Mukteshwar Temple – The Gem of Odisha Architecture

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It was our 2nd school reunion and this time the attendance was higher, after the mega success of our 1st reunion after 25 years!
I had planned this trip well in advance (unlike me ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). “Papa, why is Bhubaneswar called the city of temples?”, my li’l princess asked while she was unpacking after checking in the hotel room at Bhubaneswar.

“Well Bhubaneswar is a land of many temples and in fact the name of this city is also after goddess Bhubaneswari”, I replied as a pro.
This time I will take you to a cute little temple – “Mukteshwar Temple – The Gem of Odisha Architecture”

“What is so special about this temple, papa?”, asked Tweety.

“Well, this 10th century miniature 34ft hindu temple at Bhubaneswar, dedicated to Lord Shiva, due to its exclusive art and sculptures is called the “Gem of Odisha Architecture”. This temple is said to be a trend setter of its times and is believed to be the most photographed architectural structure in India if not the world”, I exclaimed.

“Wow! most photographed temple.”, Tweety exclaimed.
“I will take photos there too papa. Lets go there”, said Tweety.

We booked a car and first visited the famous Lingaraj temple and then we went straight to Mukteshawar temple.

The unique “Torana” or Porch (arched Gateway) bearing sculptures of women, peacocks and monkeys is one of its kind not seen any any other temple is the region.

Its shikaras are covered with half women/half serpent demi gods and kritimukhas or lion faces with pearls tumbling from its mouth, of lions (representing Hinduism) sculptures seated on elephants (Buddhism) to suggest religious dominance, and standing tirtankaras indicative of emerging Jain influences.

The pyramidal roof to the Jagamohana (assembly hall) present in the temple was the first of its kind over the conventional two tier structure. The temple is the earlies to be built in pithadeula type with decorated ceiling, carved into a lotus with eight petals.
The change in their iconography with Ketu introduced as 9th planet, the association of Kartikeya with Peacock and mouse as the mount Ganesha.

The windows of the temple are diamond shapped, latticed designs. Besides these windows sculptures of monkeys performing humous acts can be found. These represnts characters from Panchatantra. One panel uses a monkey’s tail as the sutradhar (narrator) of a Panchatantra tale, where the monkey saves himself from a crocodile whose wife wanted to devour the monkey’s liver.

“Hey Tweety, lookout for the stone watch dial (set 20 minutes ahead IST) and the temple’s floor plan etched on the floor”, I pointed to Tweety.
“Wow! thats amazing papa”, she exclaimed.

A new form of decoration called bho motif (a large medallion)- the grinning face of a lion with beaded tassels emerging from its mouth, flanked by two dwarfs (ganas) with snakes, became a prominent feature in later Odishan temples. Apart from the architectural brilliance, there are myths that this Royal medallion has celestial and protective powers if invoked.

The belief links back to the fact that it was built by King Yayati I or, Janmejaya I of the Somavanshi Kingdom had a lineage from Chandravanshi dynasty – which began with Budh (Mercury) the son of Moon (Chandradev). Lord Sri Krishna is one of the famous Chandravanshi. The bho-motif (the royal medallion) is believed to be their secret emblem, passing through generations, contents guarded secretly and has protective powers when invoked.

Tweety took at least 50 photos of the temple and surroundings and no doubt she was amazed at the cute little architectural beauty.
So, many such gems are hidden across our country. Now wonder it’s Incredible India!

Swarup Biswas

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1 Response

  1. 9 April 2023

    […] [Sambalpuri Saree] The land of temples wear a saree made of silk or cotton, known for its unique designs and […]

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