Ramesvara Group of Temples at Boudh


BY: SUN STAFF - 8.10 2020

Ramesvara Temples, Boudh

A study of Orissan temple architecture by Ramesh Meher, Birbhum, West Bengal.

The Indian Silpasastra recognizes three main types of temples known as the Nagara, the Dravida and the Vesara. All the available texts are agreed on the point that the Nagara style was prevalent in the region between the Himalayas and the Vindhyas.

The Dravida country is well known and the texts rightly confine the Dravida style to that part of the country lying between the river Krishna and the cape of Kanyakumari. The Nagara and Dravida style can thus be explained with reference to Northern India and the Dravida country respectively, and the characteristic form and feature of each easily determined.

The term Vesara, however, is not free from vagueness. Some of the texts ascribe the Vesara style to the country between the Vindhyas and the river Krishna. This separate style of temple architecture may be recognized a style known to the archaeologists as the 'Chalukyan style'.

The Vesara or Chalukyan style, however, is a hybrid one, borrowing elements and feature both from the Nagara and the Dravida. The Nagara style developed in North India and the Dravida style in South India. But the indigenous scholars have classified the entire temple architecture of India into four types such as the Nagara, the Dravida, the Vesara and the Kalinga. Some eminent scholars like R.D. Banerjee, R.P. Das and K.C. Panigrahi have accepted the temples of Orissa as a subclass in the category of Indo-Aryan Nagara style temples of Central and North India.

In the Dravida style, the sikhara (spire) of the temple is marked by a succession of gradually receding storeys. The Nagara style of temple architecture is characterized by curvilinear sikharas. The Kalinga style temple architecture of Orissa appears to have been a product of the Nagara style temple architecture of North India. But it has also some distinctive characteristics of its own. This Kalinga style architecture shows that even in the pre-Muslim period, the predominant temple style of Orissa came to be recognized as a distinct one.

The Kalinga country, in its stages of art and cultural growth, assiduously preserved to transcribe its own artistic environment, which we find reflected in the entire gamut of its temple creation. In the sequel, it has become the cynosure of attraction and examination of the world of scholars, artists, artisans and the intellectual elite. The treatment of the temple art of Kalinga is in order to revivify its manifold graces of the past, its changing affiliation in religious cults and trends, its underlying fidelity to a coordinated life style, depicting dance, music, devotion, sensualism, esoterics, and all that human kind envisions in its persistent quest after the meaning of life.

With the growth and development of Brahminical religions in Orissa, the structural shrines grew throughout the land. Though differing in dimensions and details, they possess common features and thus we may agree with Fergussen that Orissan temples form one of the most compact and homogeneous architectural groups in India.

Orissa has a rich and unique heritage of art tradition, beginning from the sophisticated ornate temple architecture and sculpture to folk art in different forms. The study of architectural tradition in Orissa is A fascinating subject in view of the fact that the monuments associated with it have survived to a greater extent through the ravages of time. The temples of Orissa survived near about one-thousand years through the vicissitudes of time, affording a varied and interesting study to the students of History and Architecture in particular.

A survey of the extant temples of Orissa reveals that there was brisk architectural activity from about the 6th, 7th centuries A.D. to the 11th Century A.D. the Orissa temple style became complete and established its distinct features, which were to shape the pattern for later temple building activities. The style reached its climax about the middle of the thirteenth Century A.D. It is also difficult to trace its origin, whether the temples that were erected in Orissa followed an independent pattern from the very beginning or were related to the Gupta type of temples.

Though we cannot be certain about the origin of Orissan temple architecture, in course of its evolution, it developed certain individual features of its own. Because of these distinctive features, Orissan temples form a class by themselves and the many manifestations of this school of temple architecture in Orissa can conveniently be labelled as Kalinga style after the territory where the temples are found.

An inscription on the capital of a pillar in the mukha mandapa of the Amritesvara temple at Holal (Bellary district of Karnataka state) mentions the Kalinga type (along with the Nagara, Dravida and Vesara) as one of the four categories of temples in India.

According to Manasara, the Northern or Indo-Aryan style of architecture covers the whole area occupied by the Aryans, usually designated as 'Hindustana', the North of Tapi and Mahanadi rivers. R.C. Majumdar has also referred that the region from the Orissan coast on the east to Kashmir on the west, the whole of North India was studded with temples of Indo-Aryan style. Most of the Orissan temples were built from the 7th Century A.D. to the 16th Century A.D., when Orissa was successively ruled by five principal dynasties. They are the Sailodbhavas of Kongoda mondala, Bhaumakara of Tosali, Utkala, Somavamsis and Gajapatis.

Thus Orissan temples, one of the most distinct variations of the Nagara style of temple construction, is particularly rewarding in that there exists a continuous series of monuments spanning nearly a thousand years of architectural activity. The Orissan provincial temple style is distinctive and enticing to the students of Indian History, and Temple Art in particular.

There are several terms used for the temple in Orissa. Among the popular words used are Devayatana, Mandira, Prasada, Devalaya, Devakula, etc. On the basis of Vastusastra, it is found that Prasada is the most common word used to indicate a temple in North Indian context. But in Orissa, the nomenclature Mandira, which is widely prevalent nowadays, was altogether absent during the ancient period.

The builder of temples in Orissa, however, had several canonical texts to guide them in the planning and execution of a temple. Some of these texts which have come to limelight are Bhubanapradipa, Bhubanapravesa, Silpapothi, Silpasastra, Upanisads, Silpa Ratnakosa, Padma Kesara, Deula Mapagu Nagara, etc., indicating the standard achieved by the ancestors of builders in the field of temple architecture of Orissa.

The practice of building houses for Gods and Goddesses is very old in Orissa. According to a Hatigumpha inscription, Mahameghavahana Kharavela repaired Savadevayatanas, i.e. all devayantanas or houses of God. This postulates the existence of several Brahminical shrines long before Kharavela's accession to the throne in the 1st Century B.C. Those shrines decayed and thus required renovation, which was promptly attended to by Kharavela, a ruler of very liberal outlook.

In the very early period, such a shrine might have been made of wood, thatch and bamboo, but in later phase it soon became a sanctum of stone. It is most unfortunate that all the earlier temples are perished by nature. Being the products of the tentative efforts of the craftsmen, those temples did not possess the inherent strength to resist the fury of nature. This experience must have led the craftsmen to invent the technique of imparting stability to the temples under all circumstances in the later period.

According to Bhubana Pradipa, a treatise on temple architecture, the temples of Orissa have been classified into three orders viz; Rekha, Pidha and Khakhara. The temples thus evolved in Orissa consists of the sanctum and the porch or frontal hall, the two forming component parts of one architectural scheme. The Sanctum (called Vimana) can be divided into three types, viz Rekha, Pidha and Khakhara orders. Similarly the frontal hall or Mukhasala is either a flat roofed rectangular hall with the roof arranged in Pidhas, i.e. tiers. So the later is called Pidha deulas.

From the artistic point of view, the district of Boudh is one of the important centres of the Kalinga School of Art in the central part of Orissa. The extant temples of this region reveal good specimens of the Rekha and Pidha types of temple. The Khakhara order temple is not found in that place.

Boudh is one of the centrally located districts of Orissa. Its boundaries in the north extend up to Sonepur and Angul districts, in the south to Phulbani district, in the west to Balangir and Sonepur districts, and in the east to Nayagarh district. The strategic location of Boudh led her to play a significant role in the evolution of Orissa and her culture. Being located on the bank of Mahanadi, Boudh offered a suitable land to various political powers to display their efficiency in the field of politics and cultural activities. The reason was that the Mahanadi River occupies the premier position among the rivers of Orissa. It provides the richest deltaic area with maximum density of population. It served as the central line of communication and was used for trade and other socioeconomic movement, which added a greater advantage to the state located on its bank.

It was quite natural that the imperialistic policy of the Somavamsis and Bhaumakaras, who had established their kingdom at the bank of the upper course and lower course of Mahanadi, respectively tried to capture this fertile land located on the middle course of the river in order to strengthen their power and position. As a result, the major portion of the political and the cultural history of Boudh was regulated by two of the most powerful dynasties of Orissa, i.e., the Somavamsis and the Bhaumakaras, at different times. On the other hand, a close study of the epigraphs found from Boudh and its suburb reveals that ultimately the Somavamsis occupied this sub-region of Orissa.

There are three star-shaped temples standing in a triangular construction within the complex of modern Ramesvar temple at Boudh town. All of these temples are constructed with indigenous traditions. They are Bhubanesvara, Kapileswara and Sidhesvara. These are the wonderful temples built of red sandstone, profusely carved and star-shaped in plan.

The general form of these temples is like three identical temples, each standing on a raised platform (pista). These temples bear the name of Bhubanesvara, Swapnesvara, and Paschima Somanatha. Each of them had a cell and an attached small portico. The triangular placing of these temples within the courtyard is quite unusual. They definitely do not represent three of the four corner shrines of a one-time panchayatan temple, in which the main shrine has been obliterated. However the star-like plan results as a pilaster, decorated with kanya scroll and kirtimukha with garlands.

The triple temples are arranged on three corners of a rectangle, the first two facing east and the other to west. Two temples are standing at the southern and northern ends of the base line of the imaginary triangle, known respectively as Bhubaneswara and Swapnesvara, facing east. The temple at the apex of the triangle is Kapilesvara, which faces west. The ruins of a fourth temple discovered near them suggest that they were possibly subsidiary shrines, though nothing of a central shrine survives except for several images which are too large for the extant temples. On the other hand, except for the difference in direction, these three temples are otherwise identical in respect of their plan, elevation and embellishment.

Each and every one of them is dedicated to Lord Siva and in each shrine a Linga is installed. The temples have an eight-pointed stellate plan formed by two intersecting squares measuring 11 feet each. The shrines have a small projecting portico and the silhouette of their gandi curves sharply near the top, in contrast to the gradual curvature typical on earlier Orissan temples. Though small in scale the temples are richly decorated.

(In the next segment, architectural features of the Ramesvara temples at Boudh.)

Source: Orissa Review