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April - May 2007
Exploring the temples of Bhubaneshwar
by Anil Mehta
Bhubaneshwar, the capital of Orissa, is famous for its ornate temples. Most
of these are in the older, southern part of the city, while the new town with
its gleaming new buildings and wide tree-lined avenues is in the north. Bhubaneshwar
is one of those places where the past co-exists with the present. A perfect blend
of history with modern administrative buildings, IT companies, large convention
facilities and shopping malls.
Bhubaneshwar temples date from the 7th to 13th centuries illustrating the
complete evolution of the Orissan temple style. In this period they became
progressively grander and more elaborate. Most of them have some dinstictive
features. The sancturay (rekha deul in the local terminology) has a tower (shikhara)
with a square base, curving gently inwards as it reaches the top. The shikhara
is crowned with a flattened ribbed sphere (amalaka), a pot (kalasha), the presiding
emblem (Vishnu’s chakra or Shiva’s trident), and finally with the
The Parashurameshvara Temple (7th century) is the best known and
well-preserved of the city’s earliest temples. The sanctuary adjoins
a rectangular jagamohan with a sloping roof. It has an exquisite carving on
its external wall, but is more famous for its pierced stone windows. Within
the sanctuary, there is a linga (Shiva’s symbol) on a circular pedestal.
Next door to the Mukteshavara is the early 11th century Siddheshvara Temple.
Although smaller and less elegant (little decoration) than the Lingaraja, it’s
a good example of the mature Orissan style of temple building.
Lingaraja consists of four connected structures in a line; the sanctuary, jagamohan, natamandapa, and bhogamandapa. The largest in Bhubaneshwar, the temple stands majestically in the midst of small shrines including that of Parvati, the consort of Shiva. The main deity is Shiva as Tribhubaneshwar (Lord of three worlds) from which the city takes its name.
Bhubaneshwar temples are India’s great architectural delights. With
the style of their own, they continue to attract not only the lay tourists,
but also the artists, architects, and historians from far and wide. It is true
to say, they have to be seen to be appreciated fully. Entry is free except
Rajarani Temple. Lingaraja is still used for worship and is accessible to Hindus