Located directly opposite Bakresvara Temple in the old city of Bhubaneswar, Yameshwar Temple (also known as Yameswara and Yamesvara) dates to the Ganga period of the 13th century A.D.
At many temple sites in India there are often legends of earlier structures once existing, but at Yameshwar we have concrete proof of that being the case. In the south east corner of the compound stands a small shrine/temple emerging from below the present ground level, clear evidence that this structure is much older than anything else here.
This temple stood half-buried until relatively recently when it was finally excavated and restored. On architectural and stylistic grounds it has been dated to the Bhauma (Kara) period of the late 7th century A.D, making it broadly contemporary with the Parasuramesvara Temple.
Other smaller shrines also exist in the temple compound, some appear to be likewise partially buried but unexcavated, others are clearly later constructions.
Further evidence that an earlier temple once stood here is the fact that the Lingaraj idol stops here on the day of Yama Dwitiya (late October or early November) and begs forgiveness for his sins. This perhaps suggests that the newly installed icon, Lord Lingaraj, is showing respect and paying homage to important older icons from a earlier time.
The west-facing temple consists of a deul, jagamohana, and a detached nata madapa which stands opposite the jagamohana in a similar fashion to what we see at the Konark Sun Temple.
A carved Nandi sits inside a small raised mandapa, a feature similar to the Nadi mandapa’s that can be seen in south Indian temples.
The compound houses a number of standalone Shiva lingas, most notably a sahasra linga with its surface carved with hundreds of miniature lingas.
The temple has been subjected to major conservation and renovation over the past few years, an undertaking that is still on-going today. About a third of the temple is currently covered with scaffolding.
The exterior walls of the temple are intricately decorated, although many of the carvings have been subjected to significant weathering over the centuries.
The abundant sculptures include Nagas, elephant processions, ladies riding elephants, dancing females, and plenty of amorous couples.
Despite the weathering of the carvings and insertion of plain sandstone blocks as part of the renovation, it is still an artistically beautiful building. One can only imagine how this must have looked when originally completed.
Once again there is an interesting carving of what appears to be a woman straddling a fire, which scholars believe depicts a process of healing the vagina after childbirth.
I saw the exact same image at the Konark Sun Temple just a few days earlier. Interestingly the Bonda tribe in Odisha still perform this practice today.
Above the entrance to the temple is a Lakshmi relief carving and a Navagraha, each of the nine celestial bodies of the universe set within a separate niche.
Inside the temple are a number of images in the Jagamohana, including Parvati. Above the doorway of the sanctum containing a Shiva Linga is another Navagraha.
Yameshwar Temple is at the western extent of ancient temples that can be seen in Bhubaneswar, and as such does not seem to attract many visitors.
It’s well worth making the effort to see this temple, and hopefully it won’t be long before the renovation work will be completed and the structure will be free from being encased in scaffolding.
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