Orissa (now Odisha) has aptly been called the land of temples. In early historic times the area was referred to as Odra from which the modern names derives. One can see monuments testifying to the growth of many religions amongst which dominate Hinduism, Jainism and Budhism. At a later date, the names Kalinga, referring to the southern coastal part and Utkal, to the northern, more interior part, came in to vogue.
Historically, the area came in to prominence when, attracted by the fame of its culture and wealth, Emperor Asoka decided to add to his empire. It was on the road between Bhubaneswar and Puri on the banks of the river, symbolically named "Daya" that the Kalinga battle is fought. A victorious Asoka was witness to the vast numbers of dead warriors along the river bank. In a unique perception the emperor underwent a transformation and accepted the tenets of Budhism. It was from the coast of Orissa the Noble Truths spread worldwide and the Indian traditions traveled all over South East Asia and Srilanka to establish a cultural empire, an event that is still celebrated in Orissa as the festival of Bali-Jatra.
Orissa is unique in that ideas have been permanently transformed in to stone. The symbols of that age stand testimony in the monuments of Orissa. There are innumerable temples and monuments in the whole state dating back to first century BC. Vagaries of nature and vandalism of man has led to degradation of such priceless architecture.
Extracts from the forward written by Shri Pupul Jayakar in the book titles "The Forgotten Monuments of Orissa"
The great tradition of built heritage in Orissa is as old as her recorded history or even older, and it still finds an echo in the religious and cultural life of the odia people even today. For scholars, tourists and laymen, Orissa offers its rich and varied archeological treasures and wealth of monuments in a pristine and fortunately, intact form. The entire state is dotted with a large number of standing monuments such as early Jaina caves, medivel Jaina temples, Budhist Viharas, chaitya and stupas, Hindu temples, mathas, mosques, churches, ancient and medieval forts; palaces of erstwhile kings and ruling chiefs and the colonial architecture built during the British Rule in Orissa. Numerically Hindu temples predominate over other class of monuments in Orissa.
Monument in Orissa can be dated back to third century BC. But from the third century BC onwards, the built heritage is recorded for a period of about twenty two hundred years. Among these, the temples of Orissa form a class by itself and are famous for their architectural peculiarities. These are known to represent Kalinga School of architecture, Kalinga being one of the names of ancient Orissa.
In conformity with the origin and growth of post Gupta temple architecture in India, there are temples at Mahendragiri, Jajpur, Bhubaneswar and Bankada near Banpur in erstwhile Puri district (now in Khurda district) in the state of Orissa. Besides, a number of sculptural and architectural remains are found in the above places which evidently were early temples in Orissa and which clearly indicate the origin and growth of a separate regional style in ancient Orissa like that of the early Pallav architecture at Mahabalipuram or early Chalukyan architecture at Aihole and early temples in parts of north and central India.
The temple building activities started with the advent of Sailodbhava Kings (circa AD 575 to 736). After the Sailadbhavas, the Bhauma-Karas (AD 736 to 940), the Somavamsis (crica AD 885 to 1110) and the imperial Gangas (AD 1110 to 1435) ruled successively as masters of the area. Amongst the above four dynasties, the Somavamsis and the Gangas were prolific builders and have left to us a large number of temples. Though temples belonging to different periods dot each noo, and corner of Orissa, we find concentration of temples in known religious centres and important places like Jajpur and Choudwar in Cuttack district, Bhubaneswar, Konark, Puri in Puri district and Ranipur-Jharial in Bolangiri district. But Bhubaneswar takes the place of pride in having a large number of extant temples built during the above dynastic period and it becomes a unique place for the study of development of Orissan architecture and sculpture.
In the beginning an Orissan temple, in the manner of Gupta temples, consisted of a square sanctum with a sikhara and a rectangular mukhamandapa (porch). The mukhamandapa known in Orissan temple terminology as jagamohana, had pillars inside it to support the flat roof. We find jhagamoana of this type at Niladriprasad near Banpur and Parasurameswara temple at Bhubaneswar, dated to seventh century AD.
The pillars inside the jagamohana disappeared gradually in the Bhauma-Kara period, and with the use of the cantilever principle the load of ceiling was taken by pilasters provided on the inner walls of the jagamphana. In plan it retained the rectangular form but became more restricted lengthwise. The jagamohana of the Vaital, Sisiresvara, Mohini and Markandesvara temple at Bhubaneswar bear evidence to this.
During the period from AD 600 to 950 we also find a gradual transformation in the sanctum proper or the rekhadeula. Its exterior plan underwent changes. The earlier temple facades have three vertical sections known in temple terminology as raha paga or the central vertical section and konika paga or corner vertical section as low projections. This resulted in a squarish appearance of the exterior plan of the temple known then as a triratha temple. But with the change in the subsequent periods, the triratha form of the temple plan transformed in to the pancharatha temples. The change was due to increase in the number of vertical sections on the facades by addition of subsidiary vertical sections called anuratha paga and their bold projection. This resulted in a round like shape of the exterior plan of the sanctum. In the Ganga period the number of pagas increased and we find saptaratha and even navaratha plan in the temple at Vakesvara at Bhubaneswar.
Side by side there was noticeable transformation on the elevation profile of the rekha deula. In the earlier stage the sanctum rises from the ground level abruptly and the sikhara gradually tappers inside as it rose in height. By the time of Somavamsis the tapering is only from the top portion of the sikhara or gandi, and it takes a sudden inward curve to the base of the beki or the neck, below the amalaka.
The Somavamsi period witnessed a formative phase in the temple architecture or Orissa with the introduction of the pancharatha plan, the square jagamohana and the division of the vertical sections of the cube of the jagamohana in the manner of the rekha deula. The height of the jagamohan increased with the introduction of stepped pyramidal roof or pidha deula. Towards the middle of the eleventh century AD both rekha and pidha deulas are fully developed as evident in the Brahmesvara and the Lingaraj temples at Bhubaneswar. There was also experiment to go in for higher structures and large complexes.
During the rule of imperial Gangas, who succeeded the Somavamsis, we find two important development in Orissan architecture. The first is the introduction of the plinth. All the temples built during this period have raised platform making the temples further high.
The second important feature introduced in this period is the addition of two more chambers, natamandira or the dancing hall and bhogamandapa or the offering hall, along the axial plan of the rekha or pidha structures. We find the raised plinth as well as the natamandira and bhogapandap in the Lingaraj temple, the Jagannath temple at Puri, the Ananta Vasudev temple and the Parvati temple inside the Lingaraj temple complex at Bhubaneswar. But the famous temple of Sun God at Konark has only the natamandira and that too detached from the general plan of the main temple. Generally the natamandira has a flat roof and the bhogamandapa is a pidha structure. The four chambered plan of temple complex continued and there was no further elaboration on the plan of a temple either horizontally or vertically during the subsequent periods.
Credit to theEditor's Note of Dr. Bijaya Kumar Rath of "The Forgotten Monuments Of Orissa".
Apart from the famously known three temples namely Jagannath temple at Puri, Sun God temple at Konark and Lingarj temple at Bhubaneswar, there are innumerable lesser known temples in Orissa which were constructed with much adorable architecture as that of these three famous temples. An illustrative list of these lesser known temples is furnished below.