Read this article to learn about the Temples in Odisha: 8 Ancient Temples in Odisha!
The oldest building of the entire series is the temple of Parasrameswara a small structure, built in 8th century C.E at Bhubaneswar.
The entire length is only 15 metres and it consists of:
i. Jagamohan or Pillared hall on west also called Mukhasala
ii. Deul or Sanctuary on east.
Entrance to the temple is on west side through Jagamohan. It is a low rectangular structure comprising the hall of the temple. This has a double roof and plain massive eaves. There is a doorway in each of its three sides and four perforated stone windows. Sanctuary walls are recessed and projected.
In the interior of Jagamohan there are two rows of pillars three in each row. The pillars have plain square shafts, volute bracket capitals and no bases. They supported a massive architrave raising the ceiling of the central nave higher than the aisles, thus forming a clerestory. The walls are perfectly plain with no carvings. The pilasters show vase and foliage decorative order, an ornamentation associated with Gupta’s period. The cella is a dark square room.
The two stone window grills on each side of the west door are of exceptional merit. They represent figures of young dancers and musicians with trumpet, flute and other instruments so grouped as to form a perforated stone window.
The Sikhara over the Deul 13 metres high is rudimentary in its design containing a fluted Amlasila on its top. The walls on the exterior are richly decorated by means of horizontal moulds and deep grooves. The junction between pillared hall and the sanctuary shows that the two structures were built at different times.
The Vaital Deul temple was built around 850 C.E. The temple is dedicated to goddess Chamundi also named Mahishasura Mardini. It is a small building measuring 5.50 metres by 7.60 metres in plan and is strongly fine and beautiful. As usual it consists of two conventional compartments of Jagamohan and Deul.
The Jagamohan is a rectangular structure in the front on eastern side. And embedded in each angle is a small supplementary shrine, making it a Panchayatana or five shrined temple. These small shrines are the replicas of main Vimana of the temple in mini size. The roof of Jagamohan is in two levels leaving clerestory ventilators.
The design of Deul tower is different and is not in Nagara style. This is more allied to southern style as exemplified in Dravidian Gopurams. A wide body pyramidal structure rises over the rectangular cella. Its elongated vaulted roof in two storeys with its ridge finials and Chaitya arch gable ends are expressive elements of Buddhist style.
The proportions of the tower, balanced arrangement of its parts, architectural decoration are most satisfying and denote a highly trained aesthetic experience. This specially applies to plain shallow buttresses placed around the vertical (Bada) portion. Such similar wide body Sikhara is found in the temple of Teli ka Mandir built at Gwalior in 11th century C.E.
In the front face of the Deul tower, there is an elegant foliated gable, in the form of Buddhist Chaitya arch containing Tandava (dancing) Siva motif within a circular panel in place of sun window. This is a decorative element of fine mastery.
This small temple was situated with number of others on the outskirts of the city of Bhubaneswar. The temple was probably built about 975 C.E. This is a richly finished structure ornamented with fascinating carvings. The elements of this temple are a considerable advance over Parasrameswara temple and Vaital Deul.
The temple consists of a sanctuary or Deul on east side and an assembly hall or Jagamohan attached to the Deul with one entrance on west side. The temple is 13.7 metres long, 7.6 metres wide and its tower is hardly 10.7 metres high. It is also exceptionally well proportioned and its parts are skillfully adjusted and it readily attracts the viewers. No pillars are there in Jagamohan. The solid walls of the Jagamohan are carrying the entire load of the pyramidal roof.
The roof of Jagamohan is a low stepped pyramidal roof. This was elegantly proportioned and made. The Deul is the usual design of Orissa sikhara with its projecting and recessed vertical panels decorated with horizontal moulds and deep grooves and surmounted by Amlasila and Kalasa.
An exceptional structure in this temple is the Torana in front of the temple. This detached portal has two solid piers supporting a semicircular arch the whole very gracefully proportioned with exquisite carvings. Such similar Torana is seen in Sun temple at Modhera, Gujarat state built in 11th century C.E.
An artificial water tank is lying behind the temple. It has paved steps on all sides. The temple is a rare example of Orissa group, which has sculptured decoration in its interior.
The largest temple of Bhubaneswar city is the Lingaraja temple dedicated to lord Siva. It ranks as one of the foremost architectural productions of the country. The temple was built in 11th century C.E by the king Jagati (Yayati) Kesari who shifted the capital from Jaipur (Jeypore) to Bhubaneswar. It was built near vast Bindu Sagar Lake.
The temple occupies the centre of a large quadrangular enclosure measuring 160 metres long and 142 metres wide contained within a high and solid wall of some 2.30 metres thick on the inner face of which is a platform. Within the enclosure around 150 subsidiary chapels and shrines have been grouped around the main temple. The temple was built in laterite stone.
The main temple building consists of four structures which comprises a fully developed temple from front namely:
1. Bhogmandapa — Hall of offerings
2. Natyamandapa — Dancing hall or Festival hall
3. Jagamohan — Hall for assembly of people
4. Deul or Srimandir — Main shrine
These compartments are placed in the same axis, which extends from west to east with Bhogmandapa on east and Srimandir on west. The temple originally had only two compartments containing Jagamohan and Srimandir. The two other halls were added probably a century or more later.
The Jagamohan is an oblong structure measuring 22 metres long and 17 metres wide. Four large piers are placed inside to carry the heavy load of the pyramidal roof. There are four doors each in the center of four sides.
Externally its lower storey or Bada is 10.4 metres high over which raises the substantial roof in the shape of a stepped pyramid. The lower part of the pyramid are square and stepped, the upper part round and fluted, the whole attaining the height of 30.5 metres from the ground.
The most impressive and dominating part of this temple is the great tower of Srimandir. It measures 17 metres square at its base and rises to a height of 55 metres.
Its elevation contains the following from bottom to top:
i. Vertical portion consisting of Pista (plinth) and Bada (the cubical portion) which is approximately 1/3 of the height of the tower.
ii. Inward curved cube namely the Chhapra, whose treatment is distinguished from the lower cubical portion.
iii. Fluted Amlasila.
iv. Whole being crowned by a vase shaped finial or Kalasha bearing the Trisula- the trident of Lord Siva. The tower has clusters of vertical bands that bend inward to make a tapering. It is richly decorated by means of horizontal moulds and deep groves. A prominent projection on each side of the tower is the figure of a Lion crushing down an elephant. Within the tower is the Cella 5.8 metres square.
The additional halls of Natmandapa and Bhogmandapa although belonging to the later date are much in the same style as the Jagamohan. These compartments were added in front of Jagamohan within the axis. Each hall has a group of four massive piers inside to support the solid mass of the roof.
There are small window openings in the massive walls containing row of uprights at close intervals. These uprights carry a luxurious female figure on its shaft.
The exterior of these structures is too richly decorated but at the same time, the interior is entirely devoid of ornamentation. The outer walls have the figures of birds, animals, floral motifs, human figures, gods and goddesses.
The great Lingaraja temple is still standing gracefully in its sobriety and dignity exhibiting the greatness of the patrons, designers and the workers who built it.
One of the graceful and elegant Orissa temples is the Rajarani temple built in 13th century C.E. Rajarani name was arrived from a local red gold coloured stone called Rajramiya, which was used in construction of this temple. There is no deity in the sanctuary. It is believed that the temple was built to Lord Siva. But some believe that it was built to Lord Brahma. The design of temple is a departure from other temples of Orissa group. It comprises the Deul (Sanctuary) and Jagamohan (Assembly hall).
The plan of the Deul is not parallel to the rest of the building, but was placed diagonally. Such an arrangement is an exception in the temples of Orissa, where the sides of all compartments are in the same alignment. The walls are projected and recessed both outside and inside creating vertical bands.
A close similarity is found in the Sikhara to the temples of Khajuraho of Central India containing attached shrine bands (Urusringas). The Deul is practically complete and displays a refinement in its curves and contours denoting a change in building art. There are no pillars inside. Roof of Jagamohan is a low pyramidal type.
This is the famous, notable and an appreciably larger building than the Lingaraja temple of Bhubaneswar constructed in 1100 C.E at Puri, a seacoast town on Bay of Bengal Sea in Orissa state. Choda Gangadeva built this temple at Puri. Built on the same principle of Lingaraja and consists of four edifices in one alignment.
The temple stands with in a spacious courtyard surrounded by a high wall forming a rectangle 134 metres long 107 metres wide. The main building is in the centre and distributed over the remaining area are some 30 or 40 edifices of various shapes and sizes. Originally the temple comprises only the Sanctuary and an Assembly hall.
Later the Natmandir and Bhogmandir were added in 14th or 15th centuries. The entire length of these four buildings in a line is 94 metres with a width of 24 metres, while the tower is nearly 61 metres in height.
The tower is a massive structure with its impressive proportions and profuse ornamentation. Puri temple tower is the replica of its predecessor Lingaraja temple. From this it is understood that Orissa architecture continued to be a moving and living art. The tower is some 61 metres in height, which is the highest tower in entire India.
Other such higher tower examples are:
i. Brihadeswara temple, Tanjore, 60 metres in height built in 1010 C.E
ii. Gol Gumbaz, Bijapur, 61 metres high built around 1660 C.E.
The profuse ornamentation to Natmandir and Bhogmandir is stiff and stylized. During renovations and restorations, cement was applied to the stone surfaces. This made the structure heavy and stiff and the beauty of original stone work is concealed. The Natmandir a large building of some 24 metres side has its ceiling supported on 16 pillars in 4 rows of 4 each.
The outer compound walls were added later around the whole of the temple with entrance gateways in the center of each side having pyramidal roofs.
7. Sun Temple, Konark, 1250 C.E:
The Sun temple is dedicated to Surya, the Sun god built at Konark on the Bay of Bengal seacoast some 30 kilometres away from Puri in Orissa state. This was built in the reign of King Narasimha Deva of Ganga dynasty around 1250 C.E. This is now UNESCO’s world heritage site.
The site measures 264 metres long by 165 metres wide, having a compound wall containing entrance gateways on three sides except on west. The temple was built like a huge Ratha or a giant chariot being drawn by seven horses on twelve pairs of exquisitely carved giant wheels.
The base of the structure is an immense terrace with 12 giant wheels on each side, each nearly 3 metres high. In the front is wide flight of steps, the sides of which were richly carved with the figures of horses.
The main temple building consists of two compartments:
The Jagamohan is a large hall of 30 metres side and 30 metres high. It is a square hall having four solid piers inside. The ceiling of the hall is remarkable as it was corbelled out by means over sailing courses of masonry each course projecting beyond the one below thus enabling the sides to converge gradually towards the crown. Many precautions were taken to sustain the heavy load of pyramidal roof.
i. Stone lintels were introduced tying the piers
ii. Each Laterite stone lintel was reinforced by number of wrought iron beams
In spite of these precautions, the structure was slowly crumbling due to the heavy load of the pyramidal roof. Hence the hall was made inaccessible and filled with rubble inside at a later stage to prevent the corbelled roof from collapsing down to save the magnificent monument.
Blocks of Laterite stone were used in construction. The courses of Laterite are not bonded with mortar but they are held together mainly by a system of counter balancing the weight.
Externally it consists of two main elements, a Bada or cubical portion and a pyramidal superstructure. Proportions are well balanced in this structure. The width of the Bada is twice to its own height and the entire width is equal to its height.
Its great appearance lies in the treatment of pyramidal roof. The pyramidal roof consists of three tiers diminishing as they ascend. The wide spaces between each stage opens into platforms to accommodate number of boldly sculptured groups of statuary of heroic size.
Each of these tiers are stepped, the two lower with six and upper most with five string courses producing a pattern of horizontality of utmost architectural value. Above this, the apex is a massive circular finial moulded and fluted a contrast to the square portion below.
Exterior was too richly decorated to all the above buildings but at the same time the interiors are left completely plain. Out of many figures the erotic Mithuna art figures were also presented on the walls. Similar voluptuous figures are seen in Khajuraho temples also.
On the western side is the great sanctuary tower over the cella believed to have been built to a great height of some 68 metres high from the ground which is 4 metres less than Qutub minar, Delhi. But this great tower has disappeared. The vertical portion (Bada) is remaining now. It was probably an advance over the Lingaraja tower.
At the base of the Deul, three subsidiary shrines were attached with the statue of the deity. The massive tower could not be completed owing to its huge size, which started sinking and was crumbled. Hence the temple was abandoned. Some believe that Islam rulers desecrated the Sikhara. Had the tower completed and exists now, it would be the highest temple Sikhara in whole of India.
The other most important building is the Natmandir confronting the main entrance to the temple but separated from it by an interval of 9 meteres. The Natmandir resembles the same design like Jagamohan with its Bada and pyramidal portion, but the roof is now disappeared.
Every part of the temple was intricately decorated in sculptures of surpassing beauty and grace ranging from miniature to monumental. The carved images include the deities, celestials, human musicians, dancers, lovers, scenes of courtly life like hunts, military battles, pleasures, birds, animals, lively elephants, mythological creatures, intricate botanical and geometrical decorative designs. Myriad figures of humans, animals and divine personages are exhibited engaged in full festivity.
The great writer Sri Rabindranath Tagore remarked on this temple- ‘Here the language of stone surpasses the language of man’.
There are the remains of an incomplete temple which is also a Sun temple built in southwest corner within the compound.