Bhubaneswar ~ A Temple Town
~ A Compilation of Temples of Bhubaneswar ~
According to legend the city once housed a thousand temples, sadly many of these have crumbled to dust and many more have been reconstructed into modern structures, but the few have survived the test time and still stands to this day are worth a visit and can offer an interesting mix of pilgrimage and history.
The temples of Bhubaneswar are located on the Southern part, which is known as the old city and are majority of them are clustered around the Bindu Sarabor (Lake).
~ Oriya Temple not quiet Oriya ~
Also see my compilation of Bhubaneswar Temples
Rajarani is considered as one of the finest temples of not only of Bhubaneswar but also of entire Orissa. Strangely the temple architecture of Orissa differs significantly from the traditional Oriya Temple Architecture.
There are certain parameters that make Rajrani different from the other Oriya Temples. The parameters are:
- Origin of the Name
- Shape of the Spire
- Rigged inner sanctum
- Presence of female figurine
Origin of the Name Rajarani
Apart from Lingraj, the names of the Shive Temples of Bhubaneswar ends with an “Eshwar” like Mukteshwar, Parsurameshwar, Sideshwar, Rameshwar, Brahmeshwar etc. While the Shakti and Bishnu temples are named after the respective Gods and Goddesses, like Vaital, Gouri, Anantabasudev, etc. Strangely Rajarani follows neither of the two.
With the absence of dedicatory plaque nothing is known about the date of construction or the name of the creator off Rajarani Temple, and historians are totally in the dark.
Rajarani happens to be an abandoned temple, with an empty inner sanctum. Some historian opine that the temple was never established while others suggest that it was abandoned at a later date.
The Rajarani name probably originated from the reddish Rajarani sandstone by which the temple is constructed. Incidentally Rajarani is the only temple in Orissa which is constructed by the reddish Rajarani sandstone. The other temples of Orissa are made of the conventional yellowish sandstone.
Shape of Rajarani’s Spire
The spires of Oriya temple consists of a single spire, with horizontal ridge lines, known as rekh.
The spire of Rajarani Temple doesn’t follow the conventional Oriya rekh style, in fact it has remarkable reassemble with the spires of Khajuraho Temples. The spire of Rajarani Temple consists of a central spire flanked by 32 smaller spires arrange in two different stages. The inner stage contains 8 minor spires and the outer stage contains 24 minor spires.
Rigged Inner Sanctum of Rajarani
Although the outer walls of Oriya temples have projections, known as rath but inner plan of the Jagmohan and Garbagriha (inner sanctum) are rectangles or squares with straight walls.
Strangely both the Jagmohan and Garbagriha (inner sanctum) of Rajarani Temple are not rectangles or squares with straight walls but have projections similar to those of the outer walls. This again is not only a dissimilarity with the Oriya style but also a similarity with the Khujuraho style.
Presence of female figurines in Rajarani
Although female figurines are not uncommon on the outer walls of Oriya temples but the female figurines of Rajrani Temples differs considerably.
The slender looking female figures in different posture have a remarkable resembles with those of Khajuraho.
So was it some Khajuraho princes, married to a Kalinga monarch, inspired the construction of the Oriya gem? with no concrete evidences the historians are still in the dark.
- Karutirthe Kalinga by Narayan Sanyal
- Barthiya Bhaskarje Mithun by Narayan Sanyal
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Today known as the temple city of India Bhubaneswar derives her name from Tribubaneawar, meaning the “Seat of the Lord of the Universe.” The ancient city is believed to be the secret abode of Lord Shiva. For the last few centuries Kalinga (Orissa) have been ruled by several dynasties and each tried to outdo the other by constructing magnificent temples, resulting into a huge concentration of temples in Bhubaneswar and hence the name temple city of India.
But the heritage of Bhubaneswar is not restricted to temples alone. It was in the vicinity of Bhubaneswar the great Kalinga War was fought in 261 BC, which resulted in Emperor Ashoka embracing Buddhism. No wonder Bhubaneswar has its share of Buddhist historical sites. After the Kalinga war Hinduism and Buddhism along with Jainism flourished in the region, turning Bhubaneswar into an interesting religious hub.
Located on the banks of the river Daya Dhauli Hill marks the site of the famous Kalinga War. It is here Emperor Ashoka gave up arms and embraced peace. Today a Japanese built peace pagoda marks the historical event.
Located on the Puri – Bhubaneswar highway the towering white peace pagoda welcomes tourist and pilgrims from Puri. The white coloured pagoda is also known as the peace pagoda and is visible from miles away. No wonder it is one of the major landmarks of Bhubaneswar. The circular pagoda contains four Buddha statues in the four cardinal directions. There are also various other panels depicting stories from the life of Buddha.
The adjoining hill, slightly lower in height, is crowned by a Shiva temple. A Japanese Buddhist Monastery is located at the base of the hill.
Next to the monastery is a beautifully landscaped garden containing the famous Ashokan Rock Edict. Crowned by a stone elephant the rock edict is protected by a glass screen and is maintained by the ASI.
Discovered in 1837 by Lt. M. Kittoe the Ahokan Rock Edict dates back to BC 273 – 236. Written in Magadhi Prakit and using the Brahmi script the rock edict contains 11 out of the 14 well known rock edict of Ashoka. In addition it also contains two special rock edict.
A blue board of ASI not only gives the brief history of the Rock Edict but translates the edict into English and Hindi.
Udayagiri & Khandagiri
Located on the suburbs of Bhubaneswar the two hills of Udayagiri & Khandagiri consist of a large number of natural and artificial caves. The Udayagiri & Khandagiri caves were constructed from the 2nd century BC to the 1st century AD and is a prime attraction for locals and tourist alike.
Udayagiri, or the sunrise cave, contains 18 natural and artificial caves. The star attraction is the two storied Ranigumpha occupying the central region of the cave complex. The other caves are arranged around the Ranigompha in a crescent shape.
Hatigumpha located at the very entrance of Udayagiri has great historical importance. It contains the famous inscription of the Emperor Kharavella, of Kalinga dating back to the 2nd century BC. The 17 line inscription inscribed in deep cut Brahmi script can still be seen on the ceiling of Hatigompa.
Another interesting cave is the Ganeshgumpha. Two elephants guard the entrance and hence the name Ganeshgumpha. The elegant pillars make it a beautiful structure. The gumpha also provides a great view of the adjoining Khandagiri Hill, which is crowned with a Hindu Temple.
Khandagir, the broken hill, is located on the other side of the road is predominantly a Jain sites. Now crowned by an active Hindu Temple the place is crowded by holy men, pilgrims and monkeys.
Khandagiri contain statues of all the 24 Jain Tirtankharas, including a giant statue of Mahavir. Sadly the caves of Khandagiri are badly maintained.
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List of Blog entries on Orissa
The Diamond Triangle, consisting of the three Buddhist sites of Ratnagiri, Udaygiri & Lalitgiri. Belonging to the Vajyarajyan sect of Buddhism, which is popularly known as the Diamond Vehicle, and hence the name Diamond Triangle.
Visited by the Chinese traveller Hieun Tsang, the centres of learning were at par with their famed counterparts of Nalanda & Taxila.
Located about 100 km North – East of Bhubaneswar the Diamond Triangle, is the most important Buddhist site in Orissa, but sadly it is least promoted.
There are no places to stay or even to eat, but you will have the ruins all to yourself and live up to the famous saying “I am the monarch of all I survey.”
Ratnagiri, true to its name it is indeed a gem. It is the most excavated of the sites and is spread over a hilltop offering grand view of the surrounding. Excavated in 1960s the site yielded two rectangular monasteries and a large stupa surrounded by smaller ones, dating back to the 6 – 12 century AD. Its strategic location protected it from invaders and provided seclusion to the monk.
Entering the complex head straight for the larger monastery approached through an intricately curved door frame, leading on to an open courtyard. On the far end of the courtyard is the inner sanctum housing a giant statue of Buddha, in bhumisparsha posture, flanked on either side by statues of Padmapani and Vajrapani. Entire courtyard is decorated with artifacts collected from the excavation. They include several Buddha heads of different size, several statues and floral & geometrical motifs.
Next to the main monastery lies another monastery, much smaller in size it lacks the beauty and grace of its larger counterpart. Unlike the larger one it’s inner sanctum in empty.
The highest point of the Ratnagiri sight is marked with a giant stupa, surrounded by smaller ones. Some of this smaller (votif) stupas are arranged in circles. The whole hill top contains several structural remains covering a large area.
The hill top also provides a grand view of the surrounding rural Orissa landscape.
Ratnagiri also houses a beautiful museum containing several artifacts recovered from the excavation of Ratnagiri.
Udaygir, the hill of the rising sun, is the largest of the three archaeological sites of Ratnagiri, Udaygiri & Lalitgiri. Sadly it is the least excavated. Excavation at Udaygiri started in 1960s, and have been carried out in several phases, and continues to this day. The archeological findings are classified in two parts, namely Udaygiri I and Udaygiri II.
A Buddha statue welcomes one to the Udaygiri complex, a tree lined path leads to an open space decorated with Buddha statues and other religious artifacts, excavated from Udaygiri.
Next to the open space is a small step – well, with a long flight of stairs leading to the water bellow. Walking past the well we headed for Udaygiri II. Walk past the scattered ruins, head for the newly excavated monastery of Udaygiri II, housing a collosal Buddha.
Follow a dirt trail leading to the main stupa of Udaygiri, housing four Buddha statues in the four cardinal directions. Walk past the stupa visited the second monastery of Udaygiri, known as Udaygiri I, again housing a giant Buddha statue in a decorated inner sanctum, complete with several other religious statues.
A newly built Buddhist style gateway on the welcomes one to the Paradeep highway welcomes visitors to Lalitgiri. Lalitgiri is considered the holiest of the three sites of Diamond Triangle, as excavation yielded a casket containing a sacred bone relic, probably of Buddha himself.
The site contains four small monasteries, none matching the grace and beauty of its counterpart in Ratnagiri and Udaygiri. The inner sanctums are empty and are all of them are approached with beautiful lotus shaped staircase.
But the star attraction of Lalitgiri is the U – shaped Chaityagriha, surrounded by votif (small) stupa, which once housed the tooth relic.
A 45 step climb takes one to the giant circular stupa of Lalitgiri, which also doubles up as a great view point of lush green rural Orissa.
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List of Blog entries on Orissa