Posted 22 July 2022
Bhubaneswar is the sprawling capital city of the state of Odisha. It is a bustling economic centre in the state and experiences rapid growth in terms of industries like Information Technology and Iron & Steel Plants. As one of the first planned cities of India, Bhubaneswar is very scenic, full of greenery, and has a clean look.
But, before Bhubaneswar became a fast-paced city of technological significance, it was an important cultural centre for ancient kingdoms in the area. Bhubaneswar lays testament to the grand architectural styles that were created by kingdoms in the past. The city is adorned with an array of mesmerising temples, constructed in the Kalinga architectural style. With more than 2000 temples estimated to have been built, only one quarter remains. Bhubaneswar is dubbed the ‘Temple City of India’ due to the large number of ancient temples that precede the modern city.
The development of architectural style over the years between the 8th century and 12th century can be observed across the temples of Bhubaneswar. Iconic styles used by architects of kingdoms like the Kalinga or Eula (who used to rule over ancient Odisha) are the defining factors of these beautiful temples.
If you love to take a stroll down the lanes of history, or you love exploring ancient monuments, then Bhubaneswar is the place to be. Plan your next trip to this modern city with ancient roots and a plethora of ancient temples to check out!
Here’s a peek at some of the most prominent ancient temples that you should visit when in Bhubaneswar:
Lingaraja temple is one of the earliest temples constructed in Odisha and currently the largest temple in Bhubaneswar. The temple is believed to have been constructed in the 10th century by King Jajati Keshari. The construction was however completed in the 11th century by King Lalatendu Keshari. The Lingaraja temple follows a purely ‘Deula’ style of architecture and is devoted to the Hindu deity, Lord Shiva. Any temple which is built in the ‘Deula’ style has four distinct components. These include a structure with a sanctum, an assembly hall, a festival/dance hall, and a hall of offerings. The sanctum is the tallest structure and the three other structures descend in height gradually. The entire temple is made out of sandstone and laterite.
When you visit the temple, you can witness 64 smaller shrines inside the colossal temple, standing 180 m high. The sculptures carved throughout the temple are fascinating works of art and depict mythical figures like Hindu gods and goddesses. The temple attracts a lot of pilgrims because it also has a water tank where devotees take a dip. Whether you are a devotee or you like to explore ancient monuments, the Lingaraj temple is a place you must visit in Bhubaneswar, simply due to its grandeur and beauty.
The Mukteshwar temple is another ancient temple dedicated to the Hindu deity, Lord Shiva built approximately around the 10th century. This is a very fascinating temple, especially with respect to tracing the development of Hindu temples in ancient India. The Mukteshwara temple is built using a style that is an amalgamation of many styles used to build earlier temples. Architecturally the builders of the Mukteshwara temple were the first to start a new culture of temple construction. The temple features a beautiful archway in the entrance, called the ‘Torana. The ‘Torana was a departure from the classical style of architecture followed before its construction had a Buddhist influence. This temple is an example of the early works of the Suryavamsi rulers of the region.
When you visit the temple, the archway is something that will catch your attention. The sculptures in the temple depict stories from the ancient fables ‘Panchatantra’. Certain historians believe that the temple was a prominent tantric worship place since Mukteshwara means ‘freedom from the cycle of birth and death’. Explore more about Mukteshwar temple when you visit Bhubaneswar.
Prepare to be mesmerized when you visit the Rajarani temple in Bhubaneswar. The temple was built around the 11th century. The temple features two structures that are not very tall. Although the temple is not grand in size, it features intricate work on the top of the temple.
The Rajarani temple was not constructed for a deity but rather as a celebration of the love of the ruler of Odisha at that time and his Queen. The sandstone structure is adorned with carvings depicting scenes of the marriage of Lord Shiva and Parvati.
A visit to the place is very peaceful and serene. Visiting this temple during January is a delight as a Rajarani music festival is conducted for three consecutive days, celebrating folk music.
Brahmeshwar temple is a 60 ft tall monument dedicated to Lord Shiva. An interesting architectural fact about this place was that it was the first temple in the region to be constructed using an iron beam structure. It was built during the Suryavanshi reign in the 9th century. The temple has a main shrine surrounded by four subsidiary shrines facing each of the cardinal directions. Musicians and dancers are depicted in the carvings around the temple, which was the first instance of such, in temples constructed during that era. Stunning figures of Lord Shiva in the temple are truly a marvellous sight for any visitor. The temple is surrounded by a beautiful and well-maintained garden and overlooks a quaint waterbody.
The Parashurameshvara temple is an ancient temple that predates even the Lingaraja temple. It is believed to have been built during the 8th century, making it one of the oldest temples in Odisha. The temple has three distinct structures. Apart from carvings of Lord Shiva, the temple also has beautiful carvings depicting; ‘Saptamantrikas’, or seven mother deities of the Hindu religion. The Nagara style of architecture used to construct the temple is a precursor to the styles of construction used to build the Lingaraja temple and the Mukteswara temple.
If you visit other ancient temples in Odisha and visit this temple, you will be able to notice that the detailing in the carvings in this temple are more primitive and lack finer details that can be seen in carvings in the Lingaraj temple or the Mukteswara temple. A great time to visit this temple is during the festivals of Maha Shivratri, Navratri, and Diwali.
The Ananta Vasudeva temple was built during the 13th century and dedicated to the Hindu deity, Lord Krishna. The Ananta Vasudeva Temple has a resemblance to the Lingaraja temple. The most striking works of art in the temple are the carvings of Lord Krishna, Balarama, and Subhadra. The temple also features carvings of women wearing gaudy ornaments. The temple is beautiful to visit and the shrines are a striking example of architectural prowess in the era.
The Chausath Yogini Temple is located 20 km away from the main city of Bhubaneswar at a place called Hirapur. The Chausath Yogini temple is very different in construction from other popular ancient temples in Bhubaneswar. It is a tantric shrine dedicated to the Yoginis (demi-goddesses). The temple has carvings of Goddess Shakti overpowering demons and an example of how ancient cultures celebrated female empowerment. The temple is built circularly without any roof. 56 forms of the Goddess Kali adorn the circular structure. The Chaustah Yogini is built using an architectural style that is in stark contrast to its ancient counterparts and denotes the versatility of architects in that era.
The temple is situated amidst a rice field and a visit to this place during the sunset is splendid. Hirapur (the place where the temple is located) is like a scene out of the history book since it retains most of its natural look and modernity is yet to touch the place.
Baitala Deula is one of the oldest temples in Bhubaneswar, believed to have been built around the 8th century. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu goddess ‘Chamunda’. Being an old construction, it has influences of Dravidian styles of architecture and does not follow the Odisha architectural style observed in temples like Mukteshwar, Lingaraja or the Rajarani temple. The temple has a pyramidal dome and a hall which is constructed with a Buddhist architectural approach.
When you visit the temple, you will be able to notice the striking sculpture of Goddess ‘Chamunda’ with skulls around her neck, adorning the top of the temple, surrounded by sculptures of a jackal and an owl. The temple also has a stone post which is believed to have been a place for sacrificial offerings. The temple is adorned with beautiful carvings of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
Bhubaneswar experiences hot and humid weather conditions for most of the year. Thus, it is better to avoid travelling to Bhubaneswar between March to May since temperatures can be very harsh. The monsoons in Bhubaneswar are pleasant and also accentuate the lush greenery in and around the city. However, if you want to explore the ancient temples grandly then the best time to visit Bhubaneswar would be between December and February. The temperatures stay very pleasant, between 12 and 28°C.
Bhubaneswar is a beautiful place made exquisite due to the many ancient temples surrounding the city. Plan a visit to these mesmerising temples and experience a glimpse of history. Book your travel with affordable flights from IndiGo and make your travel to Bhubaneswar a delightful experience from the moment before you even land to explore the majestic temples.