Markandesvara Temple is one of the earliest temples of Bhauma-Kara period. A main feature observed in the temples of this period is their jagamohana was designed coevally with deul which is evident from the joining between the two. This joining used to be irregular and non-proper in case of the earlier temples. Another important feature of this period is the absence of pillars, to support roof, in the jagamohanas.
The temple is situated on the southwestern corner of Bindu Sarovara tank. It faces east and consisted to of a deul and jagamohana. Its shikhara rises to a height of about 31 feet. Its pabhaga (base) is made of four mouldings, an advancement from the earlier edifices of three mouldings. The introduction of the fourth moulding removes the projecting blocks (tala-bandhana) course found in the earlier temples. Raha-niches now do not cut across all mouldings but only the upper two. Projecting eaves are provided above the raha-niches. Bada remains tri-ratha in design however it becomes more complex and can be viewed as a movement towards later pancha-ratha designs. Aligning with bada, its gandi is also tri-ratha, in contrast to pancha-ratha designs of the latter in the earlier temples. This allows the continuation of vertical alignment starting from bada till the top of gandi.
Parshvadevatas are all in situ however much damaged. There were carved in stone blocks forming the part of the wall, thus removal of these was not easy. This technique of carving images from multiple stone blocks is also seen as an influence from the Buddhist traditions prevalent in Lalitagiri and other places in vicinity. Earlier to this, the images were carved in single block of stone and placed in niches, making these easy to be removed and carried away. Starting from south-east, kanika niche on the eastern end of the south wall has standing Shiva, much damaged. Ganesha, seated in ardhaparyanka-mudra with a yoga-patta made of serpent, is in the raha-niche. Below his throne are placed four jackfruits, two of these held by mandiracarini. Kanika-niche on the western end has Hari-Hara with a female on his left.
Moving to west side, kanika-niche on southern end has Shiva as Gangadhara, much damaged and identified by the image of kneeling Bhagiratha. Kartikeya, standing his one hand placed over his hip and in another holding a vija-puraka, is placed in the raha-niche. Kanika-niche on the northern end has Shiva Bhikashatanamurti, very much damaged and recognized by the presence of a female figure offering alms.
Moving to the northern side, kanika-niche on western end has four-armed Ardhanareesvara. Raha-niche has four-armed Parvati, standing with her attendants. Kanika-niche on the eastern end has Shiva-Ekapada, adorns the northern raha-niche. A figure of Bhagiratha is shown kneeling before him, thus suggesting the benevolence nature and ascetic character of the icon, Ekapada. We have discussed on the Ekapada icon in details in an earlier chapter, click here.
Vajra-mastaka on the front is made of two superimposed medallions, the lower one is empty and the upper one has twelve-armed Shiva Nataraja, dancing in chatura pose. Vajra-mastaka on north has Mahishasuramardini and on south has Hari-Hara. Vajra-mastaka on the west is much damaged. Among the scenes depicted in the recess between gandi and bada, the one of interest is of Brahma and Vishnu paying homage to Shiva and a scene of linga-worship.
The jagamohana was very much in ruins, and what we see today is a modern construction using plain blocks of stone. It is a rectangular hall with a sloping roof, and a terrace above its clerestory. The back wall of the jagamohana is joined with the front wall of the deul through a connecting doorway-like opening. This joining allows the niches on either side of the front wall of the deul remain visible for a visitor. The northern end niche houses a popular motif of alasya-kanya, a female standing in a doorway. This is the first extant example of a female figure, other than goddess, appearing in major niche1.
To make the joining between deul and jagamohana cohesive, Vajra-mastaka on the east of the deul is projected to cover this joining, transforming into an antarala. Donaldson2, driving clues from the original ruined jagamohana, is of opinion that this was a later addition and was not part of original design. He states that either the original jagamohana was completely ruined and replaced by the new structure or there was no jagamohana in the original plan.
Garbhagrha doorways is constructed with three bands. There are three niches on the inner band, on each side. On the left we find, Brahma, Agni and a Shaiva dvarpala while on the right is present Varuna, a damaged figure and a Shaiva dvarpala. Three guardian figures are present at the base, on either side. Donaldson3 suggests that this tradition of three figures is an influence from the Buddhist shrines from nearby Lalitagiri area. However as these three figures are placed in stepped recession rather than in same plane, thus the influence is more from the traditions prevalent in Dakshina-Kosala. The lalata-bimba displays four-armed Parvati seated in padmasana. Architrave above the lintel has ashta-grha (eight planets) panel.
1 Donaldson, T E (1985). Hindu Temple Art of Orissa. Brill. Leiden. ISBN 9789004071742. p 87
2 Donaldson, T E (1985). Hindu Temple Art of Orissa. Brill. Leiden. ISBN 9789004071742. p 84
3 Donaldson, T E (1985). Hindu Temple Art of Orissa. Brill. Leiden. ISBN 9789004071742. p 85