Among all the temples of Odisha, the Lingaraja temple at Bhubaneswar deserves special mention. It bears architectural splendour and is regarded as one of the best archaeological monuments of the east reflecting the Kalinga type of architect; with all its perfection.
It was constructed between 1025 and 1065 A.D. A gigantic structure of about 180 feet high dominating almost the entire landscape of Bhubaneswar back then. The temple stands within a spacious compound of laterite measuring 520 by 465 feet surrounded by a number of smaller temples.
The presiding deity of this temple is known as Tribhubanesvara (Bhubaneswar) from which the city has derived its name.
Bhubaneswar is a revered pilgrimage destination visited by devotees of both Lords Shiva and Vishnu. The place has a mention in the Brahma Purana and is referred as the Ekamra Kshetra, as the deity of Lingaraj was originally found under a mango tree (Ekamra). The Odisha State Government in 2018, built a structure of EKAMRA KSHETRA near Sishu Bhawan Square.
Lingaraja temple is maintained by the Temple Trust Board and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The temple has an average of 7,000 visitors per day and receives lakhs of visitors during festivals such as Shivaratri.
History of Lingaraj Temple
‘Lingaraj’ means the King of Lingas and the temple is believed to have been built by the ruler Jajati Kesari of the Somavamsi Dynasty in the 7th century, who shifted his capital from Jaipur to Bhubaneswar. The temple is more than 1100 years old, dating back to the last decade of the 11th century. However, there are references of the temple in sacred texts from the 7th century. In the holy shrine, Lord Shiva is worshipped as Tribhuvaneswara which means the Lord of the three worlds – Heaven, Earth and Netherworld(Hell).
Significance of Lingaraj Temple
The lingam at the Lingaraj Temple is a swayambhu lingam (self-manifested form) which emerged only during the Dwapara and Kali Yugas. The lingam is a natural unshaped stone that rests on a Sakti. Such swayambhu lingams are found in 64 other parts of India. The Gangas amended the temple and introduced certain Vaishnavite elements like images of Vaishnava Dwara palas namely Jaya and Prachanda, Jagannatha, Lakshmi Narayan and Garuda.
Architecture of Lingaraj Temple
The Lingaraja temple faces east and is built of sandstone and laterite. The main entrance is located in the east, while there are small entrances in the north and south. The temple is built in the Deula style that has four components namely, vimana (structure containing the sanctum), jagamohana (assembly hall), nata mandira (festival hall) and bhoga-mandapa (hall of offerings), with all four in axial alignment with descending height.
The dance hall was associated with the rising prominence of the devadasi system that existed during the time. The various units from the Hall of offering to the tower of the sanctum increase in height.
The bhoga mandapa (Hall of Offering) has four doors in each of the sides. The exterior walls of the hall have decorative sculptures of men and beasts. The hall has a pyramidal roof made up of several horizontal layers arranged in sets of two with intervening platforms. It bears an inverted bell and a kalasa on the top.
The nata mandira (festival hall) has one main entrance and two side entrances. The side walls of the hall have decorative sculptures displaying women and couples. It has a flat roof sloping in stages. There are thick pylons inside the hall.
The Vimana and Jagamohana of the Lingaraja temple are wonders for the people in general and art-historians, in particular because it is a surprise that how big pieces of rocks could be lifted to such a great height when modern devices were quite unknown in that remote phase of history.
The Jagamohana (assembly hall) of the Lingaraja temple is decorated with various sculptures. The images of Parvati, Ganesa and Kartikeya appear in the northern, southern and western niches of the sanctuary respectively.
The life-size images of the Parsva-devatas are made of chlorite. The three distinct Puranic episodes are found on the walls of the sanctuary and of the Jagamohana.
On the southern door of the Jagmohana, the marriage scene of Lord Siva has been depicted where Siva wears the crown of a bride groom but appears perfectly naked. The images of Bhrikuti,Brahma and Parvati are associated with the scene. On the southern facade of the sanctuary, a scene is found where Yasoda churns curd and Srikrishna, as a child, disturbs her. The image of Nanda is also associated with it.
The third episode on the western side of the Vimana is represented with a simple form of Lord Shiva’s marriage. The Lingaraja temple is a rekha deula planned in the Pancharatha style without a Pistha (platform) having Panchanga bada. The Veranda of the temple contains 10 mouldings beautifully carved. The Janghas are richly decorated and the lower Jangha is ornamented with Khakaramundis. The Mastaka, Khapuri and Kalasha of the temple have been arranged very nicely and the trisula is the final in the temple. The beauty of the deula and Mukhasala is very much artistic in nature. Thus, the Lingaraja temple is architecturally magnificent and it represents the matured kalinga-style of artistic excellence.
Other Significant Aspects of Lingaraj Temple
Located to the north of the temple is Bindusagar Lake, one of the popular picnic spots in the city. On the western banks of the lake, lies the beautiful garden of Ekamravan (literally meaning one-mango-tree forest). Ekamravan finds mention in ancient Hindu mythological texts as an entire forest that comprised a single mango tree. It was a key element in the abode of Lord Shiva and his divine consort, Goddess Parvati. A variety of plants traditionally associated with Hindu gods and goddesses and having spiritual and medicinal significance can be found in Ekamravan.
How to Reach Lingaraj Temple
By Air: The nearest airport is Biju Patnaik Airport which is situated at the heart of the city of Bhubaneswar and is connected to all major cities of the country .
By Rail: Many express and superfast trains ply through the nearest railway station Bhubaneswar. It is well connected with every major city in India.
By Road: Bhubaneswar is situated on the National Highway no 5 that runs between Kolkata and Chennai. The city is accessible by public and private service buses.
If you are planning for a trip to Odisha anytime, don’t forget to pick out a time to visit and worship at Lingaraj Temple. Coming from someone who has grown up going to the temple every Monday for a major part of the past 25 years, I can say that going there, shall not only lighten the loads that life has put on your shoulders but also a peace shall prevail within you and you shall feel being blessed by the almighty within your souls.