Lingaraja (eleventh century), which soars above the city of Bhubaneswar and dominates the
landscape as far as 15 kms away, represents Orissan temple architecture at its most mature
and fully developed stage. It has, in fact, been described as 'time quintessence of
Although the temple as it now exists can be
dated to the eleventh century, Sanskrit texts hold that there was a stone temple here as
early as the seventh century AD, and fragments of this earlier structure do seem to appear
in the extant building.
Unlike most of the other important temples in
Bhubaneswar, the Lingaraja is very much in active worship, and entrance to the temple
compound is prohibited to non-Hindus. There is a viewing platform to one side,
however, from which a good look at the compound and the main buildings can be had.
The deul (tower) of the Lingaraja
reaches a height of just over 180 feet (55 meters). It is completely curvilinear, and the
extraordinary soaring tower can be seen to incorporate miniature replicas of itself,
in turrets inserted on the ribs of the spire. In addition to the deul and the
jagmohana (porch), the Lingaraja adds two new structures: the natamandira (hall of dance)
and the bhoga-mandapa (hall of offering). The former was undoubtedly associated with
the rising prominence of the devadasi system. Many of the sculptures on the temple itself
represent groups of people engaged in various religious and musical activities, and these
perhaps relate to the increasing range of activities carried out at the temple, for
instance in the two new structures.
By the time the Lingaraja temple was
constructed, the Jagannath cult had become predominant throughout
Orissa. This is
reflected in the fact that the temple deity here, the Svayambhu linga, is not, as in all
other cases, strictly a Shiva linga. It is considered to be a 'hari-hara'
linga, that is,
half Shiva, half Vishnu. This and the variety of deities represented elsewhere on the
temple, once again point out the basically syncretic nature of so much of Orissan
There are 150 subsidiary shrines within
the immense Lingaraja complex, many of them extremely interesting in their own right.
Unfortunately, they cannot be visited by non-Hindus.