Jagannath Temple in Puri is on of the most revered pilgrimage destination in India as it is one of the dhams (abodes) of the divine in India present in the four cardinal directions. The temple architecture has been restored to its full glory so that you can appreciate the influence that the 241 m high spire of the temple has on the state of Orissa. Inside is housed the deity of Lord Jagannath flanked by his sister Subhadra and brother Balrama. Shopping for souvenirs from the markets surrounding the walled temple complex; eating the blessed food in the temple courtyard and visiting the beaches is a must on your tour of Jagannath Temple, especially during Rath Yatra.
Conceived in the 13th century under the reign of King Narasimhadeva, the temple is designed in the form of a chariot with huge sculpted wheels that have become an integral part of ethnic jewelry, art and crafts of Orissa. This chariot of Surya, the Sun God, driven by seven horses is a striking example of Aryan influences on Orissa’s architecture and lifestyle. Built over 12 years on golden sand beach, the sea is removed from this once shore temple by 2 km. You must also visit the surviving temples and the dancing hall in the temple complex that was known as the ‘black pagoda’ on your tour of temples in India.
Dedicated to Lord Lingaraj (Tribhuwaneswar), the Lingaraj Temple is one of the active temples in Bhubaneswar, Orissa that is frequented by Hindu devotees in large numbers. Built in the 11th century, it is believed that this 11th century structure was built over a 7th century structure. You can get a view of the complete temple landscape from the viewing platform. Like the Konark temple, Lingaraj temple too has tall pagoda shaped towers, porch, and halls for dance and for prayers that you ought to see on your tour of the temples in Orissa. The other temples within the complex are worth a visit too.
Mukteswar, which means ‘Lord who offers salvation through Yoga’ marks the shift in the old school of Kalinga architecture to the new school that emphasized colossal duels, richly inscribed and sculpted stepped pyramid like porch and gateways, dance halls and towers. Mukteswar, though a compact temple site, offers great insight into the evolution of temple architecture in Orissa.
Another temple that you can visit on your tour of temples in Orissa is the Rajarani Temple. Carved out of red and gold sandstone and set in the swaying paddy fields of Orissa, the Rajarani Temple was once called the Indreswara temple and is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Vaital Temples The Vaital Temple (c. AD 800) belongs to the Khakhara order (a subdivision of the Kalinga school of architecture) which was used for shrines devoted to tantric cults. The deul (tower) of the temple is the most striking difference. It is rectangular in shape, positioned at a right angle to the Jagmohana (porch). The roof vault is derived from earlier free-standing buildings made of wood and thatch. The horseshoe-shape of the chaitya arch became an enduring motif, turning up not only in actual structures, such as the Vaital Temple, but frequently in sculptural decoration. On the Vaital Temple, the outer surface of the vault is absolutely plain, in contrast with the heavy sculptural embellishment of every other existing Orissan temple tower. The shape of the more common Temple form has not been ignored, however; it has been carefully inserted, in miniature form, on the four corners of the Vaital Temple’s jagmohana (porch). A brief look at the Vaital Temple will show an extremely accomplished style of sculptural decoration. A slightly closer look will reveal some of the darker facets of the sculpture’s content, and the temple’s nature. Tantric worship, which combined elements from certain sects of both Buddhism and Hinduism, centered on the worship of shakti, the female life force. It developed elaborate rituals involving magic spells, secret rituals and sacrificial offerings. The interior of the Vaital Temple’s inner sanctum is almost completely dark, in keeping with the esoteric rites believed to have been performed there. The temple deity of Chamunda (tantric form of the Hindu goddess Durga) is dimly visible behind her grille, portrayed with a garland of skulls around her neck, seated on a corpse, flanked by an owl and a jackal. Her emaciated body, sunken eyes, and shrunken belly are quite remarkable, and even the usually staid and unflappable Archaeological Survey of India, in their guide to Bhubaneswar, cannot help but remarking that she displays the ‘most terrible aspect conceivable’. The 15 niches which adorn the interior wall around her are also filled with a series of singularly strange images. In front of the entrance to the sanctum is a ‘fourfaced’ linga adorned with unusual carvings. Next to it is a post, to which sacrificial offerings were tied. The entire atmosphere is, in the words of one specialist, disquieting. The Archaeological Survey, sums it up more directly: ‘weird’. On the outer, eastern face of the tower (back, thankfully, in the sunlight), there is an extremely fine image of the sun god, Surya, with a sensitive and beautiful face. He is flanked by Usha and Pratyusha, twin sisters of the dawn, while his chariot is driven by Aruna. This is a motif that will be remembered, and later developed fully in the Sun Temple at Konark. The first erotic sculptures known in Orissan art are found here, in a sunken transitional panel on the super-structure. It has been suggested that these images, which are a sort of catalogue of positions, had real relevance to the tantric rituals of this particular temple. Once presented here, they acquired the force of convention and temple builders in later centuries may have accepted them as a standard part of the temple decoration repertoire.
Parsurameswar Temple This 650 A.D. temple is one of the oldest temples existing in Bhubaneshwar. It is close to the main Bhubaneshwar-Puri road, on the same side as the Lingaraj temple. It has all the main features of the pre-10th century Orissan architectural style temples like pine spire curving up to a point over the sanctum, which houses the deity and the pyramid-covered Jagmohan, where people sit and pray. It has a lively bas-relief of horses and elephant’s processions and latticework on windows. Outside the temple one can see exotic carvings of Ganesha, the elephant God Karti Keya, Shiva Parvati and other deities. On the northwest corner of the temple compound one comes across the exoticaly unique ” Lingam of one thousand Lingas “- the phallic symbol of shiva with 1,000 lingas engraved on it. [This is one of the best-preserved, Shiva temples. The masonry was kept in place by weight and balance]. The other interesting carvings to be seen are those of Shiva tackling the Lankan king “Ravana,” who is trying to uproot Mount Kailasa, the abode of Lord Shiva. Shiva is also shown in the endearing posture as “Natraja”- The Lord of Dance.
Immediately to the NorthWest of the Muktesvara Temple is the Siddervara Temple. The temple is plain and the carving not elaborate. Unlike the earlier temple, the vertical lower section is divided into five parts and the amla on top of the sanctuary is supported by four squatting figures. The Gauri Temple to the South is built in the Kahkhara style and has carvings of beautiful women in numerous poses. Ketu, the ninth planet has been introduced in this temple.Braheswar Temple
This 11th century temple is about a kilometer east of the main road. In the courtyard of the temple one comes across four small structures while crossing the porch of the temple one comes across the image of Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of wealth). Covered with a piece of cloth, with incense sticks in front of it. The main sanctuary houses a Shivalinga. The tower of the Sanctuary is over 18m in height. The exterior of the temple is elaborately carved with swans, monkeys, lions, deers, figures of Gods and Goddesses, religious scenes and the ninth planet “Ketu” also finds its place here. The scenes in the riches of the miniature temples of the upper sections are mainly exotic couples in various poses and voluptuous female figures elaborately bedecked with ornaments. A rare depiction of Shiva as Natraja playing on a vina above a bull is found in the carvings of this temple.
Known to the pilgrims as ‘ Tulasi Kshetra’, Kendrapara houses the temple of Lord Baladeva. The rites and rituals of Lord Jagannath at Puri are generally followed here which make Kendrapara equally attractive – 95 km from Bhubaneswar.
The famous Madhava temple(13th century) is located on the eastern bank of the Prachi River, about 6 kms. from Niali (Cuttack District). The area between Niali and Madhava appears to have been the principal centre of the Madhava (four-armed Vishnu) cult in Orissa, made famous in Sri Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda. The temple is also sometimes referred to as “Durgamadhava” because of the presence of a small Durga image next to Madhava within the sanctum. This joint worship of Durga and Madhava is unique to Orissan Vaishnavism, and is yet another testament of the great Orissan process of synthesis. Madhava is a temple in active worship, and, in fact, draws a large number of pilgrims from all over Orissa.
Both the deul (tower) and jagmohana (porch) of the Brahmeswara temple (c. 1050) are in the fully developed mature Orissan style. This temple can be dated with fair accuracy by the use of inscriptions that were originally on the temple. They are now unfortunately lost, but records of them preserve the information.The Brahmeswara shows quite a bit of affinity with the much earlier Mukteswara temple, including the carved interior of the jagmohana, and in the sculptural iconography (such as the lion#head motif which appeared for the first time in the Mukteswara, and is here evident in profusion). There are quite a number of innovations, however, including the introduction of a great number of musicians and dancers (some holding lutes) on the exterior walls, and the use (for the first time) of iron beams in the construction. The carvings over the door frame contain beautiful flower designs as well as flying figures. Like the Rajarani, there are images of the eight directional Guardian Deities. There are also quite a number of tantric-related images, and even Chamunda (last glimpsed in the Vaital Deul inner sanctum) appears on the western facade, holding a trident and a human head, standing on a corpse. Shiva and other deities are also depicted in their horrific aspects. One of the lost inscriptions stated that a Queen Kolavati presented ‘many beautiful women’ to the temple, and it has been suggested that this is an evidence of the devadasi tradition which assumed such importance in later Orissan temple architecture and temple life.
Situated on an island in the Mahanadi River, about 10 kms. from Badamba in Cuttack District, the Simhanath temple (c. 9th century) is interesting for its images of Shaiva, Shakta, and Vaishnava cults of Hinduism. The jagmohana (porch) appears to be influenced by the Vaital Deul temple in Bhubaneswar. The Simhanath temple combines older features with new and energetic experiments. This can be seen in such things as the elongation of the Paga images which crown the niches, and in the addition of a third terrace to the roof of the jagmohana.
It is 164 KM from Sambalpur via Baragarh. This temple is stands at the foot of the Gandhamardana Mountain whose ancient name was Parimalagiri. According to Hiuen-Tsang, the Chinese traveler, this place was a center of Buddhist scriptural learning. Located in the sacred Gandhamardan Hills, which according to legends, Hanuman carried on his shoulders from the Himalayas as described in the ancient epic Ramayana, the temple at Nrusinghanath is an important pilgrimage site. It is also an exceedingly fascinating and beautifully located temple and is worth the journey to this rather remote spot. The present temple, located at the source of the Papaharini stream, is a 14th century structure built on a more ancient site. The four pillars within the Jagmohana suggest that the earlier temple was built in the 9th century. The beautiful doorframes have been dated to the 11th century. The site of the temple is unique. Stone steps wind up the hillside behind the temple, leading past a waterfall, and eventually curving under the falls to a spot where some beautiful, and very well- preserved relief sculptures are found. The climb to the carvings and return journey will take about an hour. Since shoes are not permitted on these sanctified pilgrimage steps, those with tender feet should take along a pair of heavy socks for the climb. On the opposite slope of the hill on which the temple is located, is the Harishankar Temple. Between the two temples there is a 16 km. plateau, littered with Buddhist ruins that scholars feel may be the remains of the ancient university of Parimalagiri, referred to by the seventh-century Chinese traveler Hiuen T’sang as ‘Po-lo-mo-lo-ki-li’. The trek along this plateau is a long one, but for the serious student of history, it is an unforgettable experience.
The town of Khiching, which is now a rather remote destination in the northern area of Orissa, was obviously once a religious center of some importance. The temples which remain today, although interesting in their own right, are but the humble remnants of a more glorious past. The large temple of KICHAKESWARI, originally probably dating back to the 7th or 8th century, was reconstructed from the ruins of an earlier temple in the early 20th century. The reconstruction, which used the traditional technique of moving large stone elements up a huge earthen ramp, proved that the ancient skill of temple building and architecture survived into the current century.
Unfortunately, scholars feel that the constructed temple does not reflect the true form of the original, and that the shape now is a bit disproportionate. Nevertheless, the sculptures on this and other Khiching temples are exceptionally beautiful. Large, tall images, they are slender and graceful, reflecting a remarkable sophistication and deftness of touch. In addition to the temples,there is a small museum in Khiching with some very fine images.
Some Important Temples in Orissa
Ananta Bashudev Temple, Bhubaneswar built by the Queen Chandrika Devi in1278 AD.Kedargouri Temple,Bhubaneswar Dedicated to Lord Siva who is called Kedareswar and Goddess Gouri. It is situated within the same premises next to Mukteswar Temple. It is built by The King Lalatendu Keshari.Mohini Temple – Situated on the southern bank of Bindusagar, The sacred tank near Lingaraj Temple, Bhubaneswar.
Ram and Krishana Temple – Sri Ram Temple on Janapath in Kharavel Nagar, Bhubaneswar.
Lord Krishna Temple promoted by ISKON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) on NH- 5,Nayapalli, Bhubaneswar.
Huma’s Leaning Temple – Huma is 32 KM from Sambalpur and 350 KM from Bhubaneswar is adorned with a leaning temple dedicated to Lord Bimaleswar. On the river mahanadi, it is a scenic spot of great excellence. The Kudo fishes here are believed to belong to lord Siva and they are very friendly to visitors.
Pataleswar Temple, Budhikomna, Nuapada – 115 KM from Bhawanipatna. Made entirely of brick in Trirath Style. The architectural design is highly appreciated by the art-lover and general visitors.
Samaleswari Temple, Sambalpur– Temple of Goddess Samalai situated beside the river mahanadi. 321 Km From Bhubaneswar.
Gupteswar Temple– The temple of Lord Siva is 52 KM from Jeypore the District Head Quarter of Koraput.
Ranipur Jharial – 42 KM from Titlagarh of Bolangir district is well known for the sacred seats of Chausathi Yoginis. It is also called Soma tirtha of Lord Someswar Mahadev ( Lord Siva). The temple is fully built of bricks and biggest of all here.
Harisankar – The temple of lord Sankar (Lord Siva) and Lord Hari (Lord Jagannath) situated on the Gandhamardan mountain in the Bolangir District.
Kapilas, Dhenkanal– Kapilas is famous for the temple of Lord Chandra Sekhar ( Lord Siva) which is situated on the top of the mountain 223 ft. high from ground.
Kantilo Nilamadhab – It is in the district of Nayagarh and around 100 KM from Bhubaneswar. Famous for the temple of Lord Nilamadhab on the bank of river Mahanadi. Here the beauty of nature is really unbelievable.
Ladubaba Temple, Saranakul – It stands at Saranakul 13 KM away from Nayagarh is famous for the temple of Lord Siva built by the King of nayagarh Ladukeswar Singh Mandhata in his own name.
Raghunathjew Temple – 15 KM from Nayagarh famous for his Gold Cobra on the top of the temple.
Bhagabati Temple – It is one of the famous Saktipitha of Orissa. This temple of Goddess Bhagabati Situated at Banapur 105 KM from Bhubaneswar and 5 KM from the railway station of Balugaon.
Cuttack Chandi– It stands on the heart of the former capital of Orissa the historical silver city Cuttack famous for the temple of Goddess Chandi.
Dhabaleswar – The Temple of Lord Siva stands on an islet in the middle of the river mahanadi at a distance 5 KM from Cuttack city. There is a saying that to save a devotee The God had turned a black bullock in white.
Charchika, Banki – It is situated in a small town of Cuttack district famous for the temple of Goddess Charchika the another name of Goddess Maa Durga.
Bhattarika – The Temple of Goddess Bhattarika situated on the bank of river Mahanadi, to the east of Baramba Block of Athagarh sub-division of Cuttack district.
Jhankad Sarala – This is famous for the temple of Goddess Sarala 40 KM from Cuttack.
Khirichora Gopinatha – It is at Remuna 9 KM from Balasore famous for the temple of Khirichora Gopinatha (Lord Krishna) widely visited by the devotees.
Akhandalamani – It is famous for the Temple of Lord Akhandalamani (Siva) situated at Aradi 10 KM from Chandabali beach in the district of Bhadrak.
Tara Tarini– It is situated 32 KM away from Berhampur on the top of Hill. The temple of Tara Tarini reached by ascending a large number of steps. A beautiful spot for picnic and its beauty of nature is highly enjoyable in the winter.