Svarna-Jaleswar temple is one among the earliest temples of Orissa. The temple was in complete dilapidated state and restored by the Department of Archaeology1. Where all other early temples, the Shatrughneswara group & Parasurameswara temple, face west, Svarna Jaleswara faces east. It draws many similarities with its predecessors, as it is built on a tri-ratha style, its raha niches (central niche) cut through its pabhaga (base) and its pabhaga is consisted of three moldings. The tri-ratha plan results in one raha niche (central niche) and two kanika niches (corner niche) on each side walls.
The temple is consisted of a garbha-grha (sanctum) with its entrance on the east. Debala Mitra writes that there are indications to suggest that this temple was preceded by a two-tier mandapa2. Donaldson differs with Mitra stating that there is no evidence to suggest if there ever was a jagamohana attached to this temple. The rekha-style shikhara is similar to its predecessors, and also disputed over the style. Debala Mitra and Donaldson treat this shikhara as pancha-ratha while Parida continues with his tri-ratha identification, as done in case of Shatrughneswara group.
The eastern doorway is made of three bands, with dvarpalas carved on the outer band of the door-jambs. The lintel is very much ruined and not much can be inferred about its sculptural style except vestiges of Gaja-Lakshmi image in center3.
An architrave above the lintel has ashtagrha (eight planets) panel, of which five planets are intact at present. Debala Mitra mentions six planets to be intact and she identifies these with Soma, Mangala, Budha, Brhaspati, Sukra and Sani. Above it are shown Brahma and Vishnu, sitting in their separate niches. Brahma is shown with his three heads, holding a rosary and water-pot. While Vishnu is shown with four hands and seated in padmasana posture. An interesting features of these small niches, as well as of the projecting blocks below kanika niche, is their bead-decoration over the boundary.
The Vajra-mastaka on the front is formed by two superimposed medallions in chaitya style, very similar to Shatrughenswara and Parasurameswara temple. The lower medallion has an image of Shiva-Parvati with their respective mounts below their seat. They are accompanied with Ganesha and Kartikeya along with ganas. The upper medallion has an image of Nataraja in urdhvareta (erect linga) attitude. Above this Vajra-mastaka is a kirtimukha, on top of which is an image of Lakulisa.
The kanika niches are empty now. An interesting feature of these kanika niches is a number of projecting blocks, four of five in number, having images of elephants, lions and human figures. The raha niches have their original cult-images in place. These raha niches have the regular arrangement of parshva-devatas, Ganesha on south, Kartikeya on west and Parvati on north. Above the raha niche on the north, there is an interesting lintel depicting three scenes in three levels. Below most is Shiva and Parvati, shown only till their busts, accompanied with flying attendants. Above it is a scene showing linga worship. The above most panel has a scene from Shiva’s marriage.
A recessed horizontal molding below the shikhara (kanthi) has scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata. On the north we find a conference scene of Rama and Lakshmana with Sugriva and the golden deer episode with Rama and Maricha. On the west we find Bali’s death scene. On south is the story of Kiratarjuniya displaying fight between Shiva, accompanied with Parvati, and Arjuna and Arjuna’s surrender of Shiva. On the south is also found an interesting and regular theme of wild elephant capture. On the east is reminiscent of Ramayana stories.
Definite dating of this temple is not possible due to absence of foundation inscription. Donaldson assigns the construction of this temple between the period of Shatrughneswar and Parasurameswar temple, thus dates it to the first decade of seventh century CE4. While, Parida assigns it later to the Parasurameswar stating that it is almost the duplicate of the former5, which is also the opinion of Debala Mitra. Parida contends that missing inscription on the ashtagrha lintel of Svarna Jaleswara suggests that by that time, people were well acquainted with this device and therefore there was no necessity of an inscription for identification. Thus this temple was not built simultaneous or immediately after the Parasurameswara, but of some years later.
1 Parida, A N (1999). Early Temples of Orissa. Commonwealth Publishers. New Delhi. ISBN 8171695191. p 78
2 Mitra, Debala (1988). Encyclopedia of Indian Temple Architecture vol 2 part 1. American Institute of Indian Studies. New Delhi. ISBN 0691040532. pp 260-262
3 Donaldson, T E (1985). Hindu Temple Art of Orissa. Brill. Leiden. ISBN 9789004071742. p 46
4 Donaldson, T E (1985). Hindu Temple Art of Orissa. Brill. Leiden. ISBN 9789004071742. p 44
5 Parida, A N (1999). Early Temples of Orissa. Commonwealth Publishers. New Delhi. ISBN 8171695191. p 77