Bhaskaresvara Temple – A Debated Shrine

This is one of the most unusual and debatable temple in Bhubaneswar. The temple is situated at a site antiquity of which can be dated back to the Mauryan period. It is attested by the findings of the remains of a Buddhist stupa railing pillar as well as a lion capital, both discovered in the near vicinity of the temple. Discovery of the lion capital suggests that it was perhaps a part of an Ashokan pillar. Many scholars agree on the point that the massive linga enshrined inside the temple was originally an Ashokan pillar. It might be the same pillar once adorning the discovered lion capital. The linga inside the temple is 9 feet high, 12 feet in circumference which are very unusual measurements for a Shivalinga. Thus it can be safely said that that the Ashokan pillar was either broken or broke naturally and its column was used as Shivalinga and lion capital was discarded and later got buried.

Another attestation of its antiquity comes from a tradition that the movable image of Lord Lingaraja, Chandrasekhara, is taken to Bhaskareshvara on the day of Magha-saptami, 7th day of waxing moon in the month of Magha (January-February). The lord is bathed, clothed, worshiped and feasted amidst the rejoicing of the assembled crowd and loud music before bring brought back to his original abode in the afternoon. This ceremonial visit attests the fact that Bhaskareshvara temple held an important position during the olden days, thus the new overlord of the town, Lord Lingaraja, pays a commemorative visit to his previous counterpart. On the origins of the Bhaskareshvara temple, Ekamra Purana1 tells that the god of heaven, when informed by Brahma of the unrivaled sanctity of Ekamra-vana on sea-shore, desired Surya to proceed at once to the place, promising to follow him in due course. Surya visited the place and got charmed with its transcendental beauty, got Vishvakarna to erect a temple at a distance of 1500 fathoms from the temple of Kirtivasa.

The temple has a very peculiar shape from outside and the main reason of this is to enshrine a rather very high Shivalinga. To achieve this, first a platform of about 11 feet high was erected. The platform is a 48 feet square with doorways on all the four sides providing passage to the base of linga. Above this platform is erected the deul. Its bada is consisted of a low rising pitha, pabhaga, two storey jangha and baranda. Bada is pancha-ratha in plan except at west where it is tri-ratha. Pabhaga is built with five mouldings. Jangha is divided into two equal height storeys separated by a Madhya-bandhana. Baranda on the top consists of five mouldings. Unlike to other contemporary temples, the raha contains two niches instead of a single niche. The upper niches on raha extends till the top of baranda thus we do not see baranda mouldings at raha. The only ornamentation on the walls are the parshvadevatas, Kartikeya, Parvati and Ganesha.

Parvati

 

Kartikeya
Ganesha

The gandi (tower) is built in pidha-style consisting of 9 storeys. The gandi progresses in rather curvilinear manner than the pyramidal style of regular pidha-order. Also on top of the gandi, presence of beki, amalaka, khapuri and kalasa are the components of a Rekha-order rather than that of pidha-order. Donaldson2 drives comparison of this temple with Madhukesvara and Bhimesvara at Mukhalingam, thus suggests that Bharskaresvara may have been constructed soon after the Gangas established their supremacy at Bhubaneswar.

References:
1 Mitra, R L (1875). The Antiquities of Orissa vol II. Indian Studies. Kolkata. p 153
2 Donaldson, T E (1985). Hindu Temple Art of Orissa. Brill. Leiden. ISBN 9789004071742. p 401

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