Adorned with centuries of culture in architecture and religious places, Odisha (formerly known as Orissa), is a culmination of both. It’s probably one of those places in India where the shrines and temples of deities are as much as listed (if not less) in tourism as any other tourist spots.
Built with a lot of history and masonry that revolutionized the face of upcoming designs in the rest of the country, there are some of these religious places that are not only pious but also have very unique features about them that sets them apart from every other. Here are 5 temples in Odisha that totally warrant your attention.
The sun has had various designated roles to play in the hymns of the Vedas. Sun or Surya, as the eliminator of darkness or as the deity that was personified. Or even, as the gem embellishing the sky. It’s not astounding that a sun temple has been dedicated in the most pious places of India. The Konark Sun Temple was established in the 13th century CE for the Eastern Ganga Dynasty’s Narasimhadeva I. It’s one of the very few Hindu temples whose construction plans and records were found in the form of manuscripts written on palm leaves in Sanskrit.
The Konark Sun Temple takes up one of the parts of The Golden Triangle, along with Bhubaneswar’s Lingaraja Temple and the Jagannath Temple in Puri. All three come together in epitomizing the cultural reference of Odia expression in the temple architectures. The Sun Temple embodies the Nagara architecture in Odisha technique. Since the year of 1984, the temple has earned itself a place in the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.
Being quite the topic of controversy, the carvings along the high walls of The Sun Temple have been nitpicked and questioned for either being inappropriate or unsophisticated. Yet, many have also supported exclaiming them to be a marvel of art and expression on a stone at its best. One of such praisers has been Rabindranath Tagore himself.
Now the tranquil region of Konark with not so tranquil past has intrigued, inspired, and invoked to pen down the various tragedies surrounding the legends tied to the place. Some of which include Baji Rout by Sachidananda Routray and Gopabandhu Das’s Dharmapada.
Also read: Unique Things To Do In Northeast India.
Right at the heart of the capital city of Odisha, Bhubaneswar, lays the home to one of the shrines of Lord Shiva. The term Mukteshwar translates to ‘Lord of Freedom’. Hailing from the 10th century BCE, it’s concurrently known to be the ‘Gem of Odisha Architecture’. The Mukteshwar Temple garnered itself a spot in the Protected Monuments in India.
Although only about 10 meters high, what sets the temple apart from the rest is its intricate architecture and profuse amounts of sculptures spread across its entire ground. The inextricably adorned main arch of the temple (or torana) is unique to every other temple established in the entire region, which also marked the step towards a new culture by the masons. The torana represents a sway towards Buddhist architecture while the rest and the main temple, Jagamohana temple, was built upon the Kalinga architecture.
Every year, people from all corners gather here for the three-day-long Mukteshwar Festival held in the arena during the months of January to February. In this festival, famous dancers participate to revel in the Indian classical dance form, Odissi, along with the Odissi music. You can hear the sounds of classical instruments like the mardala being played in the background.
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It’s not astonishing that many believe that there is only one Sun Temple in Odisha. The infamous Konark Sun Temple, being quite renowned among tourists and the Odisha tourism, could easily overshadow any other. Nevertheless, there is more than one sun temple in Odisha and it’s called the Wooden Sun Temple or as the locals call it, Biranchi Narayan Sun Temple. Located in Buguda, this temple is dedicated to the Lord Viranchinarayana.
This temple was renovated in 1790 CE by King Srikara Bhanjadeva. The deity of the temple, Surya, is known to be a union of the Hindu Trinity (Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva). The whole temple, except for certain regions, are entirely covered and made in wood. The walls of these wooden built places are covered with murals depicting the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The decorated roof and 46 pillars that lift up the entire temple are noteworthy.
Both the Sun Temples are built in two different directions. The Konark Sun Temple, established facing east, makes the rays of the sun fall on the idol as soon as the sun rises. On the other hand, the Wooden Konark is built facing west. It’s said that due to this feature, when the golden rays of the sun take a dip into the horizon, its last rays fall on the feet of the idol of Surya.
Also read: Temples To Visit In Tamil Nadu.
Built in the 11th century, the Rajarani Temple has an architecture style that resembles other temples (like the Khajuraho Temple) in central India. The Rajarani Temple is also located in the capital city of Odisha, Bhubaneswar. A peculiar feature of this temple is that no one knows for sure but only can speculate to which deity the temple is dedicated to, as there are no certain pictures of a certain God inside the temple.
Initially known as the Indreswara, it’s locally referred to as the ‘love temple’ due to the erotic carvings in and around the entire temple. The temple is based on Kalinga architecture with a touch of Pancharatra style. These unconventionally sensational carvings continue throughout the temple and suddenly end at the assembly hall (Jagamohan), creating a striking aesthetic to uplift the entire place. The erogenous women and couples, especially standing on lotuses, are looked down upon by many, simply ignoring the architectural beauty that represents within.
There is a spacious garden that surrounds the antiquated temple, adding a touch of contemporariness to the place. Every year on the dates of 18th to 20th of January, the Rajarani Music Festival is held at the temple premises. First held in the year 2003, this music festival is organized by the Government of Odisha where all the three major classical music (Carnatic, Odissi, and Hindustani) are all given priority. Artists from different areas of the country come and participate in this three-day-long festival.
Also read: Spending A Day At The Golden Temple In Amritsar.
Invaded and tried to have been demolished for about eighteen times, the Jagannath Temple in Puri is among the most renowned temples in Odisha. This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu whose other form is known as Jagannath. The trio of Subhadra, Balabhadra, and Jagannath is worshipped in this sanctum.
Having walls up like forts and covering a surface area of 400,000 sq ft, the entirety of the Jagannath Temple consists of about 120 temples and shrines, with the tallest temple towering over 65 meters. Encompassing such a huge area of architectural beauty in Odia style, it’s considered to be one of the most significantly majestic monuments in India.
Each day there are daily prayers and bhog (prayer offerings in the mode of food) conducted for thousands of people that visit the place. Aside those daily prayers, even on the various pious days, offerings are given to the deity. One especially that stands out is the Chariot Festival or the Rath Yatra during the month of June.
Beside this, Jhulan Yatra in the monsoon season and Dol Yatra in the month of spring are elaborately conducted. During any of these festivities, the entire street is filled with colors and lights, with people all around the country coming to visit Puri for one reason (other than the beach, of course!)
These aforementioned temples in Odisha barely skim and touch the entirety of the treasure that’s found in Odisha. The state is filled with generations of tradition and history that the locals are trying to keep it going and preserve. You don’t even have to be an avid history buff to admire how exquisite these sites are. Dating back hundreds of years, the sheer architectural marvel and intriguing history of this place is reason enough to make it to your bucket list.
Also read: Visiting The Ranakpur Temple In Rajasthan.
How Many Temples Are In Odisha?
Odisha has thousands of temples, with over 500 in the capital city of Bhubaneswar itself!
Which Is The Biggest Temple In Odisha?
The Jagannath Temple in Puri is the biggest in Odisha, with the tallest temple towering at a height of 65 meters.
Which Temple Is World Famous In Odisha?
Many temples in Odisha are famous, but the Sun Temple in Konark easily is the most popular among them worldwide.
What Is Orissa Famous For?
Odisha is among the most underrated places in India. Here are some of the key attractions of India’s Hidden Gem:
Temples - Odisha is home to thousands of temples, of which many of them are UNESCO Heritage Sites. The Sun Temple in Konark, the Lingaraja Temple in Bhubaneswar, and the Jagannath Temple in Puri are just among the most famous ones.
Beaches - Odisha may not come to mind when you’re thinking of beaches. But some beaches like Puri Beach, Chandipur Beach (aka Hide-and-Seek Beach), and Gopalpur Beach.
Which City Is Known As The City Of Temples?
Bhubaneswar in Odisha is known as the City of Temples. It’s a well-earned title, as the city has over 500 temples!
Who Destroyed Sun Temple Konark?
The Sun Temple in Konark was destroyed by Kalapahad, a Muslim general under the orders of Sultan Sulaiman Khan Karrani of Bengal.
Why Is Lingaraj Temple Famous?
The Lingaraja Temple has the distinction of being the largest in Bhubaneswar, with the tallest structure towering at 55 meters. In addition to it, this Shiva temple’s Kalinga style of architecture is iconic.
Why Konark Sun Temple Is Called Black Pagoda?
The Sun Temple in Konark was known as the Black Pagoda by sailors because of its color and the many shipwrecks that happened near its shore thanks to its magnetic pull.
Conversely, the Jagannath Temple in Puri was known as the White Pagoda.
Who Built Rajarani Temple?
The Rajarani Temple in Bhubaneswar is said to have been built by Indraratha, a ruler from the Somavamshi Dynasty.
Which Is The Coolest Place In Orissa?
If you’re looking for hill stations in Odisha, consider visiting Daringbadi in the Kandhamal district. Despite most of the state experiencing tropical weather, Daringbadi is cool and also experiences light and occasional snowfall during winters!