The Lingaraj temple is considered to be the most ancient and the most popular temple out all the numerous temples in the city of Bhubaneswar. Just an 8-minute ride from the airport of about 2.8 km lands you at the doorsteps of this beautiful yet majestic temple that has an aura of its own and can be reached by road through cabs, autos and town buses once you get out of the train or the plane.
Sadly, the temple is not open for the non-Hindus but there’s a platform which offers a broad view of the exteriors of the towers in the temple. This was originally made for Lord Curzon when he was the Viceroy of the place. The temple is open from as early as 6am to as late as 9pm and remains temporarily closed during the Bhoga (food offering) time at the noon, which is from mid-day to 3:30pm at the noon.
During this time the doors of the main temple remain closed by pouring the Panchamrit, which literally means the Amrit meaning nectar that is made out of the mixture of five things (a mixture of milk, curdled milk, clarified butter, honey, and ghee) this is seen as the bathing time of the deities. The ceremony is called Mahasnana.
The Bhoga is known as Mahaprasad which is prepared with a minimum of spices and is extremely tasty and good for health. Not only the lunch the temple strangely has rituals for breakfasts and even snacks which is offered to the deities and then becomes available for the common masses.
The eateries inside the temple become extremely lit with the hustle and bustle of people waiting to have the Bhoga. In the early morning all the lamps in the Temple are lit to awaken the Lingaraj, some ablutions performed, followed by His adoration and then followed by the morning Arati (waving of the giant light).
This beautiful temple was built in the 11th century by the king of Jaipur, Jajati Keshari of the Somavamsi Dynasty. When the king shifted his military base from Jaipur to Bhubaneswar, he decided to complete this half-built temple.
Half built? Read on to find out! The temple’s main tower is about 180 meters high! The temple finds its mention in one of the most ancient Hindu scriptures like the Bramha Puranas and the Odisha’s very own Ekamra Purana. Researchers have found evidence that suggests some parts of the temple were built in the 6th century by the Lalat Indu Keshari and was actually taken over as a full-fledged accelerated project completion by Jajati Keshari only after the shift of the capital.
The temple and is estimated to be over a 1000-year-old and is one of the oldest temples of the country India which has temples that perhaps date back to be as old as the Human civilization! Woah! Don’t take that seriously as I don’t have any evidence to support that right now! But I don’t rule out the possibility of it actually being possible!
It is believed that while the temple was on the verge of getting completed the Jagannath cult was gaining popularity in the region as the followers of the Ganga dynasty were ardent followers of Lord Vishnu and hence built the Jagannath temple, the Vaishnav & Shaiva devotees were facing fierce rivalry from each other.
The temple had both Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu carved out on its walls so as to establish a peaceful co-existence that has managed to survive to date! The propagation of the Vaishnav culture gained its biggest high in the region during the same time the temple was all set to welcome its devotees this was not local to Bhubaneswar or Odisha, during this time it was happening all over India.
The temple has been created in the traditional “Deula” style of the Kalinga architecture, which means that the temple is divided into four parts like most of the other temple in the state of Odisha, namely vimana (structure containing the sanctum), jagamohana (assembly hall), natamandira (festival hall) and bhoga-mandapa (hall of offerings), each increasing in the height to its predecessor. The linga inside the “Garbha-graha” or the sanctum is called The Swayambhu, which means “self-originated”.
Yes! Isn’t that absolutely mind-blowing? The Linga is believed to have self-originated under a Mango tree and the temple is believed to have been built around it. It is 8 meters high above the ground and 8 feet in diameter. The temple is maintained by the Temple Trust Board and the Archeological Survey of India. On average the temple receives a crowd of about 6000 people a day and during festivals like Mahashivratri the number rises up to about 200,000 as recorded in 2012. India is a land of cultures and festivals so the chaos to find some peace during these holy days is as soothing as chaotic it may sound.
No matter how big a celebrity you are, these are the days where you have to face inconveniences and still embrace what you could get out of the day. It is such a grounding feeling which reminds of how significantly insignificant we are and so we should not try to rush when everyone else is rushing too we should just wait and be grateful! Okay! Enough of my philosophical side of mind dragging you into the pot hole of romanticizing every random bit of life
. Let’s get back to talking about the temple. There is a lake towards the south of the temple, called the Bindu-Sagar. This lake usually is used for cleaning, bathing, etc. but it comes to life during the festivals of “Boita Bandana” and “Kartika Purnima” when people come together on an early morning of the winters to pray and sail little boats lit with diyas which are little earthen lamps to commemorate the golden days of Odisha’s trade and commerce, which dates back to before the arrival of the British East India Company.
“Lingaraj” literally means the king of all Lingams (which is the phallic form of Shiva). Bhubaneswar too was originally named as the ‘Ekamra Kshetra’, Ekamra which means the mango tree and Kshetra meaning place, which together means “the place of the mango tree” and the mango tree referring to the tree where the Shiva Linga was found. There is another analogy that Lord Shiva is worshiped as Harihara and Tribhubaneswar from where the current name of the might have come from. This proves that the city was originally named with the influence of the Shaiva culture.
No matter what, there is no denying that Bhubaneswar is as vibrant as the rainbow. No matter what the origin people here have been known to make peace with each community and believe in co-existence!