Monday, February 27, 2012



 Parasurameswar temple. 7th century AD.

 Bhubaneswar is a temple- town. Most of the temples are devoted to Siva.It is not him in 'samhara-murthy' - the divine annihilator - whom we find  here at Bhubaneswar. We see him as the divine source of energy of creation, symbolised by his 'linga' piercing the 'yonipatta'. Those who study temple architecture of India believe that Orissan temples' shape  has been developed imitating the shape of 'Siva Linga'  ++.

 'Koti Lingam', North court-yard,Parasurameswar temple.
Said to have 1001 'lingam' inscribed on the shaft.

Saivites of India  have evolved from sub-sects spread across this vast country through centuries and are of  much diverse origins than the followers of other Vedic gods Simply stated, Siva had his worshipers among various communities of  non-Aryans . Numerous tales of his deeds, which contribute to his characteristics and his imageries, have sources  across this vast country, recounted through the ages. Historians of Art have written pages about the same and will continue to do so. I submit here  in what I little I viewed through the lenses of my camera.

Eight-armed  Nataraja . Ithyphallic.
Partly damaged lower portion depicts torso of Bhringee
and legs of Nandi.

 To appreciate  the iconography of Parasurameswar temple, it is relevant to  understand the  timeline  of Saiva architecture of the centuries of 1st millennium AD * :
  • Virupaksha temple, Pattadakal was constructed by Queen Lokamahadevi in 745 AD.
  • Kailashanatha temple , Ellora caves was  started by King  Krishna I of Rastrakuta dynasty - his rule was between 757 - 773 AD.
  •  Mamallapuram - developed during 7th century AD.
  • Parasurameswar temple -  developed during 7th century AD.
 These years are important to understand  what I shall state in the next two paragraphs.

 Parvati embraces Siva as Ravana shakes Kailash.
Unperturbed Siva's right-hand is in 'Abhaya mudra'.

 Parasurameswar temple  is the oldest among the surviving temples of Bhubaneswar. Its style is remarkable. The temple faces the west, its Jagomohan has a second door which is south-facing , the  door to inner sanctum has 'Asta Graha'( Eight Planets) inscribed on it . The ninth planet - Ketu - made its appearance in later-day temples.North-west side of the temple's court-yard has a 'Koti Lingam'** installed.

A close-up of 'Siva-Parvati in Kailash'. Parvati sitting on 
left-thigh of Siva. Siva ithyphallic.

To me . more important is that this temple is iconography. On the western wall of its 'deul', just above the roof of 'Jagomohan', we see Ravana disturbing the union of Siva and Parvati @ Kailasa. There are Ganesa, Kartikeya, Bhringee and other characters around. Siva is unperturbed but Parvati is not. Now - if we refer to the timeline above, we shall find that 'Ravana lifting Kailasa' of Ellora and Pattadakal - so very well-known - have their predecessor here.

 Revelry of Siva  and his followers
Top row : Siva dancing. Lower row : Musicians among his followers.

Parvati getting ready for marriage

This temple's eastern wall has a big wall-relief of Kartikeya , on its top the scene of Siva's marriage, thus bringing in the memory of 'Kumarsambhamam' - 'Birth of Kumar (Kartikeya'), written by the famous poet of Gupta era, Kalidasa,  during 4th century AD. The 'energy of creation' - represented by union of Siva and Parvati -  manifests in  their embrace on the west wall and again on the southern wall , in their marriage scene  and Kartikeya on the eastern wall, in 'Koti Lingam' of the court-yard and the shape of the 'deul'.

Very elegant wall-relief of Kartikeya.
On the top band, marriage scene  of Siva and Parvati.
Surya and Brahma on right-side of Siva, 
while Himalaya and Menoka flank Parvati.

Parvati snugs close to Siva - ithyphallic.
 Their respective  mounts,bull and lion, are depicted in the wall-relief too.

 The 'Andhakasura' episode of Siva's mythology was prominent on the mind of  the Savite artists of this temple. We find Nataraja and Bhringee on the south and western walls, 'SaptaMatrika' on the Northern wall. There are other 'Parsa Devata' - gods depicted on the outer walls of the temple. But, significant are  : the marriage procession of Siva-Parvati on the west -face of Jagomohan and Siva - Annapurna on on the southern wall of 'deul'.I have not come across any Siva-Annapurna  during my visit to the temples of SriMukhalingam,Aihole and Pattadakal in February'2011 - I consider this wall-relief quite special.

Siva  holds out an empty pot to Annapurna.

NOTES on Sources : 
++1. A Bengali book on ''Mithuna' Iconography by Late Narayan Sanyal

* 2. Quoted from WIKIPEDIA.
**3. 'KOTI LINGAM' -  Literal meaning  - 10 million 'Lingam'. I have been told by the priest of this temple that there are 1001 'lingam' inscribed. According to a source, stones with Buddhist inscriptions have been converted to 'Koti Lingam'. This is, however, is an unverified staement and not meant to offend any religious sentiment.
I have seen another 'KOTI LINGAM' shaft @ Mahakuta (    near Badami) , Karnataka.

Thursday, February 23, 2012



Lingaraj temple of Bhubaneswar.
A magnificent temple - now standing in a cluttered court-yard, instead
of a sprawling green environment like the Sun temple,Konark.
Strict imposition of 'No camera inside the complex' rule on the visitors deprive outsiders  a taste of excellent wall-reliefs n display.

This is a visit Ruby and I were looking forward to for quite a while. In November,11, we were mentally ready to make the trip. But, unavoidable family circumstances  kept us held up in Calcutta . Earlier also, we  found it is convenient to make a short trip in February - the weather is kind, it is neither so cold that woolens are to be carried nor one does not sweat while moving around for sight-seeing and  outdoor photography.  This particular Orissa trip  we planned  with photography in temples of  Bhubaneswar and Konark in mind as well as enjoying the sea coasts  @ Konark and Puri.

 RajaRani temple, stands out as the most elegant and beautiful 
among those at Bhubaneswar

We had quite an enjoyable trip. By and large, our compact  four-days programme  worked well. We were at Bhubaneswar for two days, 2nights and one day at Konark and spent  a few hours at Puri on the 4th day to pay a visit to temple of JagannathDev and sea beach.

The accommodation at both Bhubaneswar and Konark was good. Except for at one temple - Megheswar @ Bhubaneswar - 'panda'/priests did not harass us. We had several disappointments though. At Konark, we could not enjoy a sunrise. But, Konark temple enveloped in morning mist was a rare visual treat. Secondly at Puri temple, we had to remain content with glimpse of JagannathDev from a distance as all the three deities were to have a 'bath'. But, I could see young and not-so-young sweating devotees running along a corridor, carrying caskets of bath water  - never knew such a ritual exist !

Before I write a few paragraphs on  our visits to temples , a few general points ....

This auto-rickshaw took us around @ Bhubaneswar 
on 15th &  16th Feb.,'12.
 He would be unhappy even after we added a good tip on the exorbitant fare  he made us agree upon.

One remarkable feature of the Tourism department of Orissa is the excellent  repertoire of Travel literature they have developed to attract and assist tourists. The publication on Konark temple , Buddhist/Jain shrines and 'stupas', detailed map are amazing. OTDC  has developed a good network of Hotels . We could not have enjoyed our one-and-half days' stay @ Konark but for Yatrinibas.

 Yatrinibas, Konark.

 What we did not like is  general attitude of extracting money from tourists - through formation of cartels of taxis and auto-rickshaws as well as other service providers.Last year, when @ Hampi, I asked an auto-rickshaw driver  as to why the cost of a ride was so high there. He explained -  long no-tourist/small income season. It is not applicable to Puri and Bhubaneswar  - these places enjoy tourist inflow throughout the year. I found travel cost unjustifiably high. Public administration does not provide support to tourists through modest, clean and efficient point-to-point transfers.

  Beautiful 'Torana' ( arch) in front of Mukteswar temple

 The temples we visited @ Bhubaneswar, Hirapur, Konark and Puri are extra-ordinary in architecture as well as iconography. A discerning visitor will appreciate the depth of planning and meticulous 'execution' which attract  thousands of visitors through centuries to these places - not only for pilgrimage, but to savour  the wonders standing tall for centuries.

 Entrance to Udaygiri caves

RajaRani temple is the most beautiful one among those we visited at Bhubaneswar . Lingaraj temple is the magnificent one. Brahmeswar,Vaital,Mukteswar and very significantly ,'64 Yoginis' as well as Parasurameshwar temples are delight of students of Iconography like me. We also visited Sisireswar, Megheswar,Swarnajaleswar, Siddheswar temples.

 Konark temple,mystified by morning mist

Next was the Sun temple at Konark - the most awe-inspiring temple in Orissa. It is said that had this temple been discovered before TajMahal during the British rule, Konark temple would have been considered one of the seven wonders of the World ! Whether or not  such a claim is proper, Konark temple overwhelms visitors with its design and details inspite of the broken deul and many scars. ASI has done a great job in developing the area around with well-manicured lawn and excellent 2-tone lighting. I enquired with the ticket counter and found during the peak season of November/December, upto 6500 visitors  throng to this temple in a day !!

More about the details in future blogs.