Architecture of Mukteswar Temple

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Mukteswar Temple, Bhubaneswar
Credit: Subhasish Panigrahi

The Muktesvara temple is a unique one in the field of Odishan temple architechure. It was so elegantly disigned that it became one of the most beautiful temples of India. The gate of the temple was well designed and its balance and design give it a grandoise look. The Vimana stands on a raised platform. It is square in ground plan. The base has its five divisions such as Khura, Kumbha, Pata, Kani and Vasanta. These five divisions were absent in earlier divisions of temple. The pilasters have recesses which contain Gaja Simha and Naga columns.

Here in this temple, the niches are empty and have no Parsvadevatas (side deities). The Sikhara is short. It has four Natarajas and four Kirtti-mukhas on four facades. The Nataraja figure from the western facade has been detached and kept inside a miniature temple inside the same temple premises. It has no Anga-sikhara (replica of the main tower). The ground plan as the Jagamohana of the Muktesvara temple is just like a star.

Torana Decoration of Mukteswar Temple
Credit: Wikipedia

The The Muktesvara Temple steps of the pyramidal roof recede when it ascends. The temple has on amlaka. The Badas on the northern and southern sides have pilasters and each of them contains a square-shaped perforated window. The portions of the roof above the windows rise in two tires with the steps (pidhas) and are surmounted by images of lions. The recesses between the pilasters contain the figures of Gaja-simha and Nagacolumns. The Torana (gate) is a unique fealure of the temple of Mhktesvara. It stands before the Jagamohana.

The basement of the pillars contain an each face a miniature shrine having a twin Gaja-simha figures at the top. Each of the sixteen-sided shafts consists of four blocks of stone and at their top appears Kirtti-mukhas. The top most blocks has imposed Vedika, Amlaka and a spreading lotus capital on both the sides a pair of female figures with graceful pose are found. Each arch has a projecting Makara-mukha which is quite distinct in the Torana of Muktesvara.

Architectural Details and Design Features

The architecture is one of the basic reasons why Mukteshvara Temple is also known as the “Gem of Odisha architecture”. The temple faces west and is constructed in a lower basement amidst a group of temples. The pyramidal roof to the jagamohana present in the temple was the first of its kind over the conventional two tier structure. The temple is a small one compared to other larger temples in Bhubaneswar. The temples is enclosed within an octagonal compound wall with elaborate carvings on it. It is believed that the experiment of newer pattern in the temple showed a mature phase compared to its predecessors and culminated the beginning of replication of similar pattern in the later temples in the city. The temple has a porch, called torana, which acts as the gateway to the octagonal compound. The temple has two structures namely, the vimana (structure above the sanctum) and a mukhasala, the leading hall, both of which are built on a raised platform. The temple is the earlies to be built in pithadeula type.

Porch
Torana of Mukteswar Temple
Credit: Abhishek

The most important feature of the Mukteshvara Temple is the torana, or the arched gateway, dating back to about 900 CE and showing the influence of Buddhist architecture. The arched gateway has thick pillars that have strings of beads and other ornaments carved on statues of smiling women in languorous repose. The porch is a walled chamber with a low, massive roof and internal pillars. The combination of vertical and horizontal lines is skilfully arranged so as to give dignity of buildings of moderate height. This early astylar form of the temple is best illustrated in this temple. The gateway has sculptures that range from elaborate scrolls to pleasant female forms and figures of monkeys and peacocks. The front and back of the arch are similar in design.

Vimana

The Vimana is square in plan and is built in a raised platform with pilasters in each facade. The shikara is small compared to other temples; it has four Natarajas on and four kirthimukhas on the four faces. The top portion of the shikara has the kalasa. The shikara is 10.5 metres (34 ft) tall, with every inch sculpted with decorative patterns, architectural patterns and sculpted figures. A new form of decoration called bho, possibly developed here, became a prominent feature in later Odishan temples. It is a highly ornate chaitya window crowned by masked demon head and dwarf figures.

Sanctum

The sanctum is sculpted with beautiful damsels exhibiting feminine charms entwined with nagas and naginis. The sanctum is cubical from the inside with offset walls in the outside.

Jagamohana

This distinctive 10th-century temple is one of the smallest and compact temples. The jagamohana is 35 m (115 ft) tall. It is decorated with intricate carvings by the Vishwakarma Moharana sculptors. The temple is regarded as a gem of Nagara architecture of Kalinga architecture. Except for the rectangular plan of its jagamohana, it is the earliest example of what may be termed proper Odisha temple type; a vimana with a curvelinear spire and a jaganmohana with a stepped pyramidal roof. The temple’s red sandstone is covered with exquisite carvings of lean sadhus or holy men and voluptuous women encrusted with jewels. The images of Ganga and Yamuna are carved next to Chanda and Prachanda. The torana is present in front of the jagamohana. The figure of Lakulisa, seated in bhumispara-mudra and holding a lakuta is present on the lintel of the jagamohana. The figures of Gajalakshmi, Rahu and Ketu are also sculpted in the structure. A small extension from the side roof of the jagamohana has the image of a lion sitting on its hind legs. The exterior walls of the structure are decorated with pilasters with nagas and naginis.

Others

The doorway to the inner sanctum houses the image of Ketu with three hooded snakes, commonly regarded as the ninth planet in the Hindu mythology. There is a tank in the eastern side of the temple and a well in the south-western corner. A dip in the first known as the Marichi Kunda is believed to cure infertility in women. There are other shrines within the temple complex with lingam inside, which were used as offering shrines. The doorway of the temple is ornate. The temple is enclosed by a low compound wall that follows the contours of the temple. The temple has sculptures both inside and outside the structure. The compound walls leaves a very small passage separating the shrine.


Inputs From:
1. History of Odisha From Earliest Times to 1434AD by Dr Manas Kumar Das
2. Wikipedia