On mid of January 2017, I was gifted a book named “Karutirtho Kalinga” (Orissa the land of Art) by the renowned author Mr. Narayan Sanyal. As the name said, the book was based on the architecture and the sculptures depicted on the wall of the temple of India. Right from my teen age I had had an interest about architectures and sculptures. Though I had already viewed Indo-islamic architecture, but until now I had never witnessed any of the pre-Islamic architectures in India. IThis age of architecture was characterised by sculptures adorning temples. Nurtured along the culturally rich lands of ancient Kalinga (present Odisha), the Kalinga architecture stands out from the several genres of pre-Islamic art. Bhubaneswar is regarded as the birth place of Kalinga Art.
As I read the book, I called my boss Nilotpal and applied for one day leave so that I can extend my week end. “No issue Amlan, but I think you need to get some information for me also” Nilotpal replied. I knew that he started his career from Bhubaneswar. Next day, Nilotpal and Arindam (another colleague who was in Bhubaneswar for 3 years) guided me about the temple city. They suggested the easiest way to go, the restaurant and other pros and cons. I met my “guru” Mr. Rangan Dutta, a reputed travel blogger of India he informed me a lot about Bhubaneswar.
The heavens had been kind enough to sort out my travel budget, in the form of a pocket-friendly deal from the good folks at RedBus. I boarded the Kolkata-Bhubaneswar bus on Thursday night and arrived at my destination around dawn on Friday.
Although there are many “star” options around the temple city, but I opted for a quaint and hospitable option next to the railway station for my stay. The hotel is mostly used by the business persons for some conference.
I checked in early, got freshened up and started my journey.
History of the temple town Bhubaneswar:
Before I get into my journey, let me give you a brief background of the temple city of Bhubaneshwar. Odisha, historically has a prominent cultural identity as Kalinga. The great Mauryan King – Ashoka the Great conquered the land but the brutality of war took him towards the peaceful 8 fold path of Buddhism. In his new found path, he propagated the Kalinga Architecture we know by commissioning its first construction in Dhauli..
From 8th to 14th Century AD, with the decline of Buddhism, influence of Hindu religion was getting prominence. 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. Most of these have lost their way in the pages of history, leaving few humble torch bearers of the bygone golden era.
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 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 at first. In fact, my suggestion is to go there at the end else one cannot enjoy other temples. This is because Rajarani Temple is the most beautiful temple and if you see it at the beginning of your journey, you cannot appreciate other temples.
So, I started walking towards southwards and reached 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.
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 had 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.
Then a strange thing caught my eye… The founder of Buddhism, Gautam Buddha next to Hindu deities!!! That’s when I reminded myself of the influence of Buddhist kings on Kalinga Architecture. With such patronage the artists must have included these in the architectural artwork.
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 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 there.)
The main temple is accompanied by three other temples and a pond – Marichi Kund. People bath there before praying.
Opposite to Mukteswar Temple, The Siddheswar Temple has a traditional Deul-Jagmohan structure. The only specialty of the temple is the idols of lions.
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. I planned to have lunch there but it was too late to get a coupon for the same.
After lunch, I bummed a fag and started my walk towards west and after walking hardly 100 meters I reached at Parasurameswar Temple.
I liked the calm and quiet atmosphere of Parashurameswar Temple. The traditional oriya “Deul-Jagmohan” temple contains some interesting idols of Hindu devas.
What really caught my eyes was the idol of Lord Ganesha. The four-handed God is sitting in Padmasana with his trunk targeting the bowl of “Laddu” (an Indian sweet used for celebration). The idol is so lively that it seems like you just walk in on him about to relish his most favorite thing.
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 below 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 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 her husband’s permission so that he allows her visit to parents’ home. The shyness and the posture of Parvati’s hand drove me to think so.
There are some panels of Ardhanariswara, Yama and dancing girls.
I had ample time in hand and an urge to explore more temples. I suddenly switched off my mobile and forgot about the rest of the world. With just a map driving me to satisfy my hunger of viewing architectures and sculptures.
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 the Sarnajaleswar and Koti Tirtheswar temples are constructed on typical “Deul-Jagmohan” architecture and their condtion is very poor. Lack of maintenance let to their ruin. They were not as attractive as Parashurameswar or Mukteswar.
Vaital Deul and Shishireswar Temple:
I kept walking towards west and reached 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.
Historically, Vaital Deul is the temple, where depiction of erotica on the wall of the temple was first introduced. 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 started from Vaital Deul.
On the southern wall of the temple is 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.
Time for Lunch:
My eyes were admiring the beauty of the architecture but stomach revolted. It asked for some fuel to run the engine. I decided to have lunch. Oriya delicacy is known for its delectable dishes. Once upon a time Oriya people were appointed as “thakur” (cook) in many boarding house and aristocrat families of Kolkata. Their exotic curries and heavenly deserts are famous across the world.
As suggested by Arindam and Nilotpal, I went to “Dalma Restaurant” by auto rickshaw and ordered “Badi chura thali”. Badi chura is a thali that contains steamed rice, dal, fish curry and Badi chura where dusted “Badi” (tablets prepared by drying pulse paste in sunlight) tossed with peanuts, mixture (chanachur), coriander leave, green chili and red chili powder in mustard oil.
After lunch I started my exploration again.
I went towards 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 did not find anything interesting.
In the evening I met a gentleman of Baripada (a town of Orissa) and had a great discussion with him over some Teachers 50.
Next morning I woke up early but due to inclement weather I could not go out. After lunch I started my journey.
At last I reached 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.
Ananta Basudeva Temple:
Next stop was Ananta Basudeva Temple. I did not find the temple attractive as a major portion was ruined. But I managed to get one photograph of a panel.
Dusk had almost set in and so I headed back to Hotel.
Next morning again I took an auto rickshaw and reached at Ravi Talkies Chhaka.
First, I visited Bhaskareswar, Megheswar and Bramheswar Temple.
At last I arrived at 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 find Vaital Deul, Ananta Basudeva Temple and Gouri Temple named after deities. But the word “Rajarani” means king and queen.
Secondly, god or goddess are worshiped 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 out 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.
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.
In the lower-middle section, we can see the female figurines. The postures of each of the girl are different from others. Their ornaments are different, even the design of their armlets, anklets give the feel of a jewelry showcase! Every idol has different hair style!!!! Now look at the figure and the expressions of each idol. The implacable artistry makes them seem lifelike.
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.
Pahala – the Rasogolla/ Rasgulla hub of Orissa:
If anybody is asked about the desert of Odisha, first they say “Chena poro” and second name is Rasgulla.
I got a bus for Pahala. Located on National Highway 6. At least, twenty stalls were there and everybody claimed their forefathers were the inventor of the famous sweet.
From there I took one last trip to Rajarani Temple and spent rest of the day reviling its architectural beauty.
Next morning, hitchhiked to Dhauli. That is another story.
- Blog of Mr. Rangan Datta
- Karutirtha Kalinga by Narayan Sanyal, Bharati Publications
- Bharatiya Bhaskarye Mithun by Narayan Sanyal, Dey’s Publications