Lingaraja Temple - Abode of the Lord of Three Worlds

S Balakrishnan *

Bhuvan! How can we forget this character (meaning the World / Earth) played by Aamir Khan in the 2001 sports-drama Hindi movie Lagaan? And, so, Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Odisha, is also named after the Lord (Eswar) of the World (Bhuvan); but He is actually Tribhubaneswar, Lord of the Three Worlds - the Heaven, the Earth and the Netherworld. His abode is, therefore, called the Temple of Lingaraja (King of all Lingams, the iconic form of Lord Shiva).

Lingaraja temple's origin is as mysterious as the occupant Himself! An inscription dated 1114-15 AD on the walls of Jagmohana (Hall of Gathering, before the sanctum sanctorum) informs us of a grant of a village by the then Ganga dynasty king, Anandavarma Chodaganga, for maintaining a perpetual lamp in the temple.

It is interesting that an inscription about a perpetual light leads us to the Eternal Light! So it is presumed that the temple was already in existence, probably built by the earlier Somavamsi dynasty kings with 'Kesari' title. Standing for more than 1,200 years now, Lignaraja Temple precedes the world-famous temples of Jagannath (12th century) in Puri and Sun (13th century) in Konark.

The edifice, with later additions by the Ganga dynasty, stands out as the culmination of Kalinga style of temple architecture perfected during Ganga dynasty; so much so that it is considered to be the most perfect specimen of temple architecture in the whole of Eastern India. Kalinga kingdom, by then, had acquired temple building experience of three long centuries thus mastering the art to the highest level of perfection.

Built of sandstone and laterite, Lingaraja is one of the oldest and the biggest temple complexes in Bhubaneswar where there were once 7,000 shrines! Hence it was famed as the Temple City, the Cathedral City of the East. Now, unfortunately, only about 500 of them survive - small & big - in the old Bhubaneswar, with new concrete ones springing up in the new Bhubaneswar, the planned capital city. Undoubtedly, Lingaraja is the centre of the old town.

Situated within a vast compound of 520 ft (158 m) by 462 ft (141 m), it is surrounded by another about 50 shrines of various sizes and various periods, probably containing images salvaged from damaged temples in the course of time. Many of them just have a Lingam image with a metal snake spreading its hood above it, named this Easwar or that Easwar. Facing east, the main entrance is flanked by Lions as is the tradition, and is called the Simhadwara (Lion Entrance).

Like most of the Odisha temples, this temple is also based on the overall Nagara (Indo-Aryan) style. The next important and bigger one within the Lingaraja Temple complex is that of His consort Parbati. She is also known as Bhubaneswari, in line with Bhubaneswar. Estimated to be built in the 13th century, the chisel work here is a refined one.

It would be surprising to find Vaishanavite images also inside this Saivaite enclosure, an influence of later dynasties owing allegiance to Vaishanavite sect and the increased influence of Puri Jagannath cult. It went to the extent of some Vaishanavite rituals creeping into Lingaraja temple. One can even notice a proud Garuda (mount of Vishnu) perched majestically along with Nandi (mount of Siva) atop the stone pillar!

Another strange thing that I noticed was the placing of Nandi (Bull) image in a separate room outside the southern side of Jagmohana, instead of directly facing His Lord from inside the jagmohana!

As Hindus are strictly not allowed inside the complex, there is a raised platform near the Southern entrance from which one can happily click photos. A marble plaque there informs of the restoration of the temple from 1925 to 1929 by the then British Governors of Bihar & Orissa; the total cost of Rs. 1,36,097 was almost equally shared by the Government and private sources.

Photography is also prohibited inside the compound, but devotees are tempted to secretively click the beautiful structures and images. But it was not so in 1982 when I visited the shrine and happily clicked a few B&W shots. Unaware, this time also we had clicked a few shots before being warned by other devotees.

We had only followed what a few others were doing, I mean, clicking. As we came out after a harried darshan, we saw security personnel frisking devotees at the Singha-dwara before being allowed in.

'Lucky us!', we thought; Lingaraja was kind towards us! Again, back then, I had clicked the 150 ft tower above the sanctum sanctorum from a distance of 5 kms on Puri-Bhubaneswar road. What with concrete jungle sprouting all around, it is not possible now. The tower's walls are 2 meter thick!

In front of the sanctum sanctorum (deul) is the jagmohana (the hall where devotees assemble), then the nata mandira (dancing hall) and the hall of offering (Bhog mandap). The last two were later-period additions, maybe built after a century or so by the Ganga kings.

Again, as in most of the Odisha temples, while the outer walls are embellished with sculptures, the inner walls are mostly plain, devoid of any work, probably to keep devotees' focus only on the deity. As the walls are designed on the panch rath (five-fold) pattern, the play of sunlight and shade on the structure and the sculptures is dramatic.

All these four structures steadily rise in height to the ultimate 150 ft. height of the deul. They are all interconnected. The deul, constructed on a square base, has a soaring curvilinear tower (sikhara); hence it is known as rekha deula. The jagmohana, built on a rectangular base, is a pidha temple, i.e., its roof consists of pidhas which are horizontal platforms arranged successively in a receding formation so as to constitute a pyramidal superstructure.

Used to the South Indian temple custom of not being allowed inside the sanctum sanctorum, it was a shocking surprise for me to not only enter inside the duel but also offer flowers directly to the image. Though He is called the Raja of Lingas (Lingaraja), because the image is a swayambhu (natural), it is neither in proper shape nor big in size; in fact, it is not visible at all. Hence He is called Bhubaneswar (originating from the earth). The surrounding of the image is covered on the floor by silver plate of 3 ft. diameter.

Bhubaneswar is also known as Ekamra Kshetra as Lingaraj was originally under Ekamra, a mango tree. Unlike many other temples in Bhubaneswar, Lingaraja Temple is under active worship where Lord Shiva is also worshipped as Harihara, a combination of Vishnu and Shiva. Jointly maintained by the Temple Trust Board and ASI, about 6,000 devotees visit it daily. On Maha Shivaratri, the major festival, more than two lakh devotees congregate here.

Don't blame me I did not warn you - Beware of the pandas (pujaris) there who have turned the temple into a crass commercial spot. As soon as you enter, you are surrounded by them; we mistook one for a guide but he dumped us into the duel where another took over.

Ultimately, we had to shell out Rs. 200 - Rs. 150 for puja & maha prasad (a handful of some sweet item and a sugar candy) and Rs. 50 for the so-called guide) - after forced to mumble back some mantra.

Even in the very inside of the sanctum sanctorum the pandas canvass for customers, saying that nowhere they can get the Prasad and to pay Rs. 20 to touch the base of the swayambhu Lingam. I felt disgusted as the sanctity had been lost.

* S Balakrishnan wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on March 04, 2017.

* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.

  • Teinem Luira Phanit @Ukhrul #1 : Gallery
  • PM Narendra Modi @Imphal #1 : Gallery
  • Candle Light for Pravish @Delhi: Gallery
  • RTE taunts Kamuching: Mapithel Dam
  • Please dont become slave to any holy book
  • Pravish's Parents meet HM Rajnath Singh
  • Assam Rifles celebrates Cheiraoba
  • Job requirements @SKY Hospital
  • Nursing opportunity across Europe
  • The Killing Fields :: News Timeline
  • Education: addressing the core issue
  • Call to amend the Army Act
  • MoUs inked to boost tourism in NE
  • Sajibu Cheiraoba Chingkaba #1: Gallery
  • Yaoshang Sports @Kakwa: Gallery
  • Human right intimidated by SF: Amnesty Intl
  • Bikers rally to spread awareness on Cancer
  • TB survivor resolves to make TB-free ..
  • State Level World Kidney Day
  • Course in Comparative Literature at NEHU
  • Candle Light at DU for Pravish Chanam
  • PS issue stands as litmus test for CM
  • Cheiraoba Chak Katpa #1 : Gallery
  • Premier League coaches train : Gallery
  • Culturals @ Republic Day #3 : Gallery
  • Draft Asian Declaration: right to justice #4
  • Radhakumar's Atoppa Sansar Amada #2
  • Prevention of cruelty to trees
  • Premier League coach train NE participant
  • GoI may sign agreement without NSCN(K)
  • Manipur celebrates New Year with gaiety
  • Zeliang denies involvement in terror funding
  • Shopping: Sajibu Nongma Panba #1: Gallery
  • Stall @Science Congress, MU #1: Gallery
  • Sajibu Cheiraoba (Meitei New Year)
  • Saving Nambul: Convergence of view
  • Job @ PR Enterprises, Khurai
  • National Institute for Locomotor Disabilities
  • Seminar on 'Conflicts in South Asia'
  • Luck matters; but not always
  • On completing one year in office
  • Spectacle distribution at Loktak Station
  • DGAR visits Manipur on his farewell visit
  • PM at Science Congress @MU #1: Gallery
  • Yaoshang Water & color #3: Gallery
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • A tribute to Stephen Hawking
  • Draft Asian Declaration: right to justice #3
  • Effect of a Sleepless Night :: Peom
  • Psychology at MIT School of Vedic Sciences
  • So near yet so far
  • Naga CSOs walking with JCILPS
  • Vegetables grown @Thanga #1: Gallery
  • Yaoshang Fancy Dress Contest: Gallery
  • Yaoshang Sport @Khagempalli #2: Gallery
  • Truth of Life :: Poem
  • Celebration of womanhood
  • HQ IGAR (S) celebrates 15th Raising Day
  • Jet Airways for more flights for NE
  • Publicity doing good, Garbage filth continue
  • Other issue overriding education: Class XII
  • Wortam: The Rising Young Mashangva
  • Eidi Ethantani by Eyoom :: Review
  • OMCT : UA on harassment of Ranjeeta
  • Mass destruction of opium poppy cultivation
  • Career options in printing press
  • IBSD launches hi-tech facility for farmers
  • Bangalore Yaoshang - Cheiraoba Thabal
  • Quality over quantity
  • What will the PM have to say ?
  • Zeliang gets fresh summon from NIA
  • Lui-Ngai-Ni @Longmai (TML) #4 : Gallery
  • Nengneingah, Lungkhambou :: eMing
  • Yaoshang Water & color #2: Gallery
  • Draft Asian Declaration: right to justice #2
  • BJP led Govt, not flunk in first year
  • Demand handing of Pravish case to CBI
  • PDA Govt claims false credit: NPF
  • Feminism & Path to Women's Liberation
  • Word of caution from Ibobi: BJP to listen
  • Yaoshang Cooking Contest #2 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Mei Loukhatpa #4 : Gallery
  • Radhakumar's Atoppa Sansar Amada #1
  • Nigol :: Poem
  • List of Portfolios : Nagaland Govt
  • Clarify: Report of Zeliang summoned by NIA
  • Academic Programs offered by PHFI
  • Cong speaks: Changes expected in future
  • One year under the BJP: Significant but..
  • Students @ Class X Exam #2 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Sport @Khongman: Gallery
  • Draft Asian Declaration: right to justice #1
  • Cry Of A Dying River...21 :: Peom
  • Manipur-Nagaland border disputes
  • Not a word on beauty on Women's Day
  • Women Religious Tour reaches New Delhi
  • Yaoshang Mei Loukhatpa #3 : Gallery
  • Chirom Indira- Nari Puraskar Award: Gallery
  • Human Rights Defender intimidated by Army
  • Rooftop Solar Power Plants: Gallery
  • Home stay for nature tourism in Manipur
  • Moodle: A learning management system
  • You can't stop small newspapers ...
  • BJP show in NE State: The backroom boys
  • Moldhin Chan: A Thado-Kuki Folktale #2
  • Yaoshang Nakatheng Chatpa #2 : Gallery
  • Mapithel Dam, Thoubal River & Tumukhong
  • Yaoshang Mei Loukhatpa #2 : Gallery
  • Time for "Nokphade" to go global
  • Campaign on International Women's Day
  • War between Left & Right has begun
  • Poppy plantation, destruction & missing link
  • Yaoshang Halankar #1 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Water & color #1: Gallery
  • Harassment of Ranjeeta (HRA) by Army
  • Women's positions need to change
  • The Weeds :: Poem
  • We now know gold was created in space
  • Issues of women's rights should be priority
  • Protection of paddy land Act
  • Thabal Chongba @Khurai : Gallery
  • Bor-keina race @Yaoshang Fest : Gallery
  • Front Page Photo 2018 #1: Gallery
  • Tanushree @Elecrama Startup Award: Vote
  • Indian Science Congress in MU: Act East?
  • Fulbright 'pathways' for college leaving class
  • Job @ St. Stone Medical Devices
  • Army jawan martyred in Bongjai IED blast
  • National Integration Tour for Women
  • AR conduct Yaoshang sport festival
  • Condemns rising vendetta politics in NE
  • Yaoshang Sport - Marathon #1: Gallery
  • Yaoshang Sport @Keishampat #2: Gallery
  • NERIST Director post vacant since 2014
  • Dynamic Startup 3.0 at MIMS, MU
  • NDPP Legislature 1st Meeting at Kohima
  • 8th Theatre Olympics at Guwahati
  • Yaoshang Cooking Contest #1 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Sport @Keishampat #1: Gallery
  • Sentinel Cup Equestrian #5 : Gallery
  • Translating inclusion into seclusion is..
  • Condemns land acquisition of muslim
  • News erroneously portraying Zeliang
  • Report: Shillong Lajong vs East Bengal
  • Yaoshang Sport @Khagempalli #1: Gallery
  • LGBTQ Yaoshang Sports Meet #1 : Gallery
  • M. Shenbangpu : Akademi Award 2014
  • Tribe: A concept in a state of crisis
  • Neiphiu's NDPP-BJP alliance stakes claim
  • Digital footprints: Blueprints for detection
  • Rio refutes news about 'Naga Peace'
  • Yaoshang Mei Loukhatpa #1 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Nakatheng Chatpa #1 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang with Governor : Gallery
  • Black holes that are neither holes nor black
  • Lingaraja Temple- Lord of Three Worlds
  • Study helps hill student make up lost day
  • Yaoshang Mei Thaba : Gallery
  • Saroi Khangba #3 : Gallery
  • Chirom Indira: Highest Civilian Honour
  • Rejoinder to "MCPCR in dire straits"
  • Poppy destruction: The new norm ?
  • Stop harassment of Urikhimbham
  • Sadar Hills District Demand :: Timeline
  • Understanding the origin & essence
  • Call to reduce Yaoshang days: Make it 3
  • 8th AMWJU Sports Meet : Gallery
  • March Calendar for Year 2018 :: Tools
  • Yaoshang Thabalgi Sen Khaiba #2 : Gallery
  • Stop this shaming of menstruation
  • Yaoshang Greetings from BJP Manipur
  • Self-conscious manhood: Find true self
  • Parl Secy: To be or not to be ?
  • Holi colours can cause side-effects
  • Equality matters
  • Creating nuisance on the roads
  • Lui-Ngai-Ni @Longmai (TML) #3 : Gallery
  • Cultural @ Republic Day #2 : Gallery
  • Nonsense is Sense : Guv's attention invited
  • Protection of Human Rights: Resolution
  • Protection of Human Right Defender: Meet
  • Mapithel dam chapter before NGT
  • GOC 3 corps calls on the Governor
  • Gangnam style is better
  • From boycott call to verbal duel: NPF, BJP
  • Festival of Colours to Sports Festival
  • Food Processing Training @Oinam : Gallery
  • Time to ban malicious Moreh products
  • Cry of a Dying River - 20 : Poem
  • Training prog on Food Processing at Oinam
  • One year - now a doomsday ahead..
  • Thought on full five days of Yaoshang
  • Loree Kaju Luita Phanit #3 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Thabalgi Sen Khaiba #1 : Gallery
  • Lui-Ngai-ni Token Celebration at Chadong
  • Sannaroisingee Numit 2018 : Gallery
  • Students @ Class X Exam #1 : Gallery
  • AoNna tEnaba :: Seireng
  • Thanga Keithel : Gallery
  • Indo-Naga Talks 2017 :: News Timeline
  • Temples of Manipur : Gallery
  • Singcha Wuya Won @Kamjong #5: Gallery
  • Recipients of Akademi Awards for 2014
  • Old Manipuri Movie #1 :: eRang Classic