During our brief stay in Bhubaneshwar, we visited two temples – the Lingaraja Temple that I did not enter for some reasons, and the Mukteswara Temple where I was able to go inside and take photographs.
Mukteswara Temple complex is a cluster of smaller shrines around the main temple, all dedicated to Lord Shiva. It was built around 950 ADduring the reign of Somavanshi dynasty and is one of the finest specimens of the Kalinga Architecture.
The temple is perhaps the earliest specimen of Pithadeula style and signifies a cusp between the earlier and later styles of temple architecture. Many artistic styles first seen here were later perfected and used elsewhere. In that sense, this temple can be thought of as the laboratory where the Odisha architecture, as we know it today, took birth.
The presence of an intricately carved Torana, with hints of Buddhist influence, distinguish it from other temples in Odisha. It is small compared to the other temples and more than makes up for that by its serene beauty. The perfection of proportion and perspective, the delicateness of design and exquisite carvings give it the tile of the ‘Gem of Odisha architecture’. The design of Jaganmohana, intricately latticed windows and the figurines of Ganga, Yamuna, Rahu, Ketu and Gajalakshmi are beautifully done. The ceiling has detailed carving on it however, the lack of proper lighting made that difficult to see.
There are many shrines around the main temple with deities in them. A small pond lies at one corner of the temple enhancing its beauty even further. As per the local legends, taking a dip in this pond can cure one of infertility.
There were not many people at the temple and we had a good time exploring the place, disturbed only by the greedy and rude priest who was not happy about “people with big cameras” not putting enough donation on his plate, and grumbling about it loud without realizing that we could understand Odia very well. Take that man out of the place and it becomes a perfect destination to study the temple architecture in Odisha.