Road trip to Kalinga Desa – III – Raja Rani Temple – Bhubaneswar’s Love Temple

Kalinga – A mighty kingdom of yore

Odisha’s history runs back by thousands of years. Kalinga Desa, as the region of Odisha was known has been one of the strongest kingdoms since the times of Mahabharata. It has gone down in history and became a legend associated with the great Kalinga War of Asoka, a war which changed the conquest thirsty ways of Asoka and in turn the history of India !

Odisha saw the raise of several great dynasties and kings like Kharavela in the 1st Century BC, the Eastern Ganga Dynasty of the 11th Century AD, the Gajapathis of the 14th Century AD. These dynasties have left behind gems of architectural monuments, one of them has gone on to attain UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

Not many of us really know much about the history of Odisha, neither do our textbooks teach us much. We too didn’t have much of an idea until we actually visited the place that was once a seat of great glory.

Raja Rani temple

Our Odisha tour began with the temples of Bhubaneshwar and the first temple on our list was the Raja Rani Temple.

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Built in the 11th Century A.D during the reign of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty, the Raja Rani temple is believed to have been originally called Indreswara. Wikipedia tells us the locals call the temple “Love Temple” because of the erotic sculpture.

The first thing that strikes you when you enter the temple is how well it is maintained with lawns and gardens. The temple itself stands amidst the greenery, elegant and graceful.

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Named for a stone !

When we heard the name “RajaRani”, we thought it was a private temple of the king and queen. It turns out that the temple was named so because of a variety of sandstone used to build it, locally called “Raja Rania” !

The Vimana or the main tower is 55 feet high and has some of the most intrinsic and complicated sculpture you will find in temples in India.

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The entire Vimana and the temple is covered in minute sculptural designs. Imagine sculpting designs like these manually with no machines or tools except maybe a chisel and a hammer !

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You can only bow down to the patience of those ancient sculptors !

Another favourite subject of the temples in Orissa or for that matter most temples in India is women ! The Vimana and the Jaganmohana, the front porch are full of women, some going about their daily life, some at their seductive best, some fighting wars but all of them depicting woman power. Here is a woman talking to her pet parrot !

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You wonder how the sculptors managed to achieve perfection even while sculpting such minute images !

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Mystery of the Deity

At the entrance of the temple are two pillars with Naga guards wrapped around them.

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Check out how a portion of the tail has been sculpted to look like they are wrapping around the pillar, what an eye for detail !

While the outer part of the temple is rich and ornate in sculpture, very interestingly, the sanctum sanctorum is devoid of any images, there are no images of any God or any sculpture.

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There is no clear record of who the presiding Deity was, though the popular belief based on the sculpture and other images indicate that it was a Shiva temple.

The Raja Rani temple is not as popular as the other landmark temples of Odisha but it was probably a frontrunner to all of them. This little known gem of architecture is a must visit.

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