Bhubaneswar is essentially a city 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 favor 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 Buddha, 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 Odisha, 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 center 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 viceregal 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 2½-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 kilometer 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 favor 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.
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 ¼-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-divinitiesm, 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 Odisha, 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.
Bhubaneswar Prime Attractions
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 Bhubaneshwar 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.
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 built in 650 AD is one of the few earliest temples of Bhubaneshwar. 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.
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.
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 situ.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Odisha 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.
ISKCON Temple: The beautifully built ISKCON temple is located on National Highway No. 5, Nayapali. The Deities in the temple are Krishna Balarama, Jaganatha , Baladeva and Subhadra, and Gaura-Nitai. There is also a new Radha-Krishna temple. Srila Prabhupada laid the comer stone for this temple in February 1977, and it was finished in 1992.
There is a small guesthouse here with rooms that have attached bathrooms. These rooms are not always available, but they are quite nice if you can get one. To stay here you have to follow the ashram rules. There is a fairly basic vegetarian restaurant here.
Bhubaneswar Sightseeing and Excursions
Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves
The caves here are ancient Jain caves located about 7-km west of Bhubaneswar. There are two sets of caves carved into two opposite hills. There are 44 caves carved out of sandstone. Some are natural caves and others are carved out of the rock. Monks around the 1st or 2nd century BC used them.
The central ‘Hathi Gupha‘ is especially interesting. There is an 18th century temple of Mahavira, who was the 24th Tirthankara. The caves are open from 8am to 6pm. Each year in late January for a week or so, there is an assembly of ‘Sadhus’ here. This is a very popular event.
Dhauli – Hill
Ashoka, the Mauryan Emperor, in scribed his decrees on a rock called the “Ashokan Rock Edicts” at the foot of Dhauli Hill. These are the earliest known in scribed records in India. Above the edicts there is a sculpture of an elephant, which is the earliest known sculpture in Odisha. It is said that after Ashoka’s army killed 150,000 people in a battle near here, he renounced the path of violence and decided to follow the path of Lord Buddha. There is a Japanese Buddhist Peace Pagoda on top of this hill. The temple of Lord Dhaveleswar is at the top of the hill above the white-domed pagoda.
This zoo has a lion safari, white tigers, and elephant rides. There is an exotic Botanical Garden. It is 20-km from Bhubaneswar, from where there are hourly buses to reach the zoo. The OTDC bus tours from Puri and Bhubaneswar come here as well.
Chilika Lake and Wildlife
Well connected by road, it is easily accessible from either Bhubaneshwar or Puri. Relatively underdeveloped, its pristine beauty still unspoilt, it provides a refreshing break. It is amenable to visitors throughout the year. Even over-night visits can be undertaken, staying at the close by Barkul, Rambha or Satpada Pantha Nivas, through Odisha Tourism.
42-kms from Bhubaneshwar, Atri is a holy place famous for its sculptures and hot water springs. An excursion and a dip can be an enjoyable experience.
The Seat Of Lakulisa Pasupata Cult
The intriguing aspect of a certain virile deity in the Shaivite temples of Bhubaneswar is that it closely resembles the Buddha. The deity known as “Lakulisa” or “Nakulisa” was once widely worshipped in the temples of Bhubaneswar by the devotees of the ‘Pasupata’ cult.
Since the end of the Gupta rule (5th-6th century A.D.), Pasupata, an esoteric school of Shaivism extended its sway to as far as Assam in the northeast, Nepal in the north, and Maharashtra and Karnataka in the south. The cult that originated in the Lata region of Gujarat was also popular in Odisha primarily for its catholicity that catered to the needs of various segments of society, including both ascetics as well as men of the world.
It is mentioned in the Puranas that Lakulisa or Nakulisa, who was the 28th or the last incarnation of Shiva founded the Pasupata sect. The Puranas add that ‘Kusika’, ‘Kausika’, ‘Gargya’ and ‘Maitreya’ were his chief disciples, and the founders of four different branches of the Pasupata School.
The followers of the Pasupata cult were heterodox, opposed to the principles of the ‘Vedas’ They led an iconoclastic existence, wore a loincloth, matted hair, and carried ‘dandas’ or staves. They also wore a ‘Yogapatta’ (the sacred thread), rosary beads, necklaces, armlets and bracelets of ‘Rudraksha’ (‘Ustram’ bead). They rolled over ashes that they applied on the sacred thread as well while worshiping Shiva. They lived on tasteless foods such as knobs, roots and raw fruits, and mostly lived in forests away from regular settlements, where they often remained in the ‘Sirsa Asana’ (headstand) for long hours.
Most of them were unmarried, engaged in the five sacraments and carried either a consecrated ‘linga’ (Shiva’s symbolic phallus) or matted hair in the hands. Those who attained the perfect state of self-restraint wandered about naked. They also performed ‘hasya’ (laughter), ‘nritya’ (dance), and ‘gita’ (music) while meditating. The followers of the sect maintained their individual identity through their dress code, philosophy and their mode of worship.
According to the texts “Saddarsanasamuccaya” and “Ganakarika”, the lay followers are only required to recite the ‘Namah Shivaya’ (obeisance to Shiva) with folded hands. However, an elaborate procedure involving the “Pancagnisadhanapara”, or the five fire penances, has been laid down for the naked bachelor ascetic.
These begin early in the morning. The ascetic is required to perform his morning ablutions, including cleaning his feet and teeth. While taking a bath, he recites all the names from Lakulisa to “Rasikara” (an incarnation of Shiva) and circumambulates the image of Lakulisa.
Then he smears ash on his body and prepares to meditate on Shiva. This is repeated in the afternoon and in the evening. He enters the temple, and once inside the ‘Garbhagriha’, or the sanctum sanctorum, he kneels on the ground on the right side of the deity, places his hand on his chest, and while looking at Shiva, meditates.
A Place Of Solitude
The place for mediation is selected for its purity and cleanliness. He stays in this place till he is tired and overpowered by sleep. While meditating, he laughs loudly, then sings and dances, chants the ‘Hudukara’ thrice, does ‘Namaskara’ (hands folded in the gesture of greeting or devotion) six times and performs ‘Japa’ (meditative chanting). Then he salutes Lakulisa thrice, circumambulates the deity thrice, and finally comes out of the ‘Garbhagriha’. Before sleeping, he spreads a large quantity of ‘bhasma’ (ashes) on the ground. And once the ascetic attains enlightenment, he seeks the permission of his teacher to perform miracles in the midst of a crowd.
The texts further suggests that after seeing a good-looking woman, he should act like a “Kamuka” or a passionate man, since he is not supposed to discriminate between good and evil actions. For him, the guidance of a ‘guru’, or a spiritual teacher is a necessity at each level of existence.
With a stag and a ‘medhra’, Lakulisa is usually portrayed as a Shaivite teacher in the sculptured panels of the temple walls. The representation is influenced by those of other preachers like the Buddha and the Mahavira. His third eye and the lotus seat indicate that he enjoys a near-divine status.
The Spread of the Lakulisa Cult in Bhubaneswar
Bhubaneswar had evolved as a major centre of the Pasupata sect by the 7th century A.D. Images of Lakulisa are found on the exterior walls of most of its temples. It is still not clear as to how the Pasupata tradition made its way into Bhubaneswar.
However, according to the medieval text “Ekamra Purana” that deals with the medieval life of the holy city of Bhubaneswar, ‘Sasanka’, the ‘Gauda’ King of Bengal (7th century A.D.) was the first to erect a Shaivite shrine at Bhubaneswar. And it was probably his followers who preached the Pasupata cult in the city.
Lakulisa is well represented in the three oldest temples in Bhubaneswar – ‘Parasurameswar’, ‘Bharateswar’ and ‘Svarnajaleswar’ – all built in the 7th century A.D. Depicted on the central projection of the front side of the main entrance, Lakulisa in these temples is shown seated cross-legged on a lotus in full bloom.
He wears a short piece of cloth covering the lower portion of the body and a band-like-’Upavita’ (the sacred thread) across his chest. Except for a round beaded halo around his head, he has virtually no ornaments; his face and hands are reminiscent of the “Dharmachakra Pravatana” – the posture adopted by the Buddha when he delivered the first sermon on the sacred Wheel of Law. The hair is worn in short curls.
His four disciples bearing manuscripts, and in the “Abhaya Mudra” (the gesture that offers protection) surround him. The “Lakuta” or the stag that rises from his lap and rests against the left shoulder is the most striking feature of the image. An inscription in the Parasurameswar Temple says Parasesvara or Parasaresvara, which means the Lord ‘Parasara’ (a form of Shiva), a teacher of the Pasupata sect.
The Previous Depiction
The earlier representation of Lakulisa in the temples of Bhubaneswar gradually matured into a codified iconographic institution with several innovations, as artists gained mastery over forms and attributes. Some of these are found in various parts of the temples. In some cases he is on the central projection of the front façade, which signifies that he occupied a place of honour and privilege.
In other cases, he is shown in the niches of the ‘Kanika’ (the corner of the temple) flanked by images of the ‘Parsva Devatas’ (the peripheral gods). He is found in various other locations as well, like on the lintel of the doorjamb. All these together indicate that there was no fixed practice in Orissa on where to place these deities. The Agamas, or the Hindu iconographic treatises refer to Lakulisa or ‘Lakulisvara’ as ‘Daksinamurti’ or the south-facing idol.
The Danda Nata Dance
Although the cult of Nakulisa is history in Bhubaneswar, one of its customs has survived in several villages of Southern Orissa in the form of the living tradition of ‘Danda Nata’ or the ‘Dance with Stave’. People belonging to ‘low castes’ perform the Danda Nata in praise of Shiva. For them, Lakulisa’s stave symbolizes the form of Shiva. The performers of the Danda Nata are known as ‘bhoktas’ and the leader is called “Pata Bhokta”. The leader leads an ascetic life for twenty-one days, abstains from all forms of worldly pleasure. During these days he also lives on little and light food to prepare his body for all kind of severe exercises.
Bhubaneswar General Travel Information
Bhubaneswar: Temple City of the East
The name of Bhubaneswar is associated with a cluster of magnificent temples, constituting virtually a complete record of Kalinga architecture almost from its nascency to its culmination. Its proud sculptural and architectural heritage, coupled with its sanctity as “Ekamrakshetra”, one of the five great religious centers in Odisha since early medieval days, attracts thousands of visitors from all corners of the world throughout the year.
Even the most casual spectator is thrilled at the sight of the majestic and sublime grandeur of its soaring temples, the perfect symphony between their sculpture and architecture , the superb workmanship of their carvings and the grand repertoire of their sculptural and architectural motifs. To the connoisseur of fine arts Bhubaneswar is one of the most delightful resorts in India.
A long-standing religious convention does not allow the entry of non-Hindus into the Lingaraja , the most celebrated of the temples at Bhubaneswar. Such visitors may, however, have a view of the temple from a platform near its north gateway, though from this point the lower portion of the temple remains hidden.
Must-visits in Bhubaneswar
The visitor with a limited time at his disposal should at least see the following typical temples to obtain some idea of the temple-architecture: Parasuramesvara , Vaital Deul , Muktesvara , Gauri , Raja Rani , Brahmesvara , Lingaraja , Parvati and Ananta-Vasudeva.
Those interested in arts and archaeology can be also profitably visit the Orissa State Museum, rich in antiquities, including sculptures, interesting both artistically and iconographically, coins and inscriptions. A large percentage of the exhibits in the Museum originate from Bhubaneswar and its environs, furnishing important links in the history of the town.
The visitor to Bhubaneswar may also make it convenient to see the famous Sun temple at Konarak , 66-km to the southeast by road. Among the interesting monuments near Bhubaneswar are the celebrated Jain caves nestled in the Udayagiri and Khandagiri hills and the circular hypaethral Chausath-Yogini temple at Hirapur, respectively to its north-west and south-east, besides the Rock-edicts of Ashoka at Dhauli and the remains of the ancient fortified town at Sisupalgarh.
Travel and Tours
The OTDC tourist office is on Jayadeva Marg, near the Panthanivas Tourist Bungalow, and is open from 10am to 5pm except Sunday and every second Saturday of the month. There are also tourist counters at the airport and railway station.
The OTDC has a luxury bus tour that goes to the temples and museums, Dhauli , Nandankanan , Khandagiri, and Udayagiri from 9am to 5.30pm every day, except Monday. You can book this tour at the tourist office. There is a daily OTDC tour to Puri and Konark , which stops at Pipli village for appliqué. It departs from the railway station at 8.30am.
The useful Government of India tourist office, BJB Nagar, around the corner from the Panthanivas Hotel, has an assortment of leaflets that can be helpful to plan your journey around the area.
Photographs of the monuments and guidebooks and picture-post cards are respectively available with the Superintending Archaeologist, Archaeological Survey of India, Eastern Circle, Narayani Building, 27 Brabourne Road, Calcutta 700001, and the local Archaeological Sub-office. The latter may also be contacted in case of necessity.
Post Office & Banks
The GPO is by the bus stand. One can change money at the state bank of India on Raj Path, opposite New Market. Most banks are closed on Monday.
Shopping in Bhubaneswar
An oriental bazaar is not a place with architectural spaces and textured shop fronts. They are often laid out at random and the interactions are more spontaneous which reveal the inner quality of the local people. To know the place one must visit its local shopping area.
Bhubaneshwar is a modern city where the Government Emporia ‘Utkalika’, exhibit a comprehensive range of local fare collected from all corners of the State. Local art and crafts like silver filigree work, stone and wood carvings , ‘Patta’ paintings , tie and dye textiles, bamboo baskets brass and horn works , appliqué and ‘Ikat’ fabrics are available at most places. They are authentic and quite reasonably priced.
Festivals of Bhubaneswar
One may witness the ‘Tribal Fair’ at the end of January. February to March ‘Shivaratri’ is held at the Lingaraja Temple , Hatakeswar temple, Atri and throughout Orissa. ‘Magha Saptami’ is held at Khandagiri outside Bhubaneshwar.
April to May ‘Ashokastami ‘ is celebrated at Lingaraja temple with a chariot festival. ‘Panashankanti’ (Fire-walking) takes place in various regions on the first day of ‘Baisakh’. June- July Rath Yatra can be seen at Puri, Baripada and other parts of Orissa . October-November ‘Dussehra ‘ and ‘Diwali ‘ festivals are celebrated all over the State.
Nearby Places of Bhubaneswar
Khandagiri & Udaygiri: 7-km
Nandankanan Zoo: 20-km
Chilika Lake: 100-km
How to Reach Bhubaneswar
Air: 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.
Rail: 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.
Road: 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.
Most of the long-distance buses depart from the new bus stand (Baramunda Bus Stand), which is about 5-km from downtown on the main road to Calcutta. There are buses to Calcutta, Cuttack (10 hr), and other places in Orissa . Buses to Puri also leave from this station.
Where to Stay in Bhubaneswar
- Mayfair Lagoon
- Hotel Hindustan International
- Swoti Premium
- Hotel Empires
- The New Marrion
- The Crown
Read More about These Hotels: Premium Hotels for Tourists in Bhubaneswar
- Hotel Upasana
- Hotel Venus Inn
- Hotel Priya
- Hotel Kharavela
- Swaraswati Retreat
Read More about These Hotels: Budget Hotels under Rs.1600 in Bhubaneswar
Where to Eat in Bhubaneswar
The Hare Krishna Restaurant, at Lal Chand Market Complex, Station Square, has excellent food. It is the most highly recommended place in town. Initiated ISKCON devotees manage it. The Venus Inn, 217 Bapuji Nagar, is a good South Indian vegetarian restaurant. There is a vegetarian restaurant at the ISKCON temple too.
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