East India Temples

East India Temples features some of famous temples in east India like Jagannath Temple, Konark Sun Temple, Lingaraj Temple and Belur Math.

Bhubaneshwar – The very name is fraught with meaning and gives the lie to those famous words by the Bard-“What’s in a name…?” The city derives its name from Tribhuvaneshwara, or Lord of the Three Worlds, as Shiva is known in these parts. Bhubaneswar’s history is linked to an ancient past-to Kalinga, the Orissa of yesteryear. Kalinga witnessed one of the bloodiest battles in history when Emperor Ashoka tried to annexe it to his empire. It was here that the emperor’s life took a turnabout, when he renounced violence for a Buddhist’s way of life. Bhubaneswar is also referred to as the Temple Town for good reason-it is known to have as many as 500 temples today, out of the 7,000 that stood here at one time.

Located on the eastern coastal plains of India and southwest of the Mahanadi river, this capital city of Orissa has much to recommend it, apart from its spiritual legacy. If you are a first-timer, the city’s temples should be an absolute first on your itinerary for the sheer beauty of their intricate architectural work. Then, visit the twin cave groups of Kandagiri and Udayagiri, which date back to 2nd century BC. Go to Dhauligiri, just eight kilometers away from the city, and see the rock edicts of Dhauli, a mute testimony to King Emperor Ashoka’s change of heart after the battle of Kalinga, in 3rd century BC. Visit the many parks in the city and, of course, take in a spot of shopping: Oriya saris and handicrafts are a delight. As you make your way around Bhubaneswar, you will see that it is a well-planned city, with its wide roads and its many gardens and parks. For this, the natives owe their thanks to Otto H Koenigsberger, a German town planner. Bhubaneswar also forms an integral link in the Golden Triangle that comprises the holy city of Puri, with its Jagannath Temple, and Konark, with its Sun Temple.

Your temple tour should include at least four of Bhubaneswar’s temples, as they provide excellent insights into the ancient cultural strength of the Kalinga kingdom and are well worth exploring at length. These are the Lingaraj Temple, the Parsurameshwar Temple, the Mukteshwar and the Rajrani temples.

Lingaraj Temple is believed to be the oldest and largest temple of Bhubaneswar. Greatly revered by its many devotees, the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and dates back to the 11th century and was built by King Jajati Keshari. The temple has been rated as one of the finest examples of pure Hindu temple architecture in India by Ferguson, the noted art critic and historian. A 40-m-high tower dominates the temple structure, which has a 150-m square compound. Every inch of the temple facade is covered with elaborate carving. The granite lingam, which represents Lord Shiva, is bathed daily with milk, water and bhang (cannabis). There are more than 50 smaller temples and shrines inside the enclosure.

On the same side as the Lingaraj Temple is the Parsurameshwar Temple, also dedicated to Lord Shiva and built in the 7th century. This small, but richly decorated, shrine features sculptures of amorous couples, animals and floral designs. The windows have exquisite bas relief, depicting horses and elephant processions and lattice work. The outer facade of the temple has carvings of Lord Ganesh, Kartikeya, Shiva, Parvati and other deities. There are also several carvings depicting stories from the Puranas.

The Mukteshwara Temple is referred to as the gem of Oriya architecture and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is carved with figures of ascetics in various poses of meditation and its main attraction is the decorative, gateway that is reminiscent of the Buddhist influence on Orissa. Every inch of the 35-ft temple is carved and the sculpture and architecture are in complete harmony.

The Rajarani Temple gets its name from the red and gold sandstone used in its construction. The temple has no presiding deity and has intricately carved figures depicted in various poses.

Just 7 km from Bhubaneswar are the twin hills of Udayagiri (135-ft high) and Khandagiri (118-ft high) that are known for their ornately carved caves, dating back to first century BC. You can get a panoramic view of the entire city from these hills. Dhauli Hill is located on the banks of the river Daya, about 8 km south of Bhubaneswar. In 3rd century BC, the Buddhists of Kalinga built a monastery at Dhauli, called Saddharma, the historical site where Emperor Ashoka converted to Buddhism. You may climb to the top of the hill for a great view of the city, including the river Daya, which is said to be red in colour owing to the bloodshed that took place during the Kalinga war.

And now, for some shopping. Bhubaneswar is a shopper’s delight. Have a look at the famous Sambalpuri saris woven by master weavers in silk and cotton from any of the many private shops here or government emporia. Utkalika, the government handicrafts emporium, has handicrafts, jewellery and artefacts from different parts of the state-definitely worth a buy.