The Mukteshvara Temple of Odisha is a temple of utmost importance.The temple dates back to 950-975 CE. Located in the city of Bhubaneswar the temple is a very famous tourist destination. It is devoted to Lord Shiva and is well known as the ‘Gem of Odisha’s Archiecture’. The architectural style and the ambience of the temple is unique and profound. ‘The Mukteshvara Temple’ adds glory to the city of temples i.e. Bhubaneswar. Mukteshvara temple is also considered as the basis for studying the architectural style of temples in India. The Rajarani Temple and Lingaraja Temple also exhibit this style of architecture.
The term Mukteshvara means ‘Lord of Freedom’. The temple is also considered as the site of Tantric liberation. The temple houses sculptures of skeletal ascetics. Mukteshvara temple spreads the idea of liberation, hence the name Muktveshvara.
Historical Background of the Mukteshvara Temple
This temple is considered to be the earliest work of the Somavamsi period. Most scholars believe that the temple is the successor to Parashurameshvara Temple. The feature that makes this temple unique is the presence of a structure called torana. The torana is a gateway. Some scholars suggest that this temple was built by the Somavamsi KING, Yayati and others suggest that associate the legend of Kirtivassa to this temple. But both these postulations are not accepted as there isn’t any historical evidence to support these propositions.
Sculptures in the Mukteshvara Temple
The temple compound has its walls adorned with niches of Hindu deities like Saraswathi, Ganesha and Lakulisha. Lakulisha is important in the context of the temple as Lakulisha is considered as the founder of the Pashupata sect of tantric Shaivism. Thus one can find numerous miniature images of Lakulisha on arches doing various mudras.
The temple also houses the sculptures of the Hindu God Vishnu.
Several shrines and lingas of Lord Shiva are also present in the temple. Sculptures of various ascetics in different poses add to the glory of the temple.
Architecture of the Mukteshvara Temple
The Mukteshvara Temple exhibits the transition in the Kalinga style of architecture. It is also considered as the reference point for studying the advances and changes in architectural designs of temples.
The Mukteshvara Temple has the characteristic Kalinga style of architecture known as deula. The temple faces west and is constructed amidst other temples. The temple is small and petite as compared to the other temples in Odisha. It is enclosed within an octagonal compound.
The temple consists of a porch, vimana, sanctum and a jagamohana. The arched gateway, torana is the most important feature of the temple. The gateway has thick pillars and is ornamented by sculptures of women in different positions. It is dated back to about 900 CE. A hint of Buddhist architecture can also be seen in this structure. It is really interesting to know that the front and back of the arch are similar in design.
The vimana is square in plan and an architectural marvel. The ‘bho’ style of decorative technique developed from here. It is an ornate chaitya window crowned by masked demon head and dwarf figures.
The sanctum is cubical from the inside and exhibits feminine charms entwined with nagas and nagins.
The Jagamohana has a rectangular layout. An extension from side roof of this structure has the image of a lion sitting on its hind legs.
Ketu, the ninth planet in the Hindu Mythology is housed at the doorway to the inner sanctum.
Significance of the Marichi Kunda
In the eastern side of the temple exists a tank known as the Marichi Kunda. It is said that a dip in it has the power to cure infertility in women. They do this on the night before the Ashokashtami car festival. The water of the tank is sold to public in the evenings.
Mukteshvara Temple Festival
The Mukteshvara Dance Festival is celebrated is celebrated in the temple premises every year with great pomp and show. It is organized by the Department of Tourism of the Orisha state government and is carried out for three days. The celebration is webcast in the state government portal.
The festival is conducted with the aim to cherish the dance and music form of Odisha. Odissi dancers and Odissi musicians come and perform in this festival. Various renowned personalities take part in this festival. The small temple complex is brought alive with the co-ordinated footsteps of the Odissi dancers. This festival brings live, fun and frolic to the spectators.
A Tourist’s Guide to Mukteshvara Temple
The Mukteshvara temple is located in Bhubaneswar. It is open on all days of the week from 7am to 7pm. Entry is not ticketed.
One can find a range of hotels nearby Mukteshvara Temple. Hotels are available online too.
The nearest railway station i.e. Bhubaneswar railway station is 4km away.
The temple is a very famous tourist destination. It gives a spectacular view of the city. One can take pictures from atop. The temple houses a white marble Shiva lingum which adds to the beauty of the temple. This temple provides a sense of spirituality spiced up with its wonderful picturesque location.