Lingaraja Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Harihara, a form of Shiva and Vishnu and is one of the oldest temples in Bhubaneswar, the capital of the East Indian state of Odisha. The temple is the most prominent landmark of the Bhubaneswar city and one of the major tourist attractions of the state.
The Lingaraja temple is the largest temple in Bhubaneswar. The central tower of the temple is 180 ft (55 m) tall. The temple represents the quintessence of the Kalinga Architecture and culminating the medieval stages of the architectural tradition at Bhubaneswar. The temple is believed to be built by the kings from the Somavamsi dynasty, with later additions from the Ganga rulers. The temple is built in the Deula style that has four components namely, vimana (structure containing the sanctum), jagamohana (assembly hall), natamandira (festival hall) and bhoga-mandapa (hall of offerings), each increasing in the height to its predecessor. The temple complex has 50 other shrines and is enclosed by a large compound wall
The Lingaraja temple is said to have been built first by the ruler Yayati Kesari in the 7th century who shifted his capital from Jaipur to Bhubaneshwar. Bhubaneshwar remained as the Kesari capital, till Nripati Kesari founded Cuttck in the 10th century. Inscriptions from the period of the Kalinga King Anangabhima III from the 13th century are seen here.
Bhubaneswar is called the Ekamra Kshetra as the deity of Lingaraj was originally under a mango tree (Ekamra) as noted in Ekamra Purana, a 13th-century Sanskrit treatise. The temple is active in worship practises, unlike most other temples in Bhubaneswar and Shiva is worshipped as Harihara, a combined form of Vishnu and Shiva. The temple has images of Vishnu, possibly because of the rising prominence of Jagannath sect emanating from the Ganga rulers who built the Jagannath Temple in Puri in the 12th century
Lingaraj Temple is believed to be the oldest and largest temple of Bhubaneshwar. The temple of Lingaraja is highly revered by the followers of Hinduism. Located at Bhubaneshwar in Orissa, Lingraj Mandir is easily accessible from the city. The term ‘Lingaraj’ suggests ‘the king of Lingas’, where ‘linga’ is the phallic form of Lord Shiva. In the 11th century, Lingaraj Temple was built by the King Jajati Keshari, who belonged to Soma Vansh. It is thought that when the King shifted his capital from Jaipur to Bhubaneshwar, he started the construction of Lingaraj Temple.
The remarkable structure of the temple gives the tint of Kalinga style of architecture. The aesthetic sculptures look at their apex in this architectural exhibition. Erected in red sandstone, Lingraj Temple has the stone of the darkest shade. The huge temple complex covers the vast lands of Bhubaneshwar in a stretch. The tall spire of the temple extends to the height of 55 meters and literally, dominates the skyline of Bhubaneshwar. The spacious courtyard comprises 50 small shrines that are dedicated to several Gods of the Hindu pantheon.
This massive image of ‘Linga’ appears to be of granite stone. The ‘Lingam’ is bathed with water, milk and bhang every day. Apart from Garbh Griha, the ‘Nata Mandir’ provides a hint for its close alliance with the devadasi tradition. Besides the Lingam, the parsva devta adores the site, where Lord Ganesha, Lord Kartikay and Goddess Parvati are placed in different directions. All the images are huge and present an excellent workmanship of the artists. The images are festooned with rich draperies and ornaments.
Lingaraj Temple depicts the rich legacy of Indian culture and traditions. The colossal temple attracts thousands of devotees and pilgrims to its doorstep every year. The spiritual ecstasy offered by the temple is worth feeling for once.
The ‘nata mandapa’ (dance hall) and ‘bhoga mandapa’ (offering hall) were later added to the temple. This temple was built at a time when the Jagannath cult was at its peak. By the time Ligaraja temple was built, the Jagannath cult has gained immense popularity all over India. This is exemplified by the fact, that Swayambhu Linga – half vishnu, half shiva, is the presiding diety here. There is an element of harmony within religion here as is evident by the presence of all Hindu gods and goddesses.
One of the noticeable features of the Lingaraj temple is its degrading architectural beauty, as one retreats from the deul (the Sanctum Sanctorum), away towards the bhogamandir (the hall of offerings). This is so, because the Lingaraja temple was built by the rulers of three dynasties, over a huge span of time. The deul was built by the prosperous Kesari dyanasty. The Muslim invasion, after that, left the Ganga dynasty in a position, that they built the bhogamandir at the cost of its architectural beauty.
The image of Lingaraja is abluted with water (called mahasnana) several times a day and decorated with flowers, sandal paste and cloth. Hemlock or hemlock flowers which are generally offered in other Shiva temples is not allowed in the Lingaraja temple. Bilva leaves (Aegle marmelos) and tulasi (Ocimum sanctum) are used in daily worship. Offerings of cooked rice, curries and sweets are displayed in the bhogamandapa (hall of offering) and the divinity is invoked to accept them amidst scores of chanting of Sanskrit texts. Coconut, ripe plantains and kora-khai are generally offered to Lingaraja by the pilgrims. Bhang beverage is offered to Lingaraja by some devotees especially on the day of Pana Sankranti (Oriya new year).
A light refreshment known as Ballabha Dhupa is offered to the deity at around 4:30 p.m. At around 5:00 p.m., Dwipahar Dhupa (mid day meal) is offered. At around 7 p.m., another offering called Palia Badu is placed before the deity. Sandhya arati (waving of lights in the evening) is performed during that time. Another light meal called Sahana Dhupa is offered at around 8:30 p.m. After the meals, the ceremony of waving light (arati) is performed before the deity. At 9.30 p.m., the last service of the day, Bada Singara (the great decoration) is performed when the deity is decorated with flowers and ornaments after which a light food offering is made. A wooden palanquin is laid in the room, incense is lighted, drinking water is served and prepared betel is placed. Panchabaktra Mahadeva comes to the palanquin and returns to his own abode after the arati is performed. This is a bronze image of Mahadeva having five faces and Parvati in his lap. Each of these ceremonies is accompanied by ritual observances and recitations of mantras (Sanskrit texts) specified for each occasion