Located in Badheibanka Chowk in Bhubaneswar old city just 400m north-west of Lingaraj Temple, Bharati Matha is a three storeyed Hindi monastery built in the 11th century A.D. and is one of the oldest monasteries in the city.
According to local legend, the monastery was originally established by Yajati Kesari the builder of Lingaraj Temple, and was initially used to house the artisans who were employed and engaged in the construction of that temple.
Unfortunately the Matha was locked when I visited, but I don’t think it would have been very safe to enter. The structure is in a dilapidated condition, with rooms in the western wing having already collapsed and only the outer wall exists. The southern wing, which is partially used, is also in a poor condition with the first floor having collapsed.
Today, rain water seeps inside the rooms through the cracks in the roof putting the entire structure at further risk. I read that it was repaired by the Matha Mahanta recently, but only minimal has been done. In short, the Bharati Matha is in need of total restoration and conservation, and I fear that may be a long time coming.
Sitting in front of the Matha is a small west-facing temple, often referred to as the Bharati Matha Temple, but I believe it is really called Talesvara Temple. Note that there is another Talesvara Temple in the city close to Parasuramesvara Temple, so be careful not to get the two confused.
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple is built from coarse grained sandstone, is partially buried under the present land surface, with carvings that have now largely eroded away.
The most interesting set of structures in the complex could be easily missed, hiding behind the Talesvara Temple immediately south of the Matha. Here among overgrown Pipal and Asoka trees is a cluster of nine small temples together with a few detached sculptures within a small dedicated compound.
These nine Shiva temples, according to the Matha legend, are dedicated to the previous Matha Mahantas in recognition of their contribution and religious merits.
Matha Mahantas lived their lives for the development of the Hindu religion, and were respected as Gods by the general public. Mahantas had the power of knowing when and where they would die, and as their end came near they would appoint successors to take their legacy forward. On that pre-determined day, having completed their commitments, they would go and sit in a particular place and enter into deep meditation, and subsequently die. The tradition was to bury them at that very spot, and within 15 days construct a small Shiva temple. These nine temples have become known as Bharati Matha Burial Temples I to IX.
Bharati Matha and Talesvara Temple are extremely close to many other ancient sites right in the heart of Bhubaneswar. You are inevitably going to walk past the complex which is signposted from the busy road outside. It’s well worth taking a look for a few minutes, especially to see the nine burial temples that have their own little story to tell.
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