Off-Beat India: 5 Can’t-Miss Temples in Orissa

Cultural Travel, India, Spiritual Travel — By on April 1, 2011 at 12:00 pm

By Susmita Baral
LG News Intern

For kicks, Susmita always calls Orissa—an Indian state—the “Nebraska of India.” It’s there, but people don’t think twice about and it certainly doesn’t spring to mind when you think of a vacation location. Since both her parents are from there, she’s had the pleasure to go there half a dozen times in her life. While it does not have anything as magnificent as the Taj Mahal, Orissa is filled with ancient temples that make it a great travel locale for those interested in architecture, temples or ancient relics. Here are five temples you can’t miss in Orissa!

Lingaraj Temple in Orissa1. Lingaraj Temple: Bhubhaneshwar, Orissa

One of the most famous Shiva temples of India, the Lingaraj temple is an 11th century monument that is 54 meters high surrounded by a complex of hundreds of small temples that are dedicated to numerous gods and goddesses.

Also in the area: In Bhubhaneshwar, which is also known as the city of temples, there are numerous ancient temples within miles of the Lingaraj Temple, including: Megheswar, Mukteswar, Parashurameshwar, Rajarani, Shatrughneswar, Vaital, Kedargouri, Jambeswar, Brahmeswar, Bhaskareswar, Ananta Basudev, Sishupalgarh, and Mausima Mandir.

2. Dhauli: outskirts of Bhubhaneshwar, Orissa

The Dhauligiri is a peace pagoda that was built in the 1970’s by Japanese Buddhist monks to monument where the historical Kalinga War was fought in the 3rd century BC. Legend has it that the war converted the violent emperor at the time, Ashoka, into a non-violent practicing Buddhist who then sent missionaries throughout Asia to introduce China and Japan to Buddhism. Nearby, there remain edicts patronized by the emperor from the 3rd century.

Also in the area: Within driving distance are Khandagiri and Udaygiri—two hills with ancient caves. Khandagiri is famous for providing a panoramic view of the city and the ancient caves with carvings of birds, animals and humans. Udaygiri has 18 caves that served as housing of Jain monks.

3. Yogini Temple: outskirts of Bhubhaneshwar, Orissa

The Yogini Temple dates to the early 9th century and is unique in its style since the temple is open to the sky. The temple has a circular wall 2 meters high within which there are 64 images of the Yogini Goddess. Some images of the goddess are sensual while others portray the Goddess with animal heads and exaggerated features. 

Orissa's Jagannath Temple4. Jagannath Temple: Puri, Orissa

This ancient temple (built in 11th century CE) is a famous pilgrimage site in India and contains more than 120 temples and shrines. Unfortunately, even despite foreign investment into the temple, non-Hindus and non-Indians are not allowed to step inside the temple grounds. Since it is on route to the Konark temple (see below), it’s an easy pit stop to snap a few pictures from the outside and you can pay a visit to the Puri beach—which, for full disclosure, pales in comparison to some of the more beautiful beaches in the world.

Fun Fact: The term juggernaut was coined from this temple by British colonists. Each year there is a festival in which religious followers of Lord Jagannath try to commit religious suicide, which—rightfully so—seemed absurd and insane to the colonists.

5. Konark Temple: Konark, Orissa

The Konark Temple is a 13th century temple composed entirely of sandstone and the temple complex contains erotic sculptures etched on its outer walls derived from the Kama Sutra. It is said that Mark Twain believed the Konark Temple to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Much of the temple has eroded due to proximity to the sea and a cyclone in the late 90’s, but whatever remains is still magnificent.

Also in the area: Konark shoreline; Handicrafts Bazaar (Note: The handicrafts bazaar sells miniature statues depicting the positions from the Kama Sutra. These make great souvenirs—a set of 8 miniature statues cost locals $1USD and tourists should pay no more than $3USD—and gag gifts).

Thumbnails courtesy of Temples of India and Hindustan Temples

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  • Tony Matteo says:

    I’ve wanted to go to Konark for a while now. I heard it’s the one of the two remaining temples in India that is still preserved when it comes to erotic architecture?

  • Susmita says:

    My understanding is the same. The other one is Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh. It’s more preserved than Konark (and more graphic)!

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