Early Bhauma-Kara Period Temples


The temples described and illustrated in this article are dated in the late Shailodbhava or early Bhauma-Kara period, corresponding to late seventh century CE and early eighth century CE. This period of Odisha history is very obscure as it is hard to explain when exactly the Shailodbhavas went into oblivion and how the Bhauma-Karas rose to power. As we understand that temple architecture does not completely associate to a particular dynasty and in the absence of inscriptional evidences, it would be very hard to assign a temple to a dynasty on safe grounds.

The temples from this period period are characterized based upon their continuation using few elements of their earlier counterparts while innovating on new techniques. Among the continued characteristics from earlier temples, few to mention are, pabhaga consisted of three mouldings, bada made in tri-ratha and gandi in pancha-ratha and raha-niches cutting across the pabhaga mouldings. The new features introduced in this period are, pabhaga mouldings increased to four, parshva-devatas started being carved out in the stone blocks of the wall instead on a separate block. The advantage of carving parshav-devata images within the blocks of wall made it hard to remove the image, and thus we find many images in situ.

Buried temple in Yamesvara Compound

Small temple in Yamesvara Temple compound – This small temple, which stood half-buried till few years back, has now been fully unearthed and restored. It faces northeast and is bereft of any connecting mandapa (jagamohana). The bada and gandi (shikhara) are tri-ratha in plan, in contrast to its contemporaries where gandi is usually designed in pancha-ratha style. Donaldson1 comments that whether this tri-ratha gandi reflects a rudimentary form or is merely an expedient adaptation, is difficult to discern until the whole structure is excavated.

Vajra-mastaka in the front is consisted of two superimposed medallions, the lower one housing an image of Parvati standing with her attendants while the upper medallion has floral designs. Donaldson, on iconographical and stylistic grounds, assigns the image of Parvati to the temples of Shailodbhava period, i.e. Parasuramesvara. Debala Mitra2 also of the opinion that the temple is coeval with that of Parasuramesvara.

Pachimesvara Temple
The surviving plinth

Pachimesvara Temple – This ruined temple is situated on the parikrama path of Bindu Sarovara, between Markandeshwar and Mohini temple. Mitra3 mentions that this temple was demolished in 1940 leaving only its plinth. The temple was only consisted of deul (Vimana) without any jagamohana. It’s bada was tri-ratha in plan while gandi in pancha-ratha. Gandi had five bhumis (storeys) marked by bhumi-amalakas. Pabhaga was made of three mouldings.


All the parshva-devatas have survived and are kept near the plinth of the temple. Kartikeya is shown seated over a peacock holding his Shakti in one hand. Ganesha is shown with four hands, holding an axe and akshamala. He is seated on a throne, below which a vessel of laddus is placed on a tripod. Parvati is shown standing in sambhaga and with four arms. There is a shivalinga inside the sanctum and is under worship.

Mohini Temple

Mohini Temple – This temple is situated on the southern bank of Bindu Sarovara tank. The temple consists of a deul and jagamohana, the latter was completely damaged and had been restored using plain stone blocks. Characteristics of early period temples are very much evident here, such as bada in tri-ratha with gandi (shikhara) in pancha-ratha style, Pabhaga (base) composed of three mouldings and raha-niche (central niche) cutting through pabhaga mouldings.

Mohini Temple

On the pancha-ratha design of Gandi, Parida4 differs stating that anuratha paga is not fully projected therefore gandi should be taken as tri-ratha. The front portion of the gandi is left undecorated however outline of carvings suggest that decoration was planned.

Shaiva Attendants

There are nine niches all across three walls of bada, three raha-niches and six kanika-niches. Parshva-devatas in raha-niches are in situ however much damaged. Only three of avarana-devatas, in kanika-niches, have survived. Where in the early temples, the parshva-devatas were carved out of separate block of stone, it is not the case with Mohini temple. Here, the parshva-devatas are carved on the stones of the bada wall, thus making it harder to remove.


Western kanika-niche of the southern wall has two Shaiva attendants, one holding a trishula and another an axe. Two large vessels are put on either sides of them. Raha-niche of the southern side has Ganesha, shown seated in ardhaparyanka-mudra on a throne. Below the throne is placed a vessel full of modakas placed over a tripod. On its one side is seen what probably appears to be a large jackfruit.

Shiva standing over Daksha

Kanika-niches of the western side are empty. Raha-niche on western wall has Kartikeya, shown standing with his mount, peacock, on his left. Raha-niche of the northern wall has Parvati, shown standing and with four hands, holding a rosary. Her two mounts, lion and deer, are placed on her right and left respectively. Kanika-niche on the eastern end has, probably, Shiva as Gangadhara-murti. Kanika-niche on the western end probably has Shiva standing over Daksha. A ten-armed, fierce looking, Chamunda, standing over a corpse, is installed inside the sanctum.

Shiva Gangadhara

Vajra-mastaka of the front is left unfinished but outlines of planned carvings are visible. It has been observed that many temples of this period were left unfinished in few aspects suggesting political instability prevailing as one of the reason. The argument that the temple was built by Mohini Devi, the queen of Sivakara II of Bhauma-kara dynasty, does not hold good4.

Uttaresvara Temple

Uttaresvara Temple – This temple is situated on the northern bank of Bindu Sarovara, inside the compound of Godavari Kund. This temple is largely restored, plastered and painted in yellow. Ekamra Purana tells that once upon a time Shiva assumed here a very terrific form; his body was of a tawny color besmeared with ashes, his breast was networked by serpents and garlands formed of stars and planets, his face was fierce and distorted, with three eyes and a big flowing beard, the atmosphere formed his only raiment, on his shoulder was a tiger skin, and in his hands he held a skull and a khatvanga, around him stood dreadful host of hobgoblins. To entertain him, the Devi assumed most fanciful forms, now tall, anon short, now big, anon small, now think and bulky and immediately after fleshless with sunken or distorted eyes, hilarious with wine, and singing amidst her demoniac followers. The temple marks the site where this masquerade was played.


Additional small porches were added to the raha-niches on north and south and to a kanika-niche on the south. It is consisted of a deul and jagamohana. Pabhaga is made of three mouldings. Its bada is tri-ratha in style. Raha-niches cut across the pabhaga mouldings. The roof of the jagamohana is very similar to that of Parasuramesvara, built in two tiers of sloping terrace, with a clerestory in between. Windows and niches on jagamohana walls are haphazardly inserted, without taking symmetry into account, and Donaldson5 is of opinion that this would have done during the same period when done in Parasuramesvara temple.

Kama with Rati and Priti

A unique feature of this temple is vahana-stambha (mount pillar) installed in front of the temple. A Nandi is placed on top of this low height vahana-stambha. Parida mentions that vahana-stambhas were very rare with the temples of this period.

Talesvara Temple

Talesvara Temple – This simple temple is only having a deul with no evidence of a connecting jagamohana6. Overall in the temple, the main doorway is better preserved than the rest. However this doorway is white-washed hiding its original features. The doorway is made of three bands. The outermost band has Ganga on the right, partially preserved, and Yamuna on the left. The middle band has Shiava dvarpalas, the one on the right has not survived. Lalalta-bimba of the lintel has Gaja-Lakshmi motif. The architrave above the lintel has astha-grhas (eight planets), each sitting in their respective niche.


A unique but famous icon found on Odishan temples is of one-legged Shiva generally referred as Aja-Ekapada. Usually this image is found on the northern side of the deul (Vimana), on subsidiary niches but not in raha-niche. Generally he has been found flanking the side niche, as an attendant, to Mahishasuramardini, where the latter is housed in a raha-niche. How and when this unusual deity came into vogue is not very clear. V S Agrawala7 identifies him as Aja-Ekapada, goat with one foot, representing a form of Agni. However, Donaldson8 clarifies, that except a single instance where the deity is with a goat head, all other instances are with a human head. J N Banerjea9 suggests that this icon represents a lighting flash coming down to earth in single streak.

Aja and Ekapada are counted among the ekadasa-Rudras (eleven Rudras) in various texts, i.e. Mahabharata. In few texts, i.e. Linga Purana, it is referred as twin-deity, Ajaikapada or Ajesha. Mahabharata mentions that Aja-Ekapada and Ahirbudhnya are the guardians of gold in company of Kubera.


In Odisha, this icon is treated as a form of Bhairava, the terrific aspect of Shiva. He is shown with open mouth, protruding fangs, short beard, bulging eyes and erect phallus. In Talesvara temple, Ekapada is shown with four hands, upper hands holding rosary and trisula (trident) while lower hands are in varada mudra and holding a water vessel. Third eye is visible on his forehead which suggests him to be a form of Shiva. A kneeling figures with holding hands is in the lower right-hand corner and a standing figure in the lower left-hand corner.

Though the god is represented in his terrific form however his gesture and hand-posture, varada mudra and rosary, suggest severe asceticism and granter of boons. This asceticism character of the icon and standing on a single leg points to the utter immobility of tapas-yoga. Shiva, being known as the supreme yogi, this form, though does not confirm to the iconographic rules of the texts, however represents a yogic character of Shiva.

In this regard, Grossato’s10 study is very interesting one. On the explanation of this Ekapada icon, She writes, “In fact, almost all the references that are ascribable to the One-footed type can be traced back essentially to a single, immediately evident one, namely the axis-mundi; we can be far more precise and state that originally the ekapada refers specifically to the polar axis, and later on it mostly does too.” She draws parallels from studies of earlier scholars in suggesting that this icon represents a vertical symbol, an axis, and specifically a cosmic or polar axis. This suggests immobility and stability which is very essential for sthanu-vrata.

Donaldson suggests that popularity of Ekapada icon might be due to proliferation of Pasupata doctrine at Bhubaneswar. This made Ekapada as the most popular Bhairava form depicted in Odisha temples. However, in absence of any inscriptional evidence, it would be hard to ascertain why this peculiar form of Bhairava was so popular.

Paramaguru Temple – This temple is located in a private property adjacent to the Vaital temple complex. The property owner is a very rude person and does not allow any entry even if you request very kindly. Therefore, description here is mostly dependent on the observations taken by earlier scholars. Though you cannot enter inside the property, however you can view this temple from a distance, if you stand in front of Sisiresvara temple and give a glance on your right. You can use your camera zoom to have a better look.

The temple is in bad state of preservation though it is listed among the protected monument list of ASI. It only has a Vimana (deul) but no jagamohana. Its bada is tri-ratha in plan, gandi is also tri-ratha. Gandi is a three storey structure. Images are only visible on thenorth side of the temple where its raha-niche houses an image of Mahishasuramardini and kanika-niches have Parvati and Ardha-nareesvara.  Front Vajra-mastaka is decorated with a figure of Nataraja in upper medallion, while lower medallion only has floral designs.

Gauri-Shankar-Ganesh Temple

Gauri-Shankar-Ganesh Temple – This temple is also known as Traffic-Mahadeva as it is located in the center of cross-roads. It is buried till its bada and thus approached through a flight of steps descending down. It is fully painted in red, hiding all its original features. The temple only has a Vimana but no jagamohana. Its bada is tri-ratha in design and gandi is pancha-ratha. Gandi is consisted of five bhumis (storeys).

New Bhavani-Shankar Temple

New Bhavani-Shankara Temple – This temple complex houses two temples, one popularly known as Bhavani-Shankar and the other, which is partially excavated, referred as New Bhavani-Shankar temple. We are interested in the latter one, the partially exposed temple, as the other one is a recent structure.


The temple got exposed while digging for a drain. The part exposed is of the eastern face of the deul (vimana) which has been attached to a jagamohana (mandapa). However, as basement mouldings of the bada and jagamohana are different, this suggests that the jagamohana was a later addition. Mitra11 mentions an unusual feature of the temple where raha-niche (bhadra or central niche) is recessed while kanika-niche (karna or corner niches) are projected. The raha-niche of the exposed wall has an image of Uma-Mahesvara.

Parida mentions that finding Uma-Mahesvara image in the raha-niche is very curious as we never find this icon in raha-niches of any other temple of Odisha. This particular image is built of a separate stone block and most probably was not part of original design to be fitted into this niche. The conclusion he reaches is that the image belongs to the temple however It found its way to this niche at a later period when the original image in the raha-niche was removed for some unknown reasons.

An inscription has been found on the wall of this temple. The inscription is inscribed in two rows, and has about twenty-seven characters. The script of the letters helps in dating the inscription to seventh-eighth century CE. This is also supported by the architectural style and iconography.

Next: Markandesvara Temple

1 Donaldson, T E (1985). Hindu Temple Art of Orissa. Brill. Leiden. ISBN 9789004071742. p 63
2 Mitra, Debala (1988). Encyclopedia of Indian Temple Architecture vol 2 part 1. American Institute of Indian Studies. New Delhi. ISBN 0691040532. p 265
3 Mitra, Debala (1988). Encyclopedia of Indian Temple Architecture vol 2 part 1. American Institute of Indian Studies. New Delhi. ISBN 0691040532. p 268
4  Parida, A N (1999). Early Temples of Orissa. Commonwealth Publishers. New Delhi. ISBN 8171695191. p 80
5 Donaldson, T E (1985). Hindu Temple Art of Orissa. Brill. Leiden. ISBN 9789004071742. p76
6  Parida, A N (1999). Early Temples of Orissa. Commonwealth Publishers. New Delhi. ISBN 8171695191. p 81
7 Agrawala, V S (1960). The Religious Significance of the Gupta Terracottas from Rang Mahal published in Lalit Kala vol 8, p 60
8 Donaldson, Thomas (1982). Ekapāda Śiva Images in Orissan Art published in Ars Orientalis Vol. 13, pp. 153-167
9 Banerjea, J N (1956). The Development of Hindu Iconography. Calcutta. pp 50-51
10 Grossato, Alessandro (1987). ‘Shining Legs’ The One-footed Type in Hindu Myth and Iconography published in East and West Vol. 37, No. 1/4 (December 1987), pp. 247-282
11 Mitra, Debala (1988). Encyclopedia of Indian Temple Architecture vol 2 part 1. American Institute of Indian Studies. New Delhi. ISBN 0691040532. p 267