Located in the east of Bhubaneswar old city, Bhaskareswar Temple (alternatively called Bhaskaresvara or Bhaskareswara Temple) is one of the more unusual monuments you will come across in the city, with an intriguing story to tell.
Built during the Ganga dynasty in the 12th century A.D, the temple is set within an open space of parkland. The temple’s setting combined with the unusual architecture and scale is quite reminiscent of my initial reactions when seeing the Sun Temple at Konark for the first time.
Although the temple we see today is some 900 years old, it is widely thought the temple site dates back as far as the Mauryan period. Remains of a Buddhist stupa railing pillar as well as a lion capital have been discovered nearby, the latter strongly suggesting that perhaps an Ashokan pillar once stood here.
The evidence of a possible Ashokan pillar doesn’t stop there. The presiding deity inside the temple is a huge 3m high Shiva Linga measuring 4m in circumference, a slightly unusual measurement for such an idol. This perhaps suggests that the Ashokan pillar was either broken or broke naturally and its column used as Shiva Linga, the lion capital being discarded and becoming buried over time. Locals here believe the idol is continually growing day by day.
The unusual shape and height of the temple is in part to successfully house the Shiva Linga. Access to the base of Linga is via doorways on all four sides of a 4m high temple platform. Above the platform is the deul with a nine storey gandi (tower).
The only ornamentation on the exterior temple walls are the parshvadevatas, Kartikeya, Parvati and Ganesha. There is a complete absence of a Jagamohana and there is no evidence that there ever was one, which is unusual for an Odishan temple.
Being slightly removed from the clusters of ancient monuments in the centre of Bhubaneswar old city, Bhaskareswar Temple seems to receive very few visitors. This is a great shame as the temple is both highly unusual and has an interesting past.
Is this the site of one of the ten stupas that we know Ashoka erected in Odisha ? Thus far only one stupa site has been closely identified with Ashoka himself in Odisha, the Maha Stupa at Langudi.
Hopefully one day further research and excavation will happen at Bhaskareswar which can add to the body of evidence regarding its origins.
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