Exploring Forgotten Heritage – 12th Century Buddhanath Temple of Garedi Panchana and Chousathi Yogini of Hirapur – BCAC Sunday Cycling Adventure

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Bhubaneswar: Odisha is vastly rich with its heritage and culture. Though it’s devastating to know about the indifference nature of the authorities regarding recognition of such grandeur of architecture and culture, as a responsible Club, BCAC (Bhubaneswar Cycling and Adventure Club) makes every effort to highlight these lesser known places so as to mark them as a significant tourism destination through its cycling adventures.

This Sunday Cycling of BCAC was routed towards one of the prominent heritages of Buddhist Culture and Shaivism. We rode through Pipili-Konark Road and took a longer route via Khelar to reach Garedi-Panchana Village, where this famous Buddhanath Temple is situated. We enjoyed lush green vegetation on the arrival of monsoon, smell of the rain soaked soil and witnessed a lot of Baya (Weaver-Bird) nests during our countryside ride. Covering a distance of almost 40KMs through the longer route, we reached Garedi-Panchan to witness one of the architectural grandeur in form of Buddhanath Temple at around 9:00AM.

Worship of Buddhism in the form of Tantric Buddhism and especially in the form of Shiva is not quite uncommon in Odisha. There are a lot of heritage sites in Odisha having Buddhist importance, which are presently being worshiped as Shiva and Shakti. The Buddhanath Temple, as the name signifies refers to a strong connection to Buddhism through its name and architecture. This temple is built by the famous King Choda Gangadev, who was credited for rebuilding of Shri Jagannath Temple of Puri (later the construction of Shri Jagannath Temple was completed by Ananga Bhimadev-II). The construction of Buddhanath Temple resembles a place of Tantric worship and it reestablishes the faith of Choda Gangadev in Tantric rituals (as per Madala Panji – the written paradigm of Jagannath Culture in Odisha). The period 8th to 15th Century AD is also known as the period when Buddhism prospered in Odisha and looking at the establishment of Buddhanath Temple (in 12th Century AD), one can’t deny the fact that it has the influence of Buddhism as well as the faith of the then rulers of this region in Shiva.

The Buddhanath Temple has building resemblance to that of many Kalingan Architecture with a three-leveled entrance, i.e. Natya Mandap, Jagamohan and the Main Temple Shrine or Garbhagruha. The main temple or the Garbhagruha of Buddhanath Temple was devastated with weather and erosion, which has been recently renovated by ASI. The Temple sculptures represent proudly the Kalingan Architecture with minute stone carvings and erotic figurines throughout. The placement of the figurines reminds of that of the marvelous Konark Sun Temple, though the signs of erosion are quite rampant over here. The temple premise also holds a small but older temple of Amruta-Nayani (a form of Goddess Durga without the trident) a three-headed goddess. The Shiva-lingam is Patali in Buddhanath temple, which often referred as only the Yoni without the Lingam. This fact also reestablishes the worship of Shakti as in Tantric Rituals. The proximity of Buddhanath Temple to Chousathi Yogini of Hirapur village also signifies its importance as a place of Tantric Buddhism. The temple figurines resemble those in Tantric Buddhism like Sapta-Matruka (Seven Mothers), Tara, Avalokiteswara, Manjushri, etc. Also the Mudra (postures) of the figurines reflects a great influence of Tantric Buddhism time through this temple’s architecture. Although a great deal of research is still to be done over this iconic historical monument, the rapid erosion and indifference of the authorities is taking heavy toll on this beautiful and majestic shrine, which represents Sahivism, Vaishnavism and Buddhism at a single compound.

After visiting this shrine and taking lots of beautiful photographs the peloton of BCAC riders headed back towards the city through Old Pipili-Konark Road (Balianta Road). We took breakfast in a roadside eatery and quickly resumed our ride on the side of majestic Puri Canal. As we passed through Hirapur, we took a small diversion to witness the famous Chousathi Yogini of Hirapur, another famous monument of Tantric importance. Spending some time at Hirapur, we headed back to our respective locations in Bhubaneswar after completing a beautiful nature ride and witnessing some of the historical marvels around Bhubaneswar.

Sudhanwa Dash, Girish Samal, Shankar Lal Sharma, Sai Maheswar, Anshul Srivastav, Kamlesh Soni, Harish Chandra, and Santosh Rout completed this epic heritage ride on this Sunday’s Cycling Ritual of the Club.

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