Style of Temples in Odisha
Bhuvana Pradipa mentions about three kinds of temples on the basis of their architectural features. These are: Rekha (curvilinear superstructure), Bhadra or Pidha (monument with a pyramidal roof) and Khakhara (oblong building with wagon-vault roof). The text mentions about 36 varieties of Rekha, 5 varieties of Bhadra and 3 varieties of Khakhara with proportionate measurements of each part and their heights.
The typical Odishan temple consists of both Rekha and Bhadra-the Rekha for the Deula (sanctum cella or garbha griha with the curvilinear superstructure called sikhara or gandi) and the Bhadra for the pidha-deula to serve as the audience hall (Jagamohana or mukhasala). The pidha-deula, added to the front of the Rekhadeula, is covered by a pyramidal roof of receding steps. The smaller height of Pidha-deula represents a balance with the higher Rekha-deula and “greatly enhances the grandeur of the soaring curvilinear spire”.
N.K. Bose mentions that the axial arrangement of the Rekha and the Bhadra components of the Odishan temple began with the sanctum to which the porch was added later. Along the same axial line, Nata mandira (dance-hall) and Bhoga mandapa (hall of offering) were added later.The Odishan temples are usually of curvilinear spire with square sanctum. A few Pidha-type temples are made on the summit of the Mahendra and in Koraput, two hypaethral (circular and open) Yogini temples at Ranipur-Jharial and Hirapur the starshaped Ones at Baudh, and a few Khakhar temples.
Components of Temples of Odisha
As regards the plan, in elevation the Odishan temple has four components, such as, pista (platform or vedika), the Vada (the vertical wall), gandi (the trunk), the mastaka (head or crown).
The pista is absent in many temples. The bada consists of three parts, such as, pabhaga (footportion or bottom part consisting of Khura, Kumbha, Patta, Kani, Basanta), jangha (the thigh part) and baranda (moulding forming uppermost part of bada). The jangha is sub-divided into two parts-tala janga (lower thigh) and upper jangha (upper bond thigh) by a set of mouldings known as bandhana. There is similarity between the main temple and the pidha up to bada. The difference starts from the gandi. Where as gandi of the Rekhadeula inclines inward in a convex form, i.e. curvilinear outline, that of Pidha takes a pyramidal form.
The gandi of Rekhadeula is divided into several pagas (vertical projections). The corner pagas known as kanika-pagas are further sub-divided into horizontal sections known as bhumi by miniature amlas (ribbed disc resembling amla fruit). The central paga is known as Rahapaga and the next two as kanika and anu-raha. The door or entrance comes on the raha paga whereas niches come on the other three raha-pagas which go down upto pa- bhaga. It is thus in the plan of a four-door shrine. The subsidiary pagas are placed midway between the raha and the corner. Depending upon the number of pagas (also called rathas), temples are classified as triratha, pancha-ratha, saptaratha,etc. The topmost course of gandi is called visama.
The mastaka (skull) above it consists of Veki (neck), amla, Khapuri (skull) Kalasa (Gar) ayudha (attribute or symbol of the deity). In pidha deula, the gandi consists of a number of pidhas, gradually diminishing towards top in a pyramidal shape. The topmost pidha is reduced to about half of the lowest one. In later temples pidhas were grouped into tiers called potalas which are separate from each other by recessed vertical walls known as kanti. The hollow interior above the sanctum (garbha-griha) is hidden by a ceiling (garbhamuda) consisting of stone beams and rafters to maintain stability of the structure by binding the walls. In bigger temples, two or three ceilings (mudas) are found, as in the case of Lingaraja. Access to the chambers is made through an opening above the lintel of the door of the sanctum.
The construction of such lofty temples like Lingaraja and Jagannatha creates awe and wonder in the mind of the onlooker regarding the technique of construction. In fact, the technique adopted was corbelling. The sized-Khondalite stones, used in most of temples, are laid horizontally one upon another, “held together mainly by a system of counterpoise, the weight of one stone acting against the pressure of another, much of the stability being a matter of balance and equilibrium”. No cementing mortar of any kind has been used but iron cramps and dowels were used to keep the stone stabs in position.
Credit: Inputs from History of Odisha From Earliest Times to 1434AD by Dr Manas Kumar Das