Ananta-Vasudeva Temple – Misadventure of Inscriptions


    This west facing temple is the most important Vaishnava temple at Bhubaneswar which otherwise mostly has Shaiva temples. This temple is said to be the place where Shiva waited for Vishnu while the latter granted permission to the former to take abode at Ekamra-kshetra. The images enshrined here are taken as the representative of Lord Vishnu. In accordance to this belief, no pilgrim is allowed to perform any religious duty in the town without first obtaining their sanction. Even today, it is a common practice that a pilgrim first visits Ananta-Vasudeva, and then only they start their pilgrimage.

    The temple with its subsidiary shrines is located within a walled compound. The main temple consists of a deul, jagamohana, nata-mandapa and bhoga-mandapa, all units aligned on a single east-west axis. The nata-mandapa and bhoga-mandapa are later additions. Opposite to each central niche of the main deul, a subsidiary shrine is placed, only one remains in situ.

    Eastern view of Ananta-Vasudeva temple in 1869 (image courtesy – British Library)

    While in Megheswar temple we witnessed experimentation with a contracted nava-ratha plan, the architects stepped back to sapta-ratha plan for Ananta-Vasudeva. In this sapta-ratha plan, we have kanika-paga, pratiratha and anartha-paga on each side of raha-paga. Bada is consisted of pabhaga, jangha and baranda. Pabhaga is built with regular five mouldings. Jangha is divided into two equal size storeys, separated by a madhya-bandhana of three mouldings.

    Raha-niche on the south has an image of Varaha while on north it has Vishnu as Trivikrama. Both these images are very much damaged. Varaha is shown in alidha-mudra with all his arms broken. Trivikrama image is also very much mutilated, on its corner, under the raised feet of Vishnu, is the gift scene of Bali. Saraswati and Lakshmi are shown standing on either side of Trivikrama at the corners. The image on the eastern niche is hidden by the subsidiary shrine opposite to that, however it may have an image of Narasimha as witnessed in other Vaishnava temples.

    In contrast to bada, jagamohana is built in pancha-ratha style consisting of pabhaga , jangha and baranda. Pabhaga has five mouldings, jangha is divided into two storeys separate by a madhya-bandhana of three mouldings, and baranda has seven mouldings. Dikpalas are shown on the anuraha recess on lower storey while their corresponding shaktis are on the upper storey of the same recess. Raha-paga is in form of gavaksha (window) projecting out from the wall. This gavaksha has five balusters carved with various figures. On the north gavaksha is seen Rama, Lakshmana and Sita accompanied by a monkey on each side, the monkey can be identified with Hanumana and Vibhishana1. On south gavaksha only two balustrade are in situ where gopis are carved. The missing three were carved with Krishna and gopis and detached to be fitted into another miniature shrine at the bank of Bindusarovar.  Upper storey on raha has shikshadana motifs, where a lady is shown seated on a couch and opposite to her are her attendants and devotees shown in two rows. Donaldson2 suggests that the lady shown might represent Chandrika, the donor of the temple.

    The traditional texts of Bhubaneswar, Ekamra-chandrika, Kapila-samhita, Svarnadrimahodaya and Ekamra-Purana, tells that Ananta-Vasudeva temple houses stone image of Jagannatha, Balabhadra and Subhadra, jointly referred as Silabrahma. The similar images enshrined in Puri Jagannatha temple are referred as Darubrahma3. M M Ganguly4 mentions that image of Ananta (Balarama) and Vasudeva (Krishna) was enshrined in the vimana. However, at present the sanctum has three images, that of Ananta, Krishna and Subhadra.

    The misadventure of Bhubaneswar stone inscriptions – Major-General Charles Stuart of Bengal army carried four stone inscriptions from Bhubaneswar. Three of these four inscriptions, inscription of Bhatta Bhavadeva, Megheswar and Brahmeswar were kept in the Museum of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. The fourth and the last, inscription of Chandradevi or Chandrika, was sent to Royal Asiatic Society, London. The inscriptions housed in the Asiatic Society of Bengal were returned to Bhubaneswar in 1837 on suggestion of Major Markham Kittoe. Two of the returned inscriptions, that of Bhatta Bhavadeva and Megheswar, were fixed to the compound wall of Ananta-Vasudeva while the third, Brahmeswara inscription, never reached Bhubaneswar, probably lost forever during its transit.

    For long scholars took the Bhatta Bhavadeva inscription as the foundation inscription of Ananta-Vasudeva temple till K N Mahapatra proved that the Bhatta Bhavadeva inscription attached to the western compound of the temple does not belong to the temple. And, the inscription of Chandrika, is the original foundation inscription for the temple5.

    P Acharya traced this whole misadventure of inscriptions. He writes that as per the list of donors and donations to the Museum of the Asiatic Society, Major-General Charles Stuart donated eight inscriptions, among those two were from Bhubaneswar. He thus points to the discrepancy that when the Society received two inscriptions from Bhubaneswar, how they identified that three inscriptions to be returned back to Bhubaneswar. Acharya tells that the inscription of Bhatta-Bhavadeva makes no mention of Bhubaneswar however the inscription of Chandrika does. Inscription of Bhavadeva mentions three images installed in sanctum, that of Narayana, Ananta and Narasimha. However, there is no record of Narasimha image in the temple, and at present it has three images, that of Ananta, Vasudeva and Subhadra. The inscription of Chandrika mentions that she constructed a temple for Hari enshrining three images that of Balarama, Krishna and Subhadra. The temple currently has  three images in its sanctum confirming to the ones mentioned in Chandrika’s inscription. Thus, Chandrika’s inscription should be taken as the foundation inscription of the temple.

    Inscription of Chandrika6 – This inscription is now housed in the hall of the Royal Asiatic Society, London. It is said to have originated from Bhubaneswar and donated by Major-General Charles Stuart. A plaster-cast of this inscription, brought by P Acharya, is kept at Odisha State Museum at Bhubaneswar.

    The inscription starts with invocation to Shiva. Choda-Ganga is said to be the sole emperor of the earth and his dominion extended from Godavari till Ganges. In his lineage was born Ananka-Bhima (Ananga-Bhima III) who had defeated the Yavanas. His daughter was Chandrika (given name Chandra devi) who got married to Paramardin, from Haihaya lineage. Paramardin is told to be deceased in a battle fighting for Vira-Narasimha-deva. Then came the description of the province of Utkala, the holy place Ekamra and Bindu-saras (Bindusarovar) within it. It is told that in Ekamra dwelt the Lord of the Mountain’s daughter, known as Krittivasa. In Saka 1200 (1278 CE), during the reign of king Bhanu, son of Narasingadeva, Chandrika constructed the temple for Hari at the banks of Bindu-saras. She enshrined Baladeva, Krishna and Subhadra inside the temple. The inscription is composed by Umapati.

    Inscription of Bhatta Bhavadeva7 – This inscription is fixed in the western compound wall of the temple. It is written in Sanskrit and contains 25 lines. The inscription is not dated. On paleographical grounds, it has been assigned to 1200 CE.

    The inscription starts with invocation to Vasudeva and then to Hari and Saraswati. Mentions the brahmans born into the family of sage Savarna in the land of Aryavarta in the place known as Siddhala, referred as an ornament to the country of Radha. At this village prospered the family of Bhavadeva whose elder and younger brothers were Mahadeva and Attahasa. King of Gauda granted the village of Hastinibhitta to Bhavadeva. Bhavadeva had eight sons, the eldest one was Rathanga. From Rathanga sprang Atyanga and his son was Budha surnamed Sphurita. From him was born Adideva, who became minister of peace and war of the king of Vanga. His son was Govardhana, distinguished as warrior and soldier. He was married to Sangoka, daughter of a Vandyaghatiya brahman. Their son was Bhavadeva, on whom this prasasti was composed by Vachaspati. Bhavadeva was a minister to king Harivarmadeva and later to his son. This Bhavadeva was also famous with his another name, Balavalabhibhujanga. This Bhavadeva constructed a water reservoir in the country of Radha and setup an image of Narayana and founded a temple of the god in which he placed images of his in forms of Narayana, Ananta and Narasimha. He also gave many female attendants to the god. He also constructed a tank in front of his temple.

    Next – Yameswara Temple

    1 Donaldson, T E (1985). Hindu Temple Art of Orissa. Brill. Leiden. ISBN 9789004071742. p 650
    2 ibid.
    3 Acharya, P (1969). Studies in Orissan History, Archaeology, and Archives. Cuttak’s Student Store. P 26.
    4 Ganguly, M M (1912). Orissa and her Remains. Thacker Spink & Co. Kolkata. p 369
    5 Panigrahi, K C (1961). Archaeological Remains in Bhubaneswar. Kitab Mahal. Cuttack. p 42
    6 Epigraphia Indica vol XIII. pp 150-155
    7 Epigraphia Indica vol VI. pp 203-207

    Next – Yameshwar Temple