Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Odisha, is entitled as the “city of temples” as it holds around 700 temples on its sacred land. The name Bhubaneshwar comes from Shiva’s Sanskrit name, Tribhubaneswar, meaning “Lord of Three Worlds”. Old Hindu scriptures say that Bhubaneshwar was one of Lord Shiva’s favorite places, where he liked to spend time under a huge mango tree. Many of the temples in Bhubaneshwar were built from the 8th-12th centuries AD, during the time Shaivism (worship of Lord Shiva) dominated the religious scene. The name of the city is also derived from Lord Shiva’s other name TriBhubaneswar which means “ God of three worlds”. Read on for some of these incredible places to visit in and around Bhubaneswar:
1. Lingaraj Temple
The Lingaraj Temple is an ancient temple situated in the city of Bhubaneswar and is the largest one situated in the city. Dedicated to Lord Shiva as the name suggests, the temple was built in the 7th century by the King Jajati Keshari. It is highly revered because of the fact that the Linga here, which is the phallic form of Lord Shiva, is believed to have appeared naturally. It rises to a massive height of 8 inches above the floor level and is about 8 feet in diameter as well. Lingaraj Temple is located in the old part of Bhubaneswar Town and can be easily reached using local transport. The edifice of the temple is a great example of the Odissi style of architecture and has intricately designed stone vaults covering the main sanctum of the temple. A small temple dedicated to Goddess Bhagawati is located in the northwest corner of the courtyard as well. However, entry is restricted to the followers of the Hindu faith only. The Lingaraj Temple is especially famous for its Mahashivratri celebrations when the whole sanctum is dressed up in flowers, lanterns, and lights. The temple has as many as 6,000 visitors on a daily basis with Shivratri being a major day of celebrations when this number surges to as many as 200,000 visitors.
Timings: 5 Am- 9 Pm
2. The Rajarani Temple
The Rajarani temple is unique in that there is no deity associated with it. There’s a story that the temple was a pleasure resort of an Odia king and queen (raja and rani). However, more realistically, the temple got its name from the variety of sandstone used to make it. The carvings on the temple are particularly ornate, with numerous erotic sculptures. This often leads to the temple being referred to as the Khajuraho of the east. Another of the temple’s striking features are the clusters of smaller carved spires on its spire. The spacious and immaculately kept temple grounds are a peaceful place to relax if you want a break from sightseeing. There’s an entry fee because the temple is managed by the Archeological Survey of India. It’s 25 rupees for Indians and 300 rupees for foreigners. Children under 15 years old don’t have to pay. The Rajarani Music Festival is held on the temple grounds during January each year.
Timings: 5 Am- 9 Pm
3. Brahmeswara Temple
Said to be built by Kolavati Devi during the reign of her son, Udyotakesari, in AD 1058-1060, Brahmeswara Temple is built according to the Panchatanaya plan, which means that there are four smaller shrines flanking the primary temple on each cardinal direction. Images of musicians and dancers appear on it for the first time, hinting at the continuous evolution in regional architecture. Reportedly, this was also among the first shrines, the construction of which included iron beams. It is classified under the Panchatanya style of architecture, which includes the main shrine and 4 subsidiary shrines complementing it. The stunning galore of a decorated figure in the exterior as well as in the interior of the temple looks mesmerising. There are frightening embodiments of Lord Shiva, which can send chills down the spine of many visitors! Bhrahmeshwar temple is certainly one of the finest temples of Bhubaneswar.
Timings: 7 Am – 12Pm, 4 Pm – 8 Pm
4. Mukteshwar Temple
Dating from the 10th century, Mukteshwar Temple is rather unusual when compared to others as its arched entrance gateway is a Torana, which is a Buddhist architectural element. Even the sculptures of deities on its top are reminiscent of Buddhist influence. Past the Torana are the Jagamohana and Vimana that too feature incredible carvings. It’s famous for its exquisite stone archway, and ceiling with eight-petal lotus inside its porch. Several of the carved images (including lion head motif) appear for the first time in temple architecture. The temple’s name, Mukteshwar, means “Lord who gives freedom through yoga”. You’ll find ascetics in various mediation poses on the temple, along with figures from Hindu mythology, folktales from the Panchatantra (five books of animal fables), as well as Jain munis (monks/nuns).
5. Ananta Vasudeva Temple
The Ananta Vasudeva temple is a rare temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu in Bhubaneshwar. Queen Chandrikadevi of the Chodaganga (Eastern Ganga) Dynasty built it in honor of her husband who died in battle. The temple sits alongside the lake in the old part of town, behind the Lingraj temple. Its layout and structure are similar to the Lingraj temple, albeit less extensive. One of the most fascinating things about the Ananta Vasudev temple is its massive temple kitchen (the largest in the city), where a copious amount of food is prepared for thousands of devotees everyday, like at the Jagannath temple in Puri. The food is vegetarian and consists of ritualistic dishes made with ingredients that never change. It’s cooked in fresh earthen pots on firewood stoves. After being used, the pots are broken and discarded. Non-Hindus are in luck at this temple because there aren’t any restrictions on entry. It’s possible to walk around the kitchen, which is open to the public, and see the food preparation in progress.