The Temples of Orissa  

Much needs to be said about the temples of Orissa. The Golden triangle of Orissa comprising Bhubaneswar, Puri and Konark attracts tourists from around the world. There are hundreds of lesser known temples in Orissa. The city of Bhubaneswar abounds in temples built over a range of several centuries.

The temples of Orissa exhibit a majestic grandeur. An Orissan temple (deul) usually consists of a sanctum, one or several front porches (jagamohana) usually with pyramidal roofs, a dancing hall (nata mandir) and a hall of offerings (bhog mandir). The Lingaraj temple at Bhubaneswar boasts of a 150 foot high deul while the Janannath Temple at Puri is about 200 feet high and it dominates the skyline of the town. Only a portion of the Sun Temple at Konark, the largest of the temples of the Golden triangle exists today, and it is still staggering in size. It stands out as a masterpiece in Orissan architecture.

Orissa's history dates back to the days of the Mahabharata. It was under the rule of the Nanda Kings in the pre Christian era and then under the Mauryan rule. Rock edicts of Emperor Ashoka are found in the State. The impact of the invasion of the Guptas is seen in the early temples of Bhubaneswar. The Matharas ruled Orissa from the later half of the 4th century AD. The Sailodbhavas who followed constucted several shrines the ruins of which can be seen today. (600-750 AD). 

The period of the Bhaumakaras and Somavamsis (8tth to 11th centuries AD) played a major role in the cultural life of the State. Saivism dominated the religious scene although Budhist, Jain and Vaishnavite monuments also came into being. The Gangas took over after the decline of the Somavamsis. The early Eastern Gangas ruled from Kalinganagara (Mukhalingam near Srikakulam Andhrapradesh). They shifted their capital to Cuttack in the 12th century. Saivism began to decline while Saktism flourished. Further, the religious leader Ramanujacharya had a great influence on the monarch Chodagangadeva who built the great temple at Puri. The Gangas were champions of Vaishnavism. It was during the Ganga rule that Orissan architecture reached its peak. Narasimhadeva of this dynasty built the Sun Temple at Konark.

The following list is a pointer to the numerous Temples of Orissa. 

Ananta Vasudeva Temple at Bhubaneswar(Orissa)   
Deities: Vishnu

This is one of the few Vaishnavite temples in Bhubaneswar. It dates back to the 13th century and it enshrines images of Krishna, Balarama and Subhadra. It is located on the eastern bank of the Bindu Sarovar Lake. This dates back to the period of Chandrika, the daughter of Anangabhima III, during the reign of the king Bhanudeva. It is located in a walled compound along with numnerous structures. Balarama stands under a seven hooded serpent, while Krishna holds a mace and a conch.

Access and Accomodation: Bhubaneswar.  

The Rajarani temple

The Rajarani temple, dating back to the eleventh century, is set in open paddy fields, and the entire structure exudes grace and elegance. The name of the temple has been the subject of much debate. The most likely explanation is that the name is related to the lovely red-and- gold sandstone used in its construction, a stone which is known locally as rajarani. The debate is complicated by the fact that the names of all the Hindu temples in Bhubaneswar dedicated to the God Shiva end in the suffix eswar (for example Parasurameswara, Mukteswara, etc.), while those of the non-Shaivite temples are derived from their presiding deities (e.g. Parvati temple).One major scholar has argued that the name Rajarani was only applied to the temple at a later date (because of the sandstone), and that originally this is the Shiva shrine referred to in early texts as Indreswara.This seems the most likely conclusion. 

Mukteswara Temple

The small and elegant Mukteswara temple (c. AD 950) is often referred to as the "miniature gem of Orissan architecture". The frequency with which the term 'gem' is employed will be immediately appreciated with the very first glimpse of this delicate, refined little structure. The 'torana' (arched gateway) of the Mukteswara deserves special attention. Its extraordinarily beautiful sculpture includes elaborate scrolls, graceful female figures, monkeys, peacocks, and a wealth of delicate and lovely decorative detail. On the eastern side of the temple compound is a sacred tank, and in the south west corner is a well which is said to cure fertility problems. Several small shrines will be noticed within the compound, many with lingam inside.These were offering shrines depicting utmost faith in God for all purposes during that era. 

Konark Sun Temple at Konark(Orissa) 
Deities: Surya

This temple, now in ruins is a colossal monument, a temple to the Sun God built in the 13th century. An original structure dating back to the 9th century once stood here. In its original form, the deul was 235 feet high and the jagamohana was about 150 feet high. The temple was representative of the Chariot of the Sun with 12 pairs of huge wheels and 7 horses. This temple, massive in scale, is considered to be the masterpiece of Orissan architecture. The temple abounds in sculptural work.

Access and Accomodation: Konark 

Jagannath Temple at Puri(Orissa) 
Deities: Jagannath, Subhadra, Balabhadra

Puri is one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in Orissa and in India. The Jagannath Temple, known as the White Pagoda dates back to the 12th century. It is situated in a huge complex, and the 200 feet high temple dominates the Puri skyline. Puri is famous for its chariot festival or the rath yatra which attracts thousands of pilgrims. Puri is a great center of Vaishnavism.

Access and Accomodation: Puri.  

Some of the places of worship
Temples of Tamil Nadu
Temples of Karnataka
Temples of Orissa
Temples of Maharashtra
Temples of Kerala
Temples of Andhra Pradesh
Temples of Madhya Pradesh
Temples of the Gangetic Plains