Shivani Shourie
Last Updated: 27th November 2017

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The home of marvellously architecture temples, serene landscapes and pristine beaches, Odisha is the land of myriad splendours. Flanked by the resplendent waters of the Bay of Bengal on one side and the dense canopy of the forests of Eastern Ghats on the other, Odisha is a topographical marvel. Thronged by pilgrims and tourists alike, the temples in Odisha are not only famous for their religious significance but also due to their architectural superiority. Built as per Kalinga architecture, all the temples have a structural similarity- all of them consist of a central/main temple(Vimana) and a porch(Jagmohana) in front of it. The walls of these temples are decorated with intricate carvings of religious and tantric significance.

Although each temple of Odisha has its own significance, some of the most famous ones are:

Jagannath Puri

One of the ‘chaar dhams’, Jagannath Puri Temple holds a very significant place for Hindus. It was built in the 11th century and is dedicated to Jagannath, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The main temple’s structure is around 65 metres high and is mounted over an elevation, giving it a magnanimous appearance. There is a wheel on its top known as the ‘Neela chakra’ and a flag is hoisted over it every day. The statues of Lord Jagannath, Balbhadra and Subhadra reside in the central assembly hall. Complicated rituals are practised daily by over 6000 individuals. Incredibly, around 20,000 people are employed inside the temple and their livelihoods entirely depend on the temple.

Sun temple, Konark

Konark_Sun_Temple_Front_view

Another Odishi architectural wonder is the stupendous Sun Temple at Konark. Built in the shape of a colossal chariot with seven horses and twelve wheels, the chariot is believed to carry Surya Dev, the Sun God. The wheels of the chariot are actually sun dials and can be used to tell the time. The name of the temple is derived from two words- Kona meaning corner and Ark meaning Sun. The practise of worshipping Sun started in the Vedic times and has continued ever since.  There are many legends associated with the Sun Temple and it is enriching and interesting to hear the same from locals. Although most of the structure is in a dilapidated condition, the intricacy and perfection of the carvings is still appreciable.

In the words of the great Rabindranath Tagore, ‘’Here the language of stone surpasses the language of man’’.

Mukteswar Temple

This temple is a clear example of the developmental changes that arose in the temples of Odisha and were later reflected in the construction of the Lingaraj Temple as well.  Mukteswar Temple was built in the 10th century and was dedicated to Lord Shiva or Mukteswar-‘The God of freedom’. The presence of a ‘torana’ archway unlike any other temple makes it unique and reflects the experimenting nature which was underway when the temple was constructed. Even the pyramidal roof of the main temple was the first of its kind. Due to the uniqueness of its architecture, the temple is also called ‘Gem of Odisha’s architecture’.

Ma Tara Tarini Temple

Ma Tara Tarini Temple is one of the four Shakti Peeths in the country and therefore has immense religious significance. Ma Tarini is regarded as the female embodiment of Shakti(power) and is depicted with a red face. Ma Tarini and Kali are in fact the incarnations of the same diety but while Kali is the ‘Goddess of Death’, Ma Tarini is the ‘Force of life’. Ma Tarini is also worshipped as the Goddess of the forest and the temple hosts an annual festival known as Chaitri Yatra every April.

Lingaraj Temple

The Lingaraj Temple, dedicated to an incarnation of Lord Shiva, adorns the city of Bhubaneshwar and stands 55 metres tall. One of the oldest temples of Bhubaneshwar, it is said to be in existence since the 7th century although the structure that can now be seen was built later in the 11th century. Predominantly built in the Kalinga style of architecture, the temple consists of a Vimana, Jagamohana, Natamandira and Bhoga-mandapa. Shivaratri is celebrated with great fervour in the temple and almost 200000 pilgrims visit the temple during the festival.

Odisha is truly endowed with temples that not only are held in great regard by pilgrims but history and architecture buffs alike. Plan a visit to serene and spiritual Odisha and stay at Sterling Golden Sands for a mesmerising and rejuvenating vacation!

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Shivani Shourie
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