Located in south-west corner of Bindu Sagar tank in Bhubaneswar old city, Markandeshwar (also known as Markandesvara) Temple is almost a duplicate of Sisiresvara Temple.
The similarities do not end there either, as here we have yet more encroachment swamping the temple on three sides with fairly modern residential buildings. Although I’m getting quite used to seeing this in Bhubaneswar now, I still remain staggered that it was ever allowed to happen in the first place.
The temple is thought to date towards the end of the 8th century A.D, with the jagamohana originally keyed into the deula indicating it is a contemporary, unlike earlier temples. Here however almost all the original jagamohana has been lost, and replaced with a modern construction using plain blocks of sandstone.
The remainder of the temple has also been rebuilt at some point, using existing original masonry where possible and further plain sandstone blocks where the jigsaw puzzle pieces were missing.
Although badly damaged, most of the images in the niches still exist. This is due to them being carved out of stone blocks that are integral to the fabric of the building. In earlier temples the niches were first created and separate images carved from stone placed inside them, which obviously made them easily removable over the centuries.
There’s a lot of detailed carving on the face of the shikhara. At first this isn’t too apparent, but if you climb the stairs to the left side up to the raised ground level and locals front doors, this elevated position really helps you appreciate what is on show.
The Nataraja (dancing Shiva) in the east-facing central medallion (front of the temple) is worth looking out for.
High up on the opposite (west-facing) side is an interesting carving of a woman in possibly a birthing position, but not appearing to be pregnant. Clearly her fertility aspect is emphasized by the representation of the genitals, similar to the Lajjā Gaurī carvings you can see all across India. Interestingly I have also come across very similar imagery at Chave Dewood, one of the incredibly interesting and as yet not fully understood sites that is part of The Konkan Petroglyphs.
This imagery is not limited to India either, there are many example across Europe too, in particular Ireland and the UK. Here we call them Sheela na gigs, and there is much disagreement by scholars as to what they are meant to represent. A similar carving, much later in date, I saw at the Sukmesvara Temple in the city. It’s probably no coincidence that an erotic image is placed immediately to the left of this one.
Over the sanctuary doorway appears the all to familiar Navagrahas, with images of Brahma, Agni and Varuna on the doorjambs. I didn’t venture far into the sanctuary.
A very short distance south of Markandeshwar Temple on the path around Bindu Sagar tank are the remains of the Pachimesvara Temple. Originally consisting of a deula (vimana) without a jagamohana, the temple was demolished in 1940 leaving only its plinth. All the parsha-devatas have, thankfully, survived and are kept near the plinth of the former temple.
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