Gauri Temple – Start of a New Tradition


    Gauri temple is situated in the same compound as that of Kedareshvar temple, located adjacent to the Muketshvara complex. The temple consists of a deul and a jagamohana. Its deul is built in khakhara-order. Gauri temple is one among very few khakhara temples in Odisha. Boner1, quoting Silpa Prakasha, mentions that Gauri temple falls under Swarnakuta or Hemakuta style. Mitra2 tells that on the day of Sitala-shashthi, 6th day of waxing moon in the month of Jyeshtha, Lord Lingaraja deputes a substitute to the Gauri Temple where he marries the presiding devi of the temple. Visit of Lord Lingaraja, in form of his proxy, suggests the veneration and sanctity of this former temple before the advent of the cult of Lingaraja in his present state.

    Gauri temple is an important shrine as it reflects the start of new tradition and trends in the Odishan temple architecture. These changes were introduced with the advent of Somavamshi rule in Odisha. Among these new trends, the most important ones were the introduction of bho-type vajra-mastaka and nana-nagini pilasters. Bho-type vajra-mastaka is a regular vajra-mastaka flanked with two reclining atlantid figures. Naga-nagini pilasters were introduced in the recess spaces. The temple rests on a low plinth (pitha) and faces east. The pitha is built in tri-ratha pattern. Its lower moulding is decorated with bhara-vahakas (yakshas/dwarfs in weight support mode) and upper moulding is decorated with floral motifs and chaitya designs. Bada is made of pabhaga, jangha and baranda. Pabhaga consists of five mouldings except four at the kanika-paga, a treatment very similar to the Mukteshvara temple.


    The pagas are built in staggered plan, anartha-paga projects beyond kanika-paga and raha-paga projects beyond anartha. This arrangement results in circular appearance to the deul. Kanika-paga is decorated as a pilaster with a niche depicting a alasa kanya or mithuna image. Anartha-paga is decorated as a khakhara-mundi and its niche is empty. Raha-paga is decorated in pancha-ratha pattern where all its pagas are designed in different levels. The pilasters flanking the raha-niche have river goddesses, Ganga and Yamuna. Raha-niche is presently empty. Recess between the raha and anartha, on the longer west side, is decorated with naga-nagini pilasters where the naga-nagini are shown with descending movement.


    The jagamohana and the major part gandi of the temple was reconstructed around seventy years ago and it cannot be ascertained how closely the original design was followed. As many of its images are either misplaced or a replica of the original, thus various images now found at the temple are of crude craftsmanship. Jagamohana is square in plan and might have a pidha roof originally. As it has been totally reconstructed therefore all its original features are lost. Presently it is bereft of any decoration and whitewashed. There are three entrances, one each on north, south and east.


    Donaldson3 dates the temple to the second quarter of the tenth century CE, based upon its style and architecture. Panigrahi’s suggestion that it was built by the Somavamshi king Indranatha, places the temple in the eleventh century CE. Donaldson mentions that it will be a very late date which is not attested by the style and decoration of the temple.

    Next – Mukteshvara Temple

    1 Boner, Alice & Sarma, S R (1966). Silpa Prakasa. E J Brill, Leiden. p 69
    2 Mitra, R L (1875). The Antiquities of Orissa vol II. Indian Studies. Kolkata. p 138
    3 Donaldson, T E (1985). Hindu Temple Art of Orissa. Brill. Leiden. ISBN 9789004071742. p 292