Example of refined temple architecture
Lingaraj temple, Orissa ... dates back to the 11th century.
LINGARAJ TEMPLE standing majestically to a height of about 180 ft amidst 100 smaller structures inside a spacious courtyard enclosed by a massive boundary wall dominates the landscape of Cathedral City, Bhubaneswar. In the elegance of its proportions and the richness of its surface treatment, it is one of the most finished and refined manifestations of temple architecture in India. It represents the most matured and fully developed stage of the Orissa temple architecture. It has, in fact, been described as the epitome of architecture. Although the temple, as it now exists, can be dated to the 11th century, Sanskrit texts record that there was a stone temple here as early as the 7th century AD and fragments of this earlier structure do seem to appear in the extant building. The construction of this temple was started by Yayati Kesari and was completed during the reign of Lalatendu Kesari. Having Pancharata plan it has a natamandira (dancing hall), bhoga mandapa (offering hall) and three subsidiary shrines in front of the Parsvadevta figures (accessory deities) added during the Ganga rule in Orissa. Being a large edifice its different elements are made so well proportioned that it only reveals the consummate skill of its master designer. The crowning achievement of the architect is the designing of the elegant contour of its surmounting gandi, its soaring height and grandeur. The deul (tower) is completely curvilinear and tall. The effect of its great height is accentuated by the deeply incised curved vertical lines that soar upwards. The decoration of the `raha' (central projection) above the projecting lion, rampant on an elephant, is a series of chaitya windows in low relief. The ponderous amalaka (a fluted spheroid resembling `Nellikai' fruit) is supported by dopicha lions (a lion with two hind parts at right angles to each other) at corners and four-armed seated figures one each above the `raha.' The plastic art on the structure is so well planned that it reveals an equally effective use of space and proportion and contain some finest carvings including cult deities, secular sculptures, animal motifs, nayika and mithurta figures.
With all features of Kalinga architecture fully evolved, it is the culmination of the architectural development in every respect and became a standard for later temples of Orissa. Many sculptures on the temple represent groups of people engaged in various religious and musical activities and these perhaps relate to the increasing range of activities carried out at the temple. For instance, the natmandira was associated with the rising prominence of the devadasi system.
The larger than life-size figures of parsvadevtas on the side niches are a rare combination of finest carvings with consummate artistic skill. This temple is remarkable in another aspect. Though the temple is dedicated to Lord Siva, it has many intriguing features and shows the infiltration of rising Vaishnavism into a purely Siva temple. In fact, the deity is also called Hari-hara. In every Siva temple the statue of the Nandi will be facing the Lingam. In this temple, the bull is replaced by a column of Garuda (which is usual in Vaishnav Temple) and the innocent Rudra Vahana has been pushed to a side room. Perhaps, this was the way in ancient India to synthesise diverse cults. In keeping with the eclectic and somewhat federating nature of Hinduism, the Lingaraj temple is located in a complex of various temples of different deities, the most important being Siva, Parvati and Ganesha.
The temple of Parvati is a fine architectural piece, remarkable for the exuberance of its carvings. But, overshadowed by the Lingaraja temple, it seldom attracts the attention it deserves. Like Lingaraja temple, it is composed of four components, all disposed on the same axis. The facets of the corner rathas are treated with minute scrollwork, arabesque and jail (any perforated or honeycombed pattern). The central facets being further distinguished by female figures or couples. The intermediary ratha is made in the likeness of an elongated Khakhara (a variety of pumpkin gourd). The central projections, originally containing the images of the parsva-devtas (of whom only Parvati is now extant) are shaped like Khakhara shrines. The spire resembles that of the Lingaraja with some differences. From the inscription engraved on the plinth near the south door of jagmohana, it can be said that the temple is definitely later than the Lingaraj temple both in structure and style. Amidst the group of adjuvant shrines clustering round the great temple, two are on the north of jagmohana, known as Gopalini or Bhubanesvari and the other on the south of the main temple known as Savitri. Although, known at present as Lingaraj, one of the ancient names of the deity, Tribhubanesvar, is the precursor of the present name of the city of Bhubanesvar. Unfortunately, the temple is open only to Hindus. But there is a viewing platform outside, however, from which a good look at the compound and the main temple can be had. If one could see very few temples in Orissa, this must find a place in the list.
Send this article to Friends by