Bhubaneswar, December 18 (LocalWire): After the enlightening visit to the museum last week, let us now hop to another place in our bucket list of destinations that is a must-visit during this winter: the Parashurameswara group of Shiva temples in Bhubaneswar.
Built more than 10 centuries ago, the group includes Parashurameswara, Mukteshwara and Siddheswara temples that are exemplary pieces of Kalinga architecture, and located in one extended temple complex dotted with neat gardens.
1) Parashumeshwara Temple: This temple is believed to have been built in the 7th century AD (650 CE according to KC Panigrahi) by the Shailodbhavas, who worshipped Lord Shiva as their primary deity.
While the presiding deity of the temple is Lord Shiva and there is a Shivaling inside the temple, the Shailodbhavas also respected the Shakta deities and hence they are also depicted on the walls of the temple.
The Kalingan temples have two parts: the Vimana or the sanctum, where the deity is housed, and the Jagamohana or the place from where the pilgrims view the sanctum (the hall of worshippers).
Parashurameshwara temple is the first to have this additional structure. It also has four latticed windows with square or rectangular perforations.
The temple is one of the earliest examples of the Nagara style of Hindu temple architecture. It contains the earliest representation of a six-armed Mahishamardini (Durga) and is the first among the temples of Bhubaneswar to contain the Saptamatrika images, a group of seven goddesses, contained in between images of Lord Ganesha and Virabhadra.
Images of various Indian gods and goddesses are carved into the walls of the temple. One such image which is peculiar to this particular temple is the depiction of Lord Shiva subduing the demon-king Ravana, who is seen trying to uproot Kailash, the mountain abode of Lord Shiva.
Parashurameshwara represents Lord Shiva as the lord of Parashurama, an avatar of Lord Vishnu. Parashuramashtami is the major festival celebrated in the temple on the 8th day of the Hindu month of Ashadha, during the June-July period each year.
2) Mukteshwara and Siddheswara Temples: Separated by gardens, the Mukteshwara and Siddheswara temples lie across the Parashurameshwara Temple.
According to Panigrahi, the Mukteshwara temple was built during the 966 CE during the rule of Somavamshi king Yayati I, even though there is no historical evidence to prove the same.
The exquisitely detailed architecture of the temple is why this temple is known as “Gem of Odisha or Kalinga architecture”. It brings the early and later phases of the Kalinga school of temple building together, and has been hailed as “a dream realised in sandstone”, “a jewel of Odishan artistic works” by Ferguson and “the finest artwork of all temples ever seen” by Manmohan Ganguly.
The most important feature of the Mukteshwar Temple is the torana, or the arched gateway, which shows the influence of Buddhist architecture on Kalinga architecture. The gateway has sculptures that range from elaborate scrolls to pleasant female forms and figures of monkeys and peacocks.
The shikara has four Natarajas and four Kirthimukhas on the four faces, a new form of decoration called bho, possibly developed here, became a prominent feature in later Odisha temples. It is a highly ornate chaitya window crowned by masked demon head and dwarf figures.
The Mukteshwar or the God of Salvation is worshipped here.
The state Department of Tourism organises a three-day yearly dance function called the Mukteshwar Dance Festival in the temple premises.
It is a celebration of the features of Odissi dance and music. Popular Odissi dancers perform during the function, accompanied by instruments like mardala.
The Marichi Kunda is a water tank in the Mukteshwar temple complex, whose water is believed to be auspicious and is auctioned on Ashokastami Day before the day breaks.
It is believed by the local people that if a barren woman takes a bath with a pot of this holy water, she is sure to beget a child.
The Siddheshwar Temple stands inside the Mukteshwar temple complex and is an example of the unification of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain architecture.
Its outer walls are covered with minimal carvings and the temple tower is built in the Pancharatna style of the classical Kalinga School of temple architecture.
Lord Shiva is worshipped in the sanctum sanctorum and a beautiful figure of Lord Ganesha in the standing position at the base of the temple spire is another feature of the temple.
These monuments are protected by the Archaeological Survey of India under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958.
Visitors can buy souvenirs from the local artisan shop outside the temple complex that houses various handicrafts of Odisha, including the pattachitras, marble and stone busts of Lord Buddha and Hindu gods like Lord Shiva, Lord Hanuman, Lord Ganesh etc, painted coconuts, wooden carvings of Lord Jagannath and the chariots used during the Rath Yatra and appliqué crafts from Pipili.
The Kedar-Gouri temple complex stands just next to the Mukteshwar temple complex.