Lingaraja Temple:

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Lingaraj TempleThe great 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 Orissan architecture'.

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 religion.

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.

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