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Location : Orissa
Languages : Oriya, English
Major Attractions : Lingraja Temple, Muktesvara Temple, Rock Edicts
Climate : Hot and Wet Tropical
Temperature : In summers, it varies between 40 and 45 degree Celsius; in winters, it goes as low as 12 degrees
Best Time to Visit : Winter season
The temple city of Orissa, Bhubaneswar, is a renowned center of art and architecture. Exalted by the presence of a multitude of exquisitely carved temples, the city is an amalgamation of different cultures and traditions. Influence of Buddhism and Jainism can be seen from its larger than life monuments and brilliantly carved structures. Adorned with a fascinating history, the city is among the most interesting attractions of Orissa.
Enchanting History :
History can be boring to many but it is not the case with this city of pillars and rock edicts. Once a home to more than 7000 temples, Bhubaneswar has remained subjected to both natural and man made forces for centuries. A number of irreverent foreign attackers ransacked its cultural heritage and plundered it of its temple-wealth. Mauryan King Ashoka ruled here in 3rd century BC. Powerful Chedi kings made it a part of their empire in 2nd century BC. Under the patronage of Kharvela, Jainism was propagated here and maintained its stronghold for quiet a large chunk of time.
As per excavation details, we come to know that Kushana dynasty ruled here in 4th century and even before that. Till this period, historians have found no evidences of any so called temple art. With the beginning of Gupta era, this art started taking shape and depicted the rise of Shiva cult. Later periods saw flourishing of Vaishnavism at the time of Ganga dynasty. Creation of some of the most elegant temples of their time like Lingaraja Temple, Mukteshwara Temple is apart of the history of Bhubaneswar.
Resplendent Art :
Temple art blossomed to its full; it took several centuries for the artisans to develop the dexterity and expertise. The temples at Bhubaneswar appear quite simple and undecorated from exterior but the interiors are extensively ornate with embellishments and relief sculptures. The reliefs illustrated in temples are of various types; while some of them depict human figures in various moods and forms, the others show hieratic deities with their distinguished features and poses. Birds, animals and some legendary figures have also found a place in these reliefed pieces.
The characteristic features of some of the earliest temples are solitariness, repose, and modesty. The shrines dedicated to Parasuraesvara and Satrughnesvara are a nice example of this. Story telling aimed at exemplifying combats, marriage processions, and legendary incidents was quiet common form of art depiction at this time. With the advancement in techniques, artists started creating carved sculptures which look more vital, lively, and detailed. Their body poses signify grace and refinement.
Temples like Lingraja, Rajrani etc. are the perfect examples of development of aesthetic aspect as is depicted in seductive forms of urban females who are shown in sensual poses.
Pasupata Cult :
Buddhism made a profound impact in the art and architecture of Bhubaneswar's temples. The profoundness is indicated from the fact the images of some of the Hindu deities resemble to Bodhisattvas. Pasupata cult emerged as one of the strongest influences at that time. This cult emphasized worshipping of Lord Shiva. Its followers were mainly heterodox and believed in worshipping god in the form of iconoclastic images. The temples of the city that represent this cult in its best form are those dedicated to deities like Bharateswar, Svarnajaleswar etc.
Appealing Attractions :
Lingraja Temple : This temple of 11th century is jewel of all the other temples. Its colossal structure makes it visible from a distance of 15 kilometers. It highlights the highest skill of the artists of that time. The premises are meant for worshipping Lord Shiva whose lingam is offered obeisance by a large number of devotees who arrive here. Bhoga Mandapa and Nata Mandira are the added attractions of the shrine. The lingam installed in the interior has the distinction of being an embodiment of both Lord Vishnu and Shiva.
Muktesvara Temple : Commonly referred as the gem of architecture, this exquisite temple of Bhubaneswar is inspired from Kalinga school of art. You will see the unique blend of ancient and modern forms of art as can be seen in the techniques involved in its construction. The artists tried many innovations which, later, became part of other temples. As the name indicates, the deity worshipped here is Lord Muktesvara. The arched gateway is the main attraction of this excellent piece of art. The deity is shown here in different poses. You can also have a glimpse of various fables drawn from Panchtantra.
Raj Rani Temple : Standing in grace, this charming shrine is distinguished from all others for not having any deities in its sanctum sanctorum. The temple derives its name from the material used in its construction, viz red sandstone. You can see multiple figurines that are illustrating doing household chores.
Brahmeshwara Temple : Visit this temple in order to have a glimpse of maturity in Oriya style of architecture. The sculpture of Jagmohana is carved elaborately. On outside walls, you will notice figures of musicians as well as dancers. Hindu deities like Lord Shiva, Chamunda Devi and many more are depicted in the interiors.
Parasurameswara Temple : This shrine of 7th century is an example of the earliest architectural styles that existed in the history of Bhubaneswar. This Kalinga styled temple is a dedication to Shiva, Vishnu, Yama, and several Mother Goddesses. You will also a number of couples in their typical aphrodisiac poses.
Vaital Deul : Devi Chamunda is the installed deity of this shrine. Resting upon the corpse of a demon, the goddess is shown to be wearing a skull garland. The architecture of interior and exterior illustrates striking contrast; while the exterior is quiet plain, the interiors are extensively embellished.
Paschimesvara Temple : Located within Yamesvara shrine, this temple is built as a small shrine and is considered as earliest examples of temple art. Though nature engulfed a major portion of the shrine, still some figures of the gods and goddesses are present in the interiors. Most of these are deities are depicted with multiple extremities.
Bhaskaresvara Temple : Unlike other temples of Orissa that are known for brilliant art and craft, this temple of Bhubaneswar is void any form of temple art. Pilgrims arrive here to have a glimpse of the Shiva lingam which stands at a height. You need to take the help of tiers in order to reach the top and offer prayers to the lingam.
Kedaresvara Temple : This south facing temple is known for its Bhumi-Amlas that are built in rectangular form. It houses several sculptures depicting erotic art; you can see images of Kartikeya, Ganesha, and Parsva Devtas also in the interiors.
State Museum : Here, you can have the glimpse of a number of coins, sculptures, and instruments. The vivid collection of manuscripts on palm leaves and ancient paintings is worth admiration. The museum remains open on all days except Mondays.
Nearby Attractions :
ISKCON Temple : An added attraction to your tour to this city of temples is ISKCON Temple. The architecture of the temple is quiet alluring to the visitors. Devotees arrive here for offering prayers to deities like Krishna, Balrama, Subhadra, Gaura etc. It took nearly 20 years to complete the construction of this exclusive piece of art.
Udaygiri Caves : These are the set of Jain caves that are situated at about seven kilometers from the destination. The caves are scattered over two hills facing each other. In total, there are 44 caves that adorn the place. These pieces of sandstone are rock-carved; a few of them are natural structures. The main attraction here is Hathi Gupha which is, in fact, a shrine dedicated to Lord Mahavira. You can visit theses caves anytime between 8.00 in the morning and 6.00 in the evening.
Dhauli Hill : The renowned rock edicts of Ashoka were installed at the foothills of Dhauli. Here, visitors can see an elephant structure which is among the oldest ones in the entire Orissa state. A Buddhist Pagoda is also located atop hill.
Chilka Lake : Visit to the most famous lake of Orissa-Chilka. The place is accessible via road network. If it is the night time when you want to visit this place and want to make an over night stay, there are accommodations available at Barkul and Satpada Pantha.
Nandankanan Zoo : This famous zoo near Bhubaneswar has arrangements for lion safari. A wide variety of wild animal are found here including white tigers, elephants etc. You can reach the place by boarding buses from the city; it takes an hour to reach there.
Almost all sorts of accommodation are available here; it depends on weather you can spend big bucks or want to go for some cheaper options. Some low budget options include Yatri Niwas, Hotel Janapath, Hotel Padma, The Pushpak, and Bhubaneswar Hotel. The moderate ones include names like Hotel Swosti, Kenilworth Hotel, Kalinga Ashok, and Hotel Keshari. Oberoi Bhubaneswar is one of the luxurious options.
Savor some of the most delicious dishes at Hare Krishna Restaurant. It is among the best eating joints that city can boast of. To relish South Indian food, you can go to Venus Inn located at Bapuji Nagar.
A vacation to Bhubaneswar will allow you to explore various aspects of its magnificent art and architecture; the tour can be informative as well as entertaining.