Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Bhubaneshwar - The Temple City : December 2012

Please also read Trip to Bhubaneshwar-Konark-Puri : A Curtain Raiser

We landed at Bhubaneshwar airport in the early afternoon. After completing the formalities of check in Ginger Hotel, we had a buffet lunch at their restaurant. We booked a tourist taxi (Indica) from the Hotel’s travel desk for a temple tour for the next day. We found the taxi hire charges of Rs.900/- for the full day quite reasonable. After an afternoon siesta followed by the evening tea, we went for a stroll in the vicinity of the hotel. With a pleasant weather coupled with not much crowd on the footpath and the less traffic on the road, the walk was refreshing which set a positive tone for the next day’s temple tour. 

It is said that in Bhubaneshwar, there are more than 150 temples. But we confined ourselves to those temples which in our view were the 'must visit' temples.

Lingraj Temple

After a sumptuous buffet breakfast which was included in the hotel’s tariff, we left our hotel at around 9.00 am for the temple tour. It is a convention that the temple tour starts with the visit to Lingraj temple as it is regarded as the presiding deity of Bhubaneshwar. It is also a belief here that before visiting Jagannath Puri temple, pilgrims should first visit Lingraj temple.  After a short drive of less than 15 minutes, we reached the main gate of Lingraj temple. The area in the vicinity of the main gate of the temple was crowded. There is a paid parking space about 100m away from the main gate of the temple where we alighted from the car. Since cameras and mobiles were not permitted inside the temple complex, we kept our cameras, mobiles and footwears in the car itself and walked barefoot to the main gate where after security check, we were ushered into the temple complex.

Lingraj temple complex is located on the periphery of Bindusagar lake. It is a massive structure said to house  more than 100 subsidiary temples beside the main temple. The complex is covered with high walls from all the sides with two more side gates beside the main gate.  The construction of the temple was started sometime during 7th century and completed during 11th century. This temple is a landmark of Bhubneshwar as its spire (tower) with 55m height dominates the sky line of Bhubaneshwar. One of the striking features of Lingraj temple is that Lord Shiva is in Harihar avatar, Hari (Vishnu) and Har (Shiva).  The Shivling (representing Shiva) and Shaligram (representing Vishnu) are located side by side. Another unique feature of the temple is that neither the trident (trishul) nor Lord Vishnu’s chakra is adorning the temple tower. Instead the temple tower top has a bow with a saffron flag.

Apart from a large sanctum and Jagamohana (assembly hall), it has Yagnashala, Bhogmandap (Dinning Hall) and Natamandap (Dancing Hall). There are intricate carvings of various gods and goddesses on the walls and pillars of the main temple. Inside the temple complex, there are subsidiary temples of almost all gods and goddesses making this temple a symbol of harmony between two main sects of Hindu religion. Even though people here claim that there are more than 100 subsidiary temples inside the complex, my guess is that the number  may not exceed 50.

Lingraj temple is one of the finest examples of Kalinga architecture. The students of architecture may require at least half day studying them in detail. Unfortunately, photography inside the temple complex is strictly prohibited. So cameras and mobiles are not allowed inside the temple complex. There is, however, one viewing platform located outside the temple complex from where one can have a bird’s eye view of the temple complex and can also take pictures. But the intricate carvings inside the temples will not be visible even with a zoom camera. Since the viewing platform is located on the western side of the temple complex, the sun from the east would mar the quality of the pictures if taken in the morning. For better photography, it is advisable to visit the viewing platform in the evening.

The only problem for the visitors of Lingraj temple is the scores of Pandas (Priests) at the main gate leading to the temple complex who would be after the visitors for performing certain pujas and donations etc. It is difficult not to fall in their clutches unless one becomes very arrogant towards them. So, it is better to carry only the minimum required cash in the pocket to avoid fleecing by them in the names of pujas and donations.

A few pictures of Lingraj temple with captions are uploaded below:

Lingraj temple complex seen from the Viewing Platform. The central structure with highest dome is the main Lingraj temple. 

The close-up of the dome of Lingraj temple. Note that there is neither trident (trishul) nor chakra on the top of the dome but a bow (not properly visible in the camera angle).

Middle part of Lingraj temple dome with intricate carvings in the middle.
The close-up of the middle carvings of the dome of Lingraj temple.

Some more carvings on the dome of Lingraj temple. Note the carving of amorous couple on the left.

Bindusagar Lake around which most of the prominent temples of Bhubandeshwar are located. The picture on the left far end is that of the dome of Lingraj temple.

Parashurameshwar Temple

The next on our temple route was Parashurameshwar temple. It is a small temple but rich in carvings. This temple was said to have been constructed sometime in the 7th century. Unlike other main temples in Bhubaneshwar, this temple does not have a big Jagamohana (assembly hall). The Jagamohana is in a rectangular shape having terraced roofs with slopped stone slabs on its three sides, which are very common in Hampi temples but rare in temples of  Bhubaneshwar.

Almost entire walls of Jagamohana are intricately carved with gods, goddesses, amorous couples, animals, flowers etc. The main gate on the eastern side leading to the temple is adorned with carvings of gods. There is another gate on the southern side but probably used for the exit from the temple. It is on this side of the wall one finds many intricately carved gods, animals, flowers etc. The main deity is Parshuram but there are images of other gods and goddesses signifying the harmonious relations between the two main sects of Hindu religion.

One of the main features of the temple is the existence to the left of the main gate to the temple of a monolith Shivling of about 5 feet in height. A close look at Shivling would reveal that there are miniature Shivlings carved out on the main Shivling numbering about one thousand. It is called ‘Sahashtra Shivlings’.

This temple may be one of the oldest in Bhubaneshwar but the damaged to the carvings are minimal. We spent about one hour to view and study the exquisite carvings on the spire and jagamohana of the temple. 

Some pictures of Parashurameshwar temple with captions are uploaded below:

Parshurameshwar temple. The Jagamohana (assembly hall) is rectangular in shape with terraced roofs and slopping stone slabs on its three sides. 
The southern gate of Parshurameshwar temple probably used as the exit gate.
One of the carvings on the top of the southern gate of the temple. Elephants on both sides with a pose of Buddha shows the influence of Buddhism. 
Deity of Lord Karthikeya on the outer wall of Jagamohana of Parshurameshwar temple.

Miniature shivlings within a monolith Shivling called 'Sahashtra Shivling' in the courtyard of Parshurameshwar temple.

Mukteshwar Temple

Close to Parashurameshwar temple is Mukteshwar temple which, in my view, is one of the two finest temples in Bhubaneshwar in terms of architecture and maintenance, the other being Raja Rani temple. The temple was constructed sometime during 10th century. The architecture style of Muketeshwar temple follows the Kalinga school of temple architecture but the influence of the then emerging style of new Kalinga temple architecture is quite visible on its intricate carvings. The highlight of the temple is an exquisitely carved arched gateway, almost similar to the style which I had seen in Buddhist and Jain temple architectures. The sculptures on the arched gateway include female figures, peacocks, monkeys and other decorative details.

On the backside of the temple is a holy tank which was used during the olden time by the visitors to take a dip in it before visiting the temple. In the temple complex, there is one more temple dedicated to Lord Ganesh, called Siddeshwar temple. The temple has a deity of the standing Ganesh on the eastern side of the base of the temple spire. Surprisingly, this temple has very little carvings on its walls and on the spire suggesting that it may have been left unfinished.

Mukteshwar temple is maintained by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) with a neatly kept garden in the temple complex. Those interested in architecture, sculptures and carvings may require at least one hour to complete the temple round. The temple complex has been the venue of Mukteshwar Dance festivals generally held during the first of January every year.  

Some pictures of Mukteshwar temple with captions are uploaded below:

Mukteshwar temple with its arched gateway.

A close up of the semi-circular top of the arched gateway with intricate carvings

Backside of Mukteshwar temple with sacred tank.

Intricate stone carvings on the middle portion of the tower of Mukteshwar temple.

A close up of the stone carving on the tower of Mukteshwar temple.

Siddheswar temple

Idol of standing Ganesh on the base of Siddheshwar  temple spire

Raja-Rani Temple

After lunch, we proceeded to Raja Rani temple which is located close to Bindusagar Lake. This is not the temple for Raja Rani but the named as such because of the use of red sand stones locally known as Raja Rani, in the construction of this temple. This is an abandoned temple with no idol of any god in the inner sanctum. The temple is maintained by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). From the gate, visitors are required to walk for about 200m through a well maintained garden to reach the temple.

The first impression one would get after looking at the tower of the temple is that its construction is more influenced by the towers of Khajuraho temples than the Odisha architecture. This view is further enforced by the fact that the the spire (tower) and walls of the temple contains some erotic sculptures and carvings. There are many female sculptures (called nayikas) adorning the temple tower which have close similarity with that of Khajuraho temples.

There is an entry fee of Rs.5/- per head for Indians and Rs.100/- per head for foreigners.

Some pictures of Raja Rani temple with captions are uploaded below:

Raja Rani temple

The spire (tower) of Raja Rani temple

Raja Rani temple - The close up sculptures and carvings in the mid section of the spire

Raja Rani temple - Sculptures and carvings on one of the corners of the spire.

Raja Rani temple - Sculpture of a lady holding a 'squirrel' on the temple spire. The squirrel in this picture is a real one which rested for a while on the hand of the lady in sculpture when this picture was being shot.

Rajarani temple - Sculpture of serpentine lady (Nag Kanya). This sculpture is one of a rare exceptions which appears to have been made on a white sandstone while almost all sculptures are made up of red and yellow sand stones.

Amorous couple - Raja Rani temple

Brahmeshwar Temple

The 11th century constructed Brahmeshwar temple is a bit away from other important cluster of temples located in around Bindusagar lake. The first impression I got from outside the gate was that it would be more or less a repeat of now familiar sites of other temples I have seen so far. The spire and jagamohana of the temple looked familiar  - more like Lingraj temple. But once inside the temple complex, one can notice the difference in sculptures and carvings on the walls of jagamohana and the spire which are most likely to be influenced by the carvings of Mukteshwar temple.  

The temple complex is slightly bigger than Parshurameshwar temple complex but they are no match for the temple complexes like Lingraj temple and Raja Rani temple. The complex has Brahmeshwar temple in the middle with four subsidiary temples in the four corners of the complex. In the temple tower, there are many miniature spires having intricate ornamental carvings at the base followed by some erotic sculptures so small in sizes that one requires a camera with zoom to properly view them. But it is the sculptures and intricate ornamental carvings on the walls and gates of jagamohana which are really worth seeing. 

Pictures below with captions give some details of those sculptures and carvings.

Brahmashwar temple

Brahmeshwar temple - Statue of Mandira Vahini atop the temple dome.

Brahmeshwar temple - The main entrance to the temple through Jagamohana has intricate ornamentall carvings.

Brahmeshwar temple - The side gate of jagamohana with intricate carvings. Note the top portion having he sculpture of a seer's court and the amorous couples on the left and right of the pictures.
Brahmeshwar temple - intricate ornamental carvings on  one of the walls of Jagamohana
Brahmeshwar Temple - Sculptures of music, dances and amorous couples, an unique feature 

Brahmeshwar temple - Sculpture of a mother feeding her child
Brahmeshwar temple - Carvings on a partially damaged entrance of the temple complex

Odisha State Museum

We were in two minds whether to visit Odisha State Museum or not as museums all over India generally have the same kind of objects on display in the typical Government type building bereft of aestheticism. Since we had completed our temple round by 3.00 pm, we decided to make a  quick visit to the museum before returning to our hotel. The Three floor museum building looked new and small, though it was typical office type  building. But as soon as we entered inside the building, it looked big and the displays of stone sculptures at the reception lobby gave us some kind of assurances that it would be an interesting visit.  

The museum has nine main galleries spread over ground plus two floors. In my view, the most interesting gallery is Archaeology Gallery where stone scriptures dating back from 10th to 14th centuries, mostly of mythological gods and goddesess excavated in Odisha, are on display. This gallery has huge collections of sculptures which may take at least one hour to complete for an interested visitor. Then there is Palm Leaf gallery where one can go through the old manuscripts of some of the mythological and other stories written on palm leaves. Finally, there is Patta Painting Gallery which is typical Odisha paintings on canvas depicting the pictures of god and goddesses and community festival celebrations. The other galleries which we rushed through were Armoury, Mining & Zoology, Natural History, Art & Crafts, Anthropology and Epigraphy & Numismatics. Still it took us about 2 hours to complete the museum round. At the end, it was a worthwhile visit.

The museum is open between 10.00 am and 5.00 pm every day except on Mondays and public holidays. The entry fee for Indians is Rs.5/- per head and for foreigners Rs.50/- per head. The camera charges for Indians and foreigners are Rs.50/- and Rs.100/- respectively.

Some pictures shot in the museum with captions are uploaded below:
Odisha State Museum Complex seen from inside.

Odhisa State Museum - Kalia Dalan - found around Bhubaneshwar - C. 7th Century AD.

Odhisa State Museum - Vastraharan - Found in Vishnupur (Puri) - C. 14th Century AD.

Odhisa State Museum - Contemporary sculpture of a mother feeding her child

Odhisa State Museum - Dancing Ganesh

Odisha State Museum - Patta Paintinga or Pattachitra as called in Oriya are traditional paintings done on canvas portraying the day to day life but mostly mythological in nature. This art is more than 1000 years old in Odhisa.

Odisha State Museum - Patta Painting of Panchu Dola festival (Holi)


anjali gupta said...
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anjali gupta said...
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