Saturday, 27 October 2012

Sri Rämaswämi Temple, Kumbakonam

Sri Rämaswämi Temple, Kumbakonam

I would have just bypassed Sri Ramaswami Temple unless Pujya Swamiji had specified to see it while going to Kumbakonam. He said that it was the only temple, where Sita is on the same pitham as Rama. So naturally, I was dying to see this unique temple.

The first visit was on 1st July, 2010 night. The second more relaxed visit was next day 2nd July 2010 morning. The third visit was on 16th August 2012, and in the priority list was the third (after Kumbeçwara and Särangapäni).

The Gopuram

 The Carved Pillars
The sixty-two pillars in front of the mandpam are great works of art. They hold individually Räma standing with Kodanda, Sitä, Hanuman, Räma and Sitä sitting together, many ornamental ladies, and a lady with sophisticated footwear.

The Temple
After the mandapam, is the temple entrance that has has two fierce-looking dvärapalas.

Below there are paintings of two rogue elephants lifting two persons on their trunk.

The sanctum enshrines coronation form of Lord Räma. Huge stone image of both Sri Räma and Sri Sitä are seated on the same pitha (reportedly a rare honour given to Sri Sitä) flanked by brothers Bharata with cämara on Sita’s left, Lakshmana holding the Kodanda on Räma’s right, Satrughna holding (?) standing further to Lakshmana, on Räma’s right. Hanumän is placed facing Lord Räma playing a Vinä singing in His praise with a text in his left hand. The colossal life-size images is similar as in Sri Rangam, except that here they are in sitting and standing posture/s.

The utsava-vigraha of the Sri Räma, Sri Sitä, Lakshmana and Hanumän is placed before the mülavigraha. Images of the mülavigraha, at least of Sri Räma and Sri Sitä are clearly visible from the road.
Temple Paintings

Scenes from Rämäyana are painted on three walls of the prakäram, numbered and catalogued.

Some of the striking ones were photographed by me. One can easily differentiate the limitation of a 2-dimensional presentation of such paintings, after appreciating the three-dimensional presentation introduced in Indian Art by Raja Ravi Verma.

A priest was chanting Rämäyana, and refused to accept our dakshinä.

Work in progress

Kanyäkumäri Temple, Kanyäkumäri

Kanyäkumäré Temple, Kanyäkumäré 

Kanyakumari is picturesquely situated at the tip of India, at the confluence of the three seas, Bay of Bengal on the left, the Arabian Sea on the right, and the Indian Ocean in front. Its fame as a pilgrim centre dates back to Puranic era.

A small gopuram on the northern entrance of the Temple leads one to the sanctum. The beautiful image of the Devé in resplendent glory, with a rosary on her right hand denoting tapas bestows the devotees with immense spiritual energy and peace of mind. The day I visited she was not wearing her famous diamond nose ring, but her gold nose ring was shining brilliantly nevertheless.

Lord Ganeça, Sürya, Bäläsundari, the utsava - processional image of the Goddess and Lord Ayappä have separate shrines on the prakärams. A well inside the second prakäram, known as Müla Gaìgä Tértham provides water for Devi’s abhiñekam.

Sunrise and sunset seen from the shores are brilliant spectacles. From our hotel windows while I was videoing the rising sun, I could see the whole locality watching the sunrise.

Though sunrise can be viewed round the year, sunset is clearly visible only from around October 15 to March 15. On the evening on Chitra Purnima (April-May), one can witness the rare spectacle of sunset and moonrise simultaneously.

The dakshinavarta conch which is revered in our culture, and used in all temples for abhishekam are available at throwaway price on the shops on the beach. The conchs reportedly regularly available on the Kanyakumari sea beach, and are picked up for sale. I bought three good ones to gift away.

Vivekananda Rock Memorial
Kanyakumari is also famous for the Vivekananda Memorial and Tiruvallur. On two rocky islets just off the shore, southeast of the Kumari Amman temple, are the Vivekananda Rock Memorial built in 1970. One of the rocks, called Sri Pädaparai, is said to bear the footprints of Kanyakumari. Swami Vivekananda is said to have meditated on this rock for three days. Also on this rock, there is a Dhyana Mandapam, an area for meditation. Ferry services are available to reach the memorial.


A 133-feet (41 m) tall statue of Tamil Poet-Saint Tiruvalluvar is on another rocjy islet. It is one of the biggest statues in Asia, completed in 2,000 by sculptor  V. Ganapati Sthapati.

Somehow, I felt the place has become more famous for these two places than the original Kanyakumari Temple. It is like Mount Abu now being more popularly known as the centre for Brahmakumaris, than the i) two exquisite Dilwara Jain Temples that it houses, and ii) the Çaìkara Maöh.

Work in progress

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Räjaräni Temple, Bhubaneswar

Räjaräëi Temple, Bhubaneswar

The Räjaräëi Temple is one of the latest of the Bhubaneswar temples datable to 11th century. It is perhaps the most beautiful temple in Bhubaneswar, decorated with some of the most impressive Oòia temple sculptures.

Temple architecture/style
The Temple stands on a raised platform and has a deula/ vimäna, and a jagamohana. The ornate deula is famous for its ornate deula/vimäna. The 18m (55 ft) deula/vimäna - tower is clustered by miniature towers with double crowning elements and appears round, like the towers central Indian temples , especially seen in Khajuraho Temples. The flat ribbed crowning amalaka and kalaça on the tower are surrounded by four squatting figures.

The jagamohana (viewing porch) is pyramidal in structure – piòhä style. The entrance to jagamohana is flanked by round thick columns entwined by nägas.

Around the compass points are statues of the eight dikpälas (guardians of directions), who protect the temple, two for each side. Between them, nymphs, embracing couples, elephants on the lions (believed to be symbolic of re-emergence of Hinduism over Buddhism) fill the niches and decorate the pillars.


The sculpture of Varuëa has been much photographed and used by art historians. So also the sculpture of Agni.

The slender sophisticated näyikäs on the deula wall remind me of Çälabhaïjikä.


The Name
The name of the Temple has been the subject of much debate, as the presiding deity in the Temple is Lord Çiva. The most likely explanation is that the name is related to the dull red and turbid yellow sandstone locally called "Rajarani". The temple was constructed of The debate is complicated by the fact that the names of all the Hindu temples in Bhubaneswar dedicated to Lord Siva end in suffix - Éçwara (for e.g. Paraçurämeçwara, Mukteçwara, Siddheçwara etc.), while those of the non-Çaivite temples are derived from their presiding deities (e.g. Pärvaté temple). One major scholar has argued that the name Räjaräëi was applied to the Temple later (because of the sandstone), and that originally this Çiva shrine was referred to as Indreçwara.

This interesting temple is surrounded by well-maintained gardens by ASI.

There is no deity, and one can freely go inside.
Work in Progress

Ananta Väsudev Temple, Bhubaneswar

Ananta Väsudev Temple, Bhubaneswar

This is one of the few Vaiñëava Temples in Bhubaneswar. It dates back to the 13th century, and it enshrines images of Krshna, Balarama and Subhdra. It is located on the eastern bank of the Bindu Sägara Lake. This dates back to the period of Chandrika Devi, (the daughter of Anangabhima III, of Eastern Ganga Dynasty) during the reign of King Bhanudeva. It is located in a walled compound along with numerous structures. Balarama stands under a seven-hooded serpent, while Krshna holds a mace and a conch. Subhadra in between is seen holding a pot in one hand, and a lotus in the other.

In structural plan, the Temple resembles Liìgaräj Temple.
Work in Progress

Vaitäla Temple, Bhubaneswar

Vaitäla Temple, Bhubaneswar

Vaitäla Deula, dedicated to Tantric worship is a leading example of the khäkrä style of temple.

Temple architecture/style
The Temple (11.5 metre tall) is distinguished by the shape of a khäkrä - semi-cylindrical roof. The double-storey cylindrical-roof’ appears to be an influence from Buddhist cave architecture. The roof is crowned by three kalaças, locally known as tinmuëòiyä. The Temple plan is rather simple with a rectangular deula/vimäna, preceded by a rectangular flat-roofed jagamohana.

The Temple is dedicated to Goddess Cämuëòa, one of the names assigned to Mahiñasuramardiné Durgä after she vanquished the two demons Caëòa and Muëòa. She can be seen in the sanctum, which is kept dark. Her necklace of skulls, and the corpse she is sitting on, are usually hidden beneath her garment.
She is accompanied by other goddesses, along with Ganeça, Vérabhadra (a form of Çiva), and a pair of terrible-looking Bhairavas.

The exterior of the Temple is lavishly carved with figures of Ardhanäréçwara, Pärvaté, Mahiñasuramardiné, Lakuliça, Hari-hara, Naöaräja. Some figures of Nayikäs are also there.

Stylistically the Temple is assigned to 8th century CE. (still after Paraçurämeçwara Temple).

The beautiful temple has been encroached from one side by shops, preventing one from getting a decent picture. It is maintained by ASI.
Work in Progress

Monday, 22 October 2012

Lingaräj Temple, Bhubaneswar

Liìgaräj Temple, Bhubaneswar

The Liìgaraj Temple, the largest of the temples in Bhubaneswar, is an outstanding specimen a perfect example of Odisha style of temple-architecture. It is about a thousand year old. Bhubaneswar, Konark and Puri constitute the Golden triangle of Orissa, visited in large numbers by pilgrims and tourists.

The Liìgaraj Temple was built initially by the ruler Yayati Kesari in the 7th century, who shifted his capital from Jajpur to Bhubaneswar. Bhubaneswar remained as the Kesari Capital until Nåpati Kesari founded Cuttack in the 10th century. Inscriptions from the period of the Kalinga King Anangabhima III from the 13th century are seen here.

Temple architecture/style
Structurally, the Paraçurämeswara Temple at Bhubaneswar is the oldest, dating back to the middle of the 7th century, and the Liìgaraj is assigned 10th century. The  bhogamaëòapa and naöyamaëòapa of the Lingaraj temple are of later origin. Its deula/vimäna - tower rises up to 180 ft and is elaborately carved.

From jagamohana - the viewing platform, one can see the lions crushing the elephants, which are said to be a representation of the re-emergence of Hinduism over Buddhism. The Sivalingam in the sanctum sanctorum of the Temple rises at a height of 8 inches above the ground level and is 8 feet in diameter. More than 50 smaller temples and shrines in the vast courtyard surround the main Temple. In the northeast corner, a smaller temple to Pärvati is of particular interest.

Twenty two worships are offered each day.

Temple Lake
The vast Bindusägar Lake is the centre, around which are located a multitude of temples of Bhubaneswar. The Liìgaraj Temple is located in a spacious courtyard over 250,000 sq. ft. and is protected by 40-metre high fortified walls. Once a year, an image of Liìgaraj is taken to the Jalamandir in the centre of Bindusägar Lake.

Bhubaneswar is a revered pilgrimage centre, referred to in Brahma Puräëa. The Brahma Puräëa refers to Bhubaneswar as the Ekämra Kñetra enshrining a crore (ten million 10,000,000) of Çiva Liìgas.

Surrounded by a high wall, the great temple of Bhubaneswar is off limits to all non-Hindus. Although the British Raj respected this ruling, it did not deter them from building a viewing platform beside the northern wall. It was put up for the visit of Lord Curzon and it still used by tourists today.
Work in Progress

Mukteswara Temple, Bhubaneswar

Mukteçwara Temple, Bhubaneswar

This Temple is considered to be the gem of Odisha temple architecture. Made of sandstone, and rising to a height of 35 feet it bears heavy sculptural work. This Temple was built in 950 CE. Often referred to as the ‘Gem of Odisha Architecture’ Mukteswara means ‘the Lord who bestows freedom through Yoga’. There are a number of depictions of skeletal ascetics among the sculptural images, most of them shown in teaching or meditation posture.

The jagamohana in this Temple is a distinctive structure in its own right, with a terraced pyramidal shape – piòhä style, that became a model for later period.

There are exquisite sculptures from Païcatantra tales, while the niches on the outer face of the compound wall include Buddhist and Jain images as well as Hindu ones. The highlight of the temple is the magnificent toraëa- (archtrave - the decorative gateway), an arched master-piece, reminiscent of Buddhistic influence in Orissa. The carving of the dwarfs – gaëas are particularly interesting. The Temple dedicated to Lord Çiva, Mukteçwara, is also carved with figures of ascetics in several poses of meditation. The small Marichi Kunda, between Mukteçwara Temple and the road, is known to cure infertility in women.

Work in Progress

Parasurämeswara Temple, Bhubaneswar

Paraçurämeçwara Temple, Bhubaneswar

Structurally, the Paraçurämeçwara Temple at Bhubaneswar is the oldest, dating middle of 7th century. It is the best preserved of the early temples of  Bhubaneswar.

Temple architecture/style
Being one of the earliest temples in Odisha, it has only two basic structures – the deula(vimäna) and jagamohana. Seeing Paraçurämeçwara Temple one can easily conclude that the addition of bhogamaëòapa and naöyamaëòapa (as they are in Lingaraja and Jagannatha Temples) was development of temple architectural style, at least in Odisha. In south, it developed further to addition of lavish gopurams, 1000-pillared Halls, and various maëòapas.

The Temple was built in 650 CE in the Kalinga style of architecture. It is dedicated to Lord Çiva though there are images of Lord Viñëu, Yama, Sürya and Sapta-mätåkäs - seven mother-goddesses.

Lavishly decorated, it has exquisite friezes depicting, human figures, animal life, and floral motifs, coupled with impressive busts of Çiva.

Dancing Siva

It has bas-reliefs of elephants and horse processions, lattice windows.

An image of Buddha is at the top of the Temple.

One of the striking aspect in the temple is the presence of 1000 liìgas. I was not even aware of its existence, much less its significance. While preparing photos for my Liìgäñöakam in You Tube, I read about its existence in Michael Gunther’s website, comparing it with 1000 liìgas in Hampi. Immediately next day early morning I visited the Temple, one more time. Was overwhelmed to see, photographed. It is in front of the Sapta-mätåkäs. Here it is.

1000s of lingas sculpted
around a huge linga in
Parasurameswara Temple,
1000s of Lingas carved
in stone on the banks of
Koti Tirtha Ghat - Hampi
Source - ASI

Just south of Paraçurämeçwara Temple is the Swanajaleçwara Temple, built in similar fashion. The motifs on the walls depict scenes from the Rämäyaëa.

Work in Progress

64 Yoginis at Hirapur, near Bhubaneswar, Odisha - Text

64 Yoginis at Hirapur, near Bhubaneswar, Odisha - Text
The 64-Yogini Temple at Hirapur, near Bhubaneswar came into public knowledge by the famous historian and archaeologist Sri Kedarnath Mohapatra in 1953. Describing his discovery he narrates,

‘In course of my official tour for surveying the antiquities and the palm-leaf manuscripts in the villages under Balianta Police Station of Puri district in January 1953, I unexpectedly got information from a village chowkidar, while camping in the historical village Alwarpur about the existence of a circular enclosure containing the images of various gods and goddesses of Hirapur, two miles away from my camp. This information arose hope of discovering some unknown monument, resembling the famous circular cloister existing in Ranipur Jharial in Balangir district, Orissa, which I had got the chance of visiting twice before.

In the early morning of 24 January 1953, I hastened with my informant, and to my overwhelming joy, I could discover another hypaethral temple of 64 Yoginis at that place, which resembled the three other such temples in many aspects, that had been known before.’

Hirapur Yogini Temple is the smallest of all 64 Yogini temples in India. The outer diameter of this circular temple is 30-feet. The circular enclosure is built with sandstone blocks measuring a height of 8-feet. The entrance is connected to the circular enclosure by a vestibule. The foundation of this circular enclosure is with laterite stone. The circular enclosure is open-aired, and does not have a roof. Such temples are known as hypaethral temples.

Work in Progress

64 Yoginis at Hirapur, near Bhubaneswar, Odisha

64 Yoginis at Hirapur, near Bhubaneswar, Odisha

Krishna in the Entrance


The 9 Katyayanis

The 2 Dwarapalas

The 60 Yoginis from Left to Right

Yogini 1- Maya/Bahurupa/Chandika
Four-armed, standing on a straight-lying corpse. Braid of hair over her head, adorned with ornaments like armlets, anklets, girdle, necklace and kappa (ear-ornament). These ornaments are adorned by most of the Yoginis, and in some cases, there is little variation.

Yogini 2 – Tara
Two-armed, mounted on a corpse, braid of hair to the left. Various ornaments for the head and other ornaments like in Yogini 1.

Yogini 3 – Narmada
Two-armed. Stands on an elephant, and wears a garland of skulls and various ornaments. She holds a skull-cup near her mouth, appearing to be drinking blood. Braid is to the right of her head.

Yogini 4 – Yamuna
Four-armed, mounted on a huge tortoise. Her curly hair is not braided, and is depicted above her head. A skull-cup is seen in her upper right hand.

Yogini 5 – Shanti/Kanti/Lakshmi/Manada
Two-armed, standing on a full-blossomed lotus with buds. Braid is over the head. Has a cobra as armlet (Naga Keyura) on each arm.

Yogini 6 – Vrddhi/Kriya/Varuni
Two-armed. Braid is to the left of her head. Being Varuni, she is mounted on water that is sculpted as lines of waves. Adorned with various ornaments on the head and body.

Yogini 7 – Gauri/Ksemankari
Four-armed, standing on an alligator. Braid is over the head. She wears a girdle, necklace, armlets, anklets, and various ornaments on the head.
Yogini 8 – Aindri/Indrani
Two-armed, mounted on an elephant. Braid  over her head.

Yogini 9 – Varahi
Four-armed, with the face of a varaha (boar), hence named Varahi. Mounted on a buffalo, adorned with kirita and mukuta. She holds a skull cup and a bow.

Yogni 10 – Ranavira/Padmavati
Two-armed, fierce-looking, standing on the body and the hood of a snake. Braid is over the head. Adorned with a garland of sklls, and alakaa (a head-ornament). She holds a khadga in her right hand.

Yogini 11 – Ostrarudha/Vanaramukhi
Four-armed, monkey-faced (hence named Vanaramukhi). Mounted on a camel (hence named Ostrarudha). The camel’s long neck is curled.

Yogini 12 – Vaishnavi
Two-armed, with a graceful face, with curly hair over her head. Wears usual ornaments. Mounted on Garuda (mount of Vishnu), hence named Vaishnavi

Yogini 13 – Kalaratri/Panchavarahi
Two-armed, graceful figure mounted on a boar (hence named Panchavarahi), beautiful braid over her head.

Yogini 14 – Vadyarupa
Two-armed with braid over her head. Mounted on a drum, hence named Vadyarupa.

Yogini 15 – Charchika
Two-armed. Mounted on a male figure (believed to be demon) with curly hair and holding a lotus stem in his right hand. A katari (dagger) is seen on the waist of the demon.

Yogini 16 – Marjari/Vetali
Four-armed, mounted on a fish. Braid over her head. Only a portion of the garland of skulls is remaining. Standard ornaments such as mukuta, necklace, armlets, girdle.

Yogini 17 – Chinnamasta
Four-armed mounted on a severed human head, hence named Chinnamasta. Braid over her head. She holds a bow in her lower left hand.

Yogini 18 – Vrshabhanana/Vindhyavasini
Two-armed, mounted on a series of flat-roofed houses or caves (hence nemed Vindhyavasini) with a hole in the middle. Buffalo-faced (hence named Vrshabhanana) with a fierce look and disheveled hair.

Yogini 19 – Jalakamini
Two-armed, mounted on a huge frog. Braid to the right of the head. Wears a lower garment and decorative waist-ornaments.

Yogini 20 – Ghatavara
Two-armed, mounting on a lion. Lifting an elephant by both her strong hands, she presents a terrible sight.

Yogini - 21

Yogini - 22

Yogini - 23

Yogini - 24

Yogini - 25

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Yogini - 59
Yogini - 60

The 4 Yoginis at the Central Chandi Mandapa

Yogini -61
Yogini - 62

Yogini - 63

Yogini - 64

The 4 Bhairavas

Bhairava - 1
Ekapada Bhairava

Bhairava - 2

Bhairava - 3

Bhairava - 4

I first visited 64 Yogini Temple on 3rd June 2005, as the photographs show. My feeling was that of WOW. I had only 36 exposures in my non-digital camera. I photographed two Yoginis in each exposure. Subsequently I have supplemented the photographs. The WOW feeling was not there second time. I have refused to photograph them again. The above photographs are my personal treasure. It took 7 years to reach you all.

Work in Progress