Architecture of Parsurameswara Temple

Parsurameswar Temple, Bubaneswar
Credit: Balaji

The Parsuramesvara temple of Bhubaneswar belongs to the 7th century A.D. Although it is tri-ratha in plan, but the Gandi projects the Pancharatha style The pagas (pilasters) which constitute the special feature of the Odishan temple architecture were not fully developed in this temple. Each of the three pilasters contains a niche. The central pilaster contains the highest number of niches and the two other contain equal number of niches. There are all together eleven niches in this temple The sikhara portion contains an amalaka, a kalasi and a lingam instead of Ayudha. This is a peculiar feature of the Parasuramesvara temple of Odisha.

The Jagamohana or Muklasala made its appearance first in the temple of Parasuramesvara. It is rectangular having skylight between two sloping tires of terrace roof. The roof is supported by two rows of three pillars on each side and the roof supported by the two side-walls. The addition of the porch-hall to the main shrine reflect the second step in the evolution of temple architecture in Odisha. The Parsuramesvara temple reflects other architechiral peculiarities. It has two doors and four windows placed irregularly in the Mukhasala. One Door in on the south side and the other is in the west wall. It faces the sanctuary. The windows of north and south help in the ventilation. The windows on each side of the west door contain figures musicious and dancers.

The walls of the porch and shrine are carved with various sculptures scros creepers, human and animal figures and stories from mythology are found as decorative motif of the temple. Although the carvings are crude and coarse but the figures look lively and natural. Simplicity and elegance were the hallmarks of such sculptures. Even today these sculptures are unparalled in the history of temple architechure of Odisha.

Architectural Details and Design Features

The Orissan temples have two parts: the sanctum, called vimana, and a place from where pilgrims view the sanctum, called the jagamohana (hall of worshippers). Parashurameshvara Temple is the first to have this additional structure. The initial deul temples were without the jagamohana as seen in some of the older temples in Bhubaneswar, while the later temples had two additional structures namely nata-mandapa (festival hall) and bhoga-mandapa (hall of offerings). The vimana is square in plan and the walls have sections called rathas or pagas. The vimana has a curvilinear tower (called bada) in the form of a pyramid composed of horizontal planes. The sanctum of the temple measures 9.88 × 9.75 ft (3.0 × 3.0 m) from the inside, 19.75 × 21 ft (6.0 × 6.4 m) from the outside and has a height of 40.25 ft (12.3 m).[11] Amalaka, a stone disk with ridges on the rim, is placed over the bada of the temple.

The jagamohana is rectangular in shape and has a two-element sloping roof with clerestory windows between them.The jagamohana measures 24.94 × 18.33 ft (7.6 × 5.6 m) from the inside and 29.33 × 28.58 ft (8.9 × 8.7 m) from the outside. The latticed windows are classified as pata jali where perforations are square or rectangular in shape. In addition, there are trellised windows with slabs of stone sculptures depicting dancers and musicians. Light enters the interior through doors and the latticed windows. The junction of the vimana and the jagmohana is not cleanly built, leading some scholars to postulate that the porch was added at a much later date; however, the primitive connection is attributed to the building technique. The temple was constructed by burying completed portions in inclined layers of earth up which heavy pieces of stone were dragged.

Mahisamardini Durga, Parsurameswar Temple
Credit: Bernard Gagnon

The temple contains the earliest representation of a six-armed Mahishamardini (Durga) image, shown inside a gavaksha frame from the chest upward with a headdress, karna kundala (ornament), mala (garland) and kankana (anklet). Durga is seen holding a sword in the upper left hand while in the upper right hand, she is seen pressing the face of the demon buffalo. In her left middle hand, she is seen piercing the neck of the demon with a trishula (trident), while in her lower left hand she holds a pointed weapon. In her right middle hand she holds Khetaka while in her lower right hand she holds a bow. A similar image of Durga is found in the Vaital temple, which is a famous Shakta center.

Though the temple is a Shaiva shrine, it contains the images of numerous Shakta deities as Parsvadevatas sculpted on its walls. The temple is the first among Bhubaneswar temples to contain Saptamatrika images, a group of seven goddesses. These images are located in between representations of Ganesha and Virabhadra. Except for Ganesha, all other images are depicted with their respective vahanas (vehicles). An eight-armed dancing Ardhanarishvara, an image of Siva-Parvati and the images of Ganga and Yamuna are also found on the wall of the temple. There are also images of Vishnu, Indra, Surya and Yama in the rectangular niches around the base of the porch. A sculpture of Kartikeya riding on his peacock vehicle is present on the southern wall.Other noteworthy carvings are those of Shiva subduing the demon-king Ravana, who is seen trying to uproot Mount Kailasa, the abode of Shiva. Shiva is sculpted as Nataraja in various tandavas (dance poses) in the temple. As with other Orissa temples, the interiors are not sculpted but left plain. Other carvings on the temple depict a variety of fruits, flowers, birds and animals in scenes and parts of designs. A floral motif trailing from the tail of a bird is common between this temple and the ones in Vaital Deula, while a motif of vase and flowers is common between it and the ones in Mukteshvara Temple.

There are grotesque figures of vetalas (ghosts) on the pilasters of jaga mohan and on the faces of vimana of the temple. The figures of nagas (snake-man) and their female counterparts nagins and other females show many graceful but chaste poses. Pilgrimage is the theme of many of the scenes on the vimana. The other notable descriptive representation on the vimana is the hunting scene above the central niche on the south side, where stags are depicted running away from a hunter. On the outermost frame around the latticed window of the jaganamohana, delightful scenes of monkeys playing all manners of pranks are depicted.The vimana of the temple is a triratha with a distant semblance of a Pancharatha as evident from the projecting niches flanking the central projection. The bada of the vimana abruptly starts from the talapatna or pavement which consists of three elements instead of the usual five and encloses a parallelepiped instead of the usual cubic sanctum.

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