Lingaraja Temple is 11th century ancient temple situated in Bhubaneswar, built by the Somavamsi dynasty, exhibits the Kalinga style of architecture, and worshipped as Harihara, a combination of Shiva and Vishnu.
Odisha is a land of magnificent temples. These temples date back to the 11th century. Bhubaneswar the capital city of Odisha is rich in grand extravagant temples. No wonder this very city is known as the ‘city of temples’.
The Lingaraja Temple is one such prominent ancient temple situated in Bhubaneswar. It is regarded as the biggest temple in the city. The temple has an old essence to it. The temple dates back to the 11th century. Its splendor and magnificence are defined by its planning and architecture. This temple adds to the glory of the city of temples.
About the Lingaraja Temple
The temple is believed to be built by the Somavamsi dynasty in the 11th century. The temple exhibits the Kalinga style of architecture which is very prominent in the state of Odisha. In this temple, Shiva is worshipped as Harihara, a combination of Shiva and Vishnu. Bhubaneswar is also called the Ekamra Kshetra. This is because the deity of Lingaraja was originally under a mango tree. The temple is maintained by the Lingaraja Temple Temple Trust Board and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Historical Background of the Lingaraja Temple
The term ‘Lingam’ is used to describe a form of Lord Shiva. So, Lingaraja literally means ‘King of Lingam’. According to Hindu mythology Shiva is considered as the ‘destroyer’. He is commonly referred to as Tribhubaneswar, the master of three worlds namely heaven, earth and netherworld. He is a barbarian and someone who is not very particular about rituals and offerings. This is the reason why we find temples of Lord Shiva at simple places like under a tree or sometimes in a corner. Even he isn’t very particular about the offerings we make to him. Wildflowers make him happy. But this temple of Lord Shiva is a grand and the biggest in the city of all the temples present.
As mentioned above the temple was built in the 11th century but some shreds of evidence show that its construction had started in the 6th century itself. After the construction of this temple, the Vaishnavite sect had become very prominent in this region. This has led to the construction of the Jagannath Temple in Puri by The Ganga dynasty. They were ardent worshippers of Lord Jagannath, a form of Vishnu. This led to the concept of worship of a deity who is both Shiva and Vishnu.
The temple is believed to have been built by the Somavamsi king Yayti I. But K.C. Panigrahi said that the temple was instead built by the sons of Yayti I as he had no time to build a temple. But again the argument provided against this is that the successors of Yayti I were not capable of building a temple as grand as the Lingaraja Temple.
Architectural Beauty of the Lingaraja Temple
The Lingaraja Temple is the biggest temple in Bhubaneswar. The central tower of the temple is 180ft tall. It is built using sandstone and laterite in the Deula style. This consists of 4 components namely vimana, jagamohana, natamandira and bhoga-mandapa.
The vimana is the structure containing the sanctum.
Jagamohana is the assembly hall. It has a pyramidal roof and the entrance is decorated with lions sitting on hind legs.
Natamandira refers to the festival hall. It has one main entrance and two side entrances. The walls of this structure are adorned with images of women and couples.
Bhoga-mandapa is the hall of offerings. This structure has 4 doors in each of the sides. The walls are decorated with images of men and beasts. It has an inverted bell and a ‘kalasa’ on the top.
The temple complex also houses 50 other shrines along with the main temple i.e. the main Lingaraja Temple. The assembly hall, sanctum and temple tower were built during the 11th century and the hall of offerings was built in the 12th century.
Historians rate this temple as one of the finest purely Hindu temples. The laterite walls of the compound measure 520 ft. by 465 ft. The wall is 7.5 ft. thick. Along the inner side of the boundary, there exists a terrace to protect the compound wall against outside aggression. Another striking feature of this temple is that the door in the entrance is made up of sandalwood.
The temple faces the east. The temple has its entrance towards the east along with various other small entrances in the north and south directions. In addition to all this temple has its tower walls sculpted with female figures in different poses.
The amalgamation of the two religious sects.
The temple houses a natural lingam which is placed on a Shakti. With the popularity of the Vaishnavite culture, a different sect of called Shaivism emerged. The Lingaraja Temple being a Shiva temple has several elements which show a tinge of the Vaishnavite culture. For example, tulsi leaves that were favored by Lord Vishnu along with bel leaves were used to worship the lingam. The influence of the Ganga dynasty has led to a cosmopolitan culture that has reduced the status of the Lingaraja Temple has an exclusive Shaivite shrine.
Major Festivals of Lingaraja Temple
The major festival held in this temple is ‘Shivratri’. In this festival, devotees fast and pour water on the lingum. Thousands of devotees come to visit the temple during the phalgum season. They carry water from the Mahanadi and walk all the way to the temple during the month of Shravana every year. The devout usually break their fast after the Mahadipa is lit on the spire of the temple.
Every year the chariot festival of Lingaraja Temple is celebrated on Ashokashtami.
Religious practices at Lingaraja Temple
The Lingaraja Temple is one of the few temples which are active in worship practices in Bhubaneswar. Non-Hindus are not allowed in the temple premises. In case a foreigner trespasses the temple undergoes a purification process and dumping of Prasad in the well.
According to a Hindu legend, an underground river originating from the temple fills the Bindusagar Tank. The water of this tank is said to cure physical illness.
A Tourist’s Guide
The Lingaraja temple is 5km away from the nearest railway station and 4.3km from Biju Patnaik International Airport. There are several comfortable hotels nearby. One can enjoy the beauty of the temple and get rejuvenated for more to explore in these fine budget-friendly hotels.