The temples of Orissa
exhibit a majestic grandeur. An Orissan temple (deul) usually consists of
a sanctum, one or several front porches (jagamohana) usually with
pyramidal roofs, a dancing hall (nata mandir) and a hall of offerings (bhog
The Lingaraj temple at Bhubaneswar boasts of a 150 foot high deul
while the Jagannath Temple at Puri is about 200 feet high and it
dominates the skyline of the town. Only a portion of the Sun Temple
at Konark, the largest of the temples of the Golden triangle exists today, and it is
still staggering in size. It stands out as a masterpiece in Orissan architecture.
Orissa's history dates
back to the days of the Mahabharata. It was under the rule of the Nanda
Kings in the pre Christian era and then under the Mauryan rule. Rock
edicts of Emperor Ashoka are found in the State.
The impact of the
invasion of the Guptas is seen in the early temples of Bhubaneswar. The Matharas
ruled Orissa from the later half of the 4th century AD. The Sailodbhavas
who followed constucted several shrines the ruins of which can be seen today. (600-750
The period of the Bhaumakaras
and Somavamsis (8th to 11th centuries AD) played a major role in the
cultural life of the State. Saivism dominated the religious scene although Budhist, Jain
and Vaishnavite monuments also came into being.
took over after the decline of the Somavamsis. The early Eastern Gangas ruled from
Kalinganagara (Mukhalingam near Srikakulam
Andhrapradesh). They shifted their capital to Cuttack in the 12th century. Saivism began
to decline while Saktism flourished.
Further, the religious
leader Ramanujacharya had a great influence on the monarch Chodagangadeva
who built the great temple at Puri. The Gangas were champions of Vaishnavism.
It was during the Ganga rule that Orissan architecture reached its peak. Narasimhadeva
of this dynasty built the Sun Temple at Konark.
The Gangas were succeeded
by the Suryavamsi Gajapati rulers, under whom
Vaishnavism in the form of Jagannatha worship reached new heights. This period was marked
by the influence of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and by the construction of
Jagannatha temples across the length and breadth of the empire.
After the decline of the
Gajapatis, the kingdom began to disintegrate and was taken over by followed by Muslim
rule, the rule of the Mughals, the Mahrattas and then the British. The Bhoi
Gajapatis who ruled Orissa over a small territory caused several Jagannatha
temples to come up.