Deul-Jagmohan” architecture and there condtion is very poor. Lac of maintenance made them ruin. Even they were not as attractive as I had seen in Parashurameswar or Mukteswar.
Vaital Deul and Shishireswar Temple:
I kept walking towards west and reached at the common courtyard of Vaital Deul and Shishireswar Temple.
Shishireswar temple is another Shiva Temple with no interesting feature but Vaital Temple is a revolutionary temple in Bhubaneswar as well as Kalinga Architecture.
Usually most of the temples of Bhubaneswar are Shaiva temples, where Lord Shiva is worshipped but Vaital Deul is a Shakta Deul where energy in form of Goddess is worshipped or in other sense the power of women is symbolized by Goddess.
Considering the history, Vaital Deul is the temple, where depiction of erotica on the wall of the temple was first introduced. According to the history, the architect and sculptor was influenced by Khajuraho Temple and applied their knowledge here. Later depiction of erotica and female figurine on the wall of temple was done in Lingaraj Temple, Rajarani Temple and the great Konark Temple (not in Bhubaneswar). So, we can say the renaissance of Kalinga Architecture was started from Vaital Deul.
On the southern wall of the temple, contains a four-handed sculpture of goddess Durga accompanied by confederates. The upper panel contains a sculpture of girl in leisure and the love making posture of an erotic couple.
On the northern wall of the sanctum, an excellent idol of eight handed Durga is found. Other walls have the sculptures of erotic couples.
|Panel on the northern wall of Vaital Deul|
From Vaital Deul, I went towards the lake Vindu Sarovar. Most of the temples are located on the bank of this lake. I started visiting one by one – Markchandeswar Temple, Mohini Temple, Sakhi Temple, Bakeswar Temple, Makareswar Temple, Mireswar Temple, Mitreswar Temple, Chitrakarini Temple. But I am not going to say more about them. As I am not a pilgrim but a traveller. If I do not feel anything interesting, I won’t mention them in my travelogue. But honourable reader, you can explore them.
At last I visited to Lingaraj Temple.
Lingaraj Temple is regarded as the most happening, crowded temple and full of art but since photography is strictly prohibited there, I could not visit. I managed to get a photograph from the terrace of a nearby house. It is a suggestion to all my fellow readers to go inside the temple.
Next one is Ananta Basudeva Temple.
It was almost dark so I came back to Hotel.
Next morning again I took an auto rickshaw and reached at Ravi Talkies Chhaka. First, I visited to Bhaskareswar, Megheswar and Bramheswar Temple.
At last I visited to Rajarani Temple – The most beautiful temple of Bhubaneswar.
Rajarani Temple is an exceptional temple in Bhubaneswar. I used the term “exceptional” because:
Its name – Usually we can see the name of the temple ended with “iswar” (God). Though, we can see Vaital Deul, Ananta Basudeva Temple and Gouri Temple but they are named after a god. But the word “Rajarani” means king and queen.
Secondly, god or goddess is worshipped inside the temple but Rajarani temple has no idol of god or goddess inside the sanctum. So, this is not a temple of god or goddess.
Thirdly, except Rajarani Temple, all of the other temples were built of red sandstone. But Rajarani Temple is constructed of “Rajarania” stone. I think, this is the reason behind the name of the temple.
Fourthly, unlike the other temples, Rajarani Temple consists of numerous idols of female figurine and erotica.
Fourthly, unlike the other temples, Rajarani Temple consists of numerous idols of female figurine and erotica.
|Erotica and other panel at Rajarani Temple|
Living apart all of the theoretical facts, let’s explore the beauty of this temple. Every corner of the main temple has the idols of Hindu gods. If we move from east to west, we can see the idols of Indra, Agni, Yama, Naiwrita, Varuna, Vayu, Kuber, Ishana.
|Girls in leisure, Rajarani Temple|
This is the reason I mentioned Rajarani Temple as the best temple of Bhubaneswar and my suggestion was to see this temple at the end.
From Rajarani Temple I took my way to visit to Dhauli. This is another story and will be posted shortly.
- Mr. Rangan Datta
- Karutirtha Kalinga by Narayan Sanyal, Bharati Publications
- Bharatiya Bhaskarye Mithun by Narayan Sanyal, Dey's Publications