Kalinga School of Architecture

The Indian temples are broadly divided into Nagara, Vesara, Dravida and Gadag styles of architecture. However, the temple architecture of Odisha corresponds to altogether a different category for their unique representations called Kalinga style of temple architecture. This style broadly comes under the Nagara style.

In Kalinga Architecture, basically a temple is made in two parts, a tower and a hall. The tower is called deul and the hall is called jagmohan. The walls of both the deul and the jagmohan are lavishly sculpted with architectural motifs and a profusion of figures. The most repeated form is the horseshoe shape, which has come from the earliest times, starting with the large windows of the chaitya-grihas. It is the deul or deula which makes three distinct types of temples in Kalinga Architecture.

The Deul or Deula

In Odia language a shrine is called Deula. Accordingly, the temples in Odisha are three types of Deula viz. Rekha Deula, Pidha / Bhadra Deula and Khakra Deula.

Rekha Deula

Rekha Deula is a tall building with a sikhara. The most distinct example of Rekha Deula is the Lingraj Temple of Bhubneshwar. The Rekha Deula means a shrine with different parts in a line. The Lingraj Temple has a 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.

Pidha Deula

Pidha Deula refers to the square building with a pyramid-shaped roof, like the vimanas. The assembly hall of the Konark Sun Temple is an example.

Khakhara Deula

The Khakhara Deula is altogether a different style of architecture closely appearing similar to the Dravidian Gopuran design. The word is derived from Khakharu (Pumpkin, gourd) as the crown looks like a barrel- vaulted elongated roof.  It is a rectangular building with a truncated pyramid-shaped roof, like the gopuras. The temples of the feminine deities as Shakti are temple of that type. One example is the Baitala Deula of Bhubneshwar, dedicated to Chamunda. The Sakta temples are generally of Khakhara order. Brahmi temple of Chaurasi in Puri and Gouri temple of Bhubaneswar are two other glaring examples of Khakhara temple.

Sthapatis of Odisha

Odisha is also a state where, among a few surviving families of sthapatis, or builders and artists, the traditions and canons have been passed on from father to son up to today.

Examples of Kalinga Architecture

Shatruganeswara Temples

The area around Bhubaneswar was a great centre of spiritual activity from the Maurya Era. This region is best known for the Asoka’s edicts of the 3rd century B.C. and Jaina caves of the 2nd century B.C. In this region, the oldest surviving structural temples belong to the 6th of 7th Shatruganeswara group. These temples are of the Pashupata sect and dedicated to Siva.

The Bho and Kirtimukha Motifs

The Shatruganeswara temple must be noted for the Bho feature in Indian temples. Bho refers to a temple feature that consists of a “chaitya” arch with a “kirtimukha” above it. The adjacent image shows the “bho” of the Shatruganeswara temple. The Bho and Kirtimukha represent the vital energy of nature and a profusion of mythical and worldly forms.

Mukteshwar Temple, Bhubneshwar

The 10th century Mukteswara Temple in Bhubaneswar represents the full development of the Kalinga Architecture its “deul”, or tower, and “jagmohan”, or assembly hall.

Both structures as well as the “torana” entrance are profusely carved.

It is small, with a deul of less than 35 feet height. However, it is acclaimed as a gem of Kalinga architecture and is richly carved.

Nagas and Naginis can be seen here with their long serpent tails coiled around the pilasters on which they are made. This was one of the favourite themes of Odiya sculptors and is rarely seen in any other part of India.

Rajarani temple, Bhubneshwar

The Rajarani temple was built around A.D. 1000 in Bhubneshwar. This temple is unique in Indian architecture, because it is believed that this temple led to development of the architecture of other temples of central India, particularly, KhajurahoIt is also known as “love temple” on account of the erotic carvings of maidens and mithunas in the temple. Its jagmohan has a pidha roof in many layers, in the established Kalinga style. However, the deul has many clusters of the tower shape built around it. This gives it the appearance of mountain peaks.

The entrance to the jagmohan has marvellous depictions of a Naga and a Nagini created around pilasters. Beautiful Yaksha and Yakshis have also been carved. These represent the abundance of as well as the protective forces of nature and are a theme seen in Indian art from the earliest times.

Lingaraj Temple, Bhubneshwar

The Lingaraj temple of the 12th century considered to be a high point in the tradition of temple building in Odisha.

It has a deula that rises to a height of about 150 feet.  The balance and proportions of the various parts of the temple and the elegance of its surface treatment make it one of the crowning achievements of the Kalinga Style of Architecture.

The Lingaraja temple faces east and is built of sandstone and laterite. It is believed that the original deity of the Lingaraj temple was under a Mango tree (Ekamra) and that is why is location was called Ekamra Khestra. The presiding deity was a Linga (aniconic form of Shiva). The present temple was probably built by the rulers of the Somavamshi dynasty as a Shaiva temple but with the arrival of the Vaishnavite Ganga dynasty, the temple was remodelled and elements of Vaishnavism were inculcated in it. Thus, the temple deity came to be known of Harihara (Hari=Vishnu, Hara=Shiv), a mixed form of Shiva and Vishnu. The consort of HariHara is Bhubneshari.

The main entrance is located in the east, while there are small entrances in the north and south. 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). The dance hall was associated with the raising prominence of the devadasi system that existed during those times. The various units from the Hall of offering to the tower of the sanctum increase in height.

Sun Temple Konark

Konark Sun (Kona=Angle, Arka=Sun) Temple or the Black Pagoda is a 13th century temple of Odisha, built by Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty. It’s a World Heritage Site.

This temple was made essentially according to the regional style, but with a dramatic difference. Its tower, or deul, and its hall, or jagmohan, were designed to be a giant chariot for god Surya. The belief is that Surya rides in his chariot, driven by Aruna, or the dawn, across the skies each day. The ratha has 24 large wheels, 12 on each side, representing the months of the year. It has seven horses at the front to pull it forward at a spirited gallop.

The deul of the Sun temple originally stood over 200 feet (60 metres) tall, higher than any other temple in India. The jagmohan still stands over 130 feet (39 m) tall. The temple is made of three types of stone.

  • Chlorite, which endures very well, was used for the most important areas, including the doorways, the icons in the shrines and the wonderful musicians made high above.
  • Laterite forms the unseen core of the platform and the foundation.
  • The main structures are made of khondalite, which unfortunately weathers very easily. None of the stones is available in the area and must have been brought over long distances by rafts on the river.

Its soaring tower was lost; most probably by the attack of Kala Pahad, a Hindu convert general of Sulaiman Khan Karrani, the ruler of Bengal in circa. 1568. Even with its soaring tower lost, the Sun temple is still a picture of majesty and grandeur. The structures are perfectly proportioned and covered with an endless wealth of sculpture. Architecture and carvings are intrinsically linked in the scheme of an Indian temple.

Khichakeswari Temple

Kishakeshwari Temple of goddess Chamunda is a 7th or 8th century temple located in Khiching in the Mayurbhanj district of Odisha. It was built by a local Bhanja ruler, whose capital was Khiching.

This temple is one of the earliest temples of the Kalinga Architecture, though the temple is disproportionate in its structure.

But it is noted for its high quality of the sculpture, particularly that of its deity Chamunda and Durga, killing the Mahisasur. The structure is made of blue fine-grained chlorite, a stone that endures well and is conducive to fine carving.

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