Odisha’s architectural identity is a result of the Kalinga rulers that dominated the region for centuries. Under their patronage, they built temples and monuments in certain stone art styles that became symbolic of the region. The city of Bhubaneswar became the hub of 700 such structures. No wonder it’s called the Temple City of India, with every corner boasting something that will remind you of its glorious past and a tradition of art that spans centuries.
Spanning a massive area of 2,50,000 square feet, this 7th-century temple sits on the banks of the Bindu Sagar Lake. As the name suggests, the temple’s presiding deity is an eight-feet Shivalingam, while also housing 150 smaller shrines of other gods. The walls of the temple are intricately carved with different forms and postures of gods and goddesses and end on top with a spire. As is the characteristics of Kalinga style architecture, the temple premise has four distinct areas – the Vimana of the main sanctum, the Jaganmohan or the assembly hall (usually used for big events, prayers, rituals, etc.), the Natamandira or the festival hall, and the Bhoga Mandapa or the offering hall.
Often addressed as the Temple of Love, the Rajarani temple is one without any religious connection. Built with red and golden sandstone, the temple depicts carvings of men and women from the Kalinga era engaged in love and passion, ergo the moniker. Although there is no deity enshrined, this structure is a piece of work worth beholding.
One of the most significant works of Kalinga style architecture, the Parasurameswara temple is a breathtaking structure. Built in 650AD, the temple houses 1000 structures of the Shivalingam, which is also the main deity here. There are other smaller temples on the premise enshrining idols of Ganesha, Parvati, Shiva, etc. each flaunting carvings of life in the golden era of Indian history.
Your trip to Bhubaneswar is not complete without a quick trip to the Konark Sun Temple. It’s only about 65 KM drive from the city and you can easily rent an affordable and reliable car in Bhubaneswar with a driver and reach Konark in a couple of hours. The gigantic temple shaped like the chariot of Surya or Sun god is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The intricately carved wheels and the horses, along with the pillars and columns of the temples speak of the classic Kalinga artistry of the 13th century.
Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves
One of the most ancient cave systems of India, these twin structures are also a work of art. The 33-cave cluster was home to Jain monks in the days of the Kalinga empire. You can find these caves right outside the city limits of Bhubaneswar. The cave facades still have some visual depiction of daily life at its time.
This 10th-century temple is a fine specimen of Odisha’s art. The 35-feet high structure is crafted with awe-inspiring carvings and enshrines an idol of Shiva. The heavily sculpted octagonal compound and myriad motifs and patterns truly make this what connoisseurs call the “gem” of Odisha’s temple architecture.
How to explore
The best way to explore Bhubaneswar’s artistic prowess is to do a heritage walk or join an art tour. If you want to travel independently, book a trusted Bhubaneswar taxi service for a day (or two), and visit each/some of these places and experience the Kalinga architectural marvels.