On Saturday, April 14 almost all the News Channels were running clippings of PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Lingaraja Temple in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. The detour of Lingaraja temple by Modiji along with temple priests and his entourage generated my excitement in the temple, though I am not a temple person per se, but Lingaraja temple looked very unique and antique. The architecture is timeless and feeling of being there…just divine! Honestly, I had never heard about this temple before… but if Modiji is visiting the place, then it must be truly special & indeed it is special!
To curb my curiosity about the temple, I dug deep into it to know more about the Lingraj temple which I would like to share with the readers.
Lingaraja Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Harihara, a form of Shiva and Vishnu and is one of the oldest temples in Bhubaneswar, the capital of the East Indian state of Odisha. The temple is the most prominent landmark of the Bhubaneswar city and one of the major tourist attractions of the state.
The Lingaraja temple is the largest temple in Bhubaneswar. The central tower of the temple is 180 ft (55 m) tall. The temple represents the quintessence of the Kalinga Architecture and culminating the medieval stages of the architectural tradition at Bhubaneswar. The temple is believed to be built by the kings of the Somavamsi dynasty, with later additions from the Ganga rulers. The temple is built in the Deula style that has four components namely, Vimana (a structure containing the sanctum), Jagamohana (assembly hall), Natamandira (festival hall) and Boga-mandapa (hall of offerings), each increasing in the height to its predecessor. The temple complex has 50 other shrines and is enclosed by a large compound wall.
Bhubaneswar is called the Ekamra Kshetra as the deity of Lingaraj was originally under a mango tree (Ekamra) as noted in Ekamra Purana, a 13th-century Sanskrit treatise. The temple is active in worship practices, unlike most other temples in Bhubaneswar and Shiva is worshiped as Harihara, a combined form of Vishnu and Shiva. The temple has images of Vishnu, possibly because of the rising prominence of Jagannath sect emanating from the Ganga rulers who built the Jagannath Temple in Puri in the 12th century.
Lingaraja temple is maintained by the Temple Trust Board and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The temple has an average of 6,000 visitors per day and receives lakhs of visitors during festivals. Shivaratri festival is the major festival celebrated in the temple and event during 2012 witnessed 200,000 visitors.
The Lingaraj temple is the largest temple in Bhubaneswar. James Fergusson (1808–86), a noted critic and historian rated the temple as “one of the finest examples of purely Hindu temple in India”. It is enshrined within a spacious compound wall of laterite measuring 520 ft (160 m) by 465 ft (142 m). The wall is 7.5 ft (2.3 m) thick and surmounted by a plain slant coping. Alongside the inner face of the boundary wall, there is a terrace to protect the compound wall against outside aggression. The tower is 45.11 m (148.0 ft) high and the complex has 150 smaller shrines in its spacious courtyard. Each inch of the 55 m (180 ft) tall tower is sculpted. The door at the gate of the entrance porch is made of sandalwood.
PM also visited the temple of Goddess Bhubaneswari and Parbati before interacting with sevayats and asked about the temple’s history, rituals and architecture. The Prime Minister emphasized the need to keep the temple premises clean and ensure ‘swachhata’ all around.