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Home Unexplored India Tour Bhubaneswar Tour Packages
Orissa Tour Packages
Bhubaneswar is essentially a town of Temples and tanks, with the majestic Lingaraja temples dominating the landscape for miles around. Though many of the shrines have long succumbed to the destructive forces of nature, standing ones of various sizes even now exist literally in hundreds. The overwhelming sanctity of 'Ekamrakshetra' led the rulers and the ruled, actuated by the hope of an eternal abode in heaven, to vie with one another in embellishing the sacred place with temples of all dimensions.

The history of Bhubaneswar and its environs goes back much earlier than the 7th century A.D., which first witnessed the feverish zeal of temple building. It is one of the few places in India, which have the rare distinction of having archaeological remains almost from the dawn of the historical period down to the end of the Hindu rule.

The Ashokan Rock-Edicts
At Dhauli, 8-km, south of Bhubaneswar, one come across one of the earliest inscribed records of India-a set of edicts of the great emperor Ashoka (circa 272-36 B.C.) of the Mauryan dynasty. Incised on a rock with the sculptured forepart of an elephant at the top, it contains eleven out of the well-known set of Fourteen Rock-edicts found on the confines of his empire.

The omission of the Thirteenth Edict here, as also at Jaugada (District Ganjam), both in ancient Kalinga, is obviously deliberate, as that Edict describes pithily the emperor's conquest of Kalinga, involving a great carnage, captivity and misery of the people. This event was the turning-point in the career of Ashoka, who henceforward, gave up his ambition of 'Dig-Vijaya' (military conquest) in favour of 'Dharma-Vijaya' (spiritual conquest).

In place of the Eleventh, Twelfth and thirteenth Edicts, two special Edicts, known as Separate Rock-Edicts, have been introduced: they are conciliatory in tone, meant for the pacification of the newly-conquered people.

The forepart of the elephant, about 1.22 m. high, carved out of live rock, symbolizes Budha, the 'best of elephants', as in this form the great preacher was believed to have entered his mother's body. The animal, the earliest sculpture in Orissa, though lacking in the characteristic Mauryan polish, due apparently to the inferior quality of the rock, is noted for its dynamic naturalism plastic treatment of bulky volume and dignified bearing.

Though the centre of gravity shifted to Bhubaneswar proper in about the 7th century A.D., the neighbourhood of Dhauli was not entirely deserted, as is testified not only by an inscription, recording the construction of a 'Matha' in the reign of the 'Bhauma-Kara' king 'Santikara', in a small cave excavated on the face of a hill to the north-west of Ashoka's edicts, and the ruins of a temple, built also during the Bhauma-Kara period on the top of the same hill, but also by the existence of a few the medieval temples at the foot of the Dhauli hill on the bank of the Daya.

From the Separate Rock-Edicts of Ashoka it appears that Tosali was a vice regal seat during his time. Though excavation in the immediate vicinity of the inscription has failed to yield anything substantial, extensive ruins of a fortified town have been unearthed at Sisupalgarh, 5-km. North-east of Dhauli and 2-km southeast of Bhubaneswar, on the left side of the Bhubaneswar-Puri road.

Excavation here revealed that the site had been in occupation from the beginning of the 3rd century B. C. To the middle of the 4th century A.D. and that its defences had been erected at the beginning of the second century B. C. The layout of the city, roughly square on plan, protected on all sides by a rampart, each of its sides over a kilometre long and pierced with two elaborate gateways, is suggestive of a well-developed civil and military architecture. The streamlet 'Gangua' (ancient 'Gandhavati'), flowing all around the rampart, served as a natural moat with a perennial supply of water.

Though documentary evidence in favour of the identification of the Maurya headquarters of Tosali with Sisupalgarh is wanting, the possibility of the identification cannot be ruled out in view of the latter containing antiquities that go back to the Maurya age.

Ancient Kalinga
Stronger evidence exists for Sisuupalgarh being the site of 'Kalinga-nagara', the capital of the 'Chedi' kings of the Mahameghavahana family (second-first century B.C.), during whose time Kalinga was again an independent kingdom, free from the yoke of Magadha. The Hathi-gumpha inscription in the Udayagiri hill, 10-km northwest of Sisupalgarh of Kharavela (1st century B.C.) of this dynasty, while furnishing details of his eventful career, credits him with the repairs to the gates, walls and houses of the capital devastated by a cyclone.

Now there is no fortified town of the period other than Sisupalgarh in the neighourhood of the Udayagiri hill. Further, the excavation at Sisupalgarh actually revealed a collapse of and subsequent repairs to its western gateway.

Influence Of Jainism
Kharavela was a powerful ruler and launched Kalinga on a career of conquest. He espoused the cause of Jainism, which was the established religion in Kalinga even before the rise of the Mauryas, and brought back a Jain cult-object long taken away by the 'Nandas', the immediate predecessors of the Mauryas. Thus, under the royal patronage of the Chedis the Udayagiri and Khandagiri hills became a strong Jaina centre.

Though Buddhism declined in Bhubaneswar with the growing influence of the Saiva Pasupata sect, Jainism maintained its hold on these two hills even in the days of the Bhuama-Kara and Somavamsi kings as attested by the inscribed records thereon.

The history of Bhubaneswar following Kharavela and preceding the rise of the 'Sailodbhavas' in about the seventh century A.D. is extremely obscure. Fortunately, it is not so obscure in the field of archaeology. As already noted, Sisupalgarh continued to be in occupation till the middle of the fourth century A.D. the finds from the site include the Kushana and imitation Kushana coins, clay 'bullae' imitating Roman coins and a unique gold piece having on the obverse a late Kushana motif with legends in characters of the 3rd century A.D. and on the reverse a Roman head with a Roman legend.

Roman contacts of Sisupalgarh are thus unmistakable. To the early centuries of the Christian era also belong a few heavy 'Yaksha' and 'Naga' statues, specimens of which are exhibited in the Orissa State Museum. One life-sized pot-bellied Naga and two 'Nagi' sculptures can be seen under worship in the village of Kapilprasad, 3 -km. South of Bhubaneswar.

Standing against serpent-coils with a five-hooded canopy above their heads and decked in heavy ornaments, these freestanding statues, representing folk-divinities, share with other similar figures from different parts of north India crude and primitive characteristics.

Though one cannot definitely assign any temple of Bhubaneswar to the Gupta age, which saw the emergence of the characteristics of India temple-types, as there exists no specimen of the initial formative stage, still faltering due to an insufficient technique, a few architectural fragments and sculptures- the latter mostly hieratic divinities like Uma-Mahesvara, Kartikeya, Ganesa and Parvati- recall the Gupta art-idiom. These pieces can sometimes be seen lying in the compounds of temples and more often re-utilized in later temples. But it is difficult to be certain about their date in view of the persistence, in Orissa, of the Gupta art-idiom even in the post-Gupta period.

Yet, the sporadic finds of these detached sculptures and architectural pieces are inadequate to bridge the gulf of six centuries following the Chedi supremacy. When the pall of obscurity is lifted, the land fell under the spell of Saivism. Its architects had given a distinct turn to the form of the temples as evolved during the Gupta age and were already on the way towards developing the north Indian temple-type known as "Nagara" in the 'Silpa-Sastras' or canonical texts on architecture, along their own lines- investing it with such distinctive peculiarities as ultimately won for it a separate recognition under the name of the Kalinga Order. Henceforward, art and architecture with a few exceptions were at the absolute service of Saiva and Sakta cults till the ingress of Vaishnavism in the 13th century A.D.

Though there may be some truth in the tradition recorded in Sanskrit texts like the Ekamra-Purana that the Gauda king sasanka, a staunch devotee of Siva, sho, according to epigraphical sources, conquered parts of Orissa including Kongoda in the first quarter of the 7th century A.D., built the first quarter of the 7th century A.D., built the first Saiva temple at the site of Tribhuvanesvara, the particular sect which brought about transformation in the religion of the people and gave an impetus to temple-building was the Pasupata sect, of which Lakulisa, a Saiva teacher, was the organizer. The earlier temples of Bhubaneswar teem with the representations of this deified teacher.

By the 5th century A.D. the sect seems to have established itself in the Bhubaneswar region. The religion it had to combat was Buddhism, which seems to have been the prevailing faith at Bhubaneswar when it came to the scene. This accounts for the great resemblance of the figure of Lakulisa with that of Buddha: but for the lakuta (staff) the former would easily be identified with the latter.

The earliest group of the extant temples, of which the Parasuramesvara temple is the best preserved, was most probably built during the rule of the Sailodbhavas who, in the first quarter of the 7th century A.D., were feudatories to the Gauda king Sasanka, but soon after A.D. 619, the date of the Ganjam plates of Sasanka, declared independence under Madhavaraja II.

Though no temple bears any inscription dated in the reign of any of the Bhauma-Kara rulers who followed the Sailodbhavas, it is clear from the extant temples that the temple-building activity continued unabated during their long rule. The Bhauma-Karas were succeeded by the Somavamsis.

The building activity was in full swing also under the Gangas, who brought an end to the rule of the Somavamsis in about the beginning of the 12th twelfth century. One of the inscriptions on a wall of the jagamahana of the Lingaraja temple records the grant by the Ganga king Anantvarman Chodaganga (A.D. 1078-1150) of a village for the maintenance of a lamp in the temple of Krittivasas (original name of Lingaraja) in A.D. 1114-15, presupposing thereby not only the existence of the Lingaraja temple but Chodaganga's conquest of Bhubaneswar before that date.

The impact of Vaishnavism, which rose to prominence during the Ganga supremacy, left its imprint not only on the second temple, the only important Vaishnava temple at Bhubaneswar, but also on the personification of the presiding deity of the Lingaraja temple as the combined manifestation of Hari and Hara. That Saivism had to compromise with Vaishnavism is also apparent in the introduction of a number of Vaishnavaq rites in the worship of Lingaraja. Further, a figure of Garuda found place by the side of the bull on the votive column in front of the bhoga-mandapa of the temple.

The rule of the Suryavamsi Gajapatis, who supplanted the Gangas in the 15th century A.D., is one of retrogression in the sphere of art and architecture at Bhubaneswar. The southern side of the ruined porch leading to the 'Kapali-Matha' by the side of the 'Papanasini tank' has a panel of elephant-riders with an inscribed label mentioning the commander-in-chief of Kapilendra (circa a.D. 1435-70), the founder of the Gajapati dynasty. It is likely that some temples like the Varunesvara on the bank of the Papanasini tank were built during the reign of the Gajapatis. These temples, together with the porch in question, are devoid of any artistic merit.

Bindu-Sarovara Tank
It is said that Lord Shiva established this tank as a place of pilgrimage by bringing water from all the holy places. Taking bath here and drinking the water of this lake is said to cure any disease of the stomach. Lord Chaitanya took bath in this lake when He first came from Bengal to Puri. It is located right next to the Lingaraja Temple. A pilgrimage to Bhubaneswar is supposed to start with a bath here. On the eastern bank is the 'Ananta Vasudeva' temple, which is dedicated to Krishna and Balarama.

The Lingaraja deity is brought to the pavilion in the middle of the tank and ritually bathed during the annual Car festival ('Ashokastami'). The best time to come here is around sunrise.

Lingaraja Temple (11th century)
The Lingaraja temple dominates the skyline of Bhubaneswar from as far away as 15-kms and exhibits the skill of the Orissan temple architects at its completely mature and developed stage. This temple was constructed in the 11th Century AD at the site of an old 7th Century Shrine. Along with the 'deul' and the 'Jagmohana' the Lingaraja temple has two new structures, the 'Nata Mandira' (dance hall) and the ' Bhoga Mandapa' (offering hall). Dedicated to Lord Shiva the 'Lingam' here is unique in that it is a 'Hari Hara' lingam - half Siva and Half Vishnu. There are around 150 subsidiary shrines within this giant temple.

Muktesvara Temple
Often referred to as the 'Gem of Orissan Architecture' this temple has been built on the lines of the Kalinga School of temple architecture. This temple too is a deviation in that the architects have blended old and new techniques of planning and execution. Many new innovations in later temples are from here. A 'Torana', an arched gateway is a unique feature of this temple.

The temple dedicated Lord Shiva-Mukteswara, is carved with figures of ascetics in various poses of meditation and scenes from the storehouse of Indian fables, the 'Panchatantra'. A dip in a sacred well to the east of the temple is supposedly a cure for infertility.

Parasurameswara Temple
Parasurameswara Temple built in 650 AD is one of the few earliest temples of Bhubaneswar. This temple built in the 'Kalinga' style of temple architecture was dedicated to Lord Siva but there are images of Lord Vishnu, 'Yama', 'Surya' and seven Mother Goddesses. In typical fashion, it is liberally sculpted with amorous couples, animals and floral motifs.

Just south of Parasurameswara temple is the 'Swaranajaleswara' temple is the 'Swaranajaleswara' temple. Built in a similar style, the motifs on the walls however differ, depicting scenes from the 'Ramayana'.

Raj Rani Temple
The Raja Rani temple is an essay in grace and poise and is particularly interesting in that it has no presiding deity. The name of this temple is supposed to be derived from the red-gold sandstone used - Raja Rani being the local name for the stone. The 'deul' is intricately carved with figurines in various stages of daily chores. The lower portion of the deul has the 'Gurdians of the eight directions' guarding the eight cardinal points of the temple.

Brahmeshwara Temple
Brahmeswara temple depicts the mature Orissan style of temple architecture. The 'deul' and the 'Jagmohana' are both intricately carved and for the first time in temple architectural history musicians and dancers appear on the outer walls and iron beams find their first use. In the western section 'Chamunda', Shiva and other deities are depicted.

Vaital Deul Temple
Vaital Deul is the Shrine of 'Chamunda' or 'Shakti'. Seated on a corpse in a dark inner sanctum is the Goddess Chamunda, garland of skulls round her neck and flanked by a jackal and an owl. The niches on the inner wall depict equally startling images along with scenes of tantric rituals. It is the first of the temples to depict erotic sculptures, it is also unique in that the outer surface of the vault is plain while profusely embellished on the inside.

Mohini Temple
Standing to a height of about 9.45m. On the south-bank of Bindu-Sarovara, it is, in its architectural features, a close analogue to the Parasuramesvara temple . Its carvings, however, were left unfinished. The damaged jagamohana has been restored recently. All the images of Parsva-Devatas- Parvati, Kartikeya and Ganesa- are in site.

On the body of the deul are incised a few short records. Inside the sanctum is a ten-armed dancing icon of Chamunda, terrific to behold. On the floor of the jagamohana lies a six-armed image of 'Mahishasuramardini'. Its original 'Garbha-Muda' above the present wooden ceiling is distinguished by a carved lotus on the topmost stone capping the corbels. There is at least one more chamber over the Garbha-Muda.

Uttaresvara Temple
This temple, on the north bank of Bindu-Sarovara, consisting of the deul and jagamohana of the Parasuramesvara type, has its superstructure above the first 'Bhumi-Amla' plastered in the course of repairs and restorations. Of the images of Parsva-Devatas, Kartikeya presents an interesting variation. Noted for the plasticity of modelling, the deity stands without his mount, holding in his left hand a long spear, his right hand akimbo.

Gauri-Sankara-Ganesa Temple
By the side of the main road, a few metres to the north of the Lingaraja temple , is the Gauri-Sankara-Ganesa shrine, half-buried under the age-long accumulation of debris, raising the road-level nearly to the height of its bada. A narrow flight of steps gives access to the temple, which consists of the deul only.

As in the case of the Mohini temple, its carvings were left incomplete. The crowning member, consisting of a cylindrical object, octagonal below and round above, over the 'Khapuri' is partially preserved, and we have here three 'Bhumi-Varandis' instead of the usual four.

Paschimesvara Temple
Also closely affiliated with the Parasuramesvara group are the Paschimesvara temple and a half-buried shrine within the enclosure of the 'Yamesvara' temple. The first, a tiny shrine, which has been regarded by some scholars as one of the earliest, was most unfortunately demolished several years back, and only its plinth and images of Parsva-Devatas-

(i) A four-armed standing figure of Parvati holding a vase, a crooked staff, a rosary and a lotus and with her mount lion on the left.
(ii) A two-armed figure of Kartikeya remarkable for his "Sikhandaka-Kakapaksha" hairstyle, seated on his peacock and holding a spear in his left hand and a 'Matulunga' in his right.
(iii) A four-armed figure of Ganesa with his raised knee and pot-belly tied by a snake, seated on a throne supported by a dwarf and holding a bowl of 'laddukas', a hatchet, a rosary and a radish-can now be seen right on the south-west corner of Bindu-Sarovara.

Kedaresvara Temple
Facing the south, this temple is architecturally akin to the Siddhesvara temple and, like it, has a thick - set heavy-shouldered gandi betraying an immaturity. Its Bhumi-Amlas are, however, rectangular. The recesses between the projections of the bada are occupied by female figures or erotic couples in the upper jangha and vidalas in the lower jangha. Of the images of the Parsva-Devatas, the four-armed Kartikeya, with his two left hands touching a cock, and Ganesa also four-armed, are in situ. The 'mustaka' of the jagamohana contains all the usual elements.

The right wall of the entrance of the jagamohana contains an inscription recording the donation of a perpetual lamp in front of the lord 'Kedaresvara' by Raja Pramadi, the younger brother of the Ganga king 'Anantavarman Chodaganga', in A.D. 1142, thus providing the existence of the temple before that date.

Bhaskaresvara Temple
Devoid of any artistic or architectural merit, this temple has hardly any place in the development of temple-structure and is rather a negation of the principles of the rational architectural evolution at Bhubaneswar. Its peculiar form was dictated by the height of the enshrined linga, which was originally a freestanding pillar.

To enable the devotees to reach the top of the linga and to perform ritualistic worship, the bada is built in two tiers: the upper tier, approachable by a flight of steps against the northern wall of the lower tier, is pierced with a door on the west side; the lower one looks like a platform and is provided with four door-ways, one on each side, leading to the floor of the sanctum.

Both the tiers are 'Pancha-Ratha' on plan and have five-fold divisions. The low superstructure, singularly disproportionate, is made of nine 'Pidhas' and is crowned by a succession of 'Beki', 'Amla', 'Khapuri' and 'Kalasa'. The images of the 'Parsva-Devatas' in the niches of the upper bada are intact.

Orissa State Museum
This museum has a collection of religious sculptures, weapons, coins, and musical instruments. It also has a good collection of antique paintings and palm leaf manuscripts in a small room at the end of the corridor on the first floor.

It is located at the top of Gautam Nagar (Lewis Road), not far from the hotel Ashok and is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 1.30pm and 2.30 to 5pm.


There are regular Indian Airlines flights to Hyderabad, Nagpur, Calcutta, Delhi, Varanasi, Bombay and Madras. The airport is very close to town. If you have an early morning flight, it is a good idea to have your hotel arrange a taxi the night before and pay a little more to avoid the morning inconvenience of finding a taxi at that time. The Indian Airline office is on Raj Path, by the bus stand.

Bhubaneswar is on the main Calcutta to Madras line so all the main trains stop here. The Howrah-Bangalore mail and Guwahati-Bangalore go to Bangalore. The Coromandel Express is a good train going to Madras. There are direct trains to Delhi, Agra, Remuna, and Varanasi. The Rajdhani Express departs from Delhi one day a week on Friday to Bhubaneswar. The Puri-New Delhi Express is a good train to Delhi.

The best way to get from Bhubaneswar to Puri is on one of the Canter minibuses that leave from the old bus station in the center of town, the new bus stand, and from the petrol station opposite the Ashok Hotel. They take a little more than an hour to get to Puri. There are also larger buses that go Puri, but they are slower than the minibuses. It is best to get an Express bus to Puri, which make only one stop en route. There is a direct bus to Konark too. If one misses out the direct bus, one can take a Puri buses to Pipli and from there get another bus to Konark.

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