History textbook comes to life
Our high school History textbook had a picture of an ancient temple in Orissa, the temple had a small arched gateway before it, which was fascinating. Years later, when we planned a trip to Orissa, visiting this temple was at the top of our list. Little research on the internet told us it was the Mukteswar temple in Bhubaneswar.
So, it was with great excitement that we alighted from the cab when our driver informed us that we were at the Mukteswar Temple. As we reached the entrance, we realised that it was not just one temple, but the Mukteswar Temple was part of a temple complex that housed 4 temples and small shrines all built around the 10th Century A.D probably during the Kesari Dynasty of Orissa. Sadly, neither the high school history book nor the internet gave us any more information on who built this complex or why it was built !
Kedar Gouri Temple
The first temple in the complex is the Kedar Gouri temple. Of all the temples here, this is a “live” temple i.e. pujas are still performed here. The temple, today, bears the colours and humdrum of a modern temple, there is very little left to think of it as an ancient temple. Photography is not allowed inside the temple and so we took a picture of the Vimana for keepsake !
Mukteswar Temple – the Masterpiece !
Finally, we were standing before the Mukteswar Temple and grinning at the Thorana or the arched gateway !
Grinning because it is the cutest structure you could ever find in a temple ! It is only high enough to allow a person of decent height to pass through. It stands pretty before the temple adorned with sculpture like a little child dressed up for a party !
It would not be an exaggeration to say that the Thorana is what adds beauty to the temple. It is a wonder how they managed to build a simple archway with such elegance, it is not grand, it doesn’t blow your mind away but you just cannot resist a smile every time you look at it !
The Mukteswar Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva is believed to have been built during the Kesari Dynasty and considered to be the one of the best examples of Kalinga architecture. The sculpture on the temple is as minute and intricate as it can get.
There are some more shrines with Shiva Lingas near the temple, standing in a straight row.
The joy and excitement of visiting a place you studied about in History is something else. History, suddenly, seems such an interesting subject and you wish you paid more attention in class !
Adjacent to the Mukteswar temple, is a bigger one known as the Siddeswar Temple. The presiding Deity here too is Lord Shiva. All these ancient temples look like they have set out to out do the other in sculptural brilliance !
From here, the Mukteswar Temple and its shrines look like capped soldiers standing guard. Modern buildings of a growing city peep from behind them. Despite the modernisation and crowd, the temples of Bhubaneshwar are very well maintained.
Parasurameswar Temple – Oldest and Grandest !
Of all the temples in this group, the Parasurameswar Temple is the oldest, dating back to the 7th Century A.D and also the grandest. It is believed to have been built during the little known Sailodbhava Dynasty. The structure is a little different from the rest of the temples especially the Jaganmohana or the front porch which is lengthier and has a sloping roof unlike the other temples which have a pyramidal roof.
This probably was the style of the Sailodbhava Dynasty. The sculpture on the Vimana is complex like the RajaRani temple, such variety, complexity, yet consistency of design and sculpture work is beyond extraordinary achievement !
The walls too are dotted with heavy sculpture, the detail makes you wonder if the sculptors used magnifying glasses to get them right !
Wherever you go in India, ancient monuments and temple will leave you astounded, makes you wonder what happened to all that talent?
We forgot time as we once again went over to have a look at the Thorana of the Mukteswar temple and dragged ourselves away because we still had a long travel plan for the day but not before stopping to take another picture of the temple this time with its tank.
Truly, timeless beauties ! Wish we had the time to simple gaze at them all day long ! There were some more marvels coming up on our list and we boarded our cab to the next one.