Ramesvara Group of Temples at Boudh, Part 2


BY: SUN STAFF - 12.10 2020

Bhuvaneshwar Temple, Boudh

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


Architectural Features of the Ramesvara Temples at Boudh

The Group of Ramesvara temples consists of one structure, i.e. vimana. The vimana of theses temples are rekha deula and divided into four parts, such as pista, bada, gandi, and mastaka.


The pista is prepared of red sandstone; all of the three temples are sited on a pista of 50 inch high, being approach by a flight of steps. Very little of the decoration of the pista survives as the facing stones have mostly been broken off. However enough remains suggest that it was richly ornamented, as images of two riders leaping in the opposite direction and a kirtimukha placed between them can be observed on various faces of the pista, though highly abraded.

It assumes the star ground plan of the temples. The round plan is prepared on the principle of rotating a square round the same axis or by two intersecting squares. As a consequence, the wall on each side, excepting the front of the shrine, has in its middle a triangular projection. The wall becomes divided into four facets of equal length. The facets have been relieved by offsets at regular intervals. In front of the temple, the one dimensional projection of the porch with an octagonal pillar at either side substitutes for the triangular projection. D.R. Das observes that the pista is composed of a number of horizontally aligned mouldings. Though extremely damaged, khura, kumbha, kani and vasanta can be recognized among them.


The bada are tri-anga types, such as pabhaga (the lower), jangha (middle), and baranda (upper).


The pabhaga consists of five mouldings and measures 25 inches high. The moulding from pedestal up consists of a khura, kumbha, patta, kani and vasant, A champaka leaf hanging from the kumbha links up with a chaitya or kirita densing as the khura, as at Gandharadi. The top three mouldings are linked together by vertical bars decorated with diminutive standing figures, separated by the thin band scroll-work forming the flat edge of the Kani.

So except for the Kani, which has not yet unspecified its pointed shape, the pabhaga thus takes for granted the fully developed plan, which will become standard on virtually all later Orissan temples. A ridge or an overflowing foliage is added on the kumbha here in order to produce the consequence of a gate with pallava. However, the leaves in the present instance are reduced to a thin leafy band. Kani is not a knife edge moulding, but similar to two khuras clasped face to face. The patta, in custody with its true nature, is square. The vasanta is a moulding of the inverted khura form but in contrast with the lower khura, it is rather narrow.


Jangha is 50 inches in height and thus confirms to the standard Orissan plan, whereby it is twice the height of the pabhaga. Each point in the star shaped plan is 32 inches wide and consists of two multi-faceted khakhara mundis and a pilaster. The khakhara mundis (miniature shrines) look like a real temple in necessary information. All of them are complete with pabhaga, jangha, gandi and mastaka.

The pabhaga corresponds with the same section of the original deula. The jangha of these miniature shrines accommodates a recessed niche within a rectangular frame. Currently empty, the niche seems to have once contained a divine figure. Thus the niche of the mundis rests directly on top of the pabhaga and without a talagarbhika. But the niche has a small urdhva garbhika at the top. The vimanika crowing the niche consists of multiple horizontal mouldings, leading the gandi of the miniature shrine to be divided into five bhumi barandikas and crowned by a khakhara mundi. Like in a typical khakhara shrine, its mastaka has a kalasa between two lions. The lions in the present instance are out of control and mounted by riders.

The pilasters forming the tips of the star shaped design seem to be influenced more by Central Indian traditions, though in overall design it keeps its Orissan traditions, based essentially on free standing pillars with dwarfs carved on the capital. The pilaster has a base, a shaft and a capital. The base is a talabandhana, or lower string course consisting of multiple mouldings, which continues till the top of the niche on the neighbouring mundis, on which a titled S-like pattern is carved. D.R. Das observed the base of the purnaghata style. Above this is a standing female figure carved in high relief, the first example on an Orissan temple whereby the major figure on a paga projects out from the surface rather than being covered within a niche. This performance may have been difficult, to sink niches into pilasters meeting at such sharp angles. These figures actually appear on blocks which project sharply out from the pilaster in a rather awkward manner, almost like an addition, an aspect, which suggest the experimental natural history of the decorative programme.

The remainder of the pilaster, above the figure carved in high relief, is decorated with scrollwork and a kirtimukha at the top dripping festoons of pearls, a motif also appearing at Gandharadi. The capital crowning the shaft is decorated with an atlantid dwarf housed in a shallow niche.

The major figures on the walls of the bada, those in niche (now all missing) and the figure carved in high relief on the pilasters are thus suggested in the overall decorative programme rather than appearing on the same ground line, an arrangement presaging the development of a two storied jangha.

Unfortunately, some of the projecting block with the figures in high relief have crudely been knocked off from the pilasters and carried away. There are several detached images of deities, including one of Brahma and one of a four-armed Nataraja in the bhujanga transits pose above Pismire, a rare example of this particular dance mode in Orissan art. There are also images of Ganesha, chamunda and possible Vishnu.


The baranda consists of two projecting roll mouldings and a recess or gandi above, relieved with figures on panels and jali decoration.

Gandi Decoration

The silhouette of the gandi bends inward sharply at the top near the beki to produce an overall elliptical profile for the building. The decoration continues the vertical alignment of the bada with three pagas on each of the points in the star-shaped plan.

The star plan of the temple results in the absence of any rahas. The facets between are treated here as anarthas. The corner pagas are divided into five bhumis by bhumi-amlas in typical fashion, with each bhumi subdivided into four barandis. The barandis are decorated primarily with chaitya or floral motif as an earlier Orissan temple. The anartha paga (middle paga) consists of superimposed mouldings continuing up to the visama. The decoration, as at Gandharadi, consists of triple chaitya medallions with interlacing ribbons connecting each chaitya with one above. In contrast to Gandharadi, however, where much of the decoration is missing or left incomplete, so that only the framework survives.

The decoration on the Boudh temples is extremely ornate and produce an almost lace like incrustation. The jewel like delicacy of this repeating motif, with its intricate ribbon construction signify the vertical or ascending aspect of the Gandi and almost obliterates the horizontal division of the bhumi barandis. The trend from here on is to replace the earlier decorative motifs, based essentially on floral decorative motifs and human figures, with more elaborate ornamentations which stress the verticality of the structure, a change in keeping with the increasing desire to erect higher and higher structure. The inside paga is divided into uneven barandis simulating the corner or kanika, but with a pheni decorated with petals replacing the bhumi amla, a design more consistent with traditions in Chattisgarh, as at Kharod and Palari, where the bhumi amla is fashioned as a pheni with petals rather than a ribbed disc.


The mastaka of these vimana consists of an amlaka, a khapuri, a kalasa and a ayudha. The last two members, however, are preserved only in the mastaka section of the Kapilesvara temple. It remains unexplained why in a Siva Temple the ayudha is a chakra.

Bho consisting of chaitya arch with kirtimukha above
Shatruganeswara Temple, Orissa


The temples, as indicated, are built on a high pista consisting of five courses leading up to the sanctum doorway inside the projecting portico. The roof of the portico is held up by two octagonal pillars in front and a projecting pilaster on each side. The pilasters are decorated with a figure carved in high relief above the pabhaga and scrollwork as of the type found on the jangha of the bada of the duel. The octagonal pillars have a large kumbha with an overflowing foliage or a ghata pallava near their base, while the shaft is decorated with scrollwork. Near the top is a frieze of kirtimukha with festoons of pearls dripping from their mouths to form looping garlands.

All the base of the porch is the door leading to the garbhagriha. The doorframe has three bands of scrollwork, which continues across the lintal above. Two Saivite dvarapalas are housed in arched niches at the base of the jambs. They are four-armed and their hair is piled up in a tall jatamukuta on top of their head, but most of their details have been weathered away. However, sarpakundala is also identifiable in the right ear of one of them. They stand in a tribhanga pose and are not provided with attendants.

Gajalaxmi shows on the dvara lalata bimba panel over the doorway. The Goddess being bathed by two elephants is seated in lalitasana, with the right leg-hanging pendent over her pedestal. She holds a lotus in the left hand and displays abhayamudra in the right hand. This pose becomes standardized in the later temples and replaces the more rigid padmasana pose popular on earlier Orissan temples.

A lintel keeping its two ends on the two walls between the pillars of the porch and the door case existing as a brow of the latter bears a panel of nine grahas. Among the nine grahas, Rahu is represented by head only in contrast to the usual motif of a half bust figure. Ketu is represented seated with legs crossed or in Bhumi sparasamudra, in the manner of the other panel representations, rather than as a figure with serpent coils, as in later temples. Ketu lifts both hands up. The objects in the two raised hands of the Ketu are indistinct. Sani holds a sword in his right hand while the attribute in his left hand is indistinct. Soma, Mangala, Buddha, Brihaspati and Sukra display in common a pot in the upraised right hand and mala in the left.

The veranda is prevailing by the sukanasa, appears at the base of the triangular projection in front of the gandi. The sukanasa is a three-sided rectangular section. The face of the sukanasa is trinatha, of which the raha is conceived as a miniature shrine of the khakhara order. The kanikas are also created like shrines but without superstructures. Probably image of divinities were once set in these shrines, which are actually niches. These three shrines are made to support a beautifully executed large decorative motif with a highly stylized chaitya arch as the central design (bho). The medallion of the bho encloses the superstructure of the khakara shrine on the raha. It seems that, at the peak of the bho was kirtimukha. Traces of string and bell on a chain suspended from its mouth may still be recognized at this place. The sidewalls of the sukanasa were fashioned like demi-bhos. Mostly damaged, these demibhos used to house figure sculptures; the extant examples are of female figures. Jatamukata crown is on one of them. If they were of divine nature, the indications are missing.

The garbhagriha of the temple is approached from the door across a stepped sill and through a vestibule built in to the thickness of the wall. The vestibule is divided into two storages. The lower store corresponds to the passage through which the garbhagriha communicated with the veranda. The upper store is a triangular space produced by the corbelled arch spanning the two sides of the vestibule. This story is separated from the lower one by a ceiling, which in fact is the extension of the door lintel. It constitutes the womb of the sukanasa and serves effectively to reduce weight on the door lintel. Three stone slabs placed side by side have constituted it.

The Siva Linga installed in the temple is stuck into an arghya of hitherto unknown design. In keeping with plan of the temple, it is also made stellate on the principle of intersecting two squares at angles of 4527, for the drainage of ablution water.

Decorative motifs

Theses temples are covered with minute and intricate carving. There are no surviving cult-images in the niches of the temples, suggesting that as at Gandharadi, the figures must have been carved separately and then placed in the niches, in contrast to the Bhauma technique whereby the figures were part of the wall itself. The most dominant figures are carved in high relief on the projecting panel of the pilasters at the points. Though, badly mutilated most of them are depicted in a graceful tribhanga pose, with one hip pushed out. They wear a strand of jewels, which hugs the lower contour of their globular breasts rather than crossing at the waist, as in the figures on the Vaital Deul. Their girdle generally consists of three chains, and a tassel hangs between their legs. The hair is normally arranged in a large chignon on one side of the head, except in one case on a female figure standing in a hieratic pose on the lateral side of the vajra mastaka panel. Over the portico, the coiffure is piled in a tall tiara arrangement, as on the dvarapalas. Frequently, as on the Muketesvara temple, a meandering vine grows behind the females and forms a canopy with large flowers above her head.

An additional popular figure motif is the bhararaksaka decorating the capitals of the corner pilasters. A motif peculiar to the temples of the early Somavamsi period, characteristic of this atlantid figure is the large potbelly and the manner in which the limbs assume a similar shape. Often the fingers are very stiff and resemble foliage emerging from pots. [ ]

Among the deities within the recess is an image of Ganesh. Diminutive images carved on the sloping face of the barandies of the gandi include dancers and Linga puja. There are also numerous fragments and detached images scattered within the compound, including Buddhist and Jain images, which most likely belonged to other temples. The most interesting decorative motif is the large kalasa with flanking jagratas, which surmounts the khakhara moulding crowning the paga designs. Similar water jars, though minus the leaping lions, also appear on 10th Century temples in eastern Orissa. As suggested, the inspiration for the motif most likely comes from Daksina Kosala, though it does not appear there in this exact manner.

(In the final segment, temple floor plans, comparative study and dating of the Ramesvara temples at Boudh.)